John Kabat-Zinn and Daniel Goleman based in their own experience with meditation went about researching to disprove their hypothesis that meditation is valuable to our health. Their findings have proven to our western scientific materialist medical paradigm that there was something else to the health of an individual than just chemicals and drugs. What they have helped us see is that our emotional wellbeing, how we think and feel, is implicated, in many cases, in the health problems we develop.
An example, a woman who was diagnosed with hypertension by the head of the medical department at the Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust, who wanted nothing to do with doctors or medicines and was channeled to research we were doing with yoga, the relaxation response and hypertension. We taught this patient a simple relaxation exercise and breath awareness – in a nutshell, mindfulness, not unlike what is taught in any good yoga class . The patient’s blood pressure returned to normal after just three one hour weekly appointments. The patient’s hypertension was brought on by tension, when she learned to relax the hypertension went away. This example seems simplistic but the results of the relaxation response have been duplicated many times. Unlike the simple release of muscle tension, the emotional aspects of people’s complaints is often much deeper.
The reduction or removal of emotional pain involved in what causes hypertension is very important. For that matter, the reduction or removal of emotional pain associated with unpleasant events in life is something we all can appreciate. Meditation offers tools to assist us with that, but in addition to meditation there are tools like Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) that are of tremendous help.
One thing that meditation, NLP and EFT have in common is that they have the potential, when used properly, to help achieve a level of detachment in an individual. When we think of meditation we think of sitting quietly letting all the joy and beauty of the universe pervade our being, but anyone who has practiced sincerely knows, this is not the case at all. It is often a grueling exercise that plunges us into the dark corners of our mind, not because we go looking for the darkness, but because it drops out of the corners like spiders, all of a sudden, startling us, and plaguing us – regrets, misgivings, and life traumas.
In meditation we are taught to be dispassionate towards our thought processes. Here is an exercise to test how good you are at being dispassionate towards the content of your mind, take the challenge. Simply be aware of your breath, feeling the breath at your nostrils, noticing it qualities. Pick three memories, one neutral, one pleasant and one unpleasant. Let each of these memories come before your mind’s eye and notice what happens to your breath. For the average person the breath is going to vary between these three memories. The meditation masters indicate that this variation illustrates a lack of dispassion towards what William James would call the stream of consciousness. Simple breath awareness meditation practices – mindfulness! –help to develop dispassion.
In addition to the dispassion that develops in meditation, EFT, for example, can aid in our dispassion towards thoughts/memories that disturb our meditation and or our lives, often in a few moments; completely alleviating the emotional charge associated with painful memories. What does this mean? The memory passes through the mind-field never disturbing you again. The meditation masters would say that this is success with dispassion. Albeit, meditation’s goal is much broader than emotional intelligence and emotional freedom, the latter not only serve us well in our daily interactions with others but they are required to progress in meditation.