The Missoulian

Religion

Meditation treats the whole person - Missoula sessions offer introduction to practice for health of body, spirit
By JANA STATON and DAN McMANNIS

Susanna and Puran Bair will be in Missoula on April 10-12. They will present a free talk on Heart Rhythm Meditation on Thursday at First United Methodist Church, and all-day seminars also are planned on Friday and Saturday. The two are on a nationwide book tour to talk about their practical method of meditation, which combines awareness of the heartbeat’s rhythm with a smooth, steady pace of breathing.

Photo courtesy of Institute for Applied Meditation


 

Meditation practices are part of Christianity and other religious traditions, but most of us noncontemplative types struggle to learn them, and to incorporate them into our daily lives. Fortunately, this week Missoula will be hosting an updated, practical approach to meditation that addresses both spiritual and physical needs, especially our need to become conscious of and care for our hearts.

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for both men and women in the United States - responsible for more deaths than the next seven causes of death put together. These statistics indicate that we have a “culture of the mind” that is largely ignorant of and very hard on our hearts.

For the past 30 years Puran and Susanna Bair, co-founders of the Institute for Applied Meditation, have helped tens of thousands of individuals to attain better physical, emotional and spiritual health through a heart-centered practice called Heart Rhythm Meditation.

The Bairs will come to Missoula as part of their nationwide book tour, giving a free introductory talk on Thursday, April 10, 7-9 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 300 E. Main St., and all-day seminars both Friday and Saturday.

The Bairs’ practical method of meditation combines awareness of the heartbeat’s rhythm with a smooth, steady pace of breathing. HRM increases our ability to handle stress, and energizes the heart. It is different from other methods that lead to a detached state. This is applied meditation, using the heart’s power to address the pressing needs of our lives.

In their two books outlining this approach, “Living from the Heart,” and their new book, “Energize Your Heart in 4 Dimensions,” they describe HRM as an integration of authentic spiritual practices and current scientific research. The new field of neurocardiology indicates that the heart is much more than a mechanical pump. Rather, the heart listens to every organ and then sends one coordinating message received by every cell.

Modeled on the physical heart, a “culture of the heart” is based on compassionate listening and the spirit of seeking out and creating unity within diversity.

Although the larger goal is spiritual, the basic practice is now spreading among health professionals, especially respiratory and physical therapists. HRM has been taught for some time at a local Missoula hospital as a relaxation and pain management technique for patients.

This approach to physical and spiritual health teaches that the challenges in our lives are the means to develop the energetic dimensions of our heart. Optimism is a quality associated with the height of our hearts, compassion with depth, empathy with width, courage with the forward dimension, and hopefulness with a strong inner dimension.

Each of these dimensions can become metaphorically crushed, shallow, narrow or hollow. Meditation brings us back to the heart’s goal: to be complete, to be at peace.

But this peace is dynamic, not passive, says Bair: “Practice radiating peace from your heart, like a force that brings everything it touches into harmony.” As our heart is restored to its central role of spiritual guidance, we are able to reconnect to the deeper purpose of our lives.

Missoula got on the Bairs’ national tour (along with Chicago, San Francisco, and other large cities) because last fall First United Methodist Church began exploring ways to offer meditation classes. Members of the First UMC’s Adult Spiritual Growth Ministry approached Dan McMannis, a senior HRM trainer in Missoula, inviting him to offer an introductory class right before Christmas as a way to de-stress and prepare for the holidays.

The class drew a substantial crowd and half the people were from other Christian and Jewish congregations and from the larger community. It was clear we had something that would be of interest throughout Missoula.

Pastor Barry Padget of First UMC emphasizes that Heart Rhythm Meditation fits with the “Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors” message of the United Methodist Church. “We’re inviting people from all faith communities, and the "spiritual but not religious" folks as well. Heart Rhythm Meditation is not a religion, but a meditative practice that is compatible with any faith; we want people to come and bring their own values and beliefs,” Padget said.

In addition to the free public talk on Thursday, Puran and Susanna Bair will conduct an all-day seminar for health professionals on Friday (with continuing education credits), a training for the general public on Saturday, and will offer instructor training at Open Way Center on Sunday for those interested in becoming certified to teach this process. They will also be giving a public lecture in Helena at St. Paul United Methodist Church on Wednesday night at 7. For more information and to register call IAM at 1- 888-310-7881 or online at www.IAMheart.org.

Missoula resident Jana Staton is a member of First United Methodist Church. Dan McMannis is a senior Heart Rhythm Meditation trainer in Missoula.