Aspect 1: Awareness and Application
The social psychologist, Dr Stanley Milgram, who devised and led the famous obedience experiments back in the 1960’s stated a decade later, “Perhaps our awareness is the first step to our liberation.” (1974).
This is a key element if a person wants to be successful in discovering the benefits of meditation for their health and well-being.
According to Professor Walsh of the Irvine School of Medicine, University of California, a major component for creating inner positive change is to develop the ability to self-observe, to develop self-awareness. He sets out the approaches we need to take in order to be successful at activities like meditation. These are;
- To be consciously aware of what we are doing (very hard especially when a person is not aware of how hormones such as dopamine can affect the way we feel, think and behave).
- To be honest with ourselves (again hard, we all know it’s difficult to accept that we have foibles and be willing to look at what they are).
- To be consistent in our practices to break any debilitating habits (10/15 minutes a day will yield better results than a big chunk of meditating at the weekend).
- To be determined (it’s tough to break a habit).
- To be aware of our resistant behaviours against changing.
- To be patient with ourselves, very, very patient.
- To be self-forgiving when there are setbacks (and they will happen, as sure as the Sun will rise each day, well for the moment!).
One of the most important points to be aware of here is can be summed up with the saying, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. We wouldn’t expect a person to be proficient at learning a new language or musical instrument in a couple of months and so it is with meditation. If it has taken years even decades to establish patterns which can be detrimental to our health and well-being, as we will see in a following section, we have in-built systems designed to resist letting go of those and adopting new patterns even healthy ones.
Within the context of medical application, a conversation with my niece highlighted how this is applied. She specialises in helping people who have suffered severe brain trauma to recover. She described how in order to make effective changes they help a person develop new neural pathway patterns. They are always aware though that the old neural pathway patterns have not disappeared and can be reactivated at any time.
This means that patterns which have caused adverse effects in the past have the potential to do so again if certain conditions present themselves. Therefore, to overcome their affects and sustain more beneficial patterns of neural pathways regular practice of beneficial activities is absolutely necessary.
Rather than focusing upon what might go wrong, this also means that once a person has established patterns which promote good health and well-being, they are there for good. When life experiences become difficult, those established patterns will be there for a person to call on to help them move through the difficult times.
It is our reaction to difficult times that is now the primary reason why people want to try meditation. Almost everybody who wants to join a mediation class says they are doing so to see if it can help them overcome stress.