Meditation for personal transformation - Coming into Purpose and Keeping the Flow of Living Life as we Age! - By Lynn Gardner 8/08/2008

The oldest baby boomer is approaching 65 years of age and the majority expected to live well into their 90”s. We have not yet reached this age groups balloon yet but we are experiencing early retirements and in large part witnessing a desire for re-inventing their lives. The goals of this aging population are numerous but a commonality is they want to be and do something purposeful by discovering a new dimension of themselves, their authentic self, and in doing so add meaningful contributions to their families and communities. Most of this age group has spent their entire lives working in the same sort of job, raising families and nurturing their bank accounts. The sense is there is more than this and they are more than that. This new coming of age adult has a constitution of being and doing something of worth and value but now rather than being driven by outside stimuli and career responsibilities and they are seeking answers to the age all question of “Who am I” after all these years and what is this I AM to do and be.

This age group is far different than the generation prior. We can already see that they reinvent their talents into new careers, defy aging with fashion and cosmetics and yoga classes are filling with those who want to initiate their self-actualization process. The days of sitting around and being retirees are a thing of the past. A healthy life style is paramount and their aging process is far slower than imagined. However they are arriving at this threshold with a fair amount of stress and concerns not far different from when they were 20 years younger. They express that they want to learn how to do something about it and contribute to the betterment of the world and their communities. Though aging has its struggles it does not have to include the framework of their past. Their soul purpose, challenges and growth very much resides in the depths of their innner being. This is their “time” to look at aging as sage-ing and a grand opportunity to open the doors of their authentic self.

So much of a person’s happiness lies in serving others. An objective of a meditation practice/program is to open the gates to serve those persons entering these years of great wisdom and Sage-ing to enhance their discovery of the Self for the sake of service. The world has a lot going on and healing is needed all around us. This generation is one of great strength, creativity and stamina. They were the rebels of the 60’s with deep convictions for peace and social justice. If idle they would become restless and resentful of aging. Like us all, just by living life, they experienced deep scars from pain, fear, anger and suffering. In many studies gaining insights on transformation, there is a universal acknowledgement that a person first must mend the past mental and emotional states to move forward into a new creative life. Through meditation they will witness their own inner peace and have an opportunity to experience their true nature. For those who are developing or want to develop a higher consciousness they will have at easiness on becoming a service to others around them. Also these are the years to take the opportunity to master the challenges or objectives that they have always wanted to conquer; developing the person they always wanted to become. So meditation practice is a practice to help them achieve all of these ambitions.

In studying the Book “ From Aging to Saging” by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi he emphasizes over and over that it is important to address issues that we have been carrying around. We all have a past loaded with stuff, so then the first step in aging in a new fashion is to enhance personal transformation. Below are some excerpts from well know philosophers of spirituality on the subject of personal transformation who are also emphasizing the importance for making a plan for personal transformation.

Why a Meditation Program?
Personal transformation is directly related to the cultivation of “flow”. Life inevitably challenges us. And with many years of accumulated challenges, the baby boomer who is now at the next stage of their life will appreciate a program of meditation to carry them on to their next goals and desires. And to do this effectively, this proposed program is a good spring board to assist them in monitoring stress, consciously recognizing and reducing the “Noise” in their heads and lives so that an underlying inner harmony can naturally flow and the auto telic self can emerge, a self that has self inspired goals, those that originate from the self. Flow is a state of peak performance and achieving breakthroughs of the self. A meditation program is to enhance creativity, innovative thinking, and intuition. It will also be instrumental in evolving self-empowerment to the individual and group setting and be instrumental in developing strategies for working with pain and enhancing healing. It assists in developing a person’s concentration and ability to master ones attention. It helps master mental distress such as worry, anxiety, intrusive and/or repetitive thoughts. It helps master emotional and autonomic distress such as hypertension, headaches and other aches and pains, eating disorders, addictive behaviors. And most importantly it opens the heart, awakening it to love and compassion which taps into the life-giving forces of the human spirit, living in dynamic balance.

Because a meditation program generates a happier, creative, peaceful being, there lies a seed or intention that the participant takes an essential part in the drama of life and becomes a leading force or a subtle energy leader in doing and being engaged in such things as intergenerational mentoring, building upon interactive partnerships and human hearted relationships. This could be mentoring in the workplace, school systems, political platforms, community organization, church groups, and social clubs. This generation can be instrumental in becoming wisdom keepers in healing family, community and Gaia. There are so many young people today who need to be adopted and encouraged; this is an opportunity to transmit energy, love and wisdom to the next generation. There is so much strength in multigenerational groups committed to certain core values and working together to build new structures that bring balance and function back from chaos.

So with personal transformation being so important it makes sense that we acknowledge the benefits of meditation in the process. The Kabala provides a useful model where it teaches that we express ourselves on four levels: the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. A healthy person strives to integrate all four levels of his being.

Research consistently emphasizes that it is important to recognize the value of physical strength. In the beginning of the transformation process we will focus on a physical level with exercises that relax the body and make it more flexible and energetic. On the emotional level we engage in life review, reframing the past mistakes and betrayals. On the mental level, we do our philosophic homework, addressing life’s perennial questions such as “What is the meaning of my life”? On the spiritual level, we acquire contemplative skills to develop the extended consciousness from which harvesting can proceed.

Physical level: By exercising and practicing certain mind-body disciplines, we can retard and in some cases reverse the so-called inevitable declines of aging. Many illnesses, physical atrophy’s, stress induced afflictions can be aided along through the healing process by introducing a daily experience of physical exercise coupled with meditation, concentration, relaxation. As Jeanne Houston points out, lack of physical exercise keeps our muscles over- contracted, deforms skeletal alignment, inhibits movement of joints and reduces blood flow to the brain. We can educate the body for greater awareness and improved use. As we discharge stress, breathe more deeply, and recognize muscle patterns, we can lift the body and mind to new levels of performance. Physical health and vitality are normally considered to be at a reduced level when aging. But Deepak Chopra points out in “Ageless Body, Timeless Mind “, we can purposefully change our perception and expectation of gradual breakdown by reprogramming our beliefs about old age to create a more vital, healthful experience.
Chopra says aging can be reversed through changes in perception. By increasing someone’s awareness, bringing it into a new focus and breaking out of old patterns you can alter aging says Chopra. In the book Biomarkers Evans and Rosenberg write”You’re never too old to exercise. To the contrary, you’re too old not to exercise…..Exercise is the key to a healthy and rewarding old age.”

Examples of physical strength building are:
Cardiovascular: Aerobics, Jogging, Swimming, and Bicycling
Strength: Weights, Barr, Pilates
Flexibility: Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Kundalini for calmness and mental alertness, Feldenkrais, stretching Alexander Technique, Nia, Massage – increases sense of trust and self-acceptance - Touch deficits.

Meditations:
Flow sequence, Yoga Nidra, Walking Meditation, Hollow Body, Transforming Energy, Waking up throughout the Day, pain reduction,

Affirmations
When waking in the morning, meditations doing a body scan and survey of the body - blessing, and giving thanks - where does it need relaxation

Emotional responses are highly conditioned and automatic. Blown by the winds of our emotions, we often experience confusion, disharmony, which then results in physical dis-ease. Once we understand this process, we can assume more responsibility for how we use our emotions. We can regain balance and bring harmony to the mind/body by generating appropriate emotions as an antidote to the self-centered and often destructive aspects of our emotional reactions. It is important to address these emotional pains and scars in order for the flow of life to unfold easily and gracefully. Otherwise there is polarization and a stagnation operating much stronger than the energy flow of happiness and well-being. By acknowledging and healing the ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred and clinging to bodily life, obstacles are removed and the flow of life continues.

Meditations - Strategies for transforming emotions “The Fine Arts of Relaxation, Concentration, and Meditation” Joel and Michele Levey

Transforming Emotions
1. Take responsibility: In an emotionally charged situation focus your attention on the physical sensations in your body and on your own emotional feelings – not on the situation or on those involved.
2. Investigate the sensation: Investigate the physical sensations and mental images related to your emotional state.
3. Open to pain: When feeling overwhelmed, let that pain tear your heart open that awakens compassions.
4. Remember the cause of cruelty: When others act cruelly or insensitively, remember they are suffering too! Focus on transforming you own negative emotional patterns.
5. Don’t make more trouble for yourself: Learn to recognize and accept an old, conditioned, emotional reaction is the first step in changing them.
6. Befriend you emotions: Learn to befriend your confused or negative emotions.
7. Develop a flexibility of emotional response: Impatience to patience, greed to gratitude, anger to compassion.
8. Keep on Learning: learn and analyze the situation once it is over, clarify how to improve it next time.

The Drop in the ocean
Meditations for dying
Meditations on Forgiveness
Meditations on compassion
Meditations on the chakras
Loving kindness meditations

Affirmations:
In directly understanding my emotions I will cultivate new and more effective emotional responses that bring greater balance and harmony to my mind/body, my behavior and relationships.

Mental images and thoughts are within the mind and are a ceaseless flow of cognitive, emotional and sensory experiences. As a function of the mind the attention is continuously wandering, lost in thoughts and only superficially aware of what is taking place within or around us. With mindful observation of experience, we grow more sensitive to what we are perceiving, feeling, thinking, and doing thus more in touch with ourselves; we are more in touch with the world. Old reactive patterns fall away revealing the natural power, wisdom and love that are the mind’s true nature. Strengthening the mind and mental focus and attention allows one to develop those objectives one hold’s dear to achieve. Without mental focus and the development of the will, challenges over run the desire to create. Thoughts have been proven to be a powerful yet non-physical energy which can influence others and matter. The seed for action and experience is to discern the quality of thought; choosing thoughts and develop the intellect (will-power).

Meditative exercises:
Focusing and quieting the mind, Watching the mind, sensory experience, emotional feelings, intending, labeling thoughts, noting and noticing states of mind, mindfulness stories, mantras: protection for the mind, mental massage, eating mindfully. Autogenic imagery:
Images for quieting the body, images for quieting the emotions, images for quieting the mind, creating an inner oasis, rainbow relaxation

Affirmations: When I become aware of a though that does not serve me, I will stop, smile to myself, send it to the equator, breathe, request new thoughts and feelings to move through that bring a sense of strength, calm and clarity to grow.

Philosophic and spiritual work can now begin as we have taken all the steps necessary to heal our emotional ouch spots and our mental hot spots. The contemplation of an individual life against the background of time brings inevitably deeper insights into the nature of being and becoming. Contemplating life’s transcendent issues involves asking questions, rather than taking refuge in conclusions. It is not shallow, academic exercise, but a passionate inquiry, having an urgency born of our encounter with life and our proximity to death. We need to ask questions to open the floodgates of our own creative intelligence. They enable us to breathe fresh life into the perennial issues humanity has always wrestled. Most people have forgotten what the original questions were.

To practice discursive meditation, Roberto Assagiolo, the psychiatrist who writes in The Act of Will, “the mind operates independently of the will, and often in opposition to is…….much of our ordinary mental activity, then, does not merit the term thought. It is only when a dominating interest backed by a firm and decided will is able to hold the mind concentrated on an idea or task that it really thinks we can say that it reflects, it meditates. We must concentrate the mind on a chosen topic, become aware when the mind wanders away then gently but firmly draw it back to the subject at hand. This task requires persistence, a kind of mental tenacity that probes deeply into a subject.

Many people profess that grappling with philosophic homework leads to a growing sense of inner peace and increased harmony in their relationships. Some speak glowingly of the inner freedom they experience when identity and self-worth are unhooked from the obsessive need to be economically productive. At this age there is the opportunity to derive our identity more form a level of being rather than doing. As we become more contemplative, we rely less on finding self worth through our performance in the work world. Gradually we find another dimension opening up in which our identity comes from not what we do but from what we are. The spirituality context of one’s life or philosophical questioning on the meaning of life could be summed up in examining the yoga sutra (I>32-33) of the four Immeasurable attitudes of life or the four infinite thoughts; Kindness, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity. With practice, as we direct our minds away from their normally rudderless condition, we take hold of the steering wheel of our consciousness and attract these higher qualities into our personalities, making a richer, more enjoyable harvest.

Meditative exercises / format
Grateful mentality
Meditation as a solution to aging “Old Age on a New Scene” Claire Myers Owens
The Fine Arts of Relaxation, Concentration and Meditation, Joel and Michele Levey
Socialized and Group Meditation
Journal writing
Meditation on the teacher
Breathing with all Beings
Increasing Compassion
Loving-kindness meditation
Reflective Meditation
Standing in the Possibility

Affirmation: Each day I will consider myself, investigate and question, “Who am I”? And Listen for the answers that arise amid the ever changing flow of physical sensations, emotional feelings, states of mind or consciousness that constellate as “your self”.

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In each of our lives, we have those moments of experiencing a deep sense of connectedness, wholeness, and belonging. In those special times, we most likely are enlightened with extraordinary moments of deeper wisdom, love and aliveness that came unexpectedly. Those are the moments when there is a feeling of being joyfully alive, when there is an exhilaration of performing the best, when the heart is open to love and be loved. When there is flow and a feeling of perfect harmony with the world in which we love. Recalling those quintessential moments in life and work stand out particularity when really helping someone or when really allowing someone to care. If we examine the quality of the mind during these special times there is probably a good chance the attention was wholly focused on what was happening and that our mind and body were operating as one. Remembering and appreciating such special moments in our lives serves to remind us of what is possible. Thus this program and practice brings us to that flow, where life continues to create, grow and develop thru all our days of being alive.

By reversing the body, healing the “ouch” spots in you consciousness, forging a workable philosophy, and practicing the contemplative arts beings to shape life into a noble master piece. Using tools like the ones presented, fear and inertia can be conquered, and a promising new future begins. With just a little practice, one will find new dignity and pride as you repair the past, turn pain into joy, and school the self in the high art of enjoying achievements of a lifetime.

Author's Bio: 

Lynn Gardner is principle and founder of the Radical Sabbatical and Soul Sabbatical bothdedicated to the fine art of meditation, relaxation and concentration; proven to heighten organizations and individuals to become more creative, powerful, effective and fulfilled in all areas of life. Lynn earned a Master of Arts of Applied Healing Arts from the Tai Sophia Institute, Laurel, Maryland. She created the Radical Sabbatical, a three month program mentoring clients through personal and professional transitions utilizing meditation and travel as the venue for self-discovery. The Soul Sabbatical program facilitates various meditation practices for groups and individuals. and develops meditations that are individualized to the client or group objectives. Both the Radical and Soul Sabbatical are designed to be a catalyst for empowering the individual and group to discover the answers to their “perpetual” question while restoring them back to their authentic self with a clarity of their Divine Purpose.