from the world's big
10 powerful quotes to inspire your meditation practice
Sometimes doing nothing means everything.
- Meditation can have a profound impact in reducing anxiety and stress.
- While there are many ways to meditate, the ability to sustain your attention on one thing for a period of time is the foundation of them all.
- The more you practice, the more results you get, though quality of time is more important than quantity
Nothing is created in a vacuum. The emergence of meditation as a cultural staple in America is in large part a response to the continual fragmentation of attention. How one meditates can vary widely; different practices suit varying temperaments. Carving time into your day to focus on one thing for a sustained period does everyone good, for a clear mind is a healthy one. Reduce the stress of your own life and you tend to share that reward by being kinder to others.
Beyond anxiety reduction, there is the attentional deficit many of us are suffering from. As we offload more information to our devices, opportunities for sustained attention are dwindling. Why remember the route you're taking when a map will carry you along? Why remember anything at all? Unfortunately, memory is critical for healthy cognitive functioning. Lose that and we lose everything.
Whether five minutes or five hours, the quality of time you put into a meditation practice matters. As with many practices, the more, the better, but even as little as ten minutes a day can be highly beneficial.
Where to begin
If you're new to meditation, you might ask: Where to start? With something we all share, as advised by someone who's been mediating his entire life.
The great advantage of choosing one's breath as the object of mindfulness training is that breathing is an instinctive and effortless activity, something which we do as long as we are alive, so there is no need to strive hard to find the object of this practice.
The Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality
But what is it? As mentioned, meditation means different things to different people, though I appreciate this definition by a master, which discusses the importance of presence.
Meditation is to be aware of every thought and of every feeling, never to say it is right or wrong but just to watch it and move with it. In that watching you begin to understand the whole movement of thought and feeling. And out of this awareness comes silence. Silence put together by thought is stagnation, is dead, but the silence that comes when thought has understood its own beginning, the nature of itself, understood how all thought is never free but always old—this silence is meditation in which the meditator is entirely absent, for the mind has emptied itself of the past.
Krishnamurti, Freedom From the Known
Breathing meditation training by the Dalai Lama
While mysticism is often advertised as a benefit of meditation, I prefer a secular practice, which is why I choose breathing as my point of focus. No idolatry, no divinity, just physiology. Not that a different focus is wrong, mind you, it simply doesn't speak to me. My mystical inclination leans more in this direction.
Meditation is about embracing what is happening to this organism as it touches its environment in this moment. I do not reject the experience of the mystical. I reject only the view that the mystical is concealed behind what is merely apparent, that is anything other than what is occurring in time and space right now. The mystical does not transcend the world, but saturates it.
Stephen Batchelor, After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age
The biggest benefit, for me, is perspective. Meditation has helped me deal with the here and now in profound ways, including as an antidote to my longstanding history with panic attacks. The mystical and biological are not separate, as this neuroscientist explains.
When one breathes in the slow, measured way that is commonly taught in meditation, yoga, and relaxation training, the vagus nerve, which controls the parasympathetic nervous system, becomes more active, and the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic system improves. As a result, heart rate variability increases, and the times when it is somewhat slower provide windows of opportunity for automatic processes to drive heart rate down and thus reduce elevated blood pressure and other sympathetic responses.
Joseph LeDoux, Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety
Entering the dark side
Controlling your nervous system with sustained practice is truly profound, considering they are generally autonomic processes. Many meditators also focus on the processes we control, including the dark spaces we don't always like to discuss. This, of course, isn't necessarily pretty. It means understanding and, if necessary, changing habits.
Body awareness puts us in touch with our inner world, the landscape of our organism. Simply noticing our annoyance, nervousness, or anxiety immediately helps us shift our perspective and opens up new options other than our automatic, habitual reactions. Mindfulness puts us in touch with the transitory nature of our feelings and perceptions. When we pay focused attention to our bodily sensations, we can recognize the ebb and flow of our emotions and, with that, increase our control over them.
Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Guided Meditation with Sam Harris - Short Version
Mediation is often pictured as peaceful, but anyone wrestling with their mind knows this not to be true. You can get there, but it takes work. That work means owning all of yourself.
The freedom the Buddha envisioned does not come from jettisoning imprisoning thoughts and feelings or from abandoning the suffering self; it comes from learning how to hold it all differently, juggling them rather than cleaving to their ultimate realities.
Mark Epstein, The Trauma of Everyday Life
Pain as a means of healing
Including pain, which can be an entry point into healing.
Since the essence of meditation is awareness, any sensation that anchors attention can be used as support—and pain particularly can be very effective in focusing.
Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Change Your Mind, Brain, and Body
The bigger picture
Of course, this also means recognizing your place in the bigger picture, which I find to be more liberating than frightening. As an animal fearful of death, however, this is no easy path.
It is because our way of observing things is deeply rooted in our self-centered ideas that we are disappointed when we find everything has only a tentative existence. But when we actually realize this truth, we will have no suffering.
Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
Because once existential threat is managed, you begin to understand empathy and compassion.
Meditation is thus a form of centering, which involves our disengagement from the machine of our mind and our resting in the heart.
Georg Feuerstein, The Deeper Dimension of Yoga: Theory and Practice
Putting these qualities into action, however, is another story—one worth living.
To really do nothing, with perfection, is as difficult as doing everything.
Alan Watts, Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion
Ego, Buddhism, Freud: Why your self-image may be wrong
Join The Daily Show comedian Jordan Klepper and elite improviser Bob Kulhan live at 1 pm ET on Tuesday, July 14!
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.
- When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
- A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
- Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."