Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

From September 6-9, Joshua Tree will be the venue for Bhakti Fest 2012, a combination music festival, yoga, and meditation retreat.  This family friendly event features activities for adults and children (kids under 12 can participate for free) including workshops, swimming pools, crafts, and ecologically responsible vendors.  Attendees can look forward to over 80 hours of music on two stages with performers such as Krishna Das, MC Yogi, Dave Stringer, Jai Uttal, and Deva Premal & Miten.  Top yoga teachers, such as Janet Stone, Saul David Raye, Bryan Kest, and Sarah Ivanhoe will be leading sessions that will stretch body and mind.  Bodyworkers trained in Shiatsu, acupuncture, massage, and Reiki will be available to heal and restore.

Celebrating the disciplines of mediation, yoga, and kirtan, this gathering combines ancient and modern wisdom in pursuit of spiritual awakening.  Each guest is selected for their commitment to expanding human consciousness and furthering the heart-centered revolution in devotional worship of the divine. A bulk of the proceeds are donated to a variety of non-profit organizations that provide food, shelter, medication, and environmental services across the globe.

Based in the idea of “seva”, the sankrit word for service without the expectation of reward, Bhakti Fest offers a work exchange program for those who are not able to afford tickets. Lodging is provided through either the Joshua Tree Retreat Center or campsites within the park.  For more information, visit the festival’s website.

Meditation has always been a wonderful way to calm, center, and focus the mind and spirit.  Evidence out of UCLA suggests that this kind of quiet, directed introspection could also strengthen the connections between neurons and increase the amount of folding in the layers of the brain.  A study by the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging shows that long-term meditators have a higher rate of gyrification, (or the amount of folding found in the cortex), which may allow practitioners to process information faster and integrate emotional and rational intelligence more efficiently.

Furthermore, there was a direct correlation between the amount of years spent in a variety of meditative disciplines, including Zen, Samatha, and Vipassana, and the total folding of the cortex.  After scanning thousands of points across the brain, the researchers also noted pronounced increases in gyrification in specific regions of the brain, most interestingly within the insular regions.  This might suggest a relationship between the area’s autonomic, affective, and integrative aspects and mediation’s goals of self-control, awareness, and introspection.

Following a form of meditation can also help manage physical pain.  A study published in the American Psychological Association’s journal, Emotion, reported that research out of the of University Montreal discovered that Zen meditators had more grey matter than non-mediators.  This meant that through thickening certain areas of their cortex, particularly the anterior cingulate which regulates pain, they were able to reduce their levels of sensitivity.  Even their perceptions of physical discomfort were less pronounced, as their emotional reactions were more controlled and they experienced less anticipation an anxiety.  Zen thought can even help re -focus someone back to their task at hand after being interrupted by distraction much more quickly.

With such amazing results, why not take a quiet moment or two to recite a mantra, do some yoga, or take a deep breath and ponder the mysteries of the universe?  Your brain may fold in on itself with joy!


Medicine Buddha

As we’ve just gotten in a beautiful new batch of mythic eastern statuary, this seems like an apt moment to review the line-up of oriental iconography…

Buddha in Deep Meditation

The cross-legged figure depicts the young Buddha seated in deep meditation. Legend says that Siddhartha Gautama lived off just a single grain of rice a day for six years in hopes of discovering the truth. Finally he sat under the Boddhi tree in quiet solitude, and after 49 days achieved Enlightenment. At that time he became known as the Buddha, or “The Awakened One.”

Fat Laughing Buddha

In order to reach enlightenment, the Buddha first had to discover the Middle Way, the path of moderation between self-indulgence and self-mortification. By following this path, the Buddha was able to transcend duality and all the pairs of opposites, such and good and evil, joy and sorrow, human and divine. With this realization he broke the cycle of suffering, and the fat, laughing buddha expresses this state of bliss.

Hotei, the Rejoicing Buddha

Arms lifted overhead in a display of joyful victory, Hotei is considered the god of good fortune, the representation of contentment and abundance, and sometimes the guardian of children. Whether seated or standing, his message of prosperity and satisfaction remains the same.

Guan Yin

The eastern goddess or bodhisattva of compassion, female embodiment of Avalokiteshvara, Quan Yin’s worship goes back thousands of years, throughout China, Japan, and southeast Asia. Also known as the goddess of mercy, her name literally means “She who hears the cries of the world.” (Also Kuan Yin or Quan Yin.)


The story of this iconic Indian deity goes back many thousands of years and incorporates dozens of myths from the ancient Vedic texts. He is most commonly known as the remover of obstacles, but in his negative aspect he can also be the creator of obstacles. Ganesh is also revered as the lord of success and a guardian of travelers. He is easily recognized with his elephant head and six arms, but has many different incarnations. Most representations of Ganesh include a small mouse at his feet, and often he is even riding on the mouse’s back. This imagery evokes the unity of opposites and a special balance between the grandest and the most humble of creatures. (Other names for Ganesh include Ganesha and Ganapati.)