mrs. neal's not-so-conventional MEDITATION [CLASS] for TEENS...

...the book and the recorded meditation


Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.
Conscious breathing is my anchor.

Thích Nhất Hạnh, Vietnamese Zen Monk


Physiology Of Stress...

We come into this world with natural instincts, the strongest of which is our instinct for survival — commonly referred to as the “fight or flight response,” or as the “stress response.”

When you find yourself in a situation that you perceive to be harmful, dangerous, or otherwise confrontational, your brain responds quickly and activates the “fight or flight response.” The stress hormones — adrenaline and cortisol — flood your bloodstream to increase your body’s metabolism and overcome the effects of fatigue to sustain your fight or flight, and to keep you alive.

This is a primal instinct.

There also is a third response to stress: “freeze.”

There are some people who will not stand and fight, nor do they flee when faced with a threat. They don’t know what to do or how to react. Fear overcomes them so severely, they freeze.

All of these responses elevate stress levels.

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The Stress Response

The fact that the fight or flight response can produce high levels of stress can be a good thing when it is serving to keep you alive.

This stress response is vital to your survival when you perceive that you are in a dangerous or threatening situation.

When that stress response — or survival instinct — kicks in, a part of your brain known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system is activated.

Several hormones and catecholamines are released into your body, including adrenaline (epinephrine), dopamine, norepinephrine, and cortisol.

Your autonomic nervous system increases your heart rate by signaling it to pump harder, your digestive process slows down, blood pressure increases, breathing becomes more rapid, your lungs take in more oxygen, your blood supply is pulled to your body’s core and away from your extremities, blood vessels in your skin and intestines are narrowed which increases blood flow to your major muscle groups, minor muscle control is diminished, and your body is prepared to fight the threat, or to run from it.


In a survival situation, this is all a good thing. However, prolonged or chronic stress is unhealthy.

Over a period of time, unchecked stress can take its toll on your body. When stress is not controlled, the body responds with physical ailments including high blood pressure, stomach or digestive problems, headaches and body aches, decreased immunity, and a multitude of other diseases. The effects of stress on the mind and body are covered in more detail in chapter 11.

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Real Or Perceived?

This is a good time to point out that the threat only has to be perceived — it doesn’t have to be a real threat for your stress levels to be elevated.

Remember that your subconscious does not distinguish between what is real and what is not; any threat that is perceived — real or not — will cause your body to go into the survival mode.

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While We’re Into Science Here: Let’s Talk Nervous System!

Your nervous system is comprised of the central nervous system — or central processing unit (just like a computer) — which includes your brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system.

There are two components of the peripheral nervous system — the somatic nervous system (SONS) and the autonomic nervous systems (ANS). In simple terms, the SONS is the voluntary nervous system and the ANS is the involuntary nervous system.

The ANS consists of two divisions: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS).

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So, What Does All That Have To Do With Stress?

There’s a connection between your nervous system and its components to stress and relaxation.

The SNS is responsible for putting the body into the survival mode, or for inducing stress response; it makes demands on the body, calling for energy to burn immediately for fighting or fleeing. The PSNS, on the other hand, restores the calm; it is responsible for the relaxation response — PSNS slows the heart rate and breathing.

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The Relaxation Response

Once a perceived threat or danger has passed, your body will naturally return to a relaxed state. Your heart rate, breathing, and blood flow eventually will return to normal.

To help things along, and to induce the relaxation response, you simply have to breathe. The relaxation response is the opposite of the stress response.

When you breathe in through your nose, air rushes past those nerve endings in your nasal passages and stimulates the calming centers of your brain. Opiates — your body’s feel-good chemicals — are released into your body to help you to relax.


Have you ever been upset about something and had someone tell you, “Just take a breath!”? Try it!

The next time you are feeling a little stressed out, just breathe. In fact, try it now. Take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes, and just focus on your breathing for a minute or two.

You will feel your body begin to relax. You will be experiencing the relaxation response.

What can it do for you? It can lower your blood pressure and the levels of stress hormones, decrease pain and muscle tension, improve sleep and your energy levels, and so much more!

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When practicing meditation, breathing is a key element to achieving relaxation, and reaching the Theta state.

Simply breathing can work any place, and any time that you need to reduce stress or just relax, and you don’t have the time — or the situation is not conducive — for meditation.

Just breathe.

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Can you feel the difference in your body
between stress and relaxation?





Science is not only compatible with spirituality;
it is a profound source
of spirituality.

– Carl Sagan,
scientist / astronomer