Meditation: Western vs Eastern. Know yourself!

Eastern vs Western Meditation.

The purpose of this email is to individually arouse the question:

• Where does my meditation practice and spiritual energy go!?
• Who controls what I think to be good practices?
• What energy is transferred from and into me whilst partaking in organised Eastern meditation, particularly mass meditation at set times”.

Please read with an open mind and ask yourself:

“Just why did the Beatles (amongst others) bring Eastern Meditation, philosophy and ideology to the West with so much force and vigour and who instructed them to do so!?”

Meditation if misguided will in fact create a Cult!

(Please research “western meditation vs eastern meditation” and even the whole Hippy movement!).



Meditation in western philosophy by Marcus Aurelius

When we think about “Meditation” we tend to picture people seating cross-legged, focusing in their breath, emptying the mind. Mindfuldness has become a word to refer a secularized version of eastern meditation. But those are not actually “Meditation” in the strict sense of the word. The word meditation comes from latin meditare, to measure, to pay attention to something with our mind. A more accurate word for the eastern way of meditation is what in the west was known as Contemplation, or silent meditation. This post is about Meditation and Contemplation in the western tradition, from the ancient Greeks to our time.

According to Gellius (Attic Nights 2.1.1–3), this was a habitual practice of Socrates: Among voluntary tasks and exercises for strengthening his body for any chance demands upon its endurance we are told that Socrates habitually practised this one: he would stand, so the story goes, in one fixed position, all day and all night, from early dawn until the next sunrise, open-eyed, motionless, in his very tracks and with face and eyes riveted to the same spot in deep meditation [cogitabundus], as if his mind and soul had been, as it were, withdrawn from his body. When Favorinus in his discussion of the man’s fortitude and his many other virtues had reached this point, he said: “He often stood from sun to sun, more rigid than the tree trunks.” As Bussanich (2013, pp. 298–300) has noted this is comparable to ascetical practices found in various oriental religions. I think what Socrates was doing was not some oriental meditation, but a kind of inner dialogue.

MEDITATION

At the heart of Western philosophy is the Dialogue. It is a practice as old as language itself and found in many cultures in different forms. The dialectic method has multiple applications, from self knowledge to the development of critical thinking. It was the driving force behind the development of western philosophy, but also democracy, arts such theater or the scientific method.

The dialectic method is a very humble discipline. It begins with asking simple questions for asking the right questions can be more important than getting the answers.

“I only know that I know nothing.”This simple phrase uttered by Socrates encapsulates the core of his wisdom, and forms the roots from which the dialectic method has grown. Although Socrates didn’t write anything himself, his student Plato wrote a voluminous number of dialogues with Socrates as the central character.

Plato’s Dialogues are not just a masterpiece of literature. We should remember that those dialogues were not historical accounts on his teacher’s inquires to fellow athenians but they are the very core of the Socratic Method. More importantly, the Dialogues are a device designed to make us think and wake us up from our self made assumptions. Even when we disagree with its content and conclusions, we are forced to create and define our own arguments in favour or against.

INNER DIALOGUE

Inner dialogue is a great tool for self knowledge. Know thyself was one of the maxims written in the entrance at Delphi. We know many people but chances are that we will end our lives without knowing ourselves. Yet, there is a “conversation” all the time inside our heads. When we are driving our cars, of at work or even when we are talking to somebody we rarely are fully aware of our patterns of thought. We spend our lives ruminating rather that meditating. The unique ability of human consciousness to be aware of itself and reflect on its future, it’s our source of power but also of troubles.

Pascal said that all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

NEGATIVE VISUALIZATION

We should begin each morning seating quietly for a few minutes, and visualize the day ahead, with special focus on the difficulties we are going to experience. We should pay attention to our reactions toward the things that happen to us, how we narrate to ourselves our setbacks. At night, we should end the day by recalling the events that happened during the day, mindfully and objectively, bringing to mind the things we could have made better during the day, or the things we have learned from the experience.

WRITING MEDITATION

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Another practice that I find not just useful, but very pleasant, is writing meditation, or what the ancient Greeks called Hypomnemata. This involves the writing of a book addressed only to ourselves. It is not a diary, since it is not about events, but dialogue with ourselves, a remainder of our principles, conversations, reflections, taking notes on readings or anything that we found meaningful or helpful for our philosophy or life.

The stoic tradition Marcus Aurelius

THE PRESENT MOMENT

“Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. Quit evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now.”
―Epictetus


ANAGOGÉ (Ascent)

Ascent, elevation, bringing up; in the Platonic tradition means the scape from the cave and the elevation into the world of the Forms. An idea taken from the religious rites organized to approach to the divine realm by means of purifications (katharmoi), initiations (teletai), the Platonic dialectic and allegorical exegesis, contemplation (theoria) it is prefigured by the sacred way which the initiates of mysteries (mustai) walk, the path to the mountain (oreibasia)

‘Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smooths there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer. … Cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiselling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendour of virtue.


First Ennead, Sixth Tractate, Section 9

‘It is now time, leaving every object of sense far behind, to contemplate, by a certain ascent, a beauty of a much higher order; a beauty not visible to the corporeal eye, but alone manifest to the brighter eye of the soul, independent of all corporeal aid. However, since, without some previous perception of beauty it is impossible to express by words the beauties of sense, but we must remain in the state of the blind, so neither can we ever speak of the beauty of offices and sciences, and whatever is allied to these, if deprived of their intimate possession. Thus we shall never be able to tell of virtue’s brightness, unless by looking inward we perceive the fair countenance of justice and temperance, and are convinced that neither the evening nor morning star are half so beautiful and bright. But it is requisite to perceive objects of this kind by that eye by which the soul beholds such real beauties. Besides it is necessary that whoever perceives this species of beauty, should be seized with much greater delight, and more vehement admiration, than any corporeal beauty can excite; as now embracing beauty real and substantial. Such affections, I say, ought to be excited about true beauty, as admiration and sweet astonishment; desire also and love and a pleasant trepidation. For all souls, as I may say, are affected in this manner about invisible objects, but those the most who have the strongest propensity to their love; as it likewise happens about corporeal beauty; for all equally perceive beautiful corporeal forms, yet all are not equally excited, but lovers in the greatest degree.” PLOTINUS


“What measures, then, shall we adopt? What machine employ, or what reason consult by means of which we may contemplate this ineffable beauty; a beauty abiding in the most divine sanctuary without ever proceeding from its sacred retreats lest it should be beheld by the profane and vulgar eye? We must enter deep into ourselves, and, leaving behind the objects of corporeal sight, no longer look back after any of the accustomed spectacles of sense. For, it is necessary that whoever beholds this beauty, should withdraw his view from the fairest corporeal forms; and, convinced that these are nothing more than images, vestiges and shadows of beauty, should eagerly soar to the fair original from which they are derived. For he who rushes to these lower beauties, as if grasping realities, when they are only like beautiful images appearing in water, will, doubtless, like him in the fable, by stretching after the shadow, sink into the lake and disappear. For, by thus embracing and adhering to corporeal forms, he is precipitated, not so much in his body as in his soul, into profound and horrid darkness; and thus blind, like those in the infernal regions, converses only with phantoms, deprived of the perception of what is real and true.”

“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
― Ludwig Wittgenstein       


The above is just one extract. Please do your own research into the difference between Eastern and Western meditation & the .

Much like the harmless Tibetan monk sat all alone in his mountain top cave constantly meditating for his own inner peace, own well-being and own gain the West has been overrun with the same ideology. Would the peasants living further down the mountain not deem him the most selfish of all? He, never going out of his way to support and cherish his own people but rather choosing to follow the instructions of his elite superiors, thus exhibiting mindless devotion!


Expanding on the extract above this simple daily “Western Meditation” is sure to improve the lives of those around you, therefore improve your own life and your own inner relationship.

Many may hate what they find but with practice and the willingness to change, the outcome of this “Simple Daily Practice” is certain.

(When the word “God” is mentioned your own conception or belief is to be used. This is a Non-Religious meditation but the list of possibilities to suit every individual would obviously be into the tens of billions).

When we retire at night, we constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once? Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life? But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others. After making our review we ask God’s forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken.

On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use. Our thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.

In thinking about our day we may face indecision. We may not be able to determine which course to take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. We relax and take it easy. We don’t struggle. We are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while. What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind. Being still inexperienced it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.

We usually conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems. We ask especially for freedom from self-will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves only. We may ask for ourselves, however, if others will be helped. We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends. Many of us have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn’t work. You can easily see why.

If circumstances warrant, we ask our wives or friends to join us in morning meditation. If we belong to a religious denomination which requires a definite morning devotion, we attend to that also. If not members of religious bodies, we sometimes select and memorize a few set prayers which emphasize the principles we have been discussing. There are many helpful books also. Suggestions about these may be obtained from one’s priest, minister, or rabbi. Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer.

As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day “Thy will be done.” We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves.

It works – it really does.

Love not Fear….ALWAYS

Prayer (Western Meditation) of St. Francis of Assisi (Non-Religious version.)

Make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
and it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

 

 

 

 

https://windowsontheworld.net/video_type/2971/

Detach and Defend

Exploring castles, their bulk, their layout, imagining their former glory and architecture, and moving about their space can give great pleasure.  The imagination is challenged and exercised in trying to empathise and consider the mind-set of the medieval occupants and what made them tick.

Touching the stones, climbing the narrow stairs to the battlements and looking out across the surrounding land, is it fanciful to think that there was a message left behind, an intensity of presence, emotion, and drama, that had left its mark?  To my knowledge no-one has ever found such a message, and now with ethereal and ubiquitous chemical and EMF pollution, we may not have any chance of sensing a hidden message.

We may know who those people were, but how did they think?

One of the most interesting parts for me is the Gatehouse or Barbican.  Could this be where that hidden message lies?  Did the various people going through that Gate, the serfs, dignitaries, clergy, entertainers, scholars and others, leave an emotional record?

What were the thoughts, the fears and expectations of those people?

If we try and connect all that we know, putting together the jigsaw, we may just have some idea, but the net would have to be spread widely using our imagination.  There are fake pieces where some have tried to rewrite history. The environment, education, expectations, fatalism, religious fervour, health, knowledge and survival strategies would all have had an effect on their emotions.  A complex harmonic of influences and beliefs.

Can strength of presence embed itself into stone?  Is there some network of intangible resonances that allow the storage, and recording of human emotion?

As my hand runs across the stonework there is something that tells me that their spirit is still there to tell others of the drama of their lives.  But alas there was never any sensed message only the tangible remains.

It is as though an impossible code had to be broken.

Life must have been simple, hierarchical, and manual.  The world must have been a dangerous place in medieval times and the mass and strength of the castle was safety.  The huge thick walls and sometimes moat, was a barricade to the terrifying threats that could manifest in the open world.

Yes there was a price to pay to the ‘Lords of the Manor’.  One could argue that the price was necessary, that servitude and obedience was a price worth paying for communal safety in times of danger from violence and disease.

Besides, they all had some ownership with their presence.  They were a part of something.   They had belonging.  Without some sort of belonging they would become lost and lonely and vulnerable.  Our belonging is through nature and the even handed reality of the natural environment.

If those people had left the safety of their realm would they have become fodder for another Lord and Master?

What parallels can we draw between them and us, two peoples divided by 750 years?  Such a long time.

We could not live in their time with its hardship and pain.  Surely the social victims and snowflakes of the present would have barely lasted a week?  But could those medieval people have survived in our world?  Certainly they were not without the intrigue and drama of life.  Let us not be conceited and patronising to think they were not intelligent and sensitive.  Life then would have had its complexities as well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzmnSyqv37A

They were not free, probably little more than slaves.  Are we free?  Is there freedom in nature?   Their technology was basic and simple, ours is relatively advanced and complex.  Does that matter? The technology and lifestyle may have changed but the principles, and the human condition are the same.

Can we find meaning from what we know?  How can we know when meaning can be lost in translation?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyTfSAuTcYk

When a threat came it was through that Gate, protected by the Barbican, that people rushed.  They didn’t rush in because they were oppressed or because they lived in squalor in the outlying fields around the castle.  That was their home, or at least where they spent most of their lives, cold and hungry.  No, they rushed in for their lives, the loss of their belonging, and fear of the unknown.  When that threat came there must have been panic and their society would have been in crisis.

They detached themselves from the larger world, defended their castle in the knowledge that the world would wait for them.

That was my first clue.

An emotional connection was made.  Suddenly those cold stones were warm.  They had offered protection, to those people, their belonging, their ownership, their loved ones, and sanctity to prolong their medieval society.  And while the screams, fires, destruction and turmoil went on outside the walls they knew that they must defend their space to the death.

What is different now?  Do we not love ourselves and our own?  Do we not see the mistakes that could be righted?  Can we afford to lose our ownership and our belonging?

We cannot lock ourselves up in a castle.  Our world is different more complex, but is it any different in terms of the human condition?  Can we not defend our individualism our connection with nature and our free will?

A lot is similar in some ways, a little in other ways, but there are basic needs that haven’t changed at all.  Not, in all those centuries of pain and anguish have we lost our underlying humanity.  Love, nature, ownership, belonging, community, they still mean something.

The threat today are the Globalists, the Ideologists, and those who want to control and impose.  The UN, the EU, the Corporations, Communism, and Religious Ideologies that cannot be reformed or named.  They seek world domination through technological, medical, financial and religious tyranny. They are the new bogeymen.

Yes eventually there will be a One World, a coming together of mankind, but not this way, not yet, and not without our consent.

We have International Standards that allow synergy.  The direction that Corporate, Socialist, and Politico-religious and Technocratic Ideologies are taking us cannot be the way to go.  The clues are all there, Agenda 30, the removal of ownership, digital control, apostasy and discrimination.  The fear, the crisis, and the panic are still here.  The tyranny now, is just as, if not more as dangerous as the tyranny then, with marauding armies and gangs in medieval times.

“The human attitude is always based on the same kind of insight into life, and strives for the same kind of victory over blind chance.”

― Hermann Hesse   The Glass Bead Game

We do not comply unless we are have informed choice.  We need to know risk.  Unless of course one trusts corporations, politicians and those in their control.

This was the second clue and the penny dropped.  They detached and they defended.  That need has been passed on throughout humanity.

The key was not in those large blocks of stone used to construct castles.  The key was in our hearts, and in our souls. The message was within ourselves all the time.

Now we must pull up our metaphorical drawbridge, detach ourselves from a virtual imposed reality, and defend the real natural reality, where our choices in life and our belonging to mother earth, matter.

Written by a PenwithCAN member

Cultivating wellbeing and mental health through gardening

 

Vaithehy Shanmuganathan-Felton, Luke Felton, Celia Briseid and Betty Maitland.

West Cornwall gardening for wellbeing

On 10 May 2020, the strict social distancing rules aimed to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 within the community eased, including the reopening of garden centres. Approximately 87 per cent of UK households have access to a domestic garden [1], with gardening considered a popular pastime, with 40 per cent of the total UK population actively participating in gardening [2]. There is a substantial body of research demonstrating the positive benefits of gardening-based activities on wellbeing and mental health [3]. In this article, we will provide a brief overview of the evidence-based psychological health benefits of gardening across the lifespan, the mechanisms through which gardening promotes wellbeing and mental health, and finally some guidance on how to incorporate gardening activities to enhance wellbeing and mental health during the current pandemic (and beyond).

The benefits of gardening on wellbeing and mental health across the lifespan

Gardening encompasses a range of basic activities such as sowing, the planting of fruit, vegetables and flowers to more complex horticultural activities. We use the term ‘gardening’ to describe “an activity in which people grow, cultivate, and take care of plants (flowers and vegetables) for non-commercial use,” in domestic gardens, allotment and community gardens [3].

Engagement in gardening activities (either integrated in the school curriculum or community and home based) has shown to promote social relationships, family connection, emotional and mental wellbeing, moderate stress, reduce depression and anxiety, and improve cognitive and educational outcomes in children and adolescents [4-6]. Further personal well-being effects include increased enjoyment, sense of achievement, satisfaction and pride from nurturing the plants; feelings of mastery and empowerment for children who do not excel in the traditional academic setting; provide quiet time for reflection and increased confidence and self-esteem [6]. Participating in gardening activities appears to have a similar positive impact on adult wellbeing and mental health, with improvements in life satisfaction, vigour, psychological wellbeing, positive affect, quality of life [7-9] and reductions in stress, anger, fatigue, depression and anxiety symptoms reported [9-11]. Engagement in gardening has shown to have both immediate and long-term effects on mental health outcomes. Just gardening for several hours provides instantaneous reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms, while gardening daily is associated with reduced stress and increased life satisfaction [3].

Gardening is one of the most preferred methods of physical activity in older adults [12]. Recent research conducted at the University of Roehampton examined the effect of a gardening programme involving cultivating food on promoting bone health, mental health and reducing falls in older adults [13]. While the programme did not improve physical health, it did improve participant’s subjective wellbeing, and self-efficacy in achieving their goals. Other studies have further shown gardening to reduce stress, promote feelings of mastery, accomplishment and competence, higher levels of self-efficacy, self-esteem, and psychological wellbeing [14-15]. Moreover, the social and physical health benefits of community gardening has shown to delay dementia symptoms [16].

Given the compelling evidence for gardening and improved mental (and physical) health, Horticultural Therapy was developed as a cost-effective alternative treatment for those with psychological and psychiatric issues. Horticultural Therapy, which involves sowing and planting with therapeutic goals and objectives for improving or recovering health, is effective in treating patients with a number of mental health conditions, including clinical depression, schizophrenia, and substance abuse [17-18]. Unsurprisingly, such positive effects of the Horticultural Therapy appears to be stronger enduring in patients and therapy users than with the general population, with improvement of patients’ mental health persisting three months following therapy [3].

Why does gardening improve wellbeing and mental health? 

There are a number of reasons for the positive effects of gardening on wellbeing and mental health. First, there is the strenuous physical exertion underpinning gardening activities. The benefits of physical activity and exercise for mental health are well known, with 30 minutes of daily exercise sufficient to improve and maintain wellbeing and mental health [19]. Planting, weeding, digging, raking, and mowing are considered physically intense and avid gardeners can easily exert the same amount of energy as running or going to the gym [20]. Gardening provides a more creative and enjoyable way to undertake physical exercise and meet the national exercise recommendations, which in return contribute to improving psychological health.

Gardening also allows individuals to interact with nature. In recent years, a growing number of studies led by researchers at Essex University, have demonstrated the benefits of ‘Green Exercise’ (GE; being physically active within a natural environment or greenspace), on wellbeing and mental health, with reductions in stress and depression, increases in self-esteem, mood and wellbeing reported in children and adolescents, adults, and vulnerable and disadvantaged populations [21]. Even small doses, such as five minutes of nature, is considered to improve self-esteem and mood [22]. Furthermore, GE can provide greater benefits than physical activity, exercise, or nature contact alone for wellbeing and mental health [21]. Gardening therefore offers an opportunity to not only interact with nature but also engaging in physical activity, therefore reaping all the health benefits of GE.

Community and therapeutic gardening projects offer a social context to the activity for social interaction, which can counteract feelings of loneliness and social isolation, especially for those with pre-existing learning difficulties and mental health [3]. It provides an opportunity to meet new people, make new friends, connect with people to develop a network or inner circle and draw support from like-minded people.

How to incorporate gardening into our lives during and beyond social isolation 

There is clear evidence that gardening is an enjoyable and effective activity for improving physical activity as well as wellbeing and mental health across the lifespan. Whilst we are adapting to the many changes to work and home-life, the opportunities to incorporate gardening presents itself as an activity that individuals can do on their own or with loved ones. Gardening activities can include a range of activities, which suit all needs and skill levels in enjoyable and meaningful ways. For example, growing tropical houseplants from kitchen scraps such as avocado seeds and pineapple tops, or create a sensory herb garden such as basil, parsley, mint and chives on the windowsill using empty tin cans. Sprouting seeds is also an ideal way to produce some salad sprouts especially in tiny spaces, whilst teaching children about the journey of food from field to fork. Children’s learning can be bought outdoors in easy and educational activities. For example, using flowers for solving maths equations, examining soil, roots and shoots for biology lessons and the web of life.

Other activities that children, adults and older adults can incorporate into their lifestyle include sowing, growing, weeding and watering vegetables, fruits, plants, shrubs and flowers. Those that new to gardening can start small, growing in little pots or tin cans. Salad greens such as lettuce, rocket and chard are easy to grow in small spaces, and many baby leaf greens are ready to harvest in only 4-5 weeks. It is important to note that gardens can be everywhere, by the front door, steps, balcony, a rooftop or community gardens and allotments and all count towards maintaining wellbeing and mental health. Gardening offers a place where trial and error is welcome, so imagination can flow freely about what to grow. The work also never ends with gardening, the care and maintenance will keep gardeners active for at least 10 months of the year. Engagement in such activities will allow adults working from home to take regular breaks and reduce sedentary behaviour; children studying remotely or being home-schooled to reflect on their learning and reduce the stress associated with learning; families to interact with each other in a meaningful way and reduce feelings of helplessness and loneliness in older adults beyond the current climate.

Dr Vaithehy Shanmuganathan-Felton is a Senior Lecturer in Mental health and Wellbeing in Sport and Exercise at University of Roehampton. 

Dr Luke Felton is a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology of Human Performance at University of Roehampton.

Celia Briseid is the Growhampton Project Manager at University of Roehampton. 

Betty Maitland is a Research Assistant at University of Roehampton.

References

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   Credit: The Psychologist