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Meditation series part 4: Active meditation

Active Meditation is recommended for those with some experience with passive meditation. However, it can feel easier to those that have trouble with the extended passive meditations sessions. It will be effective on its own but a time of passive meditation should be combined with it for best results.
Quoting one source “Once the ego mind has quieted down after passive meditation, and you then shift into an active form of meditation, this is where you can truly harness the power of meditation for creating inner transformation and charging up with new energy.”

The first example many people will think of is the use of meditative yoga or walking. Other actions and work activities can be meditative: think of raking a zen garden. Any task you can drop into a meditative state while doing is appropriate.
All meditation trains your attention but active meditation can be a great help to those that have trouble with long periods of sitting or quiet. Although it is recommended as a later stage if it is needed to help train your mind, it is the right time.

Active meditations are used to develop a connection between mind and body, drawing your attention to breathing and making use of the adaptive network of the brain. As in passive meditation, active meditation will have distractions. Simply acknowledge them in general terms and let them pass. Do not try to make them go away or identify them, just let them go and focus on your breathing. This practice is one of the stages of developing full awareness and connection to all parts of the body and feeling every part of it.

The 4 types of meditative yoga are pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Research and try different yoga forms and activities when you are learning.

In active meditation, you are using some of the same principles as in a mindfulness meditation. Here it is with intent to engage all your senses in the focus. This is often aided in early stages by having an actual physical focus such as a sound, a flame, a bowl of water, something you can physically interact with and engage the senses to help train yourself. This is one of many reasons active meditation is not step one, but a physical focus can be used in active meditation.

Walking meditations: think of the Christian practices like James Way in Spain. Many people walk to clear their head or relieve stress. Time to walk at lunch can change the work day. At many jobs or schools I have used lunch as a time for some type of meditation to keep stress down. In Zen, walking meditation is called kinhin and is combined with extensive sitting meditation.

I prefer to do walking meditation outside but it can be done in an office or other room. You know meditation mazes, paths, and other things designed to focus you but you usually just walk, pause, breath, and be a part of only walking. Two forms are done. One is a clearing and open form that is less focus than empty. The one we are discussing here is clearing the mind by focusing on walking. Do not go on autopilot, that is why it helps during work. For 10 minutes be actively aware of the steps and breathing and nothing else.

Start by being aware of the major components of walking: the lifting of a foot; then the standing and slow movement of that foot forward; then the foot lands on the floor, feel it; feel the weight shift off that foot and how the foot begins to lift. Different forms focus on breathing, the movement itself, the sounds you cause, or other parts of the walking.
Work meditations include gardening or cleaning. Think of monks and the work they do. Working at a garden I hear many people talk about gardening and although they may or may not intend it that way, they use it as meditation. The practice is very similar to walking.

Art meditations: think of the zen doodles or free-form painting. Other activities include flower arranging (Ikebana), calligraphy (Shodō), and archery (Kyūdō). Really, you have no limitations in art meditation and the details vary. This is definitely one I recommend. Art is a release anyway so it’s a perfect outlet. I do free form sewing sometimes also and you can research this and try activities for years without exhausting the options. Some are open or empty mind to allow the art to express. Others are focused like the walking.
Dancing: think of Dhikr in Sufism, trance meditations, Mevlevi Dervish and Sama. I love dance meditation. Although I have not done it recently, it was my primary form for a long time. When I would dance, I was alone even in a crowd. The only thing that existed was dancing. Fully immersed in dance you find a completely different place of meditation than walking or working. My choice is the free form dance with music that you just do as it feels.

Exercise meditation can be any form of exercise but most the recognizable will be yoga or tai chi. Tai chi is also the first option most think of regarding martial meditation. This is another section that could be a series of books to itself do I recommend research and trying them. Even if you plan to practice alone, taking a class can really help you. You want to learn the forms enough that you are not thinking about them. You want to be able to meditate.
Again with meditative there are many forms that include both open and focused. Empty mind forms often use yoga. Focused forms are often guided or use equipment like weights, blocks, straps, muscle focus, or music. Your form must be right both for safety and to be most effective. Take the time and training to perfect your form and work up gradually from repeating a couple of perfect forms to more. Yoga, for instance is good for you and the learning time is stress relief itself.
As with all meditation, find what works for you and in your path. Research, experience, and think of you in the activities. The important point is a consistent and continuous practice that you do every day. A combination of types can give you a way to do that. In some jobs I did yoga at lunch and sitting forms at night. Other places I walked at lunch or meditated on the beach before work and did a water meditation after. What I need changes, what is available changes, time availability changes. It will grow easier to make time but start by working we within your schedule and altering it as little as possible. You are building a practice and it will develop.

An interesting article.

Who is a Scanner?

“Intense curiosity about numerous unrelated subjects is one of the most basic characteristics of a Scanner. Scanners are endlessly inquisitive. In fact, Scanners often describe themselves as being hopelessly interested in everything (although, as you’ll find out, this isn’t so). A Scanner doesn’t want to specialize in any of the things she loves, because that means giving up all the rest. Some even think that being an expert would be limiting and boring.

Our society frowns on this apparent self-indulgence. Of course, it’s not self- indulgence at all; it’s the way Scanners are designed, and there’s nothing they can or should do about it. A Scanner is curious because he is genetically programmed to explore everything that interests him. If you’re a Scanner, that’s your nature. Ignore it and you’ll always be fretful and dissatisfied.

It’s a whole new way of thinking, I know. And much of the world doesn’t see Scanners’ behavior as admirable or even acceptable. But it wasn’t always this way.”

Are You a Scanner? By Barbara Sher

 

Birthday!

Two posts this week because of a special event – my birthday!

So today’s focus is birthdays, friends, and supporting things we care about.

First for the birthday of a good friend and former boss, Director of a wonderful non-profit organization: Dr. Kathleen Hudson at Texas Heritage Music Foundation shares my birthday!

Visit her site and check out the education, stories, music, and interesting things they do – tell her happy birthday!

Mahatma Gandhi was also born on this day – one we should all remember.

As a birthday present to myself this year, I will soon be starting a new job as Office Manager at a non-profit near my home that runs a preservation garden, education programs, and is a simply amazing jewel of a place to visit: Peckerwood Garden. Check out their site if you are looking for something to visit in the area, it is pretty central between Brenham, Magnolia, Houston, and Katy, in Texas.

Now, for some other important figures from history:

Nat Turner – leader of a major slave rebellion in Virginia was born today

King Richard III of England, Isabella of Naples Duchess of Milan, Saint Charles Borromeo Italian cardinal, numerous composers and writers from around the world and a general from both the Union and the Confederate armies also were born this day in various years.

Julius von Sachs, botanist/naturalist; a German president; William Ramsay; Francois C Schlumberger; a Russian commander; Christopher Clarkson; Premiers of Austria and India, Ron Meagher; and many painters were born today.

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh of Sinne Fein; Rex Reed of Texas

Waheed Murad of Pakistan; Yuri Nikolayevich Glazkov and Vladimir Ivanovich Kozlov, USSR, cosmonauts; Lord Davies of the Welsh National Opera; Vernor [Steffen] Vinge; Jo-el Sonnier, Rayne La, country singer of Louisiana; Eric Peterson of Canada; Donna Karan, Fashion Designer; Ayumi Hamasaki, Japanese singer share my birthday.

Persis Khambatta, indian actress in Star Trek and Sting were both born today.

George Meegen, from England, who walked 19,019 miles from Argentina to Alaska (wow) was born today.

Sigtryggur Baldursson, Icelandic drumme and Aziz M. Osman, Malaysian actor and director share a birthday with me, a few playmates, many cricketers, and lots of actors.

One other worth mentioning is Bernie Merai (spelling is wrong I know) a man from my childhood that helped feed my interest in art and interest in how it could be used also shares my birthday.

There are footballers from around the world and people I could name for some time but suffice to say HAPPYY BIRTHDAY TO ALL OF US!