The more I read and practice, the more benefits I am seeing that are lasting. After meditation, it is common for me to have a calmer mind and better quality response to the stresses of the day. Sometimes, joy and bliss appear and can last for hours. Two weeks ago I took my son to Santa Cruz Island for a camping and kayaking trip. Every morning we meditated on a hillside overlooking the campsite. The breeze, the birds, the sounds of kids playing all helped create a pleasant environment for peripheral awareness. It was kind of like having a Muse headband on as birds landed nearby. At one point, the sound of a crow's wings flying by were amplified and filled sensory awareness. The effects of that short trip lasted for days. My wife even commented that our son was more calm and seemed more mature after coming home.
There has been a strong interest in research on altered traits from meditation. I recently finished the book Altered Traits which is a great summary of all the research all the way back to the sixties and the more comprehensive research happening in the last decade. The authors seek out research that shows fundamental physiological and psychological changes from meditation and it turns out that we now have evidence of long-term trait changes which should help spark further research. In my own experience, I am experiencing lowered blood pressure, resting heart rate, and less attachment to the daily stress and inflictions that happen to all of us. I can't say this is all caused by meditation as I have started other healthy habits such as walking a lot and eating better. I do feel that I would not have done those things without the increased awareness of how my body and mind feel.
My son went through a difficult health issue recently (viral meningitis) and I am grateful that he is now past the hard part and on the path to recovery. The experience allowed me to experience compassion towards my son, the health care workers doing their best to take care of him, and my wife whose love is beyond measure. How quickly a strong boy with incredible energy can become ill... The doctors still don't know what happened but he fell ill with a fever and headache and became lethargic quickly. We took him to the emergency room. The first time they didn't really help and had him jump up and down for appendicitis. The next time, after not improving for two days, had him hospitalized after eight days of not eating and drinking very little and having fevers up to 104 degrees. He then went into about 24 hours of unconsciousness and it was very difficult to rouse him. This was the scariest part, not seeing the boy you know and love being able to open his eyes. finally, after three days of touch and go and lots of poking and prodding, his fever broke and he was communicating with us again. This led to a cathartic release for both of us as we got to see our boy again. The experience allowed me to learn from the amazing compassion and love of my wife and our extended family and friends.
During our hospital stay, I didn't always exercise patience and equanimity as I encountered the inefficiency and illogic of the health care system. My limited experience with the health care system can be summed up in one sentence - "good people working in an inefficient and uncaring system". We had amazing technology supporting us including MRIs and CT scans. At the same time, there was a lack of communication, teamwork and basic logistics. The health care team seemed more like a collection of individuals than it did a team. The nurses seem to be better trained than the doctors and seemed to care more about the patient and the outcome. Most of the doctors seemed smart and capable. Some of the doctors seemed to lack emotional intelligence and communication skills. At one point, the infectious disease specialist was asking questions that were already part of the system of record. When I asked her why she didn't just look up the accurate answers instead of asking tired parents, she said "I like to ask my own questions because I don't trust the other doctors". At this point I blew a gasket and told her that this was not an appropriate response. She replied that she was joking and I replied that it wasn't an appropriate joke in front of her patient and customer. I believe doctors would benefit from emotional intelligence and customer experience training in school. This type of behavior could be avoided with basic training.
Our son received the benefits of some of the best health care technology and experts in the world. We are incredibly grateful for the support of our extended friends and family over the last few weeks. It was amazing to see the support of our community. We also know that we can count on the impermanence of our health.
Eric is a traveller, hacker, and experimenter who is currently researching how to become a happier, calmer, and more compassionate human being.