I am happy to be able to report that I will have a featured article on the benefits of meditation in the spring issue of Be Well Magazine, which is headquartered in the Washington, DC area. Following below are some of my thoughts on the subject, which you can read in advance of the article.
Most experienced meditators would probably agree that a regular practice produces many positive, noticeable changes, such as a greater sense of well-being and happiness, greater feelings of relaxation, reduction in stress, and a generally more positive outlook on life. However, the reality is even more profound than we have thought until recently. There is an increasing body of evidence that meditation actually produces changes in our brain.
The implications are huge. This means that we can control the development of our brain through mental exercises and actually change its structure. For so long, we have been told by science that our brain development stops when we are in our teens or early twenties. However, we are now finding that mental functioning can be improved as we age through a concerted effort.
The 1/21/11 issue of the Harvard Gazette made reference to a study done at Massachusetts General Hospital in 2010. The article stated that “Meditation group participants reported spending an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises, and their responses to a mindfulness questionnaire indicated significant improvements compared with pre-participation responses. The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.
Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.”
The very idea behind meditation is to take us away from activity, both physically and mentally. In this place of non-thinking, we can access parts of ourselves which we can identify as our soul, our real essence, and our authentic being. We are so much more than we think we are. There is a space within us that is timeless and eternal, that lives on long after our physical bodies have ceased to exist. This is who we really are at our core. We are not our bodies, we are our spirit. It has been said that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience, rather than human beings having occasional spiritual experiences.
The benefits of meditation, which have been recorded both in studies and anecdotally by individuals, are as follows: less anxiety, the ability to sleep better, fewer illnesses, feelings of greater mental acuity, feeling of calm and peace, and greater confidence. Many students see at least two or three of these benefits. A high percentage of people express that they feel anxiety frequently, in some cases nearly all the time. The number of individuals with sleep problems is also high. A regular meditation practice can help these individuals. There is also the desire to connect with spiritual energy. Many of these people are yearning to experience something which encompasses more than just the physical body.
Peace in your inner world is reflected back to you as greater stability, success, happiness and accomplishment in your outer world. Having this peaceful frame of mind will enable you to present a calmer and more peaceful picture to the outside world. You can then expect to attract people and situations which will be more positive and lead to increased success in business, relationships, and the achievement of life goals.
Just on the other side of the divide and so close by are different, better ways to experience life. Try meditation. Your life really will change.