Many people take up meditation for spiritual enlightenment and to improve their health, both physical and mental
Seated quietly in a large, darkened room at the Spiritual Path Holistic Center, Willowbrook, Blanca Greenberg, a certified spiritual counselor, leads a small class in meditation. Her students sit facing her on the floor, on blankets.
The room is silent, except for the tranquil sounds of a CD player playing softly at the back of room and a small water fountain trickling down on the opposite side of the space.
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The class begins with what Ms. Greenberg calls a circle of healing, which is followed by an open meditation. After that, a conversation with her students to define what they will “emotionally cleanse” that day. Then, a guided meditation focusing on the chakra points.
During the hour-long session, students are directed to take deep breaths, inhaling from the nostrils; to exhale slowly and purposefully from the mouth, allowing themselves to “feel totally relaxed.”
Ms. Greenberg’s soft, soothing voice further directs her clients to “let go of any stress, release the tension, focus on the third eye, located between the two existing ones.”
She asks her class to imagine themselves “standing on a beautiful path, full of love, peace, harmony.” She places her hands over each of her students, and asks them to identify the clutters in their lives: “What are the emotional blockages that keep you from becoming one? What is it that is preventing you from experiencing bliss?”
After clients have picture their struggles — in their minds — Ms. Greenberg continued: “Beams of healing light begin to surround you. Healing beams to assist you in releasing any emotional discord. Choose today to live in harmony. The clutter seems to fall, to clear a passage.”
By the end of the exercise, the path is clear. The session ends with an invocation. “We do a sort of dance — they love it,” she said of her clientele. “The Shahmans, the tribals used to do it. It’s a beautiful way to end it.”
Regular meditation practice is supposed to quiet the mind and allow the body to tap into its own innate healing mechanisms. Yogis and monks have preached the powers of meditation for thousands of years, and the counterculture generation of the ’60s embraced transcendental meditation — a still-thriving form of internal mantra-chanting — as a method to alter consciousness.
Many people today are taking up meditation for reasons that have to do with spiritual enlightenment and a lot to do with improving their health, both physical and mental.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to find peace, tranquility,” she said. “We run on auto pilot all day. We find the drive to find bliss.”
A growing body of research has shown that meditation has clear benefits. Now, doctors and other health-care professionals are recommending meditation as a way to treat a variety of ills, from depression to high blood pressure and hyperactivity. In some cases, meditation — or as it’s sometimes called, “relaxation techniques” — is prescribed when other treatments, such as prescription drugs, haven’t worked, or as a complement to drug therapy. Recent research has shown that meditation can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as reduce pain and enhance the body’s immune system.
Meditation has no negative side effects — a fact that makes doctors feel comfortable recommending it. Meditation requires only that you be able to sit quietly for 10 minutes or more, while focusing on your breath or a word or phrase. Anyone can do it. And while millions of Americans already are meditating in some fashion, many more would likely benefit.
Ms. Greenberg, who also practices hands-on holistic touch and reiki, says she’s seen people transform their lives by using simple measures such as aromatherapy or concentrating on something other than stress or anger, like focusing on a candle.
“When we’re emotionally clogged, we need to address that,” she said, noting that the goal is not to change a person’s religion.
Newcomers need to stick with meditation long enough to make it a habit. Taking a meditation class or attending a meditation retreat can be a shortcut to feeling the positive effects of meditation faster and establishing a routine, experts said.
Ms. Greenberg, author of the book “The Path That Leads The Way,” saw the need for the space on Staten Island after 9/11. “Many people don’t know we’re here,” she said. “People need the opportunity to see that it’s not hocus pocus. It’s a spiritual oasis for people to come and nurture themselves and grow. For me, it’s very spiritual and sacred.”