Buddha’s way is best if you want to combat stress (The Times, London)

Stefanie Marsh, The Times, London: In case more than 20 centuries of gruelling spiritual journeys towards harmony and balance have not persuaded you, scientists have now proved that Buddhist meditation relieves stress.

Researchers at Wisconsin University monitored the brain activity of 25 randomly chosen individuals and concluded that Buddhist meditation causes a significant reduction in anxiety and correspondingly increased levels of positive emotions.

Members of the group, who meditated for 14 hours over an eight-week period, exhibited a dramatic increase in levels of activity in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that is most commonly associated with well-being and happiness.

The only problem now is to resolve which form of meditation is the most successful in combating what has been labelled Britain’s “stress epidemic”. Nine out of ten workers claim to suffer from stress and almost a million people claim incapacity benefit for mental strain.

While transcendental meditation has been shown to lower blood pressure, “mindfulness training” is reported to decrease symptoms in those with confirmed psychiatric diagnoses.

According to the Tibetan spiritual teacher, the Venerable Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, it is specifically Buddhist meditation that yields the most positive results. Other forms of meditation, such as the form practised in yoga where yogis attempt simply to clear their minds, were less effective.

“Buddhist meditation is different from other forms of meditation because it attempts to rid the mind of what we call the five poisons — desire, attachment to material things, pride, jealousy and anger,” he said.

“Other forms of meditation say that in time you will find inner peace but do not treat the root cause of unhappiness, and the same can be said for various other forms of so-called stress-busting. Even karate or swimming require the mind to be active, so there is no fundamental change occurring.”

The Venerable Lama, who has a large following in Britain, including bankers, lawyers and government officials, accused the British of being too negative.

“Physically a lot of people have become incapable of enjoying their lives because they do nothing but sit in front of the television,” he said.

“They have become so focused on their professions, which often require very boring repetitive skills, that they lose motivation for everything. A lot of people in Britain are very negative and are very happy to judge other people and also themselves. They have become paralysed and don’t know how to be positive.

“They have become so focused on their professions, which often require very boring repetitive skills, that they lose motivation for everything. A lot of people in Britain are very negative and are very happy to judge other people and also themselves. They have become paralysed and don’t know how to be positive.

“In Buddhism you learn to use meditation as a target. You need to find out your poison and transform that into a positive.”

The Venerable Lama came to Britain in the 1960s and is now the abbot of Kagyu Samye Ling monastery in Scotland. He is a meditation master and specialises in bringing meditation into everyday life.

Buddhist Lamas, or teachers, recommend 15 minutes of meditation every day, preferably in the mornings. In the “seven-point posture”, for example, which can be held either cross-legged on the floor or sitting in a chair, the focus moves from the seat to the eyes, spine, shoulders, back of the neck, mouth and tongue.

“Sit down and prioritise what it is you want from your life and try to target the weakest point in your life.”

Tibetan Buddhism dates back to AD173, when Buddhist scriptures arrived in southern Tibet from India during the reign of Thothori Nyantsen, the 28th king of Tibet.

There are 152,000 Buddhists in Britain. The elimination of hatred, greed and ignorance are core to the Buddhist faith.

Lama Zangmo is the first western female Lama in Britain. She is also the spiritual director of the Tibetan Buddhist Centre in London.

She said: “Meditation is about the present moment and learning to live our lives to the full in the present moment.

“What’s special about Buddhism is that it enables you to bring something with you into your everyday life. It’s very different from becoming calm through yoga or acupuncture.”



Anathema to many until recently, chanting, especially in yoga classes, has a new following among those keen to “let it all out”.

It is believed that the sounds caused by chanting have a healing effect on the nervous system. The two main types are Gregorian and overtone. The word “Om” is rarely heard in class: it is a recluse mantra for those who wish to renounce the world.

Transcendental meditation

The most controversial form is still in relative infancy after being introduced to the world by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1959. But more than four million people, including the Beatles, Clint Eastwood and the film director David Lynch, enthusiastically took it up in their search for Nirvana.

TM involves the repetition of a Sanksrit mantra, a short word or phrase which is said to have a soothing effect and to allow a deeper level of consciousness while remaining fully alert. Harmful effects include physical tics and emotional volatility.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness, vipassana or insight meditation, requires practitioners to focus on the details. A person attempting vipassana should try to be aware of thoughts, sounds, smells and sensations as they happen.

Someone practising mindful meditation will sit quietly and try to “witness” whatever goes through the mind, not reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories, worries, or images. A focus on the breath and patience are often key components in this form of meditation.

Yogic gaze

Practitioners often choose to focus their “gaze” on a candle, although any other relatively stationary object can be used.

The candle, which is placed at arm’s length and at eye level, is gazed at for several minutes. The eyes are then closed and the practitioner attempts instead to focus on the image of the candle inside the head.

Original article no longer available…

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