Stress Remedy

Exploring ways to reduce stress and improve health.

How to Create a "Real" Patronus Charm!

Making real magic!

Any devoted Harry Potter fan will remember the Patronus charm (magic spell). In the magical world, if you want to keep Dementors from sucking out your soul, you better master it. In our reality, there is also Patronus charm of sorts that we can use to make our life happier.

In the Harry Potter books and movies, the Patronus charm requires more than just saying the required phrase: "Expecto Patronum." The key and first step to the charm is to pick out a happy memory and remember it vividly. The key and one of the first steps to the loving kindness meditation (derived from Buddhism) is the very same. (As mentioned in my last blog entry, monks skilled in compassion and loving kindness meditations had unprecedented EEG and functional MRI activity in the prefrontal cortex -- an area associated with happiness.)

To practice loving kindness meditation (also known as Metta meditation), get in a comfortable posture and imagine, in the most vivid way possible, a scene that brings forth feelings of love and compassion. This might be a scene of you holding your child when he was a baby, or hugging a loved one, or being in the presence of a spiritual figure. Whatever the scene, imagine the sights, sounds and sensations as clearly as you can.

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The next step involves imagining yourself wishing a loved one well. Typical phrases might be: "May you be safe and protected. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with a sense of ease." Say these or other similar phrases silently (with as much authenticity as you can muster) as you visualize your loved one.

Subsequently, repeat the wishes while visualizing other people: yourself, a person that you feel neutral towards, and then a person with whom you've had some difficulty. Try the best you can to say the phrases authentically as you imagine each of the people.(If you have problems wishing yourself well, you might imagine yourself as a small child or baby.) After you've wished these individuals well, then broaden the wishes further to whole groups of people and finally to all beings (or all people).

Another hint in practicing Metta meditation is to remember that all people want to be happy. Sometimes people are skillful at it, bringing happiness to themselves and others. Other times we are less skilled, and our attempts at happiness bring suffering to ourselves and others.

Imagine a world in which most of the population regularly practiced loving kindness meditation. The experience of peace and compassion would fuel peace between coworkers, family members, and then eventually countries. Now that would be magical!

It is said that peace starts with yourself. With that in mind, at least consider a one-week trial of loving kindness mediation for ten minutes a day. Once you experience some benefits, you may decide to continue the practice. Eventually, through neuroplasticity, the physiology and even structure of your brain will change to bring you a long-term increase in happiness and compassion.

There is only one way I could end this blog entry: "May you be safe and protected; may you be happy and healthy, and may you live with a sense of ease!"

Come to think of it, I could end the entry one other way: "Expecto Patronum!"

Jay Winner  www.stressremedy.com

Jay Winner, M.D. is the founder of the Stress Reduction Program at Sansum Clinic and the author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life.

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