When there is pain or tension anywhere, breathe in and breathe out gently. As you breathe out, say mentally, relax. Feel the pleasant cooling sensation at the opening of your nostrils or in the airway. Feel the breath gently relieving the pain or tension as though you were to apply a cooling balm on that area. After a while, your breath slows while your mind also calms down and the pain or tension, wherever they may be, may feel much better and tolerable, or perhaps it might have disappeared altogether.
When we repeatedly guide our mind to focus on an object, it will eventually stay with that object. Gradually, less and less effort is required to keep our mind on the object as our concentration builds up. With increasing concentration, our mind calms down and becomes more and more PEACEFUL.
As our mind calms down and becomes peaceful, all worries and anxiety cease. Ache and pain, tension, itch and discomfort also gradually dissipate. When our mind anchors itself onto our soothing breath long enough, peace invariably emerges. As peace emerges, all forms of suffering vanishes just like darkness vanishing in the presence of bright light. Our mind stabilises, consequently becoming less reactive and more accommodating to the nature of all perceptions, thoughts and feelings that flow through it. Thus, we will be able to view them in a perspective with a lesser degree of attachment, aversion, fear or favour.
Our stabilised mind perceives above and beyond what an agitated mind normally perceives, thus making all that appears in the mindscape much acceptable or perhaps pleasurable. In other words, our mind attains the ability to tune itself to harmonise with all that appears and disappears, in peace.
An agitated mind is a restless mind with unbalanced excessive energy. It lacks patience and perseverance and looks at all things superficially and reactively, often in agitation, anxiety and anger. On the other hand, a peaceful mind not only stays and feels the surface of all that appears but explores all around and penetrates deep inside to understand fully all perceptions, thoughts and feelings as they truly are – thus, not agitated by any of their characteristics, whatever they may be.
When our mind is not reactive, it is calm and at peace with whatever that comes and goes. It develops a high degree of acceptance and tolerance to physical or mental impulses that arise or disappear, breaking the recurring vicious cycle of pain-reaction-pain, mental suffering-reaction-mental suffering, etc.
One may think, “Oh, this is too good.” It does sound like some form of fantasy. It’s not fantasy. It is true and practically works wonderfully. Step in and feel it for yourself. Indeed, this is an ancient art of mental self-defence. Ironically, it is not just relevant but immensely essential for the modern mind that is increasingly subjected to a higher degree of stress and strain that invariably leads to worry, anxiety, depression, delusion, diseases and sometimes, death.
In the West, there has been a recent surge of interest in meditation especially mindfulness based meditation, which is not only accepted but widely practised as a complementary medicine especially in the field of oncology. The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Clinic founded by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn of University of Massachusetts Medical Center is spreading to many hospitals in nearly every state in the United States and more than 30 countries. According to a 2014 article in Time magazine, mindfulness meditation is becoming popular among people who would not normally consider meditation including Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Pentagon chiefs, Fortune 500 titans, etc.
Modernisation creates a stressed-out, multitasking culture that is badly in need of an effective antidote. Ironically, that antidote is found in the 2500-year-old system of mindful cultivation founded and taught by none other than the greatest master of the human mind, the Buddha himself. Though this ancient technique has a religious origin, its application is secular and increasingly accepted by people all over the world regardless of colour and creed.
Are there any scientific evidence to show the benefits of meditation?
An eight-week study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital demonstrated that meditation can rebuild our brain’s grey matter in just eight weeks. The author concluded that meditation could stimulate growth in our nerve structures and promote increased connectivity and efficiency within the network of nerve cells in our brain. Meditation also buffers our brain and nervous system against the deleterious effects of chronic stress and stimulates genetic activity that slows down age-related brain changes. Thus, mindfulness meditation is now widely introduced in the workplace and school in few developed countries.
Another study from the UCLA School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology has shown that long-term meditators have younger brains. The study found that meditation can protect against the decline we normally see occurring through old age. According to the study, “On the average, the brain of long term meditators were 7.5 years younger at age 50 than the brains of non-meditators and an additional one month and twenty-two days younger for every year after 50.” The study is based on brain imaging data from a previous study that had examined the impact of meditation on cortical thickness of the brain.
Other scientific studies had confirmed meditation as an effective mode of treatment in anxiety disorder, mood disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, chronic pain, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), insomnia and in coping with medical conditions or psychological distress associated with chronic illnesses. Mindfulness meditation is effective in the treatment of all stress-related disorders. Mind you, about 30 percent of all diseases presented to doctors have some form of psychological overlay.
In conclusion, perhaps we should pause for a moment, have a good look at ourselves and ask, “Are we like those millions of rats racing blindly after the Pied Piper (of Hamelin) and his spellbinding flute towards the ‘sea of death’?” If we are, then we seriously need the antidote, ‘The Ancient Wisdom for Modern Mind.’
I have started a mindfulness meditation class at my clinic on every alternate Wednesday for selected individuals. Space is limited and so only limited number of applicants are selected. Interested individuals may pm me. (m.me/dr.victor.ti)
My next column will be on ‘Antibiotic-resistant superbugs’.
Dr. Victor Ti, MD, MFAM (Malaysia), FRACGP (Australia), Dip P Dermatology (UK), Dip STDs/AIDS (Thailand), Dip. AARAM (USA), LCP of Aesthetic Med.(Malaysia) is an experienced expat specialist generalist (Family Physician) of BH Clinic, Phnom Penh. As a specialist generalist, he is skillful at diagnosing all general diseases, excluding the sinister ones. Apart from the general diseases, Dr. Victor is also known for his skills in skin diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, minor surgery and aesthetic medicine. He can be contacted via email [email protected] Tel: 023900446 or Whatsapp: +60164122977