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Intentional Living
Brady Mikusko, Life Coach 

My office will be sponsoring a

Primordial Sound Meditation
course,  a form of meditation taught by Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon. Amy Stille from Ann Arbor will be teaching this course.  



Email me if you wish more information after the holiday.


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Issue: #13
December 2014

 I've Tried to Meditate  but I can't!
--Mayo Clinic--


Today's newsletter is on Meditation.

As a life coach -- and an individual interested in reducing my own stress -- I have been wanting to write about this powerful practice for a some time, but I hesitated. You see, up until recently I was not a meditator. Rather, I was one of thousands upon thousands of people who had TRIED to meditate but had failed. Repeatedly. Or so I thought. Sound familiar?

At the same time, I continued to read articles on how beneficial meditation is to so many people. Meditation is currently being taught to teachers, patients with all kinds of physical illness (asthma, fibromyalgia, cancer, chronic pain, etc.) , doctors, CEO's,  high school students, football players, parents, prisoners, children with ADHD, teens, marines, veterans, police officers, nurses.....and the list goes on.

So finally, in late June I took the plunge, and took a meditation course (Transcendental Meditation).  I have been meditating ever since. The result? I am experiencing less stress and anxiety --  even though the circumstances of my life remain virtually the same. I find that remarkable!

So I finally get to write about what is quickly becoming my favorite topic!

Note: The purpose of the newsletter is to awaken interest in meditation.  Obviously it is not designed to be a treatise on the subject. Further, as a new meditator and new student of meditation,  I am still learning so please forgive any mistakes I inadvertently have made, esp. to those readers who meditate.

What happens when we are stressed? 

Before we look at the benefits of meditation, let us look first at the body's response to stress  i.e., the fight-or-flight-or-freeze (FFF) response in our body.  This FFF response is extremely useful when we see a TIGER or a BEAR or a BOA CONSTRICTOR or OUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE or we are caught in a HURRICANE......It allows us to flee or to fight or to freeze in order to survive.

But what has evolved over time, and is prevalent in our modern world,  is that our FFF stress response gets activated even when there is no tiger or boa constrictor, or bear or fire or hurricane. Instead, our FFF survival mechanism gets activated throughout a "normal" day.

Normal Day Scenarios: The boss criticizes you. The baby cries inconsolably while your other child falls from a chair. The emails accumulate while your actual job is not getting done. Unexpected delays occur while commuting and you have an important meeting.  Your internet connection fails, AGAIN. You spend two hours on the phone over an insurance claim and then get disconnected.  The car needs repair and you don't have the $.  Your mom needs her pain medication and the pharmacy is closed. Your ex-wife or ex-husband is doing what she/he does.  You sit down after a long day and your mobile phone beeps, with a worrisome text from your kid.

So what? You might ask. This is life....

Here's the deal: Each time our body's stress response gets activated, a whole series of "events" happen in our body, let alone our mind.  Please take a moment and read this list.

Physiological Changes (partial list) during stress

Your heart beats faster
Your blood pressure rises
You consume more oxygen and expel more carbon dioxide
You breathe faster and your breathing becomes shallow
Your heart pumps more blood
You sweat
One part of your adrenal glands pumps out adrenaline and noradrenaline, which constrict your blood vessels.
Another part of your adrenal glands pumps out cortisol.
Your pancreas releases glucagon and decreases insulin which causes your blood sugar level to rise.
Your blood supply to your digestive organs is reduced and it is increased in your muscles.
Your pituitary gland releases less growth hormone.
You produce lower levels of sex hormone.
Your immune system is suppressed.

Imagine this happening every week or every day, or several times a day?  Not good. Bad for your health. I repeat: bad for your health.

A few facts to add fuel to this fire: (1)  It is estimated that 75 to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints;  and (2) the World Health Organization estimates that stress costs U.S. companies at least $300 billion per year through absenteeism, turn over and low productivity. Let alone, the "cost" to each individual.

Benefit #1: Your brain changes for the better


Dr. Sarah Lazar and other Harvard-affiliated researchers recently lead a research project at Massachusetts General Hospital  on meditation. Sixteen 16 volunteers were taught meditation (i.e., the participants were new to meditation) and they all meditated for eight weeks.  Magnetic resonance (MR) images were taken two weeks before and 2 weeks after their participation. The results showed increased gray matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, plus increased gray matter in structures in the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. The results also showed decreased gray matter  in the amygdala, a part of the brain that plays a significant role in anxiety and stress.

This may be alot of jargon for the woman or man on the street, but the bottom line is that this study supports the hypothesis that meditation changes the brain, for the better. And this is not the only research that supports this hypothesis. There are more!!!!

If this finding isn't enough to convince you to meditate, continue reading.


More Benefits of Meditation 

Below is a partial  list of benefits, as reported in the increasing number of research studies and also reported anecdotally. 


1. Decreases blood pressure and hypertension

2. Lowers cholesterol levels

3. Reduces production of stress hormones, including cortisol  

    and adrenaline

4. More efficient oxygen use by body

5. Increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA

6. Improved immune function

7. Decrease in anxiety

8. Decrease in depression

9. Helps with insomnia   

10. Greater ability to relax

11. Improved concentration   

12. Helps children and adults with ADHD   

13. Improved test scores for college students

14. Increased creativity.    

15. Greater psychological well-being  


Even the Mayo Clinic recommends meditation to help with such ailments as: asthma, cancer, heart disease, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure AND TO PREVENT DISEASE!  




Some Common Myths About Meditation 

1.  Meditation is Difficult.   Actually, meditation can be easy and certainly can be simple, as simple as focusing on one's breath, silently repeating a manta,  listening to a guided meditation...  And one can do it almost anywhere: at work, at the park, on a plane, in a car.  

     Many people who find it hard are (1) often attached to the results of the meditation (a "good meditation" versus a "bad meditation"), (2) trying too hard (3) unsure they are doing it correctly.  Learning meditation from a qualified and practiced teacher can help enormously. And finding a type of meditation that works for you can help.   


2. You must quiet your mind in order to have a successful meditation/meditation practice.    



This myth alone often  causes  people to give up meditating, which is why I gave it up long ago! Meditation cannot stop all of our thoughts. It is not designed to do that.  


What meditation does is provide us with the breath, a mantra, an image or some other object of attention that we use and go to when the thoughts or  "monkey mind" or "chatter" naturally arise. Thoughts in meditation are NORMAL! 


So what are we doing when we meditate? Many meditation traditions might  respond by saying something like this:   In between our thoughts, there is Silence. There is a Gap. As we dip into that Gap, our body/mind/spirit is nourished and refreshed. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, even though the time spent in the Silence/Gap may only be seconds and at times imperceptible, it is still happening AND we still benefit.  


Note: Alot of people aren't even aware that they are having all these thoughts, so discovering how busy their mind is is a huge step toward greater awareness of the Self.   



3.  It takes years of dedicated practice to receive any benefits from meditation.  


The research by Dr. Lazar alone disproves this idea. Within 8 weeks,  16 newly-trained meditators received significant benefits in their brains, let alone the other benefits they received during their days.  


4.  I don't have enough time to meditate. In our busy and driven Western world, it is hard to fight this perception. But consider this:  The state of restful alertness -- meditation -- is extremely refreshing for the body and mind. And it is often noted that as people stick to a meditation ritual/practice, they often accomplish more during their day.  

    But if you feel your schedule is too full, a few minutes of meditation is better than none!  Try five, and add one minute more each week?  


5.  Meditation is a spiritual or religious practice.   Meditation requires no spiritual or religious beliefs. Atheists meditate. Agnostics meditate. The breath has no religious affiliation! Neither does walking, nor focusing on a candle or learning to be mindful! It is true that some meditation schools of thought are spiritually oriented. If this concerns you, pick a kind of meditation that works for you.  


6.  I am supposed to have a transcendent experiences in meditation. This does happen to some, but I don't think that this is the norm, the normal experience day after day. The real benefits of meditation are what happens in the other hours of the day as we go about our daily life.        



What kind of meditation should I engage in?   

For the purposes of this newsletter I have spoken about meditation as if it were one thing... but in reality there are all different kinds of meditation. A whole world! Here is a small sampling:    

  • Breath meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Chanting meditation.
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • T'ai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga 
  • Guided mediation  
  • Heart-based meditation

There is no one-size-fits-all, although some traditions are more well-known than others. For example:Tibetan Buddhism, Vipassana/Mindfulness, Transcendental Meditation.  For me, I chose Transcendental Meditation because I have been curious about TM for 30 years (Deepak Chopra)   



A few last thoughts on getting started....   

1. Take a class. There are many classes available in the Ann Arbor area. Google it. Google  Crazy Wisdom Journal, which has a partial list of meditation classes available in Ann Arbor area.   

    A class will give you a structure and fellow students, and a teacher who is then available to answer your questions and to normalize your experience.    


2. Commit to "x" minutes per day.   There are 1440 minutes in a day. If you can commit to only 5 minutes, that is the place to start. 

New Offering: Primordial Sound Meditation



My office will be sponsoring a new offering in early 2015: Primordial Sound Meditation. Primordial Sound Meditation is a mantra meditation in the Vedic tradition of India as taught by Deepak Chopra and David Simon at the Chopra Center in California. Amy Stille, based in Ann Arbor, will be teaching the course. She is a trained and Chopra-Center-certified instructor.

If you are interested, email
I will send you a notice as soon as the logistics have been worked out.

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Brady Mikusko, MA, MSW, NCC,  Personal Life and Wellness Coach
Young Living Essential Oils Distributor 

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