How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Guest articles > Meditation
by: Ronit Baras
These days people seek knowledge, not wisdom. Knowledge is of the past, wisdom is of the future – Vernon Cooper
Two hundred years ago, collecting information was the name of the game. The world was ruled by those who mastered the skills of information gathering. Knowledge was power.
In today's world, the TV world, the world of live broadcasts, of information at your fingertips, a fast track world loaded with information, the advantage changed sides. Today, the world belongs to those who master the regulation of the flow of information. Today, it is not how much you know but how effective you are at finding what you need in the overwhelming rush of new facts coming straight at you from all around.
When I started my teaching journey, believing that all the people around the world were gifted, I faced a dilemma. As a person who brought information collection to a level of art, I was actually giving my students the greatest disadvantage of the 21st century. I was guiding them to where "they couldn't see the forest for the trees."
After I realized this, I spent years looking for the balance between collecting and regulating. Everything around us encourages collecting. At school, we learn how to gather and process information for our assignments, but not how to handle the enormous stream of information we absorb anyway.
Imagine that your brain is an office, where every piece of information is like the people seeking your service or incoming messages requiring your processing and filing.
Most of the processing happens while you are a sleep. The more information you receive, the more time it takes you to process it. Have you noticed that when you are stressed you feel tired? Have you noticed that kids sleep much more than adults do? That is because the load of information they need to process is greater - almost everything is new.
Because the world moved into "fast forward," we receive information that is much greater than twenty years ago. To realize this, think about kids. Their knowledge nowadays is diverse and they know much more than what their parents knew at the same age. Gifted children, for example, have very superior collection channels. They can collect a lot of information at any given time.
Unfortunately, not long after, the child will have loads of information without the time to process and the "clerk" in the "office" will scream, "That's it. Too much input. I can't handle this any more," and the child will feel overload and pressure. A simple thing like walking in the street stimulates a lot of incoming mail. The colors, the faces, the conversation of the couple you've just seen, the traffic jam and the smell and taste of the apples you bought in the supermarket. All this input is processed and stored for later use. When you are absorbing all this, seemingly without an effort, you brain is working overtime to process and you might feel stressed without being able to pinpoint the reason.
A lot has been said about the ways to regulate this overload. Stress management actually tackles this from different angles. One way to handle stress is to try to divert our attention from the thing we consider the problem, where in fact we do not have any idea which information is sorted while we are asleep. The clerk processes the information as he sees fit without us having the conscious ability to control it. An example of diverting the attention for the supposedly a stress source, is the attempt to divert kids' attention from academic stimulants and encourage them to move into sports, art or music. This attempt only oils their superior machine and, instead of filtering out information, they open new channels of input as if the clerk now opened new doors to his office.
Another method to overcome stress is to avoid dealing with some of the issues. Some people prefer the ostrich approach but are not aware of the fact that the office is open to the public as long as they are awake. Every minute you are not asleep, your office is receiving input. Sleep is just the way your clerk is working quietly with no disturbance. Has it happened to you that you wanted to stay at work after hours, when no one was around, so you can do the job without disturbance.
Meditation is one of the best ways to regulate the incoming flow of information. In our model, meditation is like hanging a sign on the door, which says, "Away from the office. Back in 20 minutes." During this time, we allow our clerk to file the information without letting any new information to come in. Meditation research shows that it's being neither asleep nor awake. It is a state between the two, in which the brain is very calm, yet very sharp.
My first encounter with meditation was when my inspiring sister, 16 years old at the time, went to study Transcendental Meditation. I remember her taking time off, closing her eyes and sitting still for a while. She looked a bit ridiculous, but she was brilliant at every thing she did.
My first meditation experience happened when Gal and I went to study all kinds of meditation - affirmation, light, sound, eating, dancing, walking, mantra and visualization. It was fun! I remember coming back home dead tired from meditation class, remembering that our instructor said, "Your body knows exactly what it needs. Listen to it. You probably need to sleep."
Some time afterwards, I was working in Texas with a group of 2-year-old toddlers that used to wreak havoc during sleep time, so the centre had to reorganize the place and bring 10 adults to put them to sleep. The grownups sat there tapping the kids' backs and patting their heads for an hour and a half, until the last one fell asleep. In our staff meeting, I suggested to introduce visualization. Familiar? "Close your eyes and imagine you are on a soft cloud, like cotton." We decided to try it for a month and reassess. On the first day, the last staff member left after 45 minutes. On the third day, they left after 10 minutes. The kids were still fully awake, relaxed, but with their eyes closed. At that time, we introduced soft meditation music in the background for an hour and a half. After a successful week, we felt we were ready to hand control over to the kids (remember, they were only two years old). We put the music on, "floated" for 3 minutes on our soft cotton cloud and then we asked them to take a deep breath and count one, two, three, one two, three. This way, within two weeks, we had 15 meditating toddlers, relaxed and saving the expensive resources of 10 extra staff members. You can imagine how happy the centre management, the parents and the teachers were.
When we moved to Melbourne, Gal ( my husband) and I registered for a Transcendental Meditation course. Our instructor suggested we bring the kids along. It sounded funny, because they were only 4 and 10 years old. I remember her asking us what kind of improvements we would like to see in the kids. We looked at each other, not knowing what to answer. They were perfect kids - friendly, flexible, curious, smart, loving and understanding. We went there every evening for a week, watched some videos and learned to meditate. After 4 days, Gal got really sick, so Marg, our instructor, gave him 3 tea bags and told him to drink them during the day. She told him his body was adjusting. Like magic, he got up the day after, healthy and alert. About a month later, our perfect little son started drumming on everything. We had to look all around town to find someone who was willing to teach percussions to a 4-year-old. Ivan, bless his soul, taught him only because he himself started learning at the age of 4. After 4 weeks, Tsoof was so advanced that we had to send Gal with him, so he could help him at home with his practice. Within a year, he had 4 different drum teachers teaching him different styles and he started playing with adults, because there wasn't any children group at his level. We believe the meditation was the main reason for this.
So now in our house, every health issue is solved in this order:
1. Drink plenty of water
2. Take vitamin C
And you know what? This works for most things.
In Transcendental Meditation, people meditate with a mantra. Children until the age of 10 can meditate for 5 minutes with their eyes open any time they wish. From the age of 10, they start meditating for the number of minutes equal to their age, until they turn 20. They just hang up the sign "I'm on break. Back in 10 minutes," twice a day. Every meditation session is considered equivalent to two hours of sleep and there you have it - people full of energy and focused who efficiently use another 4 hours of collecting information. Six years after our kids started meditating, we can tell by their behavior whether they hanged the "on break" sign this week or not. Meditation does not prevent the information from entering. It only regulates the incoming flow to allow more information to come in.
In a world full of information, a world of many words, many people, loads of feelings, lots of noise and visions, the name of the game is quiet.
In coaching, we encourage our clients to meditate, because it helps them regulate their feelings, their relations, their health, their finances and their work.
Many people are afraid they do not do it well because they still think of things while meditating. Remember, the goal in meditation is not to clear the brain from thought but to prevent new input from entering your office. Thinking during meditation is natural. In time, you feel much more relaxed, focused, energetic and happy.
If two hundred years ago all we wanted was more knowledge, then today our best asset is a sign, which says on one side "on break" to allow cleaning the head and on its other side, for when we've restored our energy, "open to public!"
Ronit Baras is an Educator, Journalist, Author, Life Coach and a presenter specializing in Emotional Intelligence. Ronit is the founder of the Be Happy in LIFE program
Contributor: Ronit Baras
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