Healthy Beginnings

Meditation Changes Your Brain and Can Change Your Life

There are many things one might say is happening to you during meditation, but basically this is what researchers have found: your brain changes, your blood chemistry changes, your stress level goes down, your muscles relax, your blood pressure decreases, your heartbeat slows, and your sense of well-being increases. Not bad for just a short twenty minutes.

In fact, meditation gives you the ability to focus. The result is a type of mental coherence that isn’t easy to achieve in other ways. This coherence seems to create mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health for long-time meditators.

Some actually describe the meditation experience as being in a nonlocal state of consciousness, where space and time are just informational enrichers, not limitations. They experience a timeless, spaceless connection to something greater. All the martial arts employ this component of mindful discipline; which is a practice of focusing intentional awareness. We call these various focusing practices meditation.

Of all the things you can do to understand yourself and move higher into self-actualization, nothing will serve you as well as developing the habit of meditation. Although the practice of meditation is typically thought of as being associated with Asian cultures, it is not Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or Muslim and can be done with no spiritual component whatsoever.

The role of meditation in stress reduction is well known. This practice is also becoming increasingly common as a way to treat chronic illnesses, such as the pain caused by arthritis. Meditation is also being taught because of its effectiveness in helping troops to cope with the horrors of modern warfare, and to recover from the posttraumatic stress disorder which afflicts so many thousands of returning vets.

In fact, meditation has entered the Marine Corps. The kind of meditation the Marines were taught, a kind of non-sectarian focusing, has been shown to make a big difference in lowering stress, increasing the power of memory, as well as improving one’s capacity for empathy. Practitioners have long claimed that meditation provides cognitive as well as psychological benefits, and seems to prove that people are not just feeling better because they’re spending more time relaxing. The brain is actually being changed.

Over a thousand papers, and many books, on meditation have been published in the last ten years, describing studies that show meditation provides measurable progress in alleviating many varied physical challenges. During these years of research, it has become abundantly clear that meditation has lasting effects on our neuroanatomy, particularly our brains. Long-term meditation, independent of a specific style or practice, seems to add grey matter to different parts of the brain, literally physically changing the brain.

One thing to expect: People, who use any meditation technique regularly over time, tend to change their world view. They come to feel that they’re not alone, that all life is interconnected and interdependent, and that this network of life, including them, is connected to something profoundly good; something greater than themselves.

There are many types and methods of meditation. You should have no trouble finding one that resonates with you. Also, there are local meditation classes, so if you feel that you want some immediate instruction, join a class. You may benefit in ways you cannot even imagine.

References:

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1. Kenyon, Tom. Brain States. World Tree Press. 2001.

2. McGreevy S. Mindfulness Meditation Training Changes Brain Structure in 8 Weeks. Massachusetts General Hospital Newsletter January 21, 2011

3. Vestergaard-Poulsen P., Van Beek M., Skewes J. Long-Term Meditation is Associated with Increased Gray Matter Density in the Brain Stem. Neuroreport 2009;20: 170-174.

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For more info, contact June Milligan, specializing in hypnosis, trauma therapy and helping people let go of dysfunctional thinking at (775) 786-9111, or visit online at www.joyfulchanges.com.