In the first Pillars of Health Wisdom post we reviewed stress, how to combat it in real life and then we showed how some sources of data and research gave us insight into how to deal with our busy lives for a healthier and longer life expectancy.
We also encountered the new word, positivity and how it can be utilized for better individual health, mainly through meditation exercises.
This post will show other pillars of health for the empowered volunteer but it will also move past the individual and embrace the greater good of society beyond what we saw in The Status Syndrome, How Social Standing Affects our Health and Longevity by Michael Marmot in the last post.
Meditation has been documented in the history of mankind for thousands of years.
It seems that the western traditions did not embrace this practice nearly as early or as readily as the eastern cultures did. Philo of Alexandria is perhaps the first westerner to really investigate the “spiritual exercises” that we now call meditation. A Roman philosopher Plotinus also developed a system of meditative techniques we are told but they did not catch on with Christian meditations.
Saint Augustine also delved into meditations but he was in the end not satisfied with the results.
Meditation in the Old Testament is seen as influencing Judaism as well, with Jewish culture and writing seemingly always containing some form of meditative tradition. This would put Christians on firm footing for the use of meditation as a spiritual exercise, even if it was not found in the Bible.
Several translations of Genesis have the word meditation included in Genesis 24:63. This is true for all the translations that this author reviewed except for the Revised English Bible of 1989.
Even the online Hebrew translation has the word “meditation” in the verse, so I am inclined to go with the translations of those who have carried the Torah from the days of antiquity to the present day and to discount the one Bible translation which omitted the term.
This should end any claim that meditation is solely the process of eastern traditions and the practice of such exercises will make the practicing member suddenly a lapsed Christian. If someone lapses their Christian beliefs due to meditation, those beliefs were already on wobbly supports before the the individual conducted any meditation practices.
Meditation has more than just some benefits to mental concentration and an improved vagal tone connecting one’s heart to their brain. But if that was all it gave practicing members it would still be worth the effort.
The kind of meditation studied by Barbara L. Fredrickson, PH. D. in her book, Love 2.0 was of a Buddhist tradition called Loving-kindness Meditation (LKM). She found that, “The fact that reflection on social connection appeared to penetrate the body to affect enduring heart rhythms made us take a closer look.” She is referring to the medical health benefits here.
They found that the physical vagal tone improvements and other aspects on health were verified. These were rigorous scientific studies, with double blind population groups.
They also found what many church goers already knew, if a group does something in unison, their heart rates often synchronize. Evidence suggests that when a group synchronizes like this, they broaden their minds collectively.
Negative emotions narrow your views of the world, positive emotions broaden your views of the world. Meditation is one direct method of raising your positive emotions!
When this and other aspects of meditation happen people often feel more connected to each other and to the world as a whole. That concept alone has tremendous implications for society if we could just get enough of a population density to employ the techniques.
Fredrickson writes, “Clearly something powerful was embedded within this simple thought exercise.” She continues, “From the perspective of emotions science, LKM is not the least bit supernatural”.
Meditation in the United States has had a mixed history. The Beatles were known to have used Transcendental Meditation (TM), which had ups and downs according to how prominent the profile of the latest celebrity membership was at that time.
Some studies found merit in the practice but then some claims by the leader for “flying” were simply not true, at least for the observed physical body.
Claims of spirit flying or astral projection have yet to find any study validation that I am aware of. Things like this and others, popularized in books such as Wisdom of the Mystic Masters, by Joseph J. Weed tended to give new age thinking a bad reputation, something that meditation often found itself included into even if it was unrelated to crystal therapy and other such practices on the new age front.
Practitioners of martial arts brought versions of meditation to the United States after WWII. These forms of meditation were highly influenced by the style that it was learned under, with the associated cultural leanings that accompany any such culture transfers. Karate and Kung Fu members tended to reflect their styles in their meditation practices.
I learned meditation personally in 1979 from a Hopkido practitioner who was my dorm neighbor in college. He was an anthropology major and he was a black belt who usually refused to teach others in the dorm due to the aggression many in our house exhibited.
When some of us did persuade him to work with us, we were taught meditation and breathing katas, which were simply an arrangement of moves coordinated with the forceful intake or exhaling of breaths.
Meditation was focusing on an object, often a candle that flickered if one was practiced enough with an immobile object. The idea was to strengthen one’s individual ability to focus.
Every martial art style seemed to have meditation in it. Ninja’s, popular in the 1990′s had several levels if the books and printed material were to be believed. Most martial artists I knew liked the meditation but declined to follow any of the eastern religious underpinnings.
When I was in boot camp, one die hard gym rat had aspirations of becoming a U.S Navy SEAL. We constantly saw him sitting next to his “rack” meditating after normal working hours. The Christian cross he wore certainly did not reflect any eastern religious traditions either. He claimed a high accomplishment in a martial arts style that I was unfamiliar with at that time so I don’t recall which one it was. I remember him as the most even keeled guy I ever met. I don’t know if he made it into the Teams, but his chances seemed pretty good to us at the time.
He was sure in control of his emotions during boot camp and he could do hundreds of push ups, on demand. He said it was all due to his mental training, much of which he credited to meditation.
Also popular the last few decades is the Edgar Cayce meditation techniques, which are available online. The Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE) is a very fun place to visit, located in Va. Beach, Va. Edgar Cayce was a Christian clergyman who became known as the sleeping prophet.
LKM is a better scheme of meditation than I was taught for what I need in the hear and now and also for what I am suggesting for the empowered volunteers out there. It seems also to be the most studied version of meditation too.
While improving your focus is worthy and achievable, it is more helpful to achieve the health improvements associated with this specific type of meditation. There are many people who need to register a much needed break from the stress induced impact of their job or their commute or other stress producing portions of their lives. They need LKM and most have never heard of it.
Today, it is very hard to have too many stress busting processes. LKM is a great technique that works and has great value for every single person who has excess stress.
The key to LKM is that it produces a measurable effect on the human body reflected in the body language which studies with solid empirical evidence have reflected, “will take whatever positive feelings you generate in LKM are likely to imbue the rest of your day with more positivity as well.”
Furthermore, the “Pathways through which LKM seeds subsequent moments of positivity resonance are wholly physical.” Fredrickson continues, “Since nonverbal gestures are contagious, your openness also allows others to become more open and relaxed. Meeting each other with openness like this increases the odds that the two of you will come into sync.”
If you ask any salesman, they would love to have a method of generating more rapport with their clients. Every businessperson would love to go into meetings generating and emitting nonverbal signals embedded with positive feelings which the other members would pick up on and react more positively to, hopefully helping his or her presentation close positively. Teachers would love to have their students receive the messages more deeply due to positive messaging transfer too.
Things usually go better with positive vibrations!
The message received through a more positive delivery method always has a better chance of being received more positively, and therefore it also has a better chance of being accepted.
The old saying, it’s not what you say, but how you say it really resonates when you used LKM.
Everyone would love to have more positive interactions in their lives! This is the one thing that an individual can do that can ensure your positive emotions will be generated and received by many if not most of those around you.
Every empowered volunteer should carefully consider this technique for their own health as well as their impact in spreading the volunteer message. If you present your message in a better tone, it will be heard more clearly and it will be received more readily.
So LKM gives the meditating member better health over time and also puts the member into a better state for presenting the empowered volunteer message! This increases the potential for success in membership building, thus helping the charity too. Everyone wins under these circumstances.
Below are links to studies which are current and give compelling reasons for engaging in positive mental training for better individual health and also for better results in interactions with other humans.
1) Can Meditation Change Compassionate Behavior?
2) Meditation causes compassionate action?
3) Morality and Meditation?
So take heart if you read this article dear empowered volunteer.
The next time you meditate, know that you’re not just benefiting yourself, you’re also benefiting your neighbors, community members and as-yet-unknown strangers by increasing the odds that you’ll feel their pain when the time comes, and act to lessen it as well.
4) This link is a deep study which many people may find too much to digest. It is offered for those who like to really dig into the material and know that the findings are sufficient to produce the effect claimed.