After another meditation class with Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, I am understanding more about what meditation really is and different ways to achieve it. This is my report from a second class of a three class series. I recommend you read about the first class here before continuing.
Of course, the first thing that pops up in any Washingtonian conversation this week is Sunday’s NFC Championship game where the Seahawks pulled out one of the most amazing comebacks in history (or at least in the history of Seattle). Naturally, we also began our class with the topic. Dr. Ted began by mentioning in wonderment what the 12th man was able to make happen. That’s a thought—what we made happen.
It’s no secret that the 12s have been contributing to Seahawks success with loudness, and also with support. We will never forget the first play of Super Bowl XLVIII, when the fans were so loud that Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over Peyton Manning’s head. Ramirez admitted it was so loud that he could not hear Manning’s cadence. Truly the power of the 12s.
But what about the power of so many people coming together and focusing on one thing? People praying and wishing that their team pulls it together to win a game? Visualizing success, together? I’ve asked a lot of people after the game if they thought the Seahawks were going to lose. Many people, including Russell Wilson, said they never had a doubt that they were going to win.
There have been numerous studies that have shown that a large group of people meditating together has a measurable effect on the greater population. Mallika Chopra (daughter of Deepak Chopra), states that the coherence from meditating with others makes it more powerful socially. In an article for Care2, she says, “Meditating together also lets us come together in shared intentions for change. On a global scale, we have witnessed many times how a small handful of people strongly unified by a common intent can profoundly influence a larger group of people.”
So what’s to say that the 12s focused concentration on winning the game didn’t help the Seahawks? After the game, the players thanked the 12s for believing in them (well, those who didn’t leave the stadium early, anyway!). The 12s are truly treated by the players as part of the team, and therefore part of the victory.
Pete Carroll even started implementing meditation into his program in 2011 with high-performance sports psychologist Mike Gervais. No one is required attend, yet approximately 20 players show up at various times every week. Russell Wilson, along with several other players, schedules individual weekly sessions with Gervais. In an interview with ESPN, he said, “We do imagery work and talk about having that innovative mindset of being special. We talk about being in the moment and increasing chaos throughout practice, so when I go into the game, everything is relaxed.” The entire roster also participates in yoga class, which players enjoyed so much in 2012 as an optional activity that the staff decided to make it a mandated part of player workouts in 2013.
Seahawks offensive tackle Russell Okung told Yoga Journal that he agrees meditation is an important part of training: “Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice. It’s about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn’t matter in that moment. There are so many things telling you that you can’t do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them and change them.”
Perhaps the strong and focused minds of both the players and the fans are another reason why this team has been so successful. Something to think about, for sure.
Anyway, the Seahawks were really only a brief topic of conversation in the class. However, it was a great lead into what focused meditation is, and how to do it.
Focused meditation is when you are meditating by repeating a a certain phrase, mantra, or affirmation. Many religions would call this prayer. The reason is because this repetition keeps the mind focused and helps turn off the other inner dialogue. So what should you repeat?
Phrase – Choose a phrase that has meaning for you. It can be something you desire, something you hope to become, or recognition of someone or something. For example, repeat “I love myself,” “I am,” or even the name of your religion’s god.
Mantra – A mantra is a sacred word or phrase, originally used in Hinduism. A mantra may or may not have literal meaning. The spiritual value of mantra comes when it is present in thought. Dr. Falcon says that it is often easier to use a traditional mantra in a different language, because we have no associations with the word that bring our attention away from the word. “It is not in the mantra,” he says, “but in the doing.” A couple of ideas from Sanskrit:
Ananda – “love bliss”
Shanti om – “peace”
Affirmation – Affirmations are a useful tool to help change the beliefs, images and thought processes that you have within you that may be holding you back from achieving what you want. Find an affirmation that you would like to focus on. For examples on how to build your own affirmations, click here. Some that speak to me are, “I completely accept who I am and know that I have a unique contribution to make,” and “I easily accept prosperity and abundance into my life.”
Dr. Falcon told us to bring a mala with us to this class as a tool for focused meditation. Mala means “garland” in Sanskrit, and is used by Muslim cultures to focus their mind in prayer or meditation. It looks like a beaded necklace, and is held so that you repeat your phrase, mantra, or affirmation, move to the next bead, and repeat. Going fully around the necklace is a series, and you can repeat however many series you desire. This is similar to a rosary in the Catholic tradition. There are 108 beads on a traditional mala, signifying wholeness.Embed from Getty Images
If you do not have a mala, you can do a similar meditation by using your fingers. What you will do is have both hands on your lap, and begin tapping your left pinky to your thumb, stating your phrase, and then your ring finger to your thumb, repeat the phrase, middle finger, and so on. You will go all the way from your pinky finger on your left hand to the pinky finger on your right, and back again. That will complete one series.
How to do focused meditation with a mala (or your fingers):
- Get into a comfortable position, sitting or standing, holding your mala or putting your hands on your lap or by your side.
- Close your eyes, and begin to notice your breath. Notice how you feel in this moment, and understand that this is exactly the way you should feel, the way you should look, and where you should be in this moment.
- After you feel centered, begin by stating your phrase, mantra, or affirmation either mentally or aloud, holding the first bead or touching your left pinky to your thumb.
- Move to the next bead or finger and repeat. This rhythm should be slow, like your heartbeat.
- Repeat for as many series as you desire. When you are finished, bring yourself back to your body. Notice how you feel in this moment. Do not move right away. Slowly open your eyes, and sit until you feel ready to move.
This was my first time doing a focused meditation using a mala (I actually had to use my fingers), and I noticed that it made it easier for me to focus. I had a couple ideas that popped in my head that I had to stop to write down. They came through more clearly using this type of meditation.
The good thing about the beads is that they can be worn, either around your neck or on your wrist. Even when you are not meditating, they serve as a reminder of your phrase, mantra, or affirmation, and also of our inner connection. It will remind us to acknowledge what we are feeling in the moment, whether positive or negative, meet it, and move on—rather than staying in that emotion.
Another thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong. This is a problem for us, because the mind wants to get it right. Just remember, whatever happens, happens.
Now 12s, let’s come together in a meditative focus during the Super Bowl!Embed from Getty Images
Falcon, Ted. (Jan 21, 2015.) How to Make Your Meditation a Way of Life. A 3-Class Session with Rabbi Ted. Class conducted from Unity of Bellevue Church, Bellevue.
Roenigk, Alyssa. “Lotus pose on two.” (Aug 21, 2013.) ESPN NFL. Retrieved Jan 24, 2015 from http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9581925/seattle-seahawks-use-unusual-techniques-practice-espn-magazine.
“NFL Team Mandates Yoga.” (Sept 13, 2013.) Yoga Journal. Retrieved Jan 24, 2015 from http://www.yogajournal.com/uncategorized/nfl-team-mandates-yoga/.
Chopra, Mallika. “The Power of Group Meditation.” (June 17, 2011.) Care2. Retrieved Jan 24, 2015 from http://www.care2.com/greenliving/the-power-of-group-meditation.html.