Tag Archives: stress

No Pain, No Gain

For the record, I haven’t found any form of meditation that espouses “No Pain, No Gain” as a tenet. Sitting still and silent may feel awkward. Sitting may even elicit some of the uncomfortable emotions and thoughts we commonly associate with pain, as in “I can’t take this anymore,” but the point of meditation is neither to produce pain, nor to use pain as a yardstick. On the other hand, pain is an unavoidable fact of life (I’m sure my birth caused my mother plenty of it), and aches and pains can serve a useful purpose (don’t put wait on that sprained ankle yet). So how should one relate to pain?

Long-time meditation teacher Ezra Bayda writes(“More than This Body,” Trike Daily, 26 July 2017)

Pain, by definition, kind of sucks. …

We usually try to simply get rid of it. Being cured of pain is the outcome our culture teaches us to expect — we carry a sense of entitlement that life should be free from pain. But one of the worst parts of the pain syndrome—whether the discomfort is short-term, as in meditation, or long-term, with chronic pain — is that our physical pain and our urge to nullify it feed off one another in a most unfortunate loop, and our life comes to revolve around our discomfort. …

It is essential to understand that both our pain and the suffering that arises from it are truly our path, our teacher, in that we can learn from them and experience our life more deeply as a result. …

When pain arises, instead of immediately thinking, “How can I get rid of this?” we can say “Hello” to it, and ask, “What can I learn from this?” It’s not always easy to do this, but when possible, it turns the whole experience upside down.”

Bayda’s article goes on with exploration of the different dimensions of pain, our responses to it, and a menu of tools for experiencing life-with-pain free of the mental hangups that normally present themselves.

Summer Exercise Plan: 12 Minute Meditation

Summer is when we Portlanders stash the raincoats, dig out the sunglasses and sneakers, and conquer! It’s exercise time. No more rainy excuses for being a couch potato. It’s time to swim, run, and bike, because that triathlon is just 4 weeks away and we need to be ready.

But exactly how do you reap the maximum payoff from strenuous exercise? According to a recent article in the Times, “To Train an Athlete, Add 12 Minutes of Meditation to the Daily Mix” (21 June 2017, Phys Ed), a new research study found that athletes who practiced meditation for a few minutes a day became “better able to withstand the mental demands of hours of strenuous physical training.”

So no more whining because that finish line isn’t coming any closer. Sit down for 12 minutes and meditate with me, and then go, go, GO!

I’ll be here when you’re finished.

 

The Brain-Breath Connection

A few months ago I wrote about the virtues of 5 deep breaths (Reset with 5 Deep Breaths, 5 Mar 2017). Now I’m back with scientific news that shows breathing affects brain function in mice. To put it briefly, there are special brain cells that connect breathing with states of arousal: sleep-wakefulness, vigilance, and emotions.

“Breathing control center neurons that promote arousal in mice” (Yackle et al., Science, 31 Mar 2017, p. 1411) summarizes its findings as follows:

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Stress Less Finals Week activity – May 4, Th, noon

Is the 3-headed monster (final paper, final lab report, final EXAM) chasing you? Don’t hide. Reduce stress and restore focus with a meditation break. Reed’s Community Wellness team is sponsoring:

Thursday, May 4, 12-1 PM, at the Eliot Chapel
Meditate to Reduce Stress and Increase Focus:

Learn a simple yet powerful technique of meditation that reduces stress, improves physical and emotional well-being, and promotes calm focus regardless of outer conditions. Conducted by cellist, teacher, writer and meditation practitioner David Eby, who specializes in exploring the benefits of meditation for performance (http://www.davidebymusic.com).

Open to anyone (Reedies & visitors), regardless of religious or spiritual background, seeking to access their highest potential.

If it helps, come back to the Chapel the following Tuesday, May 9, for silent meditation, 12-12:40 PM.

Reset with 5 Deep Breaths

Spring Break is right around the corner, and so are midterms, papers, and qualifying exams. Your chances of squeezing a meditation session into your schedule this week are probably zero, but you can still use this simple, portable, breathing technique to calm yourself down when you start to feel crazy:

1. Take a deep breath, expanding your belly. 2. Pause. 3. Exhale slowly to the count of five. 4. Repeat four times.

When you have a little more time, learn more about other controlled breathing tools: Unsure What To Do? Breathe. Exhale. Repeat. (A Quiet Place, 14 Nov 2016)

STOP-ping Power

I’m looking out the window at the busy street that runs in front of my house. It has been covered by snow for the past 48 hours, but now it’s melting and traffic has picked up. A smart driver knows, however, that a small ice patch could be lurking anywhere so it’s important not to follow the driver in front too closely. Your car may lose its “stopping power” if it skids on that patch of ice.

Following an upsetting conversation, or an email thread, or a news feed, too closely presents some of the same problems. Instead of leaving some space around these provocative stimuli, I attend to them closely, vigilant, ready to take offense, already constructing the words that will win a debate or cut an opponent down to size. And then I have my say and craashh! What happened to my “stopping power”?

Meditation is a practice of learning to make space and give ourselves more stopping power. In fact, the word STOP also serves as a handy acronym for a basic meditation practice. Read what Dr. Elisha Goldstein has to say about it here (Mindful.org), and listen to this online lesson. Increasing our stopping power can save us all kinds of heartache.

Unsure What To Do? Breathe. Exhale. Repeat.

“Breathe. Exhale. Repeat.” is the title of a popular article (NY Times, 9 Nov 2016) on the how-to, and benefits of, controlled breathing. As the article puts it, “Controlled breathing … has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system. … It’s meditation for people who can’t meditate.”
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Contagious Stress

This livescience.com news item caught my eye (‘Can You ‘Catch’ Stress in a Classroom? Science Says Yes’ by S.G. Miller, livescience.com, 27 June 2016)

Head lice and strep throat aren’t the only things you can catch in a classroom. According to a new study from Canada, stress may be contagious, too.

Researchers found that when 4th- to 7th-grade teachers reported feeling “burned out,” their students also had elevated stress levels.

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Meditation and academic success

Meditation traditions (zen, for example) often encourage meditation without any thought of personal gain. However, this has not prevented researchers from looking for possible benefits (and harms) that meditation might bring about. Stress, focus, attention management have all been investigated, and now researchers are looking into academic performance.

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