Of God, Mindfulness, Breathing and Meditation
In a TV series, To Know God, Morgan Freeman set out on a quest to know what people think of God.
To know the answer he crisscrossed the world to have a better and deeper understanding god.
He talked to ordinary people, archaeologists, religious historians and clerics of the major religions in the world, i.e., Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, to know their perspectives of god.
For the record, of the five, only four are considered a “religion” based on the accepted definition of the word.
“The belief in the worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.”
Christianity has God the Father, Islam has Allah, Elohim or Yaweh, in Judaism, and the Brahman, for Hindus.
Buddha, in Buddhism, is not a god, but a state of enlightenment. And the goal of all Buddhists is to achieve that level to become a Buddha.
Achieving enlightenment struck a very nice point for discussion between Mr. Freeman and a Buddhist monk. Here is an excerpt of that discussion.
Mr. Freeman: How do you achieve enlightenment?
Buddhist Monk: True and pure enlightenment is a very long and tedious process and can only be achieved through constant meditation.
Mr. Freeman: How do you meditate?
Buddhist Monk (with a smile): The simplest way to meditate is to focus on your breathing.
By breathing, is meant “focused breathing,” the main ingredient of Mindfulness of Breathing, which is one of the two basic meditation techniques taught by Gautama Buddha (the other is Loving-Kindness).
What is Mindfulness of Breathing?
This works on the theory that if you focus on your breath, you become aware of the mind’s tendency to jump from one thing to another.
By concentrating on your breath you bring yourself back to the present moment and enjoy all the richness of experience that it contains.
It is a way to develop mindfulness, the faculty of alert and sensitive awareness.
Mindfulness of breathing is a good antidote to restlessness and anxiety; to relax. And it has a positive effect on your physical and mental state.
Is Mindfulness Good for Seniors?
Many years ago, I had a terrible migraine headache.
For weeks I had constant and painful headache resulting to a stiff neck and an excruciating pain when I lifted my right arm.
I tried several cures, to no avail. Then somebody suggested complete relaxation and gave me tips how to do it
In less than a week my migraine was gone. Since then I never had to take headache pills and never have sleep problems, too. If I want to, I can be fast asleep in less than five minutes even while sitting on a chair.
You, too, can reap the benefits of focused breathing. Aside from the above, here are a few more:
1. Slows down your memory loss:
Meditation through focused breathing stimulates the hippocampus and the frontal brain lobe which are responsible for long term and short term functions of the brain.
In a study recently published in Neuroscience Letters, it was reported that regular meditation slows down the progression of cognitive impairment which is a prelude to dementia.
2. Improves your digestive system:
If you have a chronic digestive problem, meditation will give you an almost immediate relief.
This is because regular meditation improves blood circulation and increases its oxygen content which is then shared with the other organs, like the stomach and the intestines.
In addition to that, the oxygen-boost through meditation also helps the immune system, and heals the lungs.
3. Makes you feel happy:
Meditation stimulates the prefrontal cortex, the “feel-good” part of the brain.
It is especially beneficial to you if you are in and out of depression caused by your living circumstances.
Your zest and vigor for life will be given a booster shot.
4. It helps you achieve more focus:
With meditation, your left and right brain hemispheres act together improving your focus, creativity and wit.
You become more mentally alert and can function better in society, making you fully enjoy your retirement days.
5. It is the best way to beat stress:
The life of a senior can be a life of constant stress from chronic illnesses, loneliness, loss of a spouse or a loved one, separation from children, limited fiancés and many more.
Dwelling on these for long periods of time can result to chronic stress, which is just a short step from depression, dementia and, ultimately, Alzheimer’s.
Focused breathing can drive these from your mind. It does not cost anything, and can be done anywhere, anytime.
Granting that it does not completely solve your problems, but it gives you some respite and precious time to think of ways to sort them out.
There are no unsolvable problems. But sometimes we are deluged with so many that logical thinking becomes impossible.
Meditation clears your mind. It removes the chaff from the grain.
6. It drives away loneliness:
As a live alone senior, my biggest concern is loneliness. There are days when tears soak my lunch or supper.
Both my kids are married and living on their own. Though we see each other every now and then, and they are just a text message away, but nothing beats their presence, to have a more personal conversation with the people most dear to me.
But that has become impossible. They have their own lives to live, their own schedules, their own spouses.
I have become merely a blip on their screen.
When loneliness becomes so suffocating, I settle on a nice and comfortable place and do focused breathing.
I empty my mind from all the negative thoughts painted by my loneliness, accept my present realities and focus on the moment.
It works all the time.
Skeptics may take focused breathing as nothing more than a first-aid; a band-aid approach to problems affecting most seniors. It is just sweeping those problems under the rug.
Maybe. But it is your best bet against loneliness, stress, and many other age-related problems.
It is cheap and can be done anytime. And even if the relief you get is temporary, it gives you some precious time to think of more concrete solutions to your problems.
Lastly, after covering thousands of miles, Mr. Freeman has observed that all religions share one thing in common: God is peace, god is love and god resides in each one of us.
Take care of god, and god will take care of you.