Meditation is also proving to have a profoundly positive affect on health. Harvard, Stanford, and Yale medical schools have all published studies in recent years documenting wide ranging health benefits, including improvement in the measures of physical, emotional, and psychological well being. Given the growing evidence of how beneficial a process it is on so many levels, why doesn't everybody do it?
In Meditation: State of Mind or State of Awareness, Feldenkrais teacher, Andrea Higgins, cites a study published in EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing, by Professor Adam Burke, of San Francisco State University. Burke's findings suggest that if individuals choose a meditation technique that they are not comfortable with, they are more likely to become discouraged and quit, thereby loosing out on the numerous health benefits associated with the regular practice of meditation (Morales). A change in meditation technique may be all that is needed to create a shift in perspective, and a more positive outcome for individuals who are struggling with the process.
Higgins' online course begins with a 2-minute self-assessment video tool that provides a way to get a baseline measurement of your capacity to quiet your mind. You will then be introduced to the teaching of Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), the brilliant physicist and engineer who developed the Feldenkrais Method® of movement and the mind body learning process known as Awareness Through Movement®. Feldenkrais' philosophy centers on the idea of mind body unity as an "objective reality" and the assertion that "a brain without a body could not think" (M. Feldenkrais). Higgins connects this idea to the meditation process. She writes:
The aim of meditation is to change the state of the mind by quieting its thoughts. But perhaps it is not the mind–already lost in thoughts–but the body that can best serve as the catalyst of that desired change. If a man is drowning in the ocean, the life guard doesn't stand on the shore and yell "just swim in;" he goes out and pulls the drowning man back to shore. If a mind is drowning in thoughts, perhaps it needs the help of the body to pull it back.
Moshe Feldenkrais had a hypothesis that movement, performed with minimal effort and heightened awareness, could change the state of neural activity in both the mind and body (Buchanan). New York Times best selling author, Norman Doidge, who has just released a new book, The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity, concludes the same thing. He writes:
Most of the interventions in this book make use of energy--including light, sound, vibration, electricity, and motion. These forms of energy provide natural, noninvasive avenues into the brain that pass through our senses and our bodies to awaken the brain's own healing capacities....I will show how it is possible to use these different forms of energy to modify the patterns of the brain's electrical signals and then its structure.
Doidge dedicates two chapters in The Brain's Way of Healing to Feldenkrais--the man and his work. He notes that Felenkrais' interest in self-awareness was triggered in part by his interest in the martial arts, which he studied and wrote about in Higher Judo: Groundwork. Doidge writes, "it reveals him anticipating the current Western interest in mindfulness meditation by about fifty years." Moshe Feldenkrais spent many years developing and honing Awareness Through Movement, one of two primary teaching processes that Feldenkrais practitioners use today. It is a highly effective and efficient approach to cultivating mindfulness through self-awareness of one's body and movement.
A 30-minute Awareness Through Movement lesson, led by Higgins via audio embedded in the course, will provide you with an embodied experience of the brain's neuroplasticity, as triggered by a mindful state. A sensory experience that Higgins equates with the musical metaphor of "theme and variation," Awareness Through Movement triggers a level of intellectual engagement that evolves over the course of the lesson. This might seem at odds with the process of meditation, notes Higgins, which would seem to be designed to empty, or at least quiet, the mind. But she proposes that by exploring just one of the variations contained in the theme of a lesson, one might experience a kinesthetic parallel to the use of a mantra in meditation.
The reader can experience this through a second experiential lesson, led by Higgins. This 5- minute guided meditation, which is performed while seated in a chair, bears the mark of Awareness Through Movement, but does not develop the lesson fully. Instead, a short segment is used to quiet the body and mind, followed by a period of rest. If thoughts intrude on the restful state, the listener is directed to repeat the single phrase of movement again. This process can be repeated for as long as the individual wishes to meditate.
Meditation: State of Mind or State of Awareness concludes with a second video self-assessment that will help you to gauge your progress. If you find that you are able to quiet your thoughts for a longer period of time after doing the course, you may wish to pursue additional study in Awareness Through Movement. You can search for certified Feldenkrais teachers by zip code through the Feldenkrais Educational Foundation and Guild of North America (or if you are outside the United States, via the International Feldenkrais Federation).
You can find additional publications by Andrea Higgins by visiting Kinesthetic Edge at www.KinEdge.com. The audio lessons in Meditation are available as mp3 single downloads. They are also available on two albums by Higgins: Awake Naps, is an mp3 album of 4 guided movement meditation lessons; Body Knowledge is an mp3 album of 4 Awareness Through Movement lessons. Both albums are available on Nimbit Music and Gumroad. Norman Doidge's books are available everywhere, as is The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron.
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Buchanan, Pat. (2012). Embodying Neuroscience: A Long Time Coming, Well Worth the Wait. Retrieved from http://www.feldenkrais.com/method/article/symposium_sa_spring_2012/
Cameron, Julia. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Penguin Putnam: New York, 1992.
Doidge, Norman, M.D. The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity. New York: Penguin Group, 2015.
Feldenkrais, Moshe. (1964). Mind and Body, Two Lectures in Systemics. The Journal of the Institute for the Comparative Study of History, Philosophy and the Sciences, Vol. 2, No. 1. Reprinted (1980) in Your Body Works, Berkeley: Transformations. (9 pages).
Higgins, Andrea. Meditation: State of Mind or State of Awareness. Walpole, MA: Kinesthetic Edge, 2014. (Available at https:kinestheticedge.creatavist.com)
Morales, Jonathan. (July 2012). Finding right meditation technique key to user satisfaction. Retrieved from http://news.sfsu.edu/finding-right-meditation-technique-key-user-satisfaction
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Meditation Photograph: ©Anna Jurkovska. Used under license from Shutterstock.com.
Moshe Feldenkrais Photograph: Source: The International Feldenkrais Federation®. Photographer is unknown. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike Moshe Feldenkrais in 1978, teaching about the function of the skeleton in a seated posture. 3.0 Unported license.
Feldenkrais Method® and Awareness Through Movement® are registered service marks of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America.
Drowning in Thoughts but Find Meditation too Difficult? A Feldenkrais® Approach Can Help by Andrea Higgins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://kinestheticedge.creatavist.com/meditation.