Chadds Ford Historical Society

Revisiting History

Spring Cleaning Series – April 22, 2016

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Want to learn something new and refresh your mind from all of the hectic schedules our days bring in the spring months? Be like a colonist, find meditation time! Meditation does not have to be religious at all. In fact, meditation is a form of calming the mind that allows you to be present in the moment with just yourself and to slowly chip away at unwanted and bothersome or overwhelming thoughts. Between working and having a schedule filled with things to do each day, you are probably thinking, “I’ll never find time to fit into my day to just sit and relax!” But you can. It’s all about fitting in your schedule to a calm and quiet time. It’s vitally important to human health. Did you know that “the relaxation response [from meditation] helps decrease metabolism, lowers blood pressure, and improves heart rate, breathing, and brain waves,” according to cardiologist Herbert Benson, MD of the Mind and Body Institute at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr. Benson is well known for his research on the health effects of meditation. Think about the medical bills you could possibly spare by just incorporating a relaxation technique that has been shown effective to work for some individuals. This is not medical advice, so please speak to your own medical practitioner before starting on any new routine. But, if you are healthy enough for the go-ahead from your physician, it would probably be a great addition to your daily routine!

From a colonial perspective, there were often individuals who were very devout in their Christian faith, and others who attended church because it was required, depending on the location of the colonies they lived in. Typically, this involved a quiet spiritual meditation at home or at church. Sometimes individuals even mixed their Christian spirituality with non-Christian beliefs in the laws of nature.

During the colonial period, there was a well-known group of individuals who were very instrumental in the practice of “meditation” or “quietness”. They were known as “Friends” or Quakers. This religious tradition had a substantial following in Pennsylvania during the 1600s and 1700s. As one one modern day Quaker writer named Michael Mirkel states, “silence and witness are two pillars of Quaker spirituality”. Today, individuals who don’t identify as Quakers, but who wish to sit in meeting and in stillness with a group of Quakers is welcome into the Quaker community without any reserves. An early Scottish Quaker writer and governor Robert Barclay described Quaker worship as each individual returning, “inwardly to the measure of grace in themselves, and not being only silent as to words but even abstaining from all their own thoughts, imaginations and desires”. This may sound very similar to Buddhist Eastern meditation practices, but there were many differences. Regardless, the understanding of meditation as an important practice is not a new idea. It’s an idea that has been around for thousands of years and will continue to be considered important because of its many proven benefits to mental and physical health.

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If you are not sure on where to get started, first figure out whether you would choose to have a religious or non-religious experience of meditation. For our purposes on getting you started, here is an easy way to practice what many call “mindfulness” or just “meditation” to calm your mind of the noise that clouds it from the non-stop hustle and bustle of each day.

Step 1: Sit cross legged on a cushion or chair or you can even lay flat on your back on the floor. Take a deep breath and close your eyes.
Step 2: Listen to or pay attention to your breathing. Don’t change the way you are breathing, but just focus in on it and the movement of air from in and out of your lungs.
Step 3: If you become distracted by any thoughts, recognize they are there but try to return to focusing on your breath.
Step 4: Don’t judge yourself or ignore distractions. Those thoughts may be there, but simply bring yourself back to the focus on breathing.
Step 5: Each day you should start this routine in 5 minute sittings. Try to meditate at the same time every day. You can set a timer to let you know when your time is up. If you cannot do more than a minute, try to graduate yourself to at least 5 minutes by the next day or days. Eventually, work your way up to 10 minutes. At some point you may be able to do this for about 30 minutes if you choose to do so. Regardless, this will give you the refreshed and calm mind your body needs to add vitality to each day!

Meditation and mindfulness do not only have to be done in this way. Just getting out and walking in nature on a short path through your local park may help alleviate stress. Maybe it’s listening to some calming instrumental music that eliminates the never ending thoughts and just helps all of the craziness in life melt away. Whatever it is, do it. It won’t hurt a bit.

 

Have you checked out our Pinterest page? There are some fun and exciting pins on mindfulness and meditation we suggest!

Check it out! at: https://www.pinterest.com/CFHistorical/

 

 

Posted By: Sarah Krykew, Guide Specialist

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