MEDITATION? But I’m Jewish! Part 2
Last time in “MEDITATION? But I’m Jewish!” part 1, we spoke about my initial involvement in meditation. In this article, we will delve a little further into how I use it in my practice.
There is tons of science to back up the myriad benefits of meditation. I have personally benefited on so many levels – physical, mental, spiritual, interpersonal, and more. Especially during COVID, there has been an uptick in anxiety and overwhelm. Just take a look at this article and this one published on the PubMed (NIH) website.
Because of the benefits I have accrued, I share my various meditation, relaxation, conscious breathing, and other techniques with clients, students, and friends. My fellow mental health professionals are often surprised that my clients are very willing to meditate and practice the related tools. They say their clients are too “lazy” to take on any practice, especially one that requires time in our high-speed, time-sapped world. They ask me how I get them to do it. In response, I ask them if they themselves have done such techniques long enough to experience their advantages. They invariably say, “no.” So, I explain to them, that since I meditate and have a regimen of health-related practices, “it shows.” My clients know I use them; I need and live by them, and I believe in them. If a person doesn’t experience meditation, conscious breathing practice, or other similar techniques and how they are helpful, s/he is less likely to adopt them. Consequently, my clients have a greater chance of practicing techniques like meditation and gaining the rewards, since they know I’m personally and professionally invested. It is real for me, and they know it. At the same time, there are always those who do not have the patience with themselves to even develop the practice. They say, they “can’t.” I call “can’t” a ‘four-letter swearword’ that is self-indicting, self-deprecating, and self-limiting. The challenge may be difficult, but when a person says, “I can’t,” you can trust them! Until there is an “opening” to the possibility that their prognostications are in error, they have a negative self-fulfilling prophecy that I’ve seen time and again. A person who is so impatient with him or herself is the one who expressly needs these techniques. My grandfather, Michael F. Ellis, Sr., ob”m, used to say about such people, “They need “a kick in the can’ts.”
Some people, however, really have a hard time getting into meditation for various legitimate reasons. If the client is willing to persevere, nonetheless, we will try other, “easier” ways that are more readily adapted to their needs. Nevertheless, there are always those who think that any “self-care” is indulgent, or quiet time with oneself is “time wasted.” These types (with whom I used to completely relate), cannot fathom the advantage* of sitting without “doing” anything for a period of time, no matter how brief it is. Remember, readers, we’re human beings, not human doings. : ) We must settle ourselves down for brief periods of introspection and quiet.
Meditation can be done in many formats. Neuroscientists and other professionals define meditation in different ways as well. I have come up with what I consider the simplest concept for our purposes (and will be expanding on it in upcoming installments) – “Shift and Focus.” To do a focal meditation, choose any object or sensory element to focus upon, and when your attention gets hijacked, just keep reminding yourself to “shift” and “refocus” over and over. So, for instance, if your focus were a word such as “cookie,” in your mind you would say to yourself, “Cookie, cookie, cookie, cookie, etc.,” over and over for the duration of your meditation. Once your mind wanders, catch yourself, “shift off” the distraction, and “focus on” the word ‘cookie.’
Additionally, lengthy meditation sessions are not necessary. As a matter of fact, my clients are given a six-minute meditation to begin their practice. Most of those who begin the practice benefit within a few weeks…If one is able to sit quietly with him or herself (even if distracted in the process), I give them THE BEGINNER’S MEDITATION ON THE BREATH. That’s only six minutes daily!!! Sometimes people double up and do another meditation again later in the day. The improvements are more rapid if the practice is repeated. This is clearly evidenced in the principle of neuroplasticity. Meditation is one of the 3 legs of my, “Three-Legged Stool” system.
For those who have a hard time sitting quietly, I give them a one-minute or three-minute meditation, just to get their ‘foot in the door’ to feel comfortable with the practice. Some people do not like focusing on their breath for various understandable reasons but can pay attention to sensations or other objects of focus. I modify the practice for such people, and instead of meditating on the breath, I’ll suggest another “object of focus” (such as a word, phrase, image, sound, sensation, etc.)
In the next installment, I will share some basic techniques for meditation to give you various options. I don’t believe one size fits all – “different strokes for different folks.” Although there are those that say one must sit to do this practice, it is not necessary to benefit from it. Certainly, any particular position is not necessary. As I mentioned, a lengthy session is not necessary, especially to begin the process.
Feel free to listen to the INTRODUCTION TO THE BEGINNER’S MEDITATION ON THE BREATH and the actual THE BEGINNER’S MEDITATION ON THE BREATH audio. Additionally, if you have not already read the B’Or HaTorah article on my response to the Rebbe’s request for clinical meditation, CLICK HERE.
CLICK HERE for an article on the Advantages to Meditating and The Relaxation Response.