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Meditation for Stress Reduction and Wellbeing

Nov 09, 2015 10:06AM ● By Amanda Butler

By Amanda Butler

The Ruth Vine Tyler Library, located at 8041 South Wood Street, offered a workshop on “Meditation for Stress Reduction and Wellbeing” on Oct. 14. The workshop was part of a special series titled, “Meditation: The Gift of Compassionate Presence,” sponsored by Salt Lake County Library Services and the Salt Lake City Public Library. The workshops were held in advance of the Parliament of World Religions, which took place Oct. 15 to 19 in Salt Lake City. 

The workshop was presented by Dr. Andrew Vidich, who provides trainings and workshops on meditation and spirituality to groups around the world. Vidich, who has authored multiple books on topics related to spirituality and self-improvement, also worked for several years as a teacher, including as a professor of religion at Manhattan College and Iona College in New Rochelle, NY. Vidich spoke at several events while in the Salt Lake area, and was interviewed on KSL Radio’s “The Doug Wright Show”. 

Vidich became interested in meditation at age 17, and looked for a spiritual teacher. He connected with a mentor named Sant Kirpal Singh, and began his spiritual journey, which has focused intensely on meditation. In the workshop, Vidich shared the insights he’s gained in over 40 years of practicing meditation, provided information about the benefits of meditation, and then led the group through a guided meditation.

Vidich spoke of how attitudes toward meditation have changed over the years. “I started meditating in about 1971, and at that time if you told anyone you were meditating, they would quickly walk the other way out the back door. A lot has changed since then. Not only has meditation now been embraced in the secular communities, it’s also been reestablished within our sacred communities. Actually, meditation is the core, essential, most profound essence of everyone’s spiritual and religious tradition.”

While meditation is a part of many religious and spiritual traditions, Vidich said that it is “a technique that anyone can practice, regardless of your religious or spiritual background. It does not belong to any religion. It’s hard wired into who we are.” 

Interest in meditation has increased even outside of spiritual and religious circles. “Corporate America has embraced meditation big time,” Vidich said. “Not because they’re interested in your spiritual welfare, but because they know it’s going to reduce absenteeism and reduce turnover of staff. It’s going to increase creativity, productivity, and efficiency; and that is backed up by over 6000 studies.”

“The National Institutes of Health (NIH) now has a whole site on medical research on meditation, with studies demonstrating its effect on practically every chronic and acute illness you can think of: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and the list goes on,” Vidich said. In addition, meditation provides “a tremendous benefit for concentration, creativity, sense of inner stability and resilience.”

“There’s a good reason why the NIH said that meditation is the number one stress reduction technique out there,” Vidich said. “They looked at all the other techniques that are out there, and none of the other techniques deal with the cause of stress, which is how do we respond to environmental stressful factors. Because it is not a question of what’s out there, it’s a question of how we respond to what is out there. This depends on your own inner state of well-being.” 

In order to access that state of inner well-being, Vidich said it is necessary to “disconnect from your thoughts and put your attention somewhere else. When you look at the flow of our thoughts on a daily basis, you begin to see that we go from one negative emotional state to another all day, and very rarely, if at all, do we get to experience the positive emotional states that should actually be where we are on a daily basis. Our thoughts create our reality, whether happy or sad, patient or impatient, grateful or ungrateful, whether in the moment or out of the moment, whether regretting the past or fearing the future, that’s what this practice is all about.”

Vidich said, “We learn through the meditation process that you have thoughts but you are not your thoughts. You can choose to identify or not identify with every thought that goes through your brain. You can choose not to identify with thoughts that are negative.” 

According to Vidich, getting control over one’s thoughts through the practice of meditation leads to a greater sense of awareness and presence, making it easier to find peace, even in stressful situations. “There is a consciousness within you that you can connect to so that no matter what happens to you, you remain in a state of bliss. Bliss is the state of who you really are. We are consciousness, knowledge and bliss.”

For Vidich, meditation is “a practice of reconnection” to this state of awareness and bliss. “The nature of awareness is unconditional love, unlimited peace and infinite knowledge,” Vidich said. “Meditation is a deepening understanding of who we are.”