Meditation: attend and befriend any problem

Yongey Mingyur was an extremely anxious child, who suffered from panic attacks. Dedicated to a contemplative life, this Tibetan Buddhist teacher, considered to be “the happiest man in the world” after a study on neuroplasticity in his brain, cured himself by making his fears the focus of his meditation. That,s how he earned his mental peace, he says. This article contains some extracts from the conference he gave in Casa del Tibet in Barcelona.

Yongey Mingyur

– 99% of our panic is an exaggeration that makes our mind. Actually there is nothing there.

– The problem explains things to you in its own way, and you say ‘yes, sir’, or you fight against it, which makes it bigger. For example, the panic was telling me how terrible this or that was, and I usually either listened to it or tried to suppress it .. If I would say: ‘yes, sir’, then the panic became my boss; if I said: ‘Get out!’, he became my enemy. How could I accept it? With meditation, relaxing in it and accepting it. At first it,s difficult, but if you don,t try to defeat your problems, happiness is present in everything.

– The more meditation you practice, the more mental freedom.

– If you use your problems as a support for your happiness, for your meditation, happiness is there.

How to meditate? Mingyur explains two very simple techniques:

– The open presence
– Attention on breathing

Open Presence Meditation:

Relax your body and relax your mind, relax your muscles 100%.
If you see that they don,t relax, it’s okay, everything is allowed. The thoughts that come are welcome, thoughts that leave are welcome too.

Non-meditation is the best meditation. In this space you let yourself be in a natural way, but without losing yourself. You are attentive. We call this the child’s mind. Non- doing meditation is meditation. So, don,t miss out, but don,t meditate, don,t try to do anything. Then, meditation becomes very easy: you don,t have to block your thoughts or emotions, you just have to let your mind and body rest as they are.

Breathing meditation:

This one is a little more difficult. Sometimes the hard part is the easy thing for those who can,t keep an open presence. Here you breathe naturally, without any effort, only you breathe consciously. Just be aware that you,re breathing, don,t meditate on your breathing. When you take three deep breaths, your mind notices that you,re breathing.

– Just breathe and keep an attentive conscious of your breathing (this is meditation: mind and breath together)

What not to do:

– Meditate on your breathing (this is not meditation, it,s more difficult and it makes you tense. Your mind starts to go to other places: breathing, paella, breathing, pizza, breathing, I’m hungry … And then it becomes meditation of the jumping frog).

Another meditation technique that was carried out during the scientific study was meditation on compassion. The dynamic here is to focus your attention on an object, such as compassion, the heart or whatever we choose, focus on that for 90 seconds, stop for 9 seconds and repeat the same sequence four times.

We can change at any age

In 2007, Dr. Richard Davison of the University of Wisconsin (USA) conducted a study of 21 experienced meditators (with more than 10,000 hours of meditation throughout his life), to learn about the effects of meditation on the brain. While performing the measurements, they found that the brain patterns that operate during the mood of calm and well-being increased greatly during the practice of meditation. They also measured control and clarity.

The results proved that in the face of pain, experienced meditators had a decrease in anticipation and stable clarity. For beginners, this was the other way around.

The results also showed that:

– Neuroplasticity or the capacity for change exists in the brain at any age.

– Meditation is a very effective way to make changes in brain patterns.

– This positive change in the brain is reflected back in the body, strengthening the immune system, etc.

This article in The New York Times expands the information about the results of this brain scans on meditators.

Here are some excerpts:

The speed of recovery after a problem is one of the ways in which science measures the happiness of a temperament. Painful events are one of the greatest trials of life and managing them with grace brings a mood that few of us seem to h
ave within reach.What we mean by “happiness” can be difficult to achieve, since it includes innumerable varieties of positive emotions that range from ecstasy to equanimity. A tasting of this happiness in which this Tibetan master seems to stand out has been well studied by scientists specialized in investigating how emotions operate in our brain.

Richard Davidson, director of the Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, has found a distinctive brain profile for happiness. From the results of his investigations it,s clear that when we feel that we are or are in danger, the brain shows a high level of activation in the right prefrontal area and in the amygdala.

When we are in an optimistic mood, the right side calms down and the left prefrontal cortex is activated. When this happens, people feel, in Davison’s words, “actively engaged, goal-oriented, enthusiastic and energetic.”

One of the first results of an investigation into the brains of monks who are experts in meditation, with an average of 10,000 to 50,000 hours throughout their lives, showed that when they meditate on compassion, the activity in the key brain areas increased 100%, notably more than in the case of another control group that was taught the same practice. The more hours of practice, the greater increments appeared. All this confirms that, in the realm of positive moods, as in almost any undertaking that we take, whether material or spiritual, practice matters.

Other tests on beginner groups showed similar results. In a high-voltage biotechnology company, workers were asked to meditate 30 minutes a day for eight weeks. After this time, they discovered that they had started to activate the left prefrontal area that regulates the positive mood more strongly – and their impressions were that instead of feeling overwhelmed and harassed, they enjoyed their work. So, while Western culture can look askance at someone sitting quietly in meditation, this kind of “doing nothing” does seem to do something extraordinary after all’

Belén Giner

This post is also available in: Español

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