Meditation, Keaiwa Heiau

IMAG0539There’s no diggidy, no doubt about the proven benefits of meditation these days:

1. Strengthens the immune system (Davidson et al. 2003; Tang et al. 2007)

2. Decreases stress-related cortisol (Tang et al. 2007)

3. Increases grey matter in the

  • Insula
  • Hippocampus (a/b: Hozel et al. 2005, 2008)
  • Prefrontal cortex (Lazar et al. 2009)

4. Reduces cortical thinning due to aging in prefrontal regions strengthened by meditation (Lazar et al. 2008)

5. Improves psychological functions associated with these regions, including

  • attention (Cater et al. 2005; Tang et al. 2007)
  • compassion (Lutz-Brefczynski-Lewis et al. 2008)
  • empathy (Lazar et al. 2005)

6. Lifts mood by increasing activation of the left frontal regions (Davidson 2004)

7. Increases the power and reach of fast, gamma-range brainwaves in experienced Tibetan practitioners (Lutz et al. 2004)

8. Helps a variety of medical conditions, including

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Asthma
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • PMS
  • Chronic pain (a-e: Walsh and Shapiro 2006)

9. Helps numerous psychological conditions, including

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Eating disorders (a-d: Walsh and Shapiro 2006)

10. Improves focus.

Studies show that even if you’re a novice meditator, meditating just three times a week for twenty minutes a pop will yield you (and those around you) many of these potent results.  Empirical evidence like this helps comfort me when I let my personal practice slip, when I succumb to the ebb and flow of life, and find myself in beginner’s shoes now and again.

IMAG0541On my way to drop off my rental car at the airport today I noticed a park on the map I had never been to before – Keaiwa Heiau Park.  I stopped off at Down to Earth to pick up a few snacks and zig zagged up Aiea Heights to the piney top of the mountain ridges.  The citrus pine aroma tickled my senses when I opened the car door.  My eyes felt brighter, my mindscape clearer already.

IMAG0536Walking over to the heiau, I felt surprisingly shy, like I wanted this experience to be more private than I knew it would be.  A family sat picnicking at a bench not far from the entrance to this ancient burial site, their kids playing tag, this earth no different from a playground.  A group of 20-somethings looked to be discussing the heiau in a workshop-esque gathering on the opposite side.  I wanted to be alone, so I could hear the ancestor’s whispered stories, so I could smell the offerings of the past.  I wanted only the trees to watch over our exchange.

But death is just another stage in life, and reverence is always subjective.  So I continued on.

After visiting each of the sacred circles and altars, I found some shade under a tea leaf bush and meditated.  Just a simple session focused on breath, HA in Hawaiian, the conduit of mana (known as prana in yogic philosophy).  It was only a short sit, and rather than experience the grounding heaviness I expected from a site of this nature, I felt incredibly light when I opened my eyes.  And so grateful for the opportunity to practice in such a sacred circle, on a mountain formed from a fire beneath the sea, in a place I still call home.

IMAG0538

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