Sanctuary and Ritual in Meditation

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Two appealing aspects of meditation are its portability and affordability. Not only can you do it anywhere, anytime, but also it’s free! There are few things in life for which you can say the same, no? That said, it’s beneficial to set up an area of your home or a room devoted to your practice.

For my own practice, I have a comfortable chair and soft, warm blanket in a quiet, clutter-free corner of my bedroom. A small table is situated next to it and contains a few items, such as books, journals, pens, a candle, meditation bell, a shell from the beach and a few other pretty little decorative pieces that spark joy. When I go to this space, my body and mind automatically relax, in preparation for meditation. This is no accident. It turns out, creating a space and ritual for meditation elicits a meditative state.

From the act of walking into your dedicated space and being seated on a meditation cushion or blanket, the same chair or place on the sofa to something as simple as lighting a candle or ringing a meditation bell, you’ve taught yourself a form of environmental conditioning. I recently read about this phenomenon in my meditation teacher training materials and am surprised I never before thought of the connection. Think of it as a pavlovian response of sorts, but rather than being hungry because of the dinner bell, you are instantly relaxed due to the meditation bell (or cushion or candle, etc.). The beauty of this is again, the portability. Even when traveling or seated at your desk at work, you can evoke the sense of relaxation by simply lighting a candle or ringing that bell.

This of course doesn’t replace your meditation practice, rather it enhances it and allows you to enter the meditative state more quickly, thereby deepening your practice. The fact that you then can trigger the relaxation elsewhere with your candle, music, bell or what have you is a bonus.

Do you have a meditation space or ritual? Please share it in the comments.

 

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Meditation and Addiction

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One of the many reasons I wanted to learn how to teach meditation is that in recent years, studies have shown how beneficial it is for addiction recovery. For example, from the Headspace Meditation for Addiction website, “Neuroscientists found that after just five 20 minute sessions of a mindfulness meditation technique, people had increased blood flow to an area of the brain vital to self-control, the anterior cingulate cortex. After 11 hours of practice, they found actual physical changes in the brain around this area.” As the child of an addict and someone who, like many, has friends and loved ones who are addicts or recovering addicts, this connection between meditation and addiction is a personal one.

This point was driven home when this morning, a person with whom I’m very close and love very much called to admit to me that he is an addict. It took so much courage for him to share this burden. While I already knew about his problem, I’m grateful and humbled that he trusted me with something so personal. In that moment, I let him know how much I love him; that I do not judge him; and that I will support him on and off the wagon. Love the addict; hate the addiction, as they say.

This person and I watched helplessly for years as my mother fell deeper and deeper into addiction, until ultimately she died from an accidental overdose. She was 53. He promised me he wasn’t going to let that happen to him. Thankfully, now his addiction is out in the open and he can get the love and support he needs to fight it. My hope is that in addition to whatever therapy and recovery program he choses, he will incorporate meditation. While I’m not yet in the position to teach him, I offered to send him some resources. One of which is the link to the above referenced Meditation for Addiction website from Headspace. It’s of course up to him now whether or not to use meditation and any other form of treatment. This is the part where I continue to offer love and support. The important thing is that he gets clean. Period.

If you are reading this and you are an addict, please get help. Consider trying meditation — it’s free and it works. But no matter what, just get help.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m in the middle of Sharon Salzberg‘s Real Happiness Meditation Challenge. Today’s meditation was “sensation meditation.” As is often the case, it ended up being apropos to the conversation I had earlier in the morning, because much of the session dealt with not only pleasant and neutral physical sensations, but also awareness of pain sensations and my loved one also has chronic pain, which is what lead him to an addiction to prescription pain pills. (Note: Meditation also helps with chronic pain.) A quote provided below the meditation audio said, “Mindfulness helps us get better at seeing the difference between what’s happening and the stories we tell ourselves.” I hope he begins to see that the story he has been telling himself — that he’s undeserving of happiness, love, peace and sobriety — is not what’s really happening. He’s deserving of all of it and so much more. We all are. I dedicated my meditation today to him and all addicts. May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.