Tag: meditation

The Art of Breathing

The Art of Breathing

Breathing is life. All beings breathe. If breathing stops, physical life ends.  

Breathing is therefore an essential aspect of life. All beings breathe naturally, in the proper way, except, perhaps, human beings. Human beings breathe normally when they are newborns, and when they are still young, until about the age of five.  

Then, as they grow up, they start to learn the wrong way of breathing. 

Breathing Correctly

The normal and healthy way of breathing is abdominal breathing, or also called diaphragmatic breathing or horizontal breathing. It is the method of breathing used in meditation and yoga. It uses the diaphragm as the main muscle for breathing in and out.  

In abdominal breathing, the diaphragm flattens when we breathe in, thus expanding the space in the chest wall. Outwardly, we see the expansion of the chest wall. The abdomen moves out as well. When we exhale, the diaphragm curves upward, reducing the space in the chest wall. Thus, we see the chest wall shrinks and the abdomen sucks in.    

This way of breathing gives the maximum uptake of oxygen on inhalation, and the maximum expulsion of carbon dioxide in exhalation. Thus, the body gets enough oxygen for the entire system, improving oxygenation to the circulatory system, the brain, the organs and enhancing the immune system.  

In addition, the expulsion of carbon dioxide reduces the acidic environment. Acidic environment is more harmful to the immune system as well as to the cells, thereby increasing the risks of inflammation, infections and mutations.  

Breathing Wrongly

On the other hand, the wrong way of breathing is called vertical breathing or chest breathing. It works by using the shoulder and chest muscles to pull up the chest wall, providing only small expansion of the lungs. The breaths are shallower, resulting in poor intake of oxygen as well as poor expulsion of carbon dioxide. Thus, we need to take more breath, making the body work more, and putting the body in a permanent fight or flight mode. 

This wrong way of breathing can lead to body ache, back ache, digestive problems, sleep problem, and tension in the body, reducing our immunity.  

How can we un-learn the wrong way of breathing? We do that by consciously reminding ourselves to breathe correctly, using our diaphragm, as often as possible.  

Breathing in Meditation 

In meditation, breathing serves another function. It is used as an object of meditation.  

We do that by placing our attention on the process of breathing. We keep our attention on the breathing process continuously, for as long as possible. If we get distracted, we simply bring our attention back to the breathing process each time our attention strays.  

There is nothing else we need to do except keep our attention and awareness on the breath. There is no need to control the breathing process. Just watch it.  

In the beginning, we will notice that the breathing is coarse and the body is tensed. As we continue to watch it, over time, the breathing will settle down on its own. It becomes more subtle, more relaxed. And it will continue to become more and more subtle as time passes.  

At first, it is as if we need to put in the effort to breathe to live. In the end, as the breathing becomes more and more subtle, it is as if life is breathing through us, effortlessly. It may even reach a state where the breath is almost undiscernible. 

As the breathing settles down, the mind also settles down on its own accord. Thinking becomes slower. Thoughts become fewer. Mind becomes calmer, and clearer.  

This is how we use breathing in meditation to bring us to a state of calm and tranquility.   

The Case for Spirituality

The Case for Spirituality

Case #1: Death-Bed Phenomena 

Death-bed phenomena are occurrences of a spiritual nature that are related to death and dying. They are found across all cultures and religious beliefs. They are experienced in the past and even in our present days. No doubt, it will continue to happen in the future. 

People have heard about death-bed phenomena for ages. 

A recent book, entitled “The Art of Dying”, by Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist and a senior lecturer in King’s College in London, listed several different types of death-bed phenomena, such as: 

  • premonition of death by the dying, or someone closed to the dying,  
  • death-bed visions of relatives and loved ones who have died, seen by the dying person,  
  • seeing an alternate reality of the other side by the dying person,  
  • terminal lucidity,  
  • Death-bed coincidences, where someone close to the dying person is somehow given a message of the death, either through a vivid dream or some other signs or visions, and 
  • Strange, inexplicable events that happened at death, such as a glowing light, or appearance of certain animals. 

Another book called “Final Gifts”, authored by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley, two hospice nurses with years of experience looking after the dying, talked about what they called “nearing death awareness” – an increased or heightened sense of awareness to what we would normally term as spiritual experience. They shared ample accounts of dying patients who talked to them about preparing for a journey or travel, being in the presence of someone who is no longer alive, or knowing when death will arrive for them. They highlight the importance for us to understand the needs and communication of the dying, and be alert to what they are trying to tell us.  

Case #2: Near Death Experience (NDE) 

Near Death Experience, or NDE, is the phenomenon of coming back to life after one has been pronounced dead. Often, this “coming back to life” is accompanied by amazing experience that is difficult for the one who has just come back from the dead to share with others, for fear of being ridiculed. Yet, this experience is shared universally across cultures and religions, each with core similarities, and yet seen and filtered through one’s own belief system. 

Two of the most recent and most compelling NDEs are that of Dr. Eben Alexander and Anita Moorjani.  

Dr. Eben Alexander is a neurosurgeon of more than 25 years of experience. In 2008, he contracted a particularly virulent strain of bacterial meningitis, and fell into a deep coma. The neocortex of his brain was completely shut down. After weeks in coma, his doctors put his chance of survival at 10%, and even if he survives, he would be in a nursing home for the rest of his life.  

However, not only did he survive, but he also made a full and miraculous recovery. He also recounted a deep and profound near-death experience during his time in coma. He documented his experience in great details in his book “Proof of Heaven”, which became a best seller. 

Anita Moorjani was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2002. Rejected conventional treatment, she tried alternative treatment without much success. Eventually in 2006, almost on the verge of death, she was urgently admitted through the emergency department, where the doctors informed her family that it was too late to save her life as the lymphoma has spread throughout her body.  

Anita was in coma for 30 hours.  

In her best seller book entitled “Dying to be Me”, Anita recounted her near-death experience during those 30 hours in coma, including an out-of-body experience with accurate observations and awareness of her physical surroundings.  

Returning from her NDE, Anita came out of coma. Her tumor shrank about 70% within four days, and within 5 weeks, she was cancer-free and was discharged from the hospital. 

Anita is now a motivational speaker who encourages her audience to live fearlessly.  

Case #3: Past Lives 

Many cultures and religions, particularly those in the East, believe in past lives. Major religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism all believe that we all die and are reborn again in another life. Whether one calls it reincarnation or rebirth, the belief is that we continue to live life after life. We have lived many lifes in the past. We are living in this present life, and when we die, we will continue to be reborn into another life.  

Major religions that do not believe in past lives are Islam, Christianity and Judaism. However, that may not always have been the case. The Kabbalah mentioned reincarnation, and some early Christian groups, such as the Gnostics, believed in reincarnation. In fact, the concept of reincarnation was removed from Christian beliefs only because it was decreed by the Council of Constantinople in 553 CE. Prior to that, it was also a belief accepted by the early Christians.  

Not many scientists are keen to investigate past lives phenomena, but for those who are keen, there is actually ample evidence that can be difficult to ignore. 

Two prominent past lives investigators are Professor Ian Stevenson and Associate Professor Jim Tucker. 

A psychiatrist in the University of Virginia, Professor Ian Stevenson spent 40 years researching reincarnation and investigated more than 3,000 cases of rebirth in children worldwide. He looked into the identification of people and places mentioned in children who claimed past lives, examined birth marks and birth defects that corresponded to events of previous lives, and studied xenoglossy and phobias. In his book “Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect”, he presented 200 cases of birth marks and birth defects associated with reincarnation. 

After Professor Ian Stevenson passed away in 2007, Associate Professor Jim Tucker, also a psychiatrist, continued his work. He investigated mainly claims of past lives in children in USA. Despite living in a culture where reincarnation is not generally accepted, these American children shared past lives memories that are difficult to dismiss. Associate Professor Jim Tucker shared his interesting research findings in his book “Life before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children’s Memories of Previous Lives”.  

Case #4: Psychic Phenomena 

Psychic phenomena have been observed since time immemorial. Extrasensory perception or ESP is the claimed ability to receive information from outside of our five physical senses. Psychic abilities such as intuition, telepathy, psychometry, clairvoyance and remote viewing are all associated with the ability to gain information outside our normal physical senses, using only the mind. 

Are these psychic phenomena real? Or are they the work of clever conmen? 

The Buddhist scriptures have recorded accounts of some of these psychic phenomena. Clairvoyance and clairaudience are two listed phenomena, as is the ability to see one’s own past lives. Levitation, bilocation and even the ability to walk on water have been documented. The Bible also has an account of Jesus walking on water. In the yogic traditions, there have also been numerous accounts of yogis displaying their psychic abilities. 

Are we to dismiss them as illusions? 

Some scientists are quietly studying and experimenting these claims. Some have even claimed some degree of success. Perhaps, we should keep an open mind to these claims. 

Case #5: Meditative Experience 

Some long-time meditators have reported interesting spiritual experience with their meditation practice. Apart from the experience of absorbed concentration or jhana, which is one of mental calm and clarity, some have also reported out-of-body experience.  

Senior Tibetan monks have reported the ability to increase their body heat. Some yogis have been observed to be without food and water for weeks while in deep meditative state. There are also reports of levitation.  

Perhaps there is something to be said about the unlimited power of the mind, if we would only learn to tap into it. 

We are spiritual beings

We are spiritual beings

Ideally, we want to totally eliminate all fears from our lives, and we can only do that when we see ourselves as spiritual beings. As long as we see ourselves as physical beings, we will continue to be attached to our body, which means we will be in fear of our physical death. 

Since death is inevitable for everyone, we may as well learn to accept it, and acceptance comes easiest when we see ourselves as spiritual beings. We then see death as just a transition from one physical existence to another. Death is only a change of one physical body to another, much like changing our clothes. 

Is it a challenge for you to see yourself as a spiritual being, as opposed to a physical being? Are you still unconvinced that you are indeed a spiritual being? If so, then I invite you to do your own research on these topics: 

  • Death bed phenomena 
  • Near Death Experience (NDE) 
  • Past lives or Reincarnation 
  • Psychic Phenomena 
  • Psychic experience in meditation 

Perhaps the most convincing option is your very own personal psychic experience, such as out-of-body experience (OBE) or psychic experience in meditation. Once you have experienced it, you will no longer have any doubt about your own spiritual nature. You will know. Until then, you will have to take another person’s words for it. This is called faith. 

However, even in faith, you do not need to believe blindly. You can still demand for some sort of proof. The topics I have mentioned above are some of the evidence pointing to your spiritual nature.  

Admittedly, they may not be conclusive evidence. Nevertheless, they are supportive evidence. Seen individually, they may not be very strong evidence, but taken together as a group, the evidence becomes compelling. They should at least strengthen your faith or belief that you are indeed a spiritual being.  

Believing in our spirituality is beneficial in several ways. Firstly, it sets us on a view or perspective that is wholesome. People who are spiritual place value in virtues such as love, compassion, harmony, justice and inner peace. They live their lives in accordance to these values. In doing so, they are a blessing to themselves, their families as well as their communities. 

In addition, people who are spiritual also benefit from good health, both physically and mentally. Several scientific studies on this group of people have consistently showed that they are healthier and happier compared to the general population. They are also more grateful for what they have, and that brings about a sense of contentment and inner peace. 

A true spiritual path is one that brings us from a point of faith in spirituality to a point of knowing that we are spiritual beings. 

4 Little Know Secrets of Meditation, Energy and Manifestation

4 Little Know Secrets of Meditation, Energy and Manifestation

Secret #1:
The True Purpose of Meditation

Many people feel a sense of fascination when confronted with the possibility of mystic visions, psychic intuition and heightened mental functioning. While meditators often report these sorts of improvements, these experiences should not be the primary reason for practice. The purpose of meditation is to bring us back to ourselves.

As we become healthier, happier and realize greater self-awareness, the other benefits of meditation begin to follow naturally — improved mental functioning, greater intuition as well as greater access to unconscious resources and abilities.

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