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Meditation - The Body Connection

Meditation - The Body Connection

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Published by Andrew Marshall
One of a series of articles for 2012, following seminars of a similar topic all embraced within the theme of "Spiritual Living in the 21st Century".

This article by Andrew Marshall, author of self-help books "The Great Little Book of Happiness" and "Awakening Heart: The Blissful Path to Self-Realisation" is about how looking after the body supports meditation and personal evolution.
One of a series of articles for 2012, following seminars of a similar topic all embraced within the theme of "Spiritual Living in the 21st Century".

This article by Andrew Marshall, author of self-help books "The Great Little Book of Happiness" and "Awakening Heart: The Blissful Path to Self-Realisation" is about how looking after the body supports meditation and personal evolution.

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Published by: Andrew Marshall on May 26, 2012
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Spiritual Living for the 21Spiritual Living for the 21Spiritual Living for the 21Spiritual Living for the 21
st st st st 
Century Century Century Century 
 MEDITATION- THE BODY CONNECTION
Andrew MarshallAndrew MarshallAndrew MarshallAndrew MarshallFebruary 2012February 2012February 2012February 2012 The second The second The second The second inininin a series of eleven articles for 2012a series of eleven articles for 2012a series of eleven articles for 2012a series of eleven articles for 2012
 
For more information,For more information,For more information,For more information, visitvisitvisitvisitwww.joyousness.org.uk www.joyousness.org.uk www.joyousness.org.uk www.joyousness.org.uk 
 
 1
MEDITATION ANDTHE BODY CONNECTION
Meditation, in one form or another, is one of the most fundamental tools at our disposalfor refining our consciousness and ourperceptions. It involves training the mind tofocus in a particular way and, because of that,when we sit to meditate our concern willnormally be on what is going on within themind. Some practise meditation for calmnessand relaxation; for others, a more spiritual orphilosophical intention may be present. Itmatters not which, because all approachesare connected; they all lead to greaterawareness of oneself and of one'srelationship to the universe and all that is. Butmeditation involves more than the mind. Thebody has an important role to play, too, andthe purpose of this article is to underline thesignificance of the body's effect on themeditation process and how we can lend ahelping hand.
WHAT IS THE MIND? 
Asking this question can result in quite amedley of answers. Most people would saythat the mind is what they think with, somesay it is the same thing as the brain, otherssay it is themselves. Certainly there is atendency to associate the mind with thehead, because the brain is in effect thecontrol centre for the body. Interestingly,Chinese philosophers associated the mindwith the heart and if we observe someonepointing to themselves, more often than notthey point towards the heart or chest. Thenagain, if we say that the mind is not the brainbut our thinking faculty, does that imply thatit ceases to be when there are no thoughtsand that it doesn't reside anywhere? Perhapsit is easier to think of the mind not as onething but as a combination of our thoughts,feelings, our beliefs, habits of reaction,memory and perception, all of which arisewithin consciousness. It is rather like thesoftware and operating system of acomputer, while the body, brain and nervoussystem are our hardware.But what of the brain and nervous system?We know that we use the brain in order tothink and that it is possible to influence ourexperiences by tampering with the brain andits chemistry. The nervous system feeds intoand reports to the brain by impulses of electricity. If the mind were the brain, then indeep, dreamless sleep the brain would haveno job to do, but we know that it still carriesout functions, regulating the body. A littledeeper thinking may lead us to the inevitableconclusion that the brain cannot do what itdoes without some type of inner intelligenceand most certainly not without the vitalitythat we call life. It is more than a lump of greytissue with blood and electricity runningthrough it.From our own experience, we know that howour mind operates depends on the conditionof the brain and nervous system. Further thanthat, we can say that there is a directcorrelation between certain conditions of thebody and the efficacy of the mind. If we aretired, for example, our thinking is oftenadversely affected and certain illnesses canhave a detrimental effect on our mind, too.We still think because the mind refuses to bestill but the quality of our thoughts may beless than fully coherent. Moreover, when weare feeling out of sorts, we can be moreconcerned for our own welfare or conditionthan the welfare of others. That is entirelynatural because the body will be steering ustowards recovery. Unless we have a certaindegree of vitality, therefore, mental processesare limited and meditation, which is a refinedmental process, becomes difficult. As anyonewho has experienced it will know, a heavy
 
 2
evening meal and a late night are notconducive to a good meditation the followingmorning!
THE IMPORTANCE OF VITALITY 
Vitality is so much more than a feeling of being well - it is a matter of being fully alive. If we are not enthusiastic about life, we aremissing out on vitality and the key to the V-factor is an abundance of energy that is in astate of balance. Different traditions andcultures have varying names for this energyand in the West we often draw on theChinese expression "chi" (sometimes written"qi") or from India the Sanskrit term "prana".We might prefer to call it "essence" or "life-force". The name isn't important; what is, iswhether we have enough of it and can keep itin balance.As well as blood vessels, our bodies arepermeated with channels through which finequality energy - chi - flows. Of course, bloodcarries energy; the nutrients and oxygennecessary to keep the body alive; additionally,the meridians, vessels and millions of minutepathways carry chi throughout the wholebody. If a main blood vessel becomes blocked,the consequences can be extremely serious,whereas a blocked capillary will usually beless so. In terms of the circulation of chi, thereare main pathways or meridians and vessels,which are said to affect the functioning of ourvital organs, and minor ones which carry thechi through all the tissues. Chi is also said tobe present in fluids and air; in fact, there isnowhere in the universe where chi is absent.Energy is everywhere; but to increase andmaintain our vitality – and with it our mentalclarity – the chi needs to circulate freely andnot be allowed to stagnate. When the flow issluggish, we can feel dull or off-colour, even if we are otherwise in good health.From the point of view of meditation, ourexperience will correspond to the state of thebody's energy. In simple meditation practice,normally aimed at relaxing body and mindand ridding ourselves of tension and stress,the important thing is to settle our mind andbody. More advanced meditations can onlyhave success if the first stage of calmness hasbeen established. In some practices it isnecessary to raise the energy so that clearerand broader mental states, leading to deeperunderstanding, can be known. But the energycannot be raised if it is not settled in the firstplace.
WORKING WITH ENERGY - CHI KUNG
To maintain or increase vitality, quality food,water and air and some form of exercise areessential. All physical exercise stimulatesenergy in one way or another. The type of exercise that is most beneficial will not onlystimulate the flow of chi but will also ensurethat balance is maintained. There has to bevariety – sufficient range of movements toencourage the supply of chi to all parts of thebody. Pounding on a treadmill at the localleisure centre will certainly work the legs andthe cardiovascular system but in terms of supplying energy to every part of the body, itis limited.Our vitality can be affected when there aredifficulties with our chi circulation. There arethree main classes of problem – (1) an excessof chi in part of the body, (2) localiseddepletion of chi and (3) overall insufficiency.Excess arises due either to overstimulation orto the flow of chi away from a part of thebody being blocked or congested. Localiseddepletion can occur because of lack of stimulation, or due to blockage or injury inpart of the body. Overall insufficiency arisesfrom a lack of fresh air, exercise, proper food,rest and sleep. It can also arise from excessesof living – literally wearing ourselves out.
Chi kung
(sometimes written "qigong") is aChinese term meaning to work with chi. Assuch, it could be applied to virtually anyexercise, physical or mental, that is designed

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