Meditation is a hot topic these days. Scientific studies abound with hard evidence that meditation is a key component in reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
But until recently what we didn’t know is that meditation, like learning a new skill, actually changes the physical structure of the brain.
“Scientists used to believe that the brain reaches its peak in adulthood and doesn’t change—until it starts to decrease in late adulthood,” says Eileen Luders, a re-searcher in the Department of Neurology at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine. “Today we know that everything we do, and every experience we have, actually changes the brain.”
Meditation extends far beyond the image of a Yogi who’s so blissed out as to be considered “out of it” and “disconnected”.
On the contrary, research is confirming that meditation makes the brain more efficient, powerfully capable of processing information, and controlling attention, which leads to an increased ability to manage emotions and make mindful choices.
The brain you have today is simply a reflection of the demands you have placed on it.
Regular meditation strengthens the connections between neurons and can also make new connections. These tiny changes, in thousands of connections, can lead to visible changes in the structure of the brain over time…making YOU and ME more focused, happy, and loving people!
Here are 3 Proven Forms of Meditation that can have a profound effect on your life:
- Meditation Focused on Breath & Mantra: Instantly improves concentration, focus, and perspective. By narrowing your attention on the rhythm of the breath or a mantra you can train your brain to “see things as they really are”—a concept called Vipassana in Yoga—leading to increased focus, awareness, and insight.
- Meditation Focused on Calm Acceptance: Immediately reduces anxiety, and relieves depression. With consistency this form of meditation improves resiliency in times of stress. Again, the goal is to become aware of the present moment—by paying attention to sounds, your breath, sensations in your body, or thoughts or feelings—and to observe without judgment and without trying to change what you notice. Simply accept what is. This is an impressively effective tool for freeing those who struggle with anxiety disorders and feel unable to escape worries, self-doubt, stre ss, and even panic.
- Meditation Focused on Love and Compassion: Improves sense of connection with one’s self and others by generating a state of love and compassion for your self, loved ones, and even total strangers. Studies found that this form of meditation increases one’s daily experience of joy, gratitude, and hope. A cumulative effect occurs with regular practice and benefits extend into a greater sense of self-acceptance, social support, purpose and satisfaction in life
Here’s What to Do Right Now:
For all forms of meditation, find a comfortable position with eyes closed. Begin each session by cultivating a deep rhythmic breath; softening the hips, abdomen, shoulders, jaw and neck. Melt into the breath rather than force its depth.
Breath & Mantra: actively count each inhale and exhale making them equal in length and depth; every 3 breaths try deepening the inhale and exhale until you’ve reached your maximum lung capacity. In addition repeat a mantra, an affirmation, or a word that nurtures your desired state of mind, heart and body. Allow the repetition of breath and mantra to sharpen your focus as all the distractions of your internal and external world fall away.
Calm Acceptance: using the breath as a rudder to guide your awareness, allow your mind to observe whatever is in the present moment. Like waves of the ocean, thoughts, sounds, sensations will ebb and flow. Simply watch them with peaceful and curious passivity. Exhale any desire to manipulate or control what arises. Become okay with what is.
Love and Compassion: visualize a light in the center of your being. As you breathe, allow the light to fill with love and compassion for someone you easily feel these things for currently. As the sensation grows, expand the light outward toward the edges of your body—try offering love and compassion for your self. Continue to expand the light past your physical being and into the world—visualize the people you need the most love and compassion for and allow that light to wrap around them. Hold this space with deep rhythmic breaths for as long as you can.
>>> The goal of meditation is not to get rid of thoughts or emotions. The goal is to become more aware of your thoughts and emotions and learn how to move through them without getting stuck. <<<
Within minutes, you can begin to change your brain and the way you experience the world. And while minimal investment in meditation can pay off for your immediate well-being and mental clarity, committing to the practice on a daily basis is the best way to experience the full benefits long term.
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