Mind Over Matter
Meditation is the art of the mental massage.
The ability to stay focused and calm in the midst of life’s messes is a skill sought by people all over the world. Many rely on medication to fight stress and discomfort, but little do they know that finding a quiet place and a comfortable posture could be the remedy for their restlessness.
“Meditation can be for both physical and mental health. You can’t have one without the other,” says Ricc Bishop, who is better known to his students as Kadam Ricc, the resident teacher at the Vajrapani Kadampa Buddhist Center in downtown Orlando. Ricc, who has been practicing meditation for over 40 years, shows students how to manage their everyday distractions through meditation.
“You want to have a straight, relaxed back. Place your hands in ‘mudra,’ which is a simple way to hold your hands in your lap. Tilt your head slightly forward, and close your eyes. And that’s it,” says Kadam Ricc. “You could be lying down or standing or sitting in a chair when you do that.”
Though meditation is historically Buddhist, Kadam Ricc’s students don’t always come for lessons of the Dharma, the teachings of Buddha. “Many people come to the center on the recommendation of a health-care practitioner,” he says. “Some are dealing with chronic pain, and meditation is very effective at helping to reduce this persistent pain. It’s a safer alternative than being on medication constantly. It’s also good for stress, which is considered mental pain.”
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, people use meditation to alleviate anxiety, pain, depression, stress, insomnia and for standard overall wellness. But pain isn’t the only thing positively affected by a regular meditation practice—Kadam Ricc often has students return with reports of vastly improved relationships, whether with partners or co-workers.
“We have to interact with others all day and if we don’t feel happy, it spills out. Usually the people we have the biggest problems with are the ones we spend the most time with—the people we love the most. I say, ‘Your happy mind is important not just to you.’ A happy, confident mind spills out, too. And it affects everybody who experiences you.”
Meditation may sound challenging, but this type of practice is for everyone. Says Kadam Ricc: “It’s important to incorporate into your life a little time to find quiet and allow your mind to rest because even when we sleep, we dream. The mind is constantly going. Meditation can help us to come to realizations of real compassion and wisdom. And this makes for a happy life.”
Tips from Kadam Ricc
If you can get to seven complete breaths without your mind wandering, you’ve completed the first level of mental training. Here’s how:
- Find a quiet location. Go to a quiet place with as few distractions as possible. This is helpful for beginners.
- Get in a comfortable position. Sit or lie down and try to be still and relax your body completely.
- Focus your attention on one thing. Recite a positive phrase in your mind or follow only the sound of your inhales and exhales.
- Have an open attitude. Let your distractions go naturally. If your attention goes to wandering thoughts, come back to the focus.
- Be persistent. As with all things, practice.