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Meditation On Compassion Improves Health and Stress Levels

Scenes of Inner Taksang, temple hall, built ju...

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Many years ago I studied under a man who had spent a lot of time studying the oldest beliefs and practices around the world. To do this he spent time, often years, in monasteries, living with tribal peoples and learning all he could about how they maintained their connection to spirit.

One of my favourites, out of the things he taught me was a Tibetan meditation called Tonglen, which is where you sit in meditation and purposefully take in the sorrows of the world and transmute it into love and send it back out again. Now this may seem like it would hurt you, however if you have prepared your heart before hand and made sure to set the boundaries (80% to go back out into the world and 20% for me) well it can be one of the most enlightening things you can do.

My teacher always said that enlightenment was all about ‘lightening up’, and in that he meant pulling back the veils of illusion we have over our eyes seeing life for what it was, ‘all small stuff’ and letting it go. Either through laughter or through love.

Tonglen was all about letting it go through love for your fellow man, yourself and spirit.

Now a study on meditation and health has proved his point, that not only will you feel better emotionally your physical body will not react to stress in the same way either. Compassion was a way to heal within yourself and outside of yourself:

“This study focused on the effect of compassion meditation on inflammatory, neuroendocrine and behavioural responses to psychosocial stress, and evaluated the degree to which engagement in meditation practice influenced stress reactivity.

‘Our findings suggest that meditation practices designed to foster compassion may impact physiological pathways that are modulated by stress and are relevant to disease,’ explains Charles L. Raison, MD, clinical director of the Mind-Body Program, Emory University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Emory School of Medicine, and a lead author on the study.

Sixty-one healthy college students between the ages of 17 and 19 participated in the study. Half the participants were randomised to receive six weeks of compassion meditation training and half were randomised to a health discussion control group.

Although secular in presentation, the compassion meditation program was based on a thousand-year-old Tibetan Buddhist mind-training practice called ‘lojong’ in Tibetan. Lojong practices utilise a cognitive, analytic approach to challenge an individual’s unexamined thoughts and emotions toward other people, with the long-term goal of developing altruistic emotions and behaviour towards all people. Each meditation class session combined teaching, discussion and meditation practice.

The control group attended classes designed by study investigators on topics relevant to the mental and physical health of college students such as stress management, drug abuse and eating disorders. In addition, a variety of student participation activities were employed such as mock debates and role-playing.

Both groups were required to participate in 12 hours of classes across the study period. Meditators were provided with a meditation compact disc for practice at home. Homework for the control group was a weekly self-improvement paper.

After the study interventions were finished, the students participated in a laboratory stress test designed to investigate how the body’s inflammatory and neuroendocrine systems respond to psychosocial stress.

No differences were seen between students randomised to compassion meditation and the control group, but within the meditation group there was a strong relationship between the time spent practising meditation and reductions in inflammation and emotional distress in response to the stressor.

Consistent with this, when the meditation group was divided into high and low practice groups, participants in the high practice group showed reductions in inflammation and distress in response to the stressor when compared to the low practice group and the control group.” Science Centric News

**Tonglen is also known as Lojong

So what are you waiting for? If you are stressed I can tell you that this kind of meditation can change the way you see your world, it can create a feeling of calm mindfulness throughout your whole day, where you are in a state of mind that sees all things as a part of your learning process – and no more. Nothing to get upset about, I just need to learn this lesson and move on. Such a feeling of peace and I can also tell you  that when I do this, my whole physiology changes, I rarely get tired on days I use this meditation and I rarely feel any aches and pains at the end of the day.

Isn’t it nice that science it proving it isn’t all in my mind? or perhaps it is the exact opposite – if I see life differently so will my whole self and nothing will perturb me mind, body or soul.

live a balanced life…

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October 13, 2008 - Posted by | Health, Wellness | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I use mediation every single to relax and prepare my subconscious mind to soak in my visions of a better lifestyle. However, I feel like I only slip into the “trance” for a brief moment. How do I stay in this moment for longer?

    Another method I’ve been using lately is visualization with vision boards. Have you ever heard of them? They are images pasted on a board that represents your hopes, dreams, and goals. Studying these boards every days plants seeds of these goals within your subconscious mind.

    Your subconscious mind is where all of habits are formed. Combine these visualizations with mediation and affirmations, and the seed in your subconscious mind will begin to grow, sprouting a newly developed habit that is oriented towards your desired outcome, or goal.

    John Assaraf does a better job of explaining this and showing you how to do it in his new book “The Complete Vision Board Kit.” I downloaded the free chapter here:

    Comment by Ron Towns | October 24, 2008 | Reply

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