What many Eastern cultures have known for millennia is only just starting to be embraced by the West. With the rise of Eastern mystic practices in the United States beginning in the 1960s, meditation has taken on a new and wider role in our society.
Why has it become so popular? Because, regardless of how, meditation works. Slowing our breath, focusing our thoughts, and relaxing our bodies provides peace and serenity and can enhance and improve our overall health.
Recently, meditation has been making the news and has been embraced by multiple pop culture icons. Let’s take a quick look at some of the ways meditation has become more popular in recent months.
Mindful meditation with Anderson Cooper
Reporter and talk show host Anderson Cooper recently filed this report on the popular evening news program 60 Minutes. In the broadcast, Cooper showcases Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT trained scientist and mindfulness practitioner who believes meditation can be a powerful tool in everyone’s lives. In the 1970s, he began teaching these relaxation techniques to individuals suffering from chronic pain, which is a common method of treatment still used today.
Kabat-Zinn suggests that the method of approaching each moment with awareness can help us relieve stress, increase our overall satisfaction, and improve our lives. Rather than immediately springing into action for the next task to be completed, spend some time being aware of your body and your spirit. He refers to this as “resting in awareness.”
Mindfulness is described as exercise for the mind. It gets easier to become less distracted with practice. At a mindfulness meditation retreat, Anderson Cooper participated in a number of practices designed to help calm the mind and bring awareness back to the present. The group engaged in eating meditations and walking meditations to learn how to just eat or just walk without any distractions. He admitted it was hard to turn off his brain at first, but since the report he says he has been meditating daily.
This practice is being used to help treat addiction as well. And most people in our country could stand to be less engaged with our mobile devices. In fact, an expert states within the segment that our current technology stimulates the same reward pathways in our brains as addiction. Turning off the devices is a good first step, but retraining the brain to rest is an important piece of the puzzle as well.
BBC News reports on meditation for chronic pain
Leader in world news, the BBC, shared the story of Vidyamala Burch on their pain management news network, Ouch. Burch is a pain management practitioner based in Manchester, England. She also suffers from chronic pain herself, as a direct result of her career of helping others. After years of rehabilitation she wasn’t finding the pain relief she was seeking until she came across mindfulness meditation.
Fifteen years ago, Burch became ordained as a Buddhist and began teaching mindfulness meditation to others. She found that not only did it help her with her own pain but could help others as well. She also trains people in mindfulness techniques so they can teach the practice to their students and chronic pain patients.
Burch fights against the idea that every illness is a battle or a war to be won. She believes that compassion and kindness are important tools for chronic pain patients to understand, even towards themselves. There are simply some chronic conditions that cannot be cured and learning to live with them, though mindfulness may be essential for leading a more fulfilling life. Burch notes:
“There’s something very beautiful about learning to walk beside whatever difficulty you’ve got, with dignity, acceptance and grace.”
ABC News anchor Dan Harris talks about being happier in his new 2014 book
The book is titled in a tongue-in-cheek way; “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story” but the subject couldn’t be more serious.
Dan Harris, contributor for the popular Nightline series as well as several other ABC News programs, wrote this thoughtful but sometimes funny memoir to showcase how mindfulness meditation changed and improve his life. This happened after suffering a panic attack on live TV during the show Good Morning America. The event brought his own issues to public light, whether he wanted them to or not. Harris was not religious and the idea of turning to something so seemingly “new age” was absolutely foreign to him.
The book follows his journey looking for a solution to his anxiety issues including alternative spirituality, main stream religion, and neuroscience. However, it was introducing a regular meditation practice into his life that truly helped him. He had not expected the answer to come in the form of meditation, but that is exactly what allowed him to reclaim his life and quiet his racing mind.
Celebrities and the story of Dr. Sarno
In December of 2014 a Kickstarter campaign was fully funded for the project All The Rage: A Film About Dr Sarno, Emotions, and Health. With just under 750 backers the campaign raised over $6,000 more than their goal. The film is the story of Dr. Sarno, a conservative and standard medical doctor who has been practicing rehabilitative medicine in New York City for over 50 years. But what makes him different? In spite of his very traditional approach to medicine, he more often than not prescribes nothing but knowledge to treat pain.
This film, which has been over ten years in the making, has been completely funded and will soon be available. It features firsthand accounts of well-known celebrities who have found relief from chronic pain by seeking treatment from Dr. Sarno himself. Dr. Sarno believes that emotional pain and the pressure and stress we put on ourselves can actually cause pain without any physical cause at all. While the idea that you can treat pain with the mind and body connection sounds like crazy new age practices, it can really work. Filmmaker Michael Galinsky follows his own struggle dealing with chronic back pain and the treatments he sought from Dr. Sarno in this upcoming documentary.
Do you think mindfulness meditation can help you calm your mind and ease your chronic pain?
Image by Betty Nudler via Flickr