By Faye Martins
I attended a Yoga teacher intensive at Aura Wellness Center in Attleboro, Massachusetts on meditation in 2006. At that intensive, Paul taught us so many different forms of meditation over the course of a Columbus Day weekend that I filled a note book. One method that really stuck to my mind was a mantra meditation that is so easy to practice. It consists of just two syllables and both are English words. Sometimes, this mantra helps me in prayer, sometimes this mantra helps me gain control of my breath, and sometimes this mantra helps me to meditate or relax. Here are the two magic words: “Thank You.” For breath awareness purposes, “thank” goes well with an inhale, and “you” goes well with an exhale. Until 2006, I never met anyone who could break down the most complicated Yogic ideas into easy and mentally digestible concepts.
With Yoga teachers and bestsellers touting an endless array of meditation styles, the whole concept can be intimidating. As soon as we think we have figured it out, here comes another workshop or article making us wonder if we are meditating at all, much less doing it correctly. No wonder the process seems so mysterious and confusing.
Sadly, there are times when meditation is like religion or politics; controversy may sometimes stem from an individual interpretation of words rather than major differences in beliefs. For thousands of years, teachers have taught all kinds of meditation – regardless of whether it was called mindfulness, centering prayer, Yoga, qigong, or one of many other names. Many styles have survived over those thousands of years, an indication of their universal truth, but the question of whether one is “better” than the other remains.
Some readers, implying that meditation is far more esoteric and mystical, vehemently challenged a blogger’s recent claim that simple gratitude can be a form of meditation. Although Buddhist monks have recognized the act as a part of their mindfulness techniques for thousands of years, scientists are now supporting their claims in studies at leading institutions around the world.
In research done by doctors at the University of California and Southern Methodist University, there were three groups of participants. Each group wrote in a diary daily.
• Group I recorded everything that happened.
• Group II recorded only what they perceived as unpleasant events.
• Group III made a list of things for which they were grateful.
Researchers observed the following changes in the group that practiced gratitude.
• They were more alert, optimistic, enthusiastic, and energetic.
• They exercised more regularly.
• They experienced less depression and fewer stress-related concerns.
• They were more apt to go out of their way to help others.
• They came closer to fulfilling their personal goals.
• They were more likely to feel loved.
In 2010, “Clinical Psychology Review” published additional research to support the benefits of appreciation. The findings showed that people who are thankful for the positive aspects of their lives are less likely to suffer from psychological stress and to recover more quickly from trauma and stress. Adolescents also experienced more satisfaction in school after they learned to express gratitude, a simple act that consisted of writing down three to five things in a diary each day.
Author and psychotherapist Richard Carlson once said, “When you’re feeling grateful, your mind is clear and therefore you have access to your greatest wisdom and common sense. You see the big picture.”
That sounds a lot like the results of meditation; but if it works, does it really matter what we call it?
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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