If you’re anything like me, your days are filled with anxiety stricken thoughts and concerns. I find that mindfulness helps me organize my thoughts and become the most efficient version of myself while maintaining/acquiring joy.
Positivity is all around if one actively seeks it. Mindfulness is a tool used by many to not only get through the day but rather take control of it. The ability to let go of everything while simultaneously taking in your experience through every breath inhaled not only broadens your perspective on Thursdays but also gives you a chance to recognize that one’s happiness does not have to be in relation to what day of the week it is. Happiness does not have to be in relation with anything. When actively seeking happiness, you automatically set an expectation which will negatively impact your experience if not fulfilled. I would then assume that it may be wiser to seek joy, companionship, progress, positivity etc.
Happiness is enlightenment & ignorance is bliss. So why bother? It is accepted that many search for the absolute truth in regard to their experience and desires. For example, if asked “is God in control?” the answer you get from a 21st century Neuroscientist with a Ph.D. degree in cognitive neuroscience, Sam Harris, will differ when compared to the answer of my immigrant grandmother who came to this country with extremely limited education. I wouldn’t trust an artist to correctly diagnose any signs of unhealthy symptoms any more than I trust a doctor to accurately explain to me the appeal of the Mona Lisa.
However, both Sam Harris and my grandmother share a common ground; a state of enlightenment is in fact tangible. Dr. Andrew Newberg, MD, Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomson Jefferson University Hospital and Medical College, has studied the neuroscientific effect of religious and spiritual experiences for decades. Dr. Newberg explains that to study the effect of meditation and prayer on the brain, he injects his subjects with a harmless radioactive dye while they are deep in prayer / meditation. The dye migrates to the parts of the brain where the blood flow is the strongest, i.e,. to the most active part of the brain. In one case, increased activity is observed in the frontal lobes and the language area of the brain. This is the part of the brain that activates during conversation, and Dr. Newberg believes that for the brain, praying to God in the Judeo-Christian tradition is similar to talking to people.
“When we study Buddhist meditation where they are visualizing something, we might expect to see a change or increased activity in the visual part of the brain,” Dr. Newberg said. While observing atheists meditating or “contemplating God,” Dr. Newberg did not observe any of the brain activity in the frontal lobe that he observed in religious people. Dr. Newberg concludes that all religions create neurological experiences, and while God is unimaginable for atheists, for religious people, God is as real as the physical world. “So it helps us to understand that at least when they [religious people] are describing it to us, they are really having this kind of experience… This experience is at least neurologically real.”
There are different methods of meditation. One of the simplest involve just your breathing. Sit on a comfortable chair or floor with your back straight, body relaxed and eyes closed (I personally prefer to stretch beforehand). While sitting, focus on just your breathing. For the first 10 seconds focus on taking mid to large inhales then slowly drift into a more natural breathing flow. As you find your thoughts being replaced by what you’re going to have for dinner, immediately focus back on your breathing and repeat. It’s important to check in on how you’re feeling (from personal experience) soon after you begin meditating. Any pain in your body? Discomfort? Mental instability? Etc. then release every thought back into the universe replacing it with your breath. Your mind will wander so it is important to recognize this if you get frustrated after losing focus. Some like to count their breaths in intervals of 10 and repeat as a form of focus. Many encourage developing a loving attitude towards any good/bad thoughts that occur while recognizing that they are a part of you. Not all, but a part. As you get to know yourself, go about it in a friendly manner. You’re learning how your mind works so have a positive and nurturing attitude instead of one of criticism. You’re getting to know a friend, smile and give yourself love.
We live our Monday mornings with a sense of vision for the week. A subconscious to-do list silently screaming in our ear; some more than others. Stress that builds during the week takes a toll on your mind. Nurturing your mind not only benefits your wellbeing but also the wellbeing of your environment. So sit back, relax yourself and breathe.
Words by Raymond Pichardo.