Meditation & The Brain

Meditation for Beginners
Meditation for Beginners, available on Amazon

ARJUN WALIADECEMBER 11, 2014  

Numerous studies have indicated the many physiological benefits of meditation, and the latest one comes from Harvard University. (Check out Dr. Herbert Benson, and his work with Meditation from Harvard University. He labeled this state of mind as the 4th brain state naming it the “relaxation response”. KWN)

An eight week study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) determined that meditation literally rebuilds the brains grey matter in just eight weeks. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces changes over time in the brain’s grey matter. (Check out the studies done by Dr. Benson KWN)

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day. This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.” – (1) Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuro-imaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School Instructor in Psychology

The study involved taking magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brain’s of 16 study participants two weeks prior to participating in the study. MRI images of the participants were also taken after the study was completed.

“The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.” (1)

For the study, participants engaged in meditation practices every day for approximately 30 minutes. These practices included focusing on audio recordings for guided meditation, non-judgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind.

“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life. Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.” – (1) Britta Holzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany

How To Meditate

A common misconception about meditation is that you have to sit a certain way or do something in particular to achieve the various benefits that it can provide. All you have to do is place yourself in a position that is most comfortable to you. It could be sitting cross-legged, sitting on a couch etc, it’s your choice. If, however, you lie down, or stay in bed in the morning and try to meditate, you will most likely fall back to sleep. What’s the difference between sleep and meditation? Meditation is a deeper brain wave state than sleep. Simple, you want the deepest state you can experience in Meditation.

Another common misconception about meditation people get caught up in, and discourage their own attempts, is telling themselves they have to have “no thoughts”. Instead, know the mind is always thinking thoughts, running movies, checking on what it’s doing next etc. It’s a busy referential system; we just don’t have to “listen” to it all the time. Instead… allow the thoughts, and bring your attention back to your breath. “There’s another thought bubble –”. KWN

“You will have to understand one of the most fundamental things about meditation: that no technique leads to meditation. The old so-called techniques and the new scientific biofeedback techniques are the same as far as meditation is concerned. Meditation is not a by-product of any technique. Meditation happens beyond mind. No technique can go beyond mind.” – Osho

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