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One method of self care I find to be especially effective is meditation. For me, meditiaton is the experience of cherishing experience – not naming it, trying to change it, or judging it. Meditiaton for me is the experience of letting go and simply being. The best explanation I’ve ever heard for the experience of meditation was one I got from a Bodhisattva* I met on an Amtrak train a few years ago. He described meditation as looking out the window of the train, seeing a tree and experiencing everything about the experience of tree – besides naming it. One the most significant benefits of meditating I experience is an increase in the experience of my body. When I am stressed, my awareness of my body deceases; I get sick more often, I might forget to eat, and sometimes I even walk into doorjambs. Meditation brings me back into my body and puts me back in touch with my skin.
In an effort to help you be able to experience the benefits of meditation, I encourage you to do one thing today intentionally. For instance, take a raisin. Look at your raisin, identify the wrinkles, dents, colors, shades in the skin of your raisin. When you feel like you have memorized your raisin, put it into your mouth. Run your tongue over the skin of your raisin. How does your raisin feel? When you have experienced the feel of your raisin, bite into it. Imagine you have never tasted a raisin before. What is its’ texture? Taste? Put your focus on the raisin. Experience the raisin.
Another method I use more regularly is guided meditation. Here a video of a guided meditation. I encourage you to give it a try.
A recent study put out by the University of Missouri looked at the brain while people were having spiritual experiences. The researchers described a spiritual experience as one in which the participant felt as if they were focused entirely on what they were seeing, touching and experiencing, as opposed to cognitive concerns or even aches and pains. In a nutshell, researchers described as a feeling of “selflessness.” While the participants were having that spiritual experience, the right parietal lobe lite up. In participants who had experienced injury to that particular lobe, spiritual experiences seemed to occur more frequently.
There is some controversy surrounding this study, primarly around the defination of “spiritual experience.” Some people would argue that awareness of the surrounding world cannot be defined as a spiritual experience. In fact, it should be awareness of a god/gods outside our experience that defines spirtual experience. Additionally, there is some hesitancy regarding the role selflessness should play in mental health. The argument is that when people are experiencing mental health concerns, their focus should be on self-care.
What role do you think selflessness plays in mental health? What do you think defines a spiritual experience?
American Psychological Association (2009, January 4). Spirituality: Is it all in your head? PsychPort. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from http://www.psycport.com/showArticle.cfm?xmlFile=knightridder_2009_01_04__0000-0771-JM-Spirituality-Is-it-all-in-your-head-0104.xml&provider=