Benefits of Meditation

A wide range of benefits have been described by experienced meditators. In addition, scientific studies have identified many benefits of meditation which are consistent and reliable.

ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a phenomenon experienced by only a lucky handful of the world’s population. Enthusiasts describe it as a tingling sensation traveling from the scalp to the back in response to certain stimuli. All triggers can be classified into the four basic categories of whispering, acoustic sounds, clinical role play, and personal attention role play. The most effective triggers vary for each person, and there exist countless varieties to choose from.

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I love this article. It shows how we can change our lives dramatically, let go of what we know and hold dear and be happy. Agence France-Presse writes in the Oman Tribune that French geneticist-turned-ascetic Matthieu Ricard is the happiest person in the world.  He is seen grinning serenely with burgundy robes billowing  in the fresh Himalayan wind.

Now a Tibetan Buddhist monk living in the Himalayas, the  molecular geneticist and confidant of the Dalai Lama, says  meditation can alter the brain and increase happiness.  He makes a comparison with the way lifting weights puts on muscle. He believes the mechanism of happiness and suffering can be understood through a science  of the mind.

“It’s a wonderful area of research because it shows that meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree but it completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are,” the Frenchman said.

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Richard Schiffman the Huffington Post on  film,  Room to Breath, by director Russell Long was filmed in a public school in San Francisco. The chosen school was one of the largest in the area,  and had the highest suspension rate in the city. Schiffman, who has worked as a Teachers Aid realises just how hard it is for kids to learn and concentrate in a world filled with video, computer games, texting and websites. He also knows how difficult it is for teachers to teach when much of their time is given just to ‘keeping the peace”.

The film opens with chaotic scenes of pencil throwing, squabbling kids and follows one of the classes as they are introduced to a new program called “mindfulness”, described as ‘bare-bones meditation in which attention is focused on bodily sensations’ commencing with the breath.  The program is being introduced into many other schools nationwide and aims ‘to give students “tools and skills” to tame the disorder within their own minds.’

The film recorded some very positive results. Schiffman points out that the kids who are calm and happy are the ones who will learn.

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Rainbow ringThere are many practical reasons why we meditate; it calms our anxiety, helps us to concentrate, be more self-aware and mindful of our thoughts and actions. It also helps us to live well in other ways; to be more compassionate to our fellow creatures and more connected to others and our environment. To me, meditation is like a gateway to a new and better life and there are other things we can do to assist this inner growth that go beyond but are connected to meditation. Below is an interesting

Bodhipaksa writes “Meditation is a cool means of transformation, and essential as part of our practice, but the Buddha offered much, much more.” His article points out the pitfalls of putting too much ego into our meditation; placing too much emphasis on the process of meditation eg. how I sit, where I sit, what I felt.  Five of the Buddha’s precepts to lead an enlightened life are outlined in the article. They are simple and practical and require discipline and mindfulness (thats where meditation comes in). I thought I could hear echoes of Socrates.

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Yoga group practice on matsThis is a very interesting article about how the corporate world is beginning to encourage meditation and yoga practice for employees. One such organisation employing about 3000 people on one site, General Mills, has meditation and yoga rooms in every building. Employees can take advantage of a few quiet minutes between meetings to settle their minds and bodies as well as take part in group meditation and yoga practice.

The program has been running for seven years and its purpose is to bring ‘mindfulness’ into the workplace. People are encouraged to train their minds to be more focused, clear and creative and to be connected to the whole. Compassion for oneself and others is central to this Buddhist based practice.

If you would like to read more and perhaps integrate some aspect into your own workplace just click on the link below.

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This is yet another report on the benefits of meditation. More and more people in the western world,”not just tree huggers and ultra-yogis”, are looking to meditation as a means of coping with our stressful lives. This article outlines the changes that occur in our brain with regular meditation and how his benefits many aspects of our lives, including memory, attention span, and information processing. Interestingly this article also notes the importance of finding a meditation technique that is right for you.

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Well if we needed more scientific proof that meditation is actually helping us feel better then – here it is.

In the January 2011 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a study found that people who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in the density of gray-matter responsible for information processing in our brains. Parts of the brain where the increase occurred are associated  with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.

Eight weeks is not a long time to achieve such astonishing results. The site providing this information also provides some very good links to assist with your meditation practice.

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According to researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and colleagues meditation can increase our ability to reach parts of our brain normally outside our conscious awareness.

Although the brain registers subliminal messages we are often unable to recall them consciously. The researchers recruited  34 experienced practitioners of Zen meditation and randomly assigned them to either a meditation group or a control group. Each group was given subliminal messages and the research showed that the meditation group could more easily recall the subliminal messages indicating that meditators have greater access to hidden recesses of the brain.

I wonder if this means that meditators would have increases sensitivity to those subtle messages we receive from those around us.  cover page of New Scientist

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teachers meditatingEveryday one reads articles about the usefulness of meditation in our everyday lives.  Recent meditation research followed a 42-hour, eight-week meditation training program for school teachers.  The practice focused on concentration, mindfulness  and directive practices. Researchers found that teachers were able to handle difficult situations calmly, with increased patience and greater compassion.

The lead author of the study  said,  “The findings suggest that increased awareness of mental processes can influence emotional behavior. The study is particularly important because opportunities for reflection and contemplation seem to be fading in our fast-paced, technology-driven culture”.

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Woman meditating on a mountain

It does not come as a surprise to me that a comprehensive scientific study shows that deep relaxation which can be produced through meditation changes our bodies on a genetic level. Harvard Medical School researchers have discovered that far more “disease-fighting genes” are active in long-term practitioners of relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation, compared to those who practise no form of relaxation.

This meditation research found that genes protecting us from  pain, infertility, high blood pressure and even rheumatoid arthritis were ‘switched on’ as a result of meditation. As the article states, we all know at some level that ‘relaxation  is good for us’. I believe that the benefits may be much greater than we think.

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