Desperately seeking Alpha: 'Meditation Illuminated' by Joy Rains

How to recover from contemporary Photo: Joy Rains website

WASHINGTON, November 3, 2013 – Joy Rains, author of Meditation Illuminated, defines meditation as “a discipline of training the mind through the practice of awareness.” She states that the nature of the mind is to generate content, or stuff, meaning Stories, Thoughts, Urges, Frustrations, and Feelings. 

Most of us react to life and the “stuff” that’s in it. Meditation is a way to control your stuff by learning to become aware of it. If you can become directly aware of your stuff, you can respond to it—and to your daily life—consciously. 

Desperately seeking alpha: Beyond the monkey brain 

Think about it: Never in the history of the world have we humans been more aware that our brains are actually electrochemical computing devices. But never in the history of the world have so many individuals been bombarded with so much data. 

Cover photo, author’s web site.

Outside stimuli produce what are termed high beta frequencies in the brain. It’s hard to think straight if your brain is buzzing along at 14–40 cycles per second (cps), which is what’s happening when you’re in that state. These are your “monkey brain” moments. Trying to get something done, make a decision, solve a problem, or learn anything? You’d be better off swinging in trees. 


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All the things that fall into the general category of cogitation simply can’t be done in beta. You need to get to alpha (7.5–14 cps), or maybe even theta (4.0–7.5 cps).

What we need is some kind of surge protector. It’s time to conserve our circuitry by controlling our random reactions to more data hits than we can handle. We need to stop the craziness of beta and figure out how to think straight. That’s supposedly a simple activity, but why is it so hard to sustain? And how do you even get there? Meditation is one path. 

The monkey brain explores meditation 

The profundity of meditation is its simplicity. Meditation Illuminated reflects that not only in its content, but also in its design. It’s a beautiful book that feels good in the hand.  It begins with an engaging Preface, continues with a helpful Introduction, and concludes with an encouraging Epilogue. 


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Not a word is wasted, yet the writing throughout is graceful and generous. Even the Appendix and Endnotes, which support the science of meditation and the author’s assertions, provide solid scholarship without the heavy burden of ivory tower intellectualism. 

The book is divided into five parts. The first part describes STUFF, while the second presents the essence of meditation and how it works. The simple language, short sentences, and easy flow of the writing will calm even the most hurried reader. 

Rains’ writing style is deliberate without being boring, respectful without currying favor, and hypnotic without being controlling. Each chapter begins with a title supported by an explanatory subtitle and ends with a brief summary and a preview of the next chapter. These guideposts provide the reader a sense of place in the narrative, yet are neither repetitive nor didactic.

Part 3 of the book, entitled “How to Meditate,” introduces the selection and use of an anchor, or object of awareness, as a resting place for one’s attention. Rains is careful to point out that we need not abandon nor ignore thoughts and feelings while meditating. Rather, a meditator notices and acknowledges emerging thoughts and feelings, then redirects attention to the chosen anchor.

Thus, the continuous cycling of attention between stuff and anchor as described in Part 3 can help make meditation far less random and far more intentionally active than most people think it is. 

One banana at a time

Once the reader has learned the basic tools and activities of meditation, Part 4 introduces the practical application of meditation to daily life. Part 5, the longest section of the book, introduces twenty-one approaches to intentional meditation. Beware of the variety in these choices if you have any inclination toward monkey brain thinking! 

After reading this book and gradually learning to say “yes” to meditation, you will want to try them all. Now. Your best bet is to back up to the paragraph titled “Busy Mind” in Chapter 13, “Strategies for Addressing Common ‘Obstacles’ to Meditation,” and reread the final sentence: “The quality of your awareness is more important than the quantity of your stuff.” 

Be aware that you have just turned all twenty-one suggestions for different types of meditation into stuff. 

Select one, promise yourself the remaining twenty, and begin.

 

“Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind,” by Joy Rains. Bethesda, MD: Whole Earth Press, 2013. Paperback: 172 pages, $15.00. ISBN: 978-0988669901. Available from most online and bricks and mortar outlets.

 

Fran Ponick, MA, is certified in P-ESL (Pronouncing English as a Second Language) and provides training in business presentations and interpersonal conversation skills for native and non-native speakers of English. Her company, Leadership English™, offers communications skills, training and coaching for non-native and native English speakers, as well as award-winning writing and editorial services for businesses large and small.

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Frances Ponick

Fran Ponick is a speaker, author, commentator, teacher, and coach. She has decades of experience in technical, business, marketing, and proposal writing and editing, and has won awards in journalism, formal poetry, and acting. She has also served as a consultant to DoD. Her book, Only Angels Can Wing It: How to Prepare a Eulogy Quickly and Present It Compassionately, is available from Amazon.com.

 

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