Last October, my friend Felice started teaching meditation webinars. I had been battling anxiety/depression for months. Felice had been trying to get me meditating for years. I figured, “Hey, it couldn’t hurt to try.” The week I started meditating with her was the week I started to feel like myself again. Coincidence? Perhaps. A lot of things had shifted in my life at that time. But the more I learn about meditation, the more I want to meditate.
Last week a reader recommended the book Meditation as Medicine, by Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., when I wrote about my panic attack. I checked it out from my local library and started reading it yesterday. I wish I could just sit and read this book all day. I love the author’s writing/teaching style.
I’ve been learning a lot lately about the healing power of sound (see here and here). So I’ve been seeing the world through that lens, frequently asking myself, “What sounds am I hearing? Do they feel good to me?” Interestingly enough, yesterday in the car, my daughter said (completely out of the blue), “This song sounds evil.” I changed the station!
I particularly like this quote from the preface of Healing at the Speed of Sound:
“When we speak of being of ‘sound mind and body,’ we seldom realize that sound itself is the root of being. That sound itself is the route to acquire those things we want so much, a sound mind and body.”
I knew from past research that singing increases oxytocin levels in the body… always a good thing. If you think about sound as vibration and energy as vibration, it starts to fall into place how sound can have such a profound effect upon us. Some sounds have higher energy than others. Every bit of matter in our bodies is vibrating with energy, and being exposed to certain sound vibrations will cause the matter within our bodies to begin vibrating in sync with that sound energy. If it’s the right kind of sound, our bodies will respond with healing.
There are lots of different kinds of meditation. Mantra meditation is particularly powerful because it utilizes the principle that sound currents can heal. Dharma Singh Khalsa explains it well in the first chapter of Meditation as Medicine:
“The ancient Sanskrit words that I chant every morning have a very specific physiological action. The reverberative sounds in them vibrate the pituitary, just above the roof of my mouth, which changes the secretions of this master gland of the endocrine system. Obviously, the ancient yoga masters who devised this mantra had no anatomic knowledge of the pituitary, but they did know that the Ong Namo mantra worked. Quite simply, it made people feel more like themselves–their true selves, their highest selves” (p. 4).
My own experience adds credence to Dharma Singh Khalsa’s words. When I started meditating, I started to feel my true self coming back. And then I started to feel an even more marvelous version of myself emerging. And other people started to notice too. As I wrote back in April, a friend said to me, “You look like you just came from heaven.” I laughed and said, “‘Cause I’m wearing all white?” She said, “No… your aura. You’re glowing.”
Dharma Singh Khalsa isn’t the only one talking about this. Here’s an excerpt from an article called “Meditation as Medicine” from Neurology Now (Aug/Sep 2012):
Meditation produces measurable changes in the brain, say experts. For example, in a 2011 study published in the medical journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, researchers found that people who participated in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program experienced increased density in brain regions associated with memory, one’s sense of self, empathy, and stress response.
Previous studies uncovered a thickening of both gray matter (the parts of the brain involved with thoughts and emotions) and white matter (the parts of the brain that connect different gray matter regions) among meditators compared to people who don’t meditate regularly. While scientists aren’t clear what these changes mean, they suspect that thickening gray and white matter is associated with the ability to process information more efficiently.
A few weeks ago I started slacking. I stopped meditating. And at the same time, that true-higher self I had felt myself becoming began slipping away. I started feeling physically and emotionally run-down. Then last Friday night I had a panic attack. Coincidence? Perhaps. Probably not.
Most of you know I’m a Christian (a Mormon, to be exact). I’ll admit I was a little weirded out by meditation for a long time. I wondered… Why should I chant a bunch of words I don’t even understand? Is this really OK? Felice’s meditation class helped me to recognize that you can infuse any meditation practice with whatever spiritual belief system you already embrace. You can make your meditation practice Christ-centered. Felice wrote a whole chapter about incorporating meditation into your spiritual pregnancy preparation in our book, The Gift of Giving Life.
You can analyze the mantras and mudras and see how they really do all stem from the same Source that provides all the healing experienced in the universe. And I believe that God is pleased when we use our bodies, minds, spirits, and voices to become our best and highest selves, bringing ourselves more and more into harmony and sync with truth and the Divine. I feel like I’m only beginning to scratch the surface of what meditation really does, but I am hungry for more.
Felice is teaching another session of meditation starting next week, if you’re interested in learning more yourself. You could ask for it as a Mother’s Day present. What better gift to give yourself and your family than the gift of becoming acquainted with your highest/best self?