Looking For Natural Stress Relief?

Buddha famously said, “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” This is why meditating for stress relief is such a crucial part of anyone's plans to de-stress their life. Meditating is a way to turn off one's mind and tap into the infinite knowingness, order, and natural beauty of the universe. 

 What Is Stress?

There are good and bad kinds of stress. Since we are on the topic of relief from stress, we'll get straight to the bad kind, which is defined as a state of great anxiety, strain, or pressure–real or perceived. These physical and emotional strains are caused by our responses to pressures. Common stress reactions include inability to concentrate, irritability, headache, tension, increased blood pressure and pulse, strokes, and a weakened immune system.

Studies show that millions of Americans report being stressed at work—from 11 million reported a decade ago, the numbers continue to grow worldwide. Stress reduction is such a real problem that the US Public Health Service has officially recognized it as one of their top health priorities.

How Effective Is Meditation? Pileofstones

You may be surprised to learn that meditation and it's impact on people, places, and things has been
heavily studied. There have been at least 1500 individual studies conducted since 1930. Meditation also has wide-spread, scientifically-observable results. Some of the most commonly observed benefits include: reduced anxiety and nervousness, reduced fear of dying, production of the stress hormone Cortisol was significantly diminished, and it can even make you look and feel younger! 

Furthermore, people who have been diagnosed with heart disease then began meditating regularly saw a reduction in the disease's effects and some even reversed the disease. Medical insurance companies have even studied meditation and found that meditators were 87% less likely to be hospitalized for heart disease and 55% less likely to be hospitalized for cancer. Doctors have found that their patients who meditate regularly have more energy, more patience, and greater productivity. One chemical company in Detroit implemented a meditation program during the work day and, after a three-year study, found that absenteeism fell 85%, productivity grew 120%, injuries were reduced by 70%, and profits grew by 520%.

 Start Meditating for Stress Relief Today

If you have never meditated before, have no fear. Your first thought might be, “I have no time to mediate!” Remember what Peter McWilliams says, “Some people think that meditation takes time away from physical accomplishment. Taken to extremes, of course, that's true. Most people,
however, find that meditation creates more time than it takes.”

Stay tuned for my series on meditation techniques for stress relief.

   ~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com 





Meditation Myth #2 – You Can’t Change Your Brain

A popular myth about meditation is that it's just something to do for stress relief or to gain a higher spiritual connection, but few people actually realize that meditating can actually change your brain. There is an emerging new field of brain science in fact called “Contemplative Neuroscience,” or the study of meditation's effect on the brain.

One of the pioneers in the Contemplative Neuroscience field is Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin—Madison has been personally involved with meditation since the 1970s and studying it for 10 years. Davidson has scanned the brains of almost 100 Buddhist monks and other regular meditators during this time. He says, “We all know that if you engage in certain kinds of exercise on a regular basis you can strengthen certain muscle groups in predictable ways. Strengthening neural systems is not fundamentally different. It’s basically replacing certain habits of mind with other habits.” 

Neuron cell Contemplative Neuroscience has also shown that habitual meditation strengthens brain circuits that help us concentrate and express empathy. A study Davidson recently finished looked at how meditation effected those who had never done it before. He found that the beginners stimulated their limbic systems during meditation–the limbic system is the brain's so-called “emotional network.” On the same token, expert meditators (monks with over 10,000 hours of meditation experience) showed markedly higher limbic system activity across the board. Davidson's conclusion? The monks had changed their brains to be more empathetic! 

So meditation can effect your brain while you meditate, but what about when the meditation is over? The answer is yes. There have been observable changes to the baseline brain functioning for meditators outside of meditation. These changes are thought to be linked to generating positive emotions. While Contemplative Neuroscience is in its infancy, this is largely due to the fact that live MRIs (allowing doctors to observe a brain in real time) have only recently become available. 

   ~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com 


More Information/Sources:

The Science of How Meditation Changes Your Brain

Can meditation change your brain? Contemplative neuroscientists believe it can

Pick Yourself Up With Meditation

Is meditation effective at treating depression? According to a recent study done by Oxford University, the answer is yes. Depression is an overwhelming feeling of unhappiness or sadness. If feelings of sadness and unhappiness last for a week or less, it is unlikely to be depression. This is just “the blues.“ On an interesting side note, in the past, doctors thought meditation could lead to schizophrenia for those who are depressed. Of course, there is no medical evidence to back up this absurd claim.

Dandelion In Oxford's study, a group of 28 people who had been diagnosed with clinical depression were
broken up into two groups. One group received traditional therapy while the other group did meditation and therapy. Nobody in the therapy group was able to beat their depression, while some in the meditation group did. Professor Mark Williams who was in charge of the study said, "Our aim is to help people to find long-term freedom from the daily battle with their moods. One way that the treatment benefits people is helping them to live more in the moment, rather than be caught up in upsettling memories from the past or worries about the future.”

In her article How to Treat Depression with Meditation, Mary Gevara claims that, “Meditation can give someone a sense of control in their life, which many people with depression so desperately need.” Likewise, in her article Natural Cures for Depression, Andrea Waggener wrote, “Meditation is a natural cure for depression that can help you effect a happiness-inducing change in the way you think and perceive the world.” Research has also shown that meditating can help prevent future bouts of depression. As you can see on a number of levels, meditation has many benefits to offer someone who is depressed.

Another reason meditation is a crucial holistic therapy to look at for the treatment of depression is because antidepressants have a number of unwanted side effects. Meditation is, of course, free and doesn't damage the body or mind in any way—it does quite the opposite! Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) lead to sexual dysfunction, insomnia, nausea, and nervousness. Prozac, the most widely prescribed antidepressant in the world (also an SSRI), is associated with dry mouth, constipation, urinary retention, sedation, weight gain, skin rashes, headaches, tremors, dizziness, behavioral changes, excessive sweating, bronchitis, an inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes, yawning, muscle pain, back pain, joint pain, painful menstruation, and urinary tract infections.

Whether you believe depression is caused by external circumstances or a chemical imbalance in the brain or both, meditation has many strengths as a holistic treatment option. WildMind.org, an exhaustive meditation website, specifically recommends the Metta Bhavana practice (the development of what is known in the East as “lovingkindness”) for those with depression. It has been scientifically shown to be effective. It has no side effects, and it is easy and affordable.

   ~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com 


More Information/Sources:

How to Treat Depression with Meditation

Natural Cure For Depression–The Best Scientifically Proven At Home Depression Treatment

 List of antidepressants and their side effects

 Some Prozac (fluoxetine) Side Effects might not be side effects at all; they may be symptoms of your underlying anxiety.

 Meditation and depression

The Best Natural Treatments for Depression

Relieve Anxiety Without Medication

The ancient art and science of meditation, as it has made its way from the East to the West, has been transformed from its Buddhist roots. In the modern world of the West, meditation is used to help eliminate medical problems, bring people greater prosperity, and reduce anxiety.

Fountain Anxiety is a state of uneasiness, of apprehension—often about future events that one is anticipating with negative or positive associations. Meditation relieves uneasiness and apprehensiveness in a number of ways. First of all, anxiety is generally brought on by the incessant stream of thoughts running through one's mind whether it's the to-do list or what to cook for dinner. Meditation's #1 purpose is to turn off that never-ending voice in the head, in order to experience calmness and stillness—even for just a few precious minutes. For example, many people can understand how taking an afternoon power nap can be rejuvenating to the mind and body. Meditation takes that same state of mental relaxation to another level. While, of course, you'll know that your “problems” are waiting for you when you come out of the meditation, you'll have a renewed sense of being, peace, and tranquility in approaching them.

Blogger Shivani Wells analyzed data from four empirical studies done on the effectiveness of meditation at reducing anxiety. She looked at studies of different kinds of meditation and found that, despite some conflicting evidence:

It is clear that a number of different approaches to meditation are affective, and it also seems that many approaches share overlapping methods outside of simple seated meditation, which strengthen the evidence of the effectiveness of those elements, such as breath work and mantra repetition. I believe that the studies here clearly defend my hypothesis that meditation is an effective treatment in significantly reducing anxiety and perceived stress.”

On the other hand, studies also show that people with anxiety disorders have a hard time sticking with meditation regimens. Because of this, if you suffer from anxiety, it may be easier for you to do regular meditations in a meditation group, to learn from an expert offering meditation lessons, or at the minimum to rely on guided mediation CDs for assistance.

As you meditate, you may try any of these specific techniques to lower anxiety:

  • Do a mental scan of each part of your body from head to toe at the beginning of the meditation to see if you are holding on to stress or anxiety in that part of your body. If so, lovingly release that tension.
  • If your thoughts drift, pull your awareness back to “here” and “now.”
  • During the meditation, feel the serenity and peace that is you at the moment. Visualize carrying that tranquility with you as you sit in rush-hour traffic, referee the screaming kids, and face your demanding boss. Wherever you go or whatever you do that causes you anxiety, see yourself in that situation with the awesome power of the meditation in your being. 
  • At the end of your meditation, say a prayer or affirmation to the universe for everything you are grateful for (Family? Sunshine? A compliment? Good night of sleep? Being alive?)

  ~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com 


More Information/Sources:

Best Ways to Ease Anxiety Disorders

Meditation for Stress Reduction

Meditation Myth #4 – You Have to Be Able to Sit Still

Meditation is a great place to learn how to manage discomfort and pain. By sitting through discomfort, we find a way to separate the feeling from the emotion that surrounds the physical signal. It can create quite a sense of accomplishment to watch that itch come and finally go away without responding. When your feet fall asleep, it is another opportunity to learn how to deal with pain without the risk of hurting anything since the cause is a pinched nerve, not reduced blood circulation. All that said, the goal of meditation is not to punish ourselves or be cruel. We can wait a moment, try to separate the pain from the emotion, feel the pain as a physical signal and sit with it for a while. Then, we can adjust our position to relieve the discomfort. If the feet fall asleep, you can stand, stretch your legs or sit with your knees bent in front of you. It's ok to move, just do it mindfully. And then, settle back in to your breath.

  ~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com 

Finding Peace

I was just reading a post at one of my favorite blogs, zenhabits, about finding peace. The author talks about digging deeper to find out why we are stuck in habits that don't serve us. She says to "Find the most loving place inside you – the soft spot that melts when you encounter puppies, babies, or those most dear to you. Pour this love into the tension and painful feelings. This is the healing balm that untangles the knot."

Meditation is a good place to practice this. It gives us the chance everyday to stop and look at what is holding us back from being present and open. In meditation, we can see what is coming up and the reaction these thoughts cause. As Pema Chodron recommends, first, recognize the thought as thinking and let it go. What you are left with is the energy and the emotion of what you are feeling which you can sit with and explore without the thinking and judgement. It's a powerful exercise, one that can teach how to find and feel emotions.

  ~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com 

Meditation Myth #5 – Sitting On A Cushion Is Boring

Get-Started-Meditation When someone is meditating, it looks like they aren't doing anything. If they are just sitting there,isn't it boring? And if it is boring, isn't that a bad thing to be bored? 

Sitting still can be foreign to most people before they start meditating. While it might look like someone who is meditating is not doing anything, they are actually very active. They are working their brain by increasing their concentration power. The person meditating might be focusing on relaxation. Or, they might be contemplating something. All of this is active, just not visible. Being present is work. It's not easy and it's definitely not boring. 

  ~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com

What Does Vipassana Mean?

This is a question that people often wonder but don't always ask. In it's most simple sense, it means the same thing as Mindfulness Meditation. Here are a few definitions: 

Oxford American Dictionary: 

vipassana |viˈpäsənə| (alsoVipassana) noun

(in Theravada Buddhism) meditation involving concentration on the body or its sensations, or the insight that this provides.

ORIGIN Pali, literally ‘inward vision.’


Vipassanā (Pāli) or vipaśyanā (विपश्यना, Sanskrit) in the Buddhist tradition means insight into the nature of reality. A regular practitioner of Vipassana is known as Vipassi (vipaśyin). Vipassana is one of world's most ancient techniques of meditation, the inception of which is attributed to Gautama Buddha. It is a practice of self-transformation through self-observation and self introspection. In English, vipassanā meditation is often referred to simply as "insight meditation".

The Buddhist Society:

Insight into the true nature of things. A particular form of meditation

Shinzen Young:

Originally derived from the Theravada school of Buddhism, vipassana can be practiced by followers of any (or no) religion as a useful mental skill set. Removed from its cultural and doctrinal trappings, vipassana meditation (usually under the name mindfulness) is finding clinical application in the fields of pain management, stress management,compulsions and as an adjunct to psychotherapy.

~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com

Fearlessness at Work, Karme Choling


I attended a retreat this weekend at
Karme Choling in Vermont called Fearlessness at Work. It was taught by Michael Carroll who wrote the books Awake at Work and The Mindful Leader. This was my first weekend retreat and really I was just worried about making it for three days on a cushion. I didn't do any research on the teacher or subject matter before I arrived. Fortunately, as I suspected it would be, the teaching was top notch. Michael's sense of humor and business savvy made the weekend both interesting and fun. I enjoyed getting to know the other participants as well. It was a small group which made it so that we all got to know each other and had some great discussions. 

The exciting part of the subject of using mindfulness at work for me is how to use mindfulness to perform better. Before I started meditating, I thought that if I really mastered it, I wouldn't want to do well anymore, like I would just be so peaceful nothing would matter. While I have to admit that two years into meditating I don't care as much about how I rate against others, I put even more effort into my passions than before. But now, it's from a creative energy rather than feelings of inadequacy. Being with a group of people that also wanted to excel in what they do, yet maintain their sanity while doing it, made me realize that success and mindfulness are not contrary to each other. Instead, I see that mindfulness can foster success. 

The class used the second book, The Mindful Leader as the guide which I am glad I have to read cover to cover. The most important topics for me were those of synchronizing with your surroundings and opening up your awareness to really see what is going on in any situation. I can see how it might take a while to incorporate everything but that each little step in using the learning will make small changes. My meditation practice has also taken a big leap forward with the advice and counseling from Michael as well. 

~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com