A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.
Don’t take my word for it. Scientific research has discovered that the active conditions of anxiety and agitation causes unhappiness. Becoming quiet and stilling the mind lowers blood pressure and relieves the stress that’s produced in our busy lives.
That’s why meditation is so important, said Olga Makhina, a Russian scientist conducting one of more than ten workshop at a symposium on healing sponsored by the International Institute for Consciousness Exploration and Psychotherapy in Freiburg, Germany.
Dr. Mokhina presented a slide show and a participatory guide to the practice of meditation. Each of us sat with our spines straight on chairs as she directed us to relax our tongue and to gently bring our breathing and body movement (or lack thereof!) into sync.
What came hardest for me to do was to keep my eyes slightly open. I normally shut them during meditation, even though teachers and gurus from several Eastern traditions have suggested otherwise. I tried it once and could not stay focused.
Actually, the psychologist addressing some 30 people in a round circle suggested just the opposite. “Keep your eyes unfocused” she said. Too often we may not be aware of the eyeballs themselves moving while the lids are closed. Meditation works best when all parts of the body and the mind are quieted and stilled.
In addition, she suggested a way of breathing that I had not tried in my eight years of regular meditation. Open your mouth slightly while inhaling and feel the coolness that enters the cavity within. This method insures that the meditator cools his or her head. And, she said such a practice would leave one with a “cool head” a colloquialism used in the West to indicate one is calm and in control during a time of turmoil and stress.
Research has also shown that cooling the head helps to prevent alzheimer’s disease as well as the onslaught of Attention Deficit Disorder. I heard a Tibetan Buddhist yogi advise the same thing while showing members of a Philadelphia sangha how to hold the inhalation for a few moments and feel the slight pressure toward the crown chakra. The yogi — Glenn Mullin, who was born and raised in Canada — said the crown chakra represented the male part of individuals while holding the breath slightly on the inhalation forces a slight pressure on another chakra point below the belly button.
I tried both of the techniques suggested at the symposium. Keeping the eyes open was difficult. I kept seeing people shifting in their chairs, moving their feet or their arms to get comfortable or to scratch an itch. I thought I’d never get a hang of it.
And then, all seemed to freeze for a brief moment. There was no movement. I felt I was in a motion picture which had stopped at one single frame. I noticed nothing except the unfocused pattern of the rug beneath my feet a slight distance away.
Next, I focused on cooling the head. That was easy. I simply opened the mouth slightly and took in the rich German air. (OK, maybe it only felt rich at the moment!) My tongue was relaxed touching the roof of the mouth and the coolness spread throughout the head. I felt it stretch from the top of the mouth into the bone of the skull and out the roof of my head.
No, this really didn’t happen, but it felt like it was happening. It was as refreshing as the first bite of a Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum. Refreshing and cooling to the bodily system.
I felt revived yet relaxed. Awake and more aware of my body and noticed that I had not had a thought for quite some time. As a matter of fact, that was the first thought I had since my eyes unfocused and my air-conditioned mouth got into sync with the rest of my body.
Cool, man. Cool. Not to mention calm. I can’t wait to try this again!