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Sanctuary on Earth - A Guided Meditation

Srucara's picture



What is Meditation?

Meditation is a practice encompassing thousands of years, cultures, and techniques. Although it is a practice of numerous uses and implications, modern science is only just beginning to explore, study, and understand its characteristics and benefits. Meditation is a word loosely used to represent states of deep relaxation and concentration within the mind and body. According Dr. Eugene Taylor of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, a world renowned institute blending science with the study of consciousness1, one form of understanding of meditation involves “the intermediate state between mere attention to an object and complete absorption in it2.” This understanding supports the notion that every human being has meditated before, either consciously or unconsciously. By concentrating most or all attention on an object or action such as playing an instrument, writing a journal, roller skating, or even simply enjoying a good meal – one is tapping into meditative states. Meditative states vary, however, in their form and depth but regardless of their nature, they have been discovered to have incredible benefits – provided proper meditation forms and techniques have been adopted.

According to the research of Dr. Herbert Benson, Harvard Cardiologist and founder of the also renowned Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, meditative states invoke a relaxation response. Conditions that may be used to induce it include a quiet environment, repetition of a phrase, and relaxed watchful breathing3. The relaxation response studied by Dr. Benson involves the following: “decrease in metabolism, slower heartbeat, muscle relaxation, slower breathing, and lower blood pressure.4” The astonishing benefits of meditation are just beginning to be discovered. A few of these benefits include: greater orderliness of brain functioning, improved focus, decreased anxiety and depression, improved energy, concentration, self-esteem, creativity, memory, and perception, development of intelligence, decrease in stress hormones (cortisol), reversal of aging process, decreased alcohol and drug abuse, improved compassion, increased productivity, improved relationships, pain reduction, and improved overall health. Although meditation may seem to be entirely harmless and beneficial, it is not without its own consequences for improper use or abuse. Like any other practice and treatment, it must be practiced in moderation and in a proper dosage to attain the above benefits.

According to Jim Malloy, founder of the Online Meditation Center as well as a meditation instructor of 40 years licensed by the International Meditation Society, it is optimal to begin meditating at about 5 to 10 minutes daily and gradually increase this time up to 20 minutes within the course of a year. This time may then be continued to increase gradually over the following years, as the body and mind adjust to daily meditative practice. It may be uncomfortable and even dangerous to over-engage in meditation or disregard the gradual process of acclimation to a meditative practice.  Just as there are proper dosages for every form of medicine or treatment, there are proper techniques and dosages of invoking deep meditative states (beyond the simple attention to an object or action described above).

Meditation researcher and instructor Dr. Lorin Roche states, “Meditation is something the body knows how to do, and does willingly if you set up the conditions and allow it. The body knows how to enter a profound healing state. One of the main reasons meditation is so beneficial is that it is instinctive and natural. When you meditate, you are accessing your body's own built-in ability to heal itself and tune itself for action5.” Dr. Benson also identifies new leading research into the study of meditation and consciousness as indicators of the rising potential for self-healing. Dr. Eugene Taylor states, “To pharmaceuticals and surgery, Western medicine must now add the patient's own capacity for self-healing…the practice of meditation [is] among the new forces we must now harness for health and growth6.” From decreasing stress to improving concentration, meditation is a powerful form of tapping into one’s innate healing ability for the mind and body. The rising scientific interest and interdisciplinary research into meditation supports the many reasons for which those interested in living a balanced life may consider taking up a daily meditation practice or as desired and reaping its many benefits.



2) pg. 1

3) pg. 9



6) pg. 11

Photographs taken by: Srucara

Meditation and Ecological Imaginings

Using this Sanctuary on Earth - Guided Meditation project, I seek to invite my classmates and interested individuals to experience a meditative state and use this state as a mechanism to deepen their sense of connectedness with the Earth as well as to initiate a process of invoking peace and healing within the mind and body. This project is the product of seeds of thought which have strengthened and developed within me over the course the past semester with respect to journeying within and embracing a deeper relationship with the Earth. These seeds of thought would not be possible I had not engaged in the many discussions, readings, and experiences offered by our class. I found the various subjects and topics in our class served as catalysts for my personal exploration of my relationship with nature and realizing the need to deepen this relationship within myself and in all of us. In another post about a month ago, I expressed some similar feelings and ideas during which I stated:

As Einstein states, "no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." This point may be directly applied to our current environmental issue. We can no longer afford to negatively separate ourselves if we would like to help improve the state of the Earth. It's time to shift to a new level of consciousness, and begin working on a larger holistic level if we should begin solving the issue at hand.  

I suppose then this serves as evidence of the development of these thoughts and seeds developing over time to become inspired to produce and create the following project. 

The guided meditation was created over the course of numerous days involving journeys around the Bryn Mawr College Campus as well as the nearby neighborhoods in search for beautiful, natural sights and sounds with which to incorporate as a collage of images and films. My intention in incorporating these images and film clips from the campus is to represent the incredible beauty found on our planet surrounding each of us every moment. All we have to do is to take a look around and be open to what may reveal itself. The background sounds of the meditation including the various musical peices and nature sounds were chosen cautiously and oriented specifically on the sound track to induce states of calmness and slow down mind chatter and activity. I also recorded my voice over the course of few days, experimenting with various forms of vocal expression to find one that best served the purpose of guiding the meditation. 

The meditation itself was constructed with careful thought and logic to its order and length. It first begins with emphasis on breathing, then guides the listener through a series of breath blended with progressive relaxation techniques (to relax various parts of the body). Then, I proceed to invite the meditator to expand awareness of existence to the planetary level and feel gratitude and joy while experiencing the view of the Earth from space. I then invite the listener to a chosen natural sanctuary in the imagination and to connect with this sanctuary, feeling gratefulness for the beauty and life that the Earth provides. The meditation ends with a few minutes of tranquil and soothing sounds and film clips of water to invite peace and deep relaxation. This order was chosen in order to first prepare the body for meditation - through deep breathing and progressive relaxation, and then invite the meditator to experience meditative states during which he or she connects with the earth and develops inner quietude in a special sanctuary. 

The essay on meditation and the various further reading articles are included in order to introduce modern scientific development and discovery of meditation and the benefits of meditative practices for our daily lives. In our class we have discussed the chaos and the ecological crisis enveloping our Earth today. In addition to chaos and crisis on our planet, there is also chaos within each of us, our neighborhoods, and our communities during these times and in this era although perhaps to different degrees. With greater awareness, kindness, and understanding provided by practices such as meditation - we as a college community and as a society will be able to develop more effective methods to heal these crises within ourselves, our communities, and our planet.  This guided meditation project is an invitation to engage in one form (out of many) of bringing greater awareness and understanding into our lives. Doing so will help us to interact with and engage with the world around us and the planet Earth in more effective, conscious, and compassionate ways. 

Articles For Further Reading on Meditation and Deep Relaxation:

LA Times – It’s Cool to be Calm

“Students who've learned to meditate in school say they've learned to control their emotions before tests and big sporting events, even during fights with parents and siblings, by simply pausing and slowing their breathing.” 

Wired – Under Pressure: The Search for a Stress Vaccine

“Numerous studies have demonstrated that even a short training session in meditation can dramatically reduce levels of stress and anxiety.”

PBS – Health Headlines – Mind Body

“Studies show that between 60% and 90% of all physician visits are for stress-related complaints. Through more than thirty years of research and clinical practice, Herbert Benson, MD and his colleagues have proven the efficacy of mind/body medicine in the treatment of these complaints to the extent that they are caused by or made worse by stress. Mind/body medicine strategies have helped millions of men and women reduce the stress that can cause or exacerbate conditions such as: Joint pain, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Hypertension, Repetitive strain injury, Cardiac disorders, Chronic pain, Infertility, Migraine headaches, Diabetes, Perimenopause/menopause and Gastrointestinal disorders. Mind/body techniques are also helpful in reducing stress, promoting positive attitudes, decreasing symptoms and improving quality of life for persons with life-threatening illness, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. In addition, mind/body approaches can prevent disease, such as cardiovascular disease by helping individuals change adverse lifestyle behaviors.”

Meditation May Help the Brain “Turn Down the Volume” on Distractions

“The positive effects of mindfulness meditation on pain and working memory may result from an improved ability to regulate a crucial brain wave called the alpha rhythm, which is thought to "turn down the volume" on distracting information.”

Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks

“Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress…It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,” says Britta Hölzel, PhD."  

Dr. Lorin Roche (Meditation FAQ) – good to read before starting meditation and for learning more

Wall Street Journal - Scans of Monks' Brains Show Meditation Alters Structure, Functioning

“In a striking difference between novices and monks, the latter showed a dramatic increase in high-frequency brain activity called gamma waves during compassion meditation. Thought to be the signature of neuronal activity that knits together far-flung brain circuits, gamma waves underlie higher mental activity such as consciousness. The novice meditators "showed a slight increase in gamma activity, but most monks showed extremely large increases of a sort that has never been reported before in the neuroscience literature," says Prof. Davidson, suggesting that mental training can bring the brain to a greater level of consciousness.

In almost every case, the enhanced activity was greater in the monks' brains than the novices'. Activity in the left prefrontal cortex (the seat of positive emotions such as happiness) swamped activity in the right prefrontal (site of negative emotions and anxiety), something never before seen from purely mental activity.

That opens up the tantalizing possibility that the brain, like the rest of the body, can be altered intentionally. Just as aerobics sculpt the muscles, so mental training sculpts the gray matter in ways scientists are only beginning to fathom.”