Meditation Potpourri: Where to get your relaxation on in Oakland
In the Bay Area, there is always something to do - an event to attend, an gathering to plan, visiting with family and friends or some particular place to visit.
And if that weren’t enough, there are the regular demands of life - the bills, the chores, the appointments … and social media, a seemingly bottomless list that can keep us busy beyond what is genuinely productive or healthy.
Although, due to technology, we are changing as a species, not just habitually, trying to keep up with the endless procession of upgrades, but physically and physiologically, as well, we are not machines. Without self-care we break down. We get sick. We lose balance. We lose focus. We burn-out. So, along with our newfound relationship to machines, we must continually search for ways to, as artist Michael Franti puts it, “Stay human.”
One of the biggest ways to “stay human” is care for one of the greatest human elements that we have at our disposal, our minds. We know that it is human to eat and to sleep and we know to pay attention when these elements are nonfunctional. But there are other aspects that must be attended to for our overall mind/body human maintenance and that is supported through the practice of mediation - rest for our minds.
Meditation is a stress regulator, reduces blood pressure, lowers cholesterol levels, slows the aging process, improves sleep, strengthens the immune system, accelerates the healing process, helps with anxiety, depression and controlling emotions. It decreases the body’s production of stress related chemicals like cortisol while at the same time increasing the production of mood enhancing chemicals like serotonin.
Along with mental and physical health benefits, some also see meditation as a spiritual practice that aids in a deep connection to the divine. It heightens intuition and helps practionors access levels of consciousness beyond the limitations of the “monkey mind.” It enhances intuition, making us more reflective and responsive than reactive, allowing us to make better, more grounded decisions, lessening emotionally reactive “drama.”
With all of its benefits, meditation, as with any new habit, requires some getting used to. It is not an overnight miracle pill or magic cure-all bullet. It is a journey and in the beginning may prove to be a bit bumpy for some. Early meditators may find that they cannot completely still their minds and might find this frustrating. This seems to be part of a normal process. It is stilling the mind, to the best of one’s ability first and practice perfects. Sometimes repeating a word (or “mantra”) like “ocean wave” or “peace” can help. And finding a mediation practice that works for you, may also take some time to find the right fit.
In addition, things buried in the deep unconscious and unhealed wounds will come up. Like cleaning a dirty pan, all the gunk comes to the surface to be cleared away first, so lots of uncomfortable emotions may come before deep feelings of peace. Transformation, as with all things, is a work in progress. The benefits to the health of oneself and to the health of the community are well worth the process.
Ready to give this form of relaxation a try? Here are a few organizational resources to get you started:
Bay Zen Center 689 62nd St., Oakland, (510) 596-3087, www.bayzen.org
East Bay Meditation Center, 285 17th St. (at Harrison), Oakland, (510) 268-0696, www.eastbaymeditation.org
Heartwalker Studio, 4920 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, (510) 495-4988, www.heartwalkerstudio.com
Hesed Community, 3745 Elston Ave., Oakland, (510) 482-5573, hesedcommunity.org
Kojin-an Zendo, 6140 Chabot Road, Oakland, (510) 653-1916, www.kojin-an.org
Oakland Center of Light, 2944 76th Ave., Oakland, (510) 207-6593
Oakland Siddah Ashram, 1107 Stanford Ave., Oakland, (510) 898-2700, www.oaklandsyda.org
Rockridge Meditation Community: Pacific Zen Institute, 5463 College Ave., Oakland, email@example.com, www.oaklandzen.org
Spirit, Sound and Silence quarterly day-long mediation retreats, facilitated by OneLife Institute at the Holy Redeemer Center, 8945 Golf Links Road, Oakland, (510) 595-5598, www.onelifeinstitute.org