Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 2.14.08

loving your body

Mantra for Stress Relief
Calm down the monkey mind!

Stability, clarity of mind, inner peace and a positive self image: Meditation sounds like living in your own personal utopia.

But can meditating really get rid of years of negative self-talk, insomnia, muscle strain, stomach tension, migraines and so many of the others problems associated with stress? Sister Kiran thinks so.

Sister Kiran, a Raja yoga instructor at the Eugene Brahma Kumaris Peace Place Meditation Center, is living proof of the power of meditation. As a young single mother on welfare, she says she lived in chaos before discovering meditation.

“Meditation has given me strength, patience, and a better relationship with my daughter. I don’t know where we would be today without it,” says Sister Kiran. “It has taught me how to value myself and has given me an opportunity to give back, which is very fulfilling.”

Sister Kiran has seen an influx of interest in meditation in the last couple of years. She attributes this partly to the growing popularity in alternative medicine and partly to a greater awareness of psychotherapy.

“When you go to the doctor now, they are going to prescribe more than just medicine,” Sister Kiran says. “They are more often than not going to tell you to do some sort of relaxation techniques, whether it is breathing practices or positive thinking.”

The Buddha Dharma Education Association asserts that the mind can be an important cause of sickness in the body, and it inevitably follows that the mind can also provide a cure. Learning how to meditate, they say, can develop both the body and the mind, bringing improvements to health at the same time. If a patient receiving treatment is able to understand that his sickness is physical and doesn’t allow it to affect his mental health, staying calm and cheerful, for instance, then his sickness will inevitably improve and be cured more quickly. But if a patient feels low-spirited and depressed, then the sickness will be more difficult and take longer to treat. Therefore, staying calm, clear-headed and cheerful at all times is something that can protect us from disease —?or so the association claims.

There are many forms of meditation, each one differing in prayer and posture techniques. The most common types of meditation are Transcendental, Zen, Buddhist, Raja yoga, Mantra and Chakra. The type taught and practiced by Sister Kiran is Raja yoga as taught by the Brahma Kumaris, which she says is a good option for beginners.

“Raja yoga is great to start with because it doesn’t require any specific postures, so you can do it regardless of age, flexibility or disability, it can be practiced anywhere. Meditation for beginners is guided, which means we provide recorded or live commentaries set against soft background music that guide your thoughts and help you to stay focused,” Sister Kiran explains. Before long, one can meditate without these “training wheels for the mind” as she calls them.

Though there are plenty of beginner meditation books and CDs available, Sister Kiran recommends taking a class to get the correct results and reach full potential. Most meditation classes usually require several lessons and some, like the ones at the Brahma Kumaris center, are free. Outside of class, she recommends meditating five minutes a day in the beginning and go up to 10 minutes after a couple of weeks. Just like any other type of physical activity, if you don’t do the work, you won’t get the desired results, warns Sister Kiran.

Personally, I have been told many times that I need to try meditation. Perhaps it is my two jobs and full time school schedule, the bags under my eyes or the small breakdowns I have when once again technology fails me, but something about me seems to make people think I am a prime candidate for meditation. When I have the stress of the day weighing on my mind and only an hour to spare in between errands and work, meditation seems impossible, but maybe it is not as difficult as I think. According to Sister Kiran, any time is acceptable to meditate, but she personally finds the mornings to be the ideal environment.

“There are fewer distractions in the early morning before most people are awake,” she says. “It is quieter and a lot easier to get into a meditative state. It is a good way to start your day.”

Once you find the time, the next task is finding the place. Whether it is your bathroom, bedroom or in the back seat of your car, finding a place void of distractions is important. Next, get into the proper posture depending on the type of meditation being practiced. Now comes the hard part. Clear your mind and focus your attention on an object, a mantra (a specially chosen

word or phrase) or your breathing, depending on the type of mediation you are practicing.

“The reason why my classes are free is because I feel people need to know this stuff,” Sister Kiran says. “Raja yoga is meant for the modern working type and is a path to help you better handle the world around you. Think about what a different world we would live in if everyone was thinking positive thoughts about themselves and others.”          


Where can you take classes or practice meditation in Eugene?

1) Baba Nam Kevalam: Free yoga and meditation classes. Every Thursday 7 to 8:30 pm at the First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive. Bring yoga pad or blanket, comfortable clothing.

2) Bodhi Path Buddhist Center: Meditation classes, workshops and lectures offered at 98 E. 13th Ave. 302-0093.

3) Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center: Free Raja yoga meditation classes taught by Sister Kiran. Classes start up again March 3 at 175 E. 31st Ave. 343-5252.

4) Eugene Buddhist Priory: Meditation classes, workshops and lectures offered. 344-7377.

5) Open Sky Shambhala Meditation Group: Offers courses in the practice and study of meditation. (541) 654-0236.

6) Laughter & Meditation club: Meets alternating Saturdays and Sundays. Location varies. 255-2677.

7) UO Health Center: Six week meditation class offered each term. Time and location to be announced. $13. 346-2770.


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