A human being is made up of mental and bodily states. Each individual’s overall health and well-being is ultimately dependent on the interdependence that exists between these two. Mental health, like physical health, is not limited to specific geopolitical areas or socioeconomic strata. It is a problem that may afflict everyone, male or female, young or old, affluent or poor (Zachary Steel et al., 2014).
For nearly two years, Lebanon has been besieged by a series of interconnected crises, starting with economic, financial and political crises, and continuing now into many others. All of these have had a wide impact on the mental health of Lebanese people.
Today, Lebanese people struggle with everything happening in Lebanon from the staggering inflation rates, to the wheat and fuel shortages, increasing poverty levels, the stalling Beirut Port blast investigation, and many other challenges.
2. Literature Review:
The health crisis caused by the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic happened in Lebanon at a time when the country was already struggling economically, financially, and socially. Hong et al. (2022) conducted a study between March 17 and 28, 2021, to investigate the mediation impact of resilience and self-efficacy on the general psychological well-being of Lebanese citizens during the COVID-19 epidemic and the Beirut explosion. 567 Lebanese citizens took part in an online poll associated with the study. During that time of crisis, around 53% of participants were diagnosed with depression. COVID-19 strained around half of the participants (53.2%), more than the Beirut explosion; the Beirut explosion stressed 23.4% more than COVID-19. However, the Lebanese economic and financial crises, as well as the psychological fragility of the Lebanese people, have all led to an increase in drug addiction in the Lebanese population, particularly among students who fear their future in Lebanon is jeopardized (Chalhoub et al., 2021). Drug usage and behavioral addictions are linked to perceived stress.
According to Missaghi (2018), mindfulness is “a condition of active, open focus on the present.” When you’re attentive, you carefully notice your thoughts and feelings without passing judgment on whether they’re good or negative. Rather of concentrating on the past or anticipating the future, mindfulness is living in the present moment and waking to your current reality. When one’s mind is racing or when one is anxious about something, being tranquil refers to being quiet or in a condition of serenity (Missaghi, 2018).
Spiritual tranquility (being peaceful or being in a state of calm) benefits both our mental and physical wellness. Peace of mind allows us to create a better relationship with ourselves and, as a result, with the people and beings around us. A spiritually serene person does not get upset, agitated, or have bad sentiments toward others; on the contrary, he or she develops amicable feelings since it involves relaxation, attention, and awareness, and to help the body’s stress response to control ones emotions in a healthy way. When others observe this person being calm and nice, they are favorably influenced and, as a result, they become calm and friendly as well (Jefferson, 2022). Meditation has the ability to change a person’s bad sentiments into positive feelings and provide them with the opportunity to experience real happiness (Jefferson, 2022). Even minor happy feelings experienced by people on a daily basis have worth as resources in the face of life’s responsibilities. Positive emotions, according to empirical research (Garland et al., 2010), can “reverse” the persistent cardiovascular aftereffects of stressful encounters and negative emotions. People are not always successful in their pursuit of positive emotional experiences in daily life.
The mind is pulled to fears and pains, which are usually in the past and future, resulting in mind wandering. The default mode network, a network of neurons in the brain, has been linked to the activity commonly referred to as mind wandering, where the mind wanders into future or past concerns (Sood et al., 2013). Abnormal activity in the default mode network may increase the risk of depression, anxiety, attention deficit, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Several studies demonstrate that meditation can cure some of these anomalies in the brain, resulting in beneficial functional and structural improvements (Sood et al., 2013).
3. Research question:
What is the benefit of meditation in the context of mental health? Does it help people to better be able to manage stress and be healthier?
This research study utilizes qualitative data based on total of five interviews conducted. Of these five interviews, two conversations were conducted with spiritual leaders/teachers to learn more about meditations and its impact; two with people who recently became yogis to tell us about their experience, how their life changed when they started meditation, and how it was before; and one interview with someone who knew little about meditation but was asked to participate in our study to understand their perceptions about meditation.
4.1. Data Collection:
Each interview was semi-structured with open-ended questions asked to allow each person to provide their own answers to questions asked on specific theme related to meditation and mindfulness.
4.2. Data Analysis:
Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Creating and using the transcripts from these interviews, we wrote down notes to familiarize ourselves with the data, identifying ideas and themes from this process. Interesting data were highlighted in a systematic way to generate initial codes. Then we collected the codes and we named them into possible themes. After that we identified patterns of data to derive themes for the data set. In the end, we defined and named the themes and wrote according to these themes.
While doing the interviews, the researchers used their phones to record the interviews while also taking notes. After interviews finished, the interviews were revisited to listen to them, transcribe them, and take the information needed from them to write down.
4.4. Ethical Issues:
Before beginning the interview, participants were informed that they would be asked questions for a research project related to the course (Global History dialogue project). Explicit free, written, and informed consent was obtained for the taping of any participants in the interview.
5.1. What is meditation?
Many individuals ask for a way to calm down and relax and have a nice time. They think meditation is sitting in front of a candle and feeling good, but true meditation is something completely different. True meditation is not sitting and forgetting the problems and stress of work or family problems. “If you want to do that, go for a walk in the forest, read a book, or listen to good music” said Dada Nermal in our interview with him (2022).
Relaxation seems to be an inevitable side effect of meditation and it has many purposes as in our interview Dada Steve a spiritual teacher who taught meditation, “Meditation isn’t a part of relaxation, relaxation could be a side effect of meditation but it is not the purpose” (Dada Steve, 2022). So the purpose of meditation is quite different it is overcome your smallness and discover your inner self. This means that you have to distance yourself from this world, you have to distance yourself from your own identity, from your body. You have to shut down your restless mind which is chasing you from a to b. So you’re never having peace in your mind, you have to shut down your mind and then you come into a state where you are beyond your small ego environment, above your small sphere of interest, above your small worldly environment.
Meditation is breaking out and forgetting for a short time all the challenges and difficulties of life. This does not necessarily mean turning away from your responsibilities, but rather a switch off sending messages and a switch over to receiving them. This is because when your mind is active, you are rushing which means that means your mind sits still and receives messages and vibrations when it is still. “Think about your life and position, and remember that you don’t always have to rush, sorting many things in life is crucial” says Dada Nermel in our interview with him (2022).
5.2. Meditation and stress management:
“Put everything in the right place and then you can find peace” said Dada Nermel in our interview with him (2022). Stress management offers a range of strategies to help one better deal with stress and difficulty in your life. Ordinary people react if something goes wrong, losing their temper and control of their behavior. They shout back, forget their manners and or become angry. “This is not the way with that behavior, you cannot change the situation,” reported Dada Steve in our interview with him (2022).
Some steps for stress management suggested by Dada Steve in our interview with him (2022) were:
- Take a deep breath and see the situation.
- Take one step back and think in a cool way what is the best way to deal with this situation before you begin.
- Once you have cool mind, decide how you will go about things and how to improve the bad situation.
- Then take another step, choosing how will you will go forward and how you respond (slowly change and improve the situation, this is the best way to manage it without reacting).
So a yogi (somebody who meditates) and a dada (a spiritual teacher who teaches meditation) always have cool minds. A cool mind is needed to remain balanced, calm, and relaxed. A cool mind also has to do with the physical body. When the physical body is too hard below the level, then the mind goes into a frenzy, is restless and easily can become angry, upset, and out of control. “When you cool some part of your body especially below the level also the mind will cool down and you can appreciate everything in new light again. That is relaxation actually,” reported Dada Nermel in our interview with him (2022).
Relaxation, then, is body plus mind all together. Body and mind always go parallel. When the mind is upset, the body also will be affected. When the body is reacting, the mind will also be affected. To make a clear definition of postures, meditation is a concentration practice whereas yoga is always understood as physical exercise which have a special effect this is called arsanas. Both, however, for meditation, are important. Arsanas are postures and these postures has specific effect on the nervous system and glanderous system means they positively affect your glands so they endure the hormones which are produced in the body are in the right balance and you cannot be easily seen by unexpected situations. When you balance your hormone production through these physical exercises, then you are strong like the rock in the see this means you cannot be easily moved by the waves you are strong and this is a very beautiful thing because no matter what happens you can easily cope with it.
5.3. What is the benefit of meditation in the context of mental health?
“When you go into deep meditation then you adopt several qualities” (Dada Nermel, 2022). First of all, you can appreciate your world around you surrounding you see everything as divine everything is a divine creation. When you meditate, then you forget about your small world and you can identify with the light and joy and source of other entities. You have a sort of compassion for other living beings. This means you can feel what is going on and then in pressure and pain also somehow experience them. So your ego is expended to other entities and you do not make a difference between your family and other people, because you know all have the same way of feeling perceiving all humans are the same they have similar reaction to in good way or bad way so their responses will be very similar. When one regularly meditates, they can change their mental vibrations. This means the brain waves will become finer and finer and at the end one will have much more intensive perception then an ordinary person. That will say you can perceive vibrations what other people think, what other people experience and what other people have done in their past or what future is waiting for other people. This is called intuition. Intuition means knowing something without having heard or seen or smelled or tasted or touched it. This is extra sensory. Outside of our sense organs we have some special interne with which you can catch vibrations and know immediately what is going around you. Even with closed eyes you do not need to look you know what is going around you and this special knowledge is called intuition (Dada Nermel 2022). So you will be able to know what is going to happen in the next two minutes because your system is so fine that you can anticipate everything and you also have a special way of conscious. This means you have a sharp understanding of what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad, so your sense of discrimination is very alarmed you can immediately tell what is right and what’s wrong with your sharp conscious through meditation and its development.
As mentioned in the review of this paper, Lebanon is struggling with a number of challenges which lead to mental health concerns and a range of other issues. Meditation, however, may be a means to deal with life’s troubles and live calmly since it allows one to forget about their limited world and identify with the brightness and joy of existence. In Lebanon’s case, this may assist to relieve stress and depression.
Dada Nermel. 2022. Personal interview with Maya Morsel. May 31 2022. Online.
Dada Steve. 2022. Personal interview with Maya Morsel .June 6 2022. Shouf area, Lebanon.
Hong, J., Mreydem, H.W., Tarek Abou Ali, B., Omar Saleh, N., Hammoudi, S.F., Lee, J., Ahn, J., Park, J., Hong, Y., Suh, S., and Chung, S. (2022). Being of Lebanese People During the Crises of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Beirut Explosion. Frontiers in psychiatry, 12: 733578. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.733578.
Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(5): 1045–1062. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0013262.
Garland, E. L., Fredrickson, B., Kring, A. M., Johnson, D. P., Meyer, P. S., & Penn, D. L. (2010). Upward spirals of positive emotions counter downward spirals of negativity: insights from the broaden-and-build theory and affective neuroscience on the treatment of emotion dysfunctions and deficits in psychopathology. Clinical psychology review, 30(7): 849–864. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.002.
Husain, S. F., Yu, R., Tang, T.-B., Tam, W. W., Tran, B., Quek, T. T., Hwang, S.-H., Chang, C. W., Ho, C. S., &Ho, R. C. (2020). Validating a functional near-infrared spectroscopy diagnostic paradigm for major depressive disorder. Nature News. Retrieved August 12, 2022, from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-66784-2#citeas.
Hong, J., Mreydem, H. W., Abou Ali, B. T., Saleh, N. O., Hammoudi, S. F., Lee, J., Ahn, J., Park, J., Hong, Y., Suh, S., & Chung, S. (2022). Mediation Effect of Self-Efficacy and Resilience on the Psychological Well-Being of Lebanese People during the Crises of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Beirut Explosion. Frontiers in psychiatry, 12, 733578. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.733578.
Jefferson (2022). The 5 Dimensions of wellness. Retrieved 14 July 2022. Available at: https://www.jcmh.org/the-5-dimensions-of-wellness/.
Missaghi, N. (2018). Spiritually Speaking: Tranquility is an aspiring place to be. Southwest NewsMedia. Retrieved 14 July 2022. Available at: https://www.swnewsmedia.com/eden_prairie_news/news/opinion/columnists/spiritually-speaking-tranquility-is-an-aspiring-place-to-be/article_831c4229-2a14-585c-9cee-af27738a5767.html.
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Annex I: History Dialogues Informed Consent and Deed of Gift Form
The History Dialogue Project is sponsored by the Global History Lab at Princeton University. Its purpose is to teach international learners the skills necessary to undertake their own history projects.
You are being asked to participate in an interview for Maya’s, Aseel’s and Haifa’s Global History project. Maya, Aseel and Haifa are a Global History Lab student. You will be asked about meditation.
The interview will be recorded and potentially transcribed for use in Maya’s, Aseel’s and Haifa’s research project.
The interview will take about 10 to 15 minutes .There are no risks to participation; however, you may withdraw from the interview at any time or place restrictions on the use of the interview, such as requesting anonymity or sealing certain parts or the entirety of the interview for a period of time.
Your signature indicates that the purpose of the project and the use of the recordings have been explained to you and that you have agreed to participate in the oral history interview.
It further indicates that you give, convey, and assign your interview to Maya, Aseel and Haifa.
Signature, Location, Date