Thursday, 26 February 2015

Meditation And Light On The Path To Mediumship

From Digital Journal

"...Those who know about the work of the Seer of Virginia Beach, Edgar Cayce, may know that his son, Hugh Lynn Cayce, stated that meditation is valuable because the light we begin to see in meditation is the same light that we are so often encouraged to remember to look for when we die. So if you are a meditator, not only will the light you see in meditation tell you that you are taking your first steps toward becoming a medium, but also that the path you will then be on is the same as the one that we each use to pass to the Other Side of Life. This is how we begin to discover that life continues after death and that we are Spiritual beings..."   more

Meditation can reduce chronic neck pain, study shows

From  Science Daily

"Meditation might be an effective treatment for reducing chronic neck pain, according to research. Chronic neck pain can lead to serious comorbidities like depression. Patients with chronic neck pain frequently experience distress. Meditation has been increasingly used as a supportive treatment for individuals with chronic pain... more

Can Meditation Make You Smarter?

From Seattle Pi

By Timi Gustafson, RD   

"...Although most forms of meditation are rooted in religious and spiritual traditions, millions now practice purely for the enhancement of their health and wellbeing, according to statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Health Statistics (NCHS). Most commonly, meditation and other relaxation techniques are thought of as an essential part of stress management.

While not all experts are convinced of the effectiveness of meditation in promoting both mental and physical health, it is by and large accepted that therapeutic measures to induce calmness can be instrumental in easing psychological stresses like anxiety and depression as well as physical pain. Some studies have suggested that symptoms of medical conditions like asthma, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), high blood pressure, and even heart disease and cancer can be better managed with meditation. Also smoking cessation and recovery from alcohol and drug abuse show higher success rates when meditation is included in the process.

Even though the jury may still be out on whether, or to what extent, meditation and other practices of mindfulness can materially alter the brain, it is certain that chronic stress causes real damage. Neuroscientists have long discovered that cortisol, the stress hormone, can indeed create lasting changes to the brain structure and detrimentally affect brain functions. Reducing the impact of stress by engaging in effective countermeasures such as meditation can mitigate at least some of those injuries.

Beginners may find it hard to establish a meditation routine. Not everything works for everyone. While there are many types of exercises, all recommend the following..." more 

Board member wants meditation in every Palm Beach County school

From The Palm Beach Post
by Andrew Marra

"A school board member thinks meditating should be a regular part of the school day, and she’s asking administrators to look into whether 15-minute meditation sessions could become a reality in Palm Beach County’s public schools.

During a discussion Wednesday about student health, board member Erica Whitfield said she had learned of four schools in San Francisco that had their students meditate twice a day for 15 minutes and had seen student performance improve.

“I would love to see that (in Palm Beach),” she told school district staffers. She asked them to look into whether having children meditate 15 minutes a day would be feasible for the county’s schools.
School board member Erica Whitfield

School board member Erica Whitfield

Before being elected to the school board last year, Whitfield was a school district wellness coordinator, and she emphasized student health during her campaign for office.

After the meeting, Whitfield told Extra Credit that daily meditation might help students relieve stress and focus more on their studies.

“You don’t have to do anything specific during that time,” she said. “Just be quiet and sit there and give yourself a break. I think we spend so much time rushing around.”

NBC News highlighted four schools in San Francisco that are implementing the meditation program, and school leaders have reported a drop in suspensions and better academic performance.

Instead of eating into class time with meditation, the school day was extended by 30 minutes.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Using meditation to overcome stress and tension

From QCOnline 

"Overtime stress can seriously affect our mental and physical wellbeing.  The wear and tear of our everyday responsibilities can put such a strain on our mind that even when we do get a break we cannot enjoy it because we know the next wave of challenges is coming soon.   Thankfully stress is entirely created from within our mind, not from without.   In this course will examine meditation as a powerful tool we can use to overcome the stress and tension that normally fills our mind.  We can learn to change how we react to our normal daily pressures with a peaceful creative and clear mind all the time. We can even learn to enjoy challenges and responsibilities that previously were the source of great anxiety.

“Many people are looking for a quick fix when it comes to dealing with stress,” states Joe Gauthier, Buddhism & Meditation teacher at Lamrim Kadampa Buddhist Center in Davenport, Iowa, “but you have to go to the source of it-our unrealistic ways of looking at our life.  There are many factors that contribute to our daily stress that we are completely unaware of; just by knowing these we can start to protect our mind from the daily strain that robs us of our happiness and well-being.”

The series will be at Lamrim Kadampa Buddhist Center


Meditation techniques for teenagers

By Jessica Childs,

"A study released by the American Psychological Association reveals that teens today are experiencing stress levels as high and in some cases even higher than their parents. The demands of the teenage world are definitely different but some local families are using the ancient practice of mediation to help their teens gain a more calm and focused life.

Meditation has become common practice for some of the biggest names in business, show business and even the world of sports. Albert Einstein reportedly meditated on a regular basis and some of the most innovative companies in the U.S. offer meditation training for their employees saying there's no better way to boost productivity and problem solving.

"It's something you can do right before a test... just like a little, short meditation, or if you play sports or whatever. If you get nervous, just make your breath really long and deep," said Angel McGehee at the Arkansas Yoga Collective Studio in Little Rock.

Getting a group of teens to unplug, be quiet, and still, can be a challenge in itself, but McGehee said her studio uses several different teen-friendly techniques, like walking meditation, to make the process easier to grasp...  More 

How a meditation practice can help kids become less anxious, more focused

From Child Mind Institute
By Juliann Garey

"By now there's a good chance you've heard the term "mindfulness." Suddenly, it seems to be everywhere—touted as the new yoga, the answer to stress, the alternative to Xanax. But beyond the buzz, what is it? Jon Kabat-Zinn, the scientist and widely recognized father of contemporary, medically-based mindfulness—over 30 years ago he developed a therapeutic meditation practice known as Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)—defines mindfulness simply as "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally."

That's the short version. To expand on that just a little, mindfulness is a meditation practice that begins with paying attention to breathing in order to focus on the here and now—not what might have been or what you're worried could be. The ultimate goal is to give you enough distance from disturbing thoughts and emotions to be able to observe them without immediately reacting to them.

In the last few years mindfulness has emerged as a way of treating children and adolescents with conditions ranging from ADHD to anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, depression and stress. And the benefits are proving to be tremendous.

But how do you explain mindfulness to a five year-old? When she's teaching mindfulness to children, Dr. Amy Saltzman, a holistic physician and mindfulness coach in Menlo Park, California, prefers not to define the word but rather to invite the child to feel the experience first—to find their "still, quiet place..."    More 


Veterans Find Comfort In Meditation Therapy

From The Huffington Post  

by David Wood

"...Veterans often return from war struggling with painful memories and emotions, and 648,000 currently receive compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Many avoid sleep for fear of nightmares, staying hyper-vigilant to minimize fear and anxiety, and using drugs or alcohol to dull their emotions. Often they suffer chronic pain from injuries and from the clenched muscles caused by stress.

Meditation has been shown to have a significant healing benefit, enabling veterans to find a safe, quiet peace within themselves from which they can deeply relax and begin to sort out these troubling experiences and visions. Increasingly, meditation is seen as a critical complement to other forms of therapy and as an important alternative or complement to antidepressant drugs that numb, but do not cure, patients with PTSD.

But widespread acceptance of meditation within the Department of Veterans Affairs and the military is still at an early stage, despite a growing body of scientific evidence and the experiences of many veterans who have benefited from it..."  More

Sleep Deprivation and Mindfulness Meditation

From Libery Voice

A new study from the University of Southern California suggests that mindfulness meditation can improve sleep quality for older adults with sleep deprivation, including trouble falling or staying asleep. The researchers found that the mindfulness group showed significant improvement in the quality of their sleep.

Sleep deprivation can lower a body’s defenses. This may cause weight gain and mood disorders, or cause one to be less attentive, make more mistakes and process information more slowly. It can affect one’s productivity and impair one’s decision-making and social skills. It can cause one to misinterpret nonverbal communication, thinking that the cue the other person gave was in some way negative, when in fact it was not.

People who burn the candle at both ends are very susceptible to sleep deprivation. One of the ways to combat this is for organizations/companies to change their thinking from celebrating the people who burn the candle at both ends to value the employees and promote the benefits of sleep. A couple of ways to do this is to be flexible with schedules and allow people to work from home when possible. Another way to combat this is through having mindfulness meditation as a team-building exercise.

Read more 


Saturday, 21 February 2015

Mind over Matter

From The Guardian

Neuroscientist Shanida Nataraja has proved meditation does more than clear your head, it can put both halves of your brain to work, improving your concentration, memory and decision-making. She tells Andy Darling how it works

When Dr Shanida Nataraja was growing up in London during the 70s and 80s, meditation wasn't an esoteric, mystical practice done by hippies in baggy orange clothes. It was what her parents did.

"I was raised in a family where meditation was a central part of life. My father is Indian, from a Hindu background, and my mother is Dutch and Catholic. Over the course of growing up, I saw them embrace different meditation approaches: Hinduism, Buddhism, and then a Christian approach. I rebelled. We hate to believe that our parents know something we don't, so, when I became a research scientist, I wanted some concrete proof that what they were doing worked. I really didn't expect to find that meditation plays such a role in optimising brain function and health, from cognitive abilities to cardiovascular wellbeing."

The fruits of her PhD in neurophysiology, and post-doctoral research at the neuroscience department of Johns Hopkins School Of Medicine, Baltimore, are presented in her new book, The Blissful Brain: Neuroscience and Proof of the Power of Meditation. The key to meditation's success, it seems, is the concept of whole brain integration. According to Nataraja, westerners use the left halves of their brains too much. "Generally speaking, the left hemisphere is associated with analytical, rational and logical processing, whereas the right hemisphere is associated with abstract thought, non-verbal awareness, visual-spatial perception and the expression and modulation of emotions. In the western world, most individuals navigate through their everyday life in a fashion dominated by left-brained thinking."

Missing out on right-brain activity results in too much thinking going on, and not enough feeling. Too much frantic doing, not enough being; or, as Bruce Lee puts it after slapping an overly thoughtful pupil in Enter the Dragon: "Don't think, feel!" There is a Buddhist expression, "You are not your thoughts," which refers to the tendency for our ceaseless flood of thoughts, characterised as chattering monkeys, to overwhelm us, leaving us stressed and unable to take a calm step back and realise this is not all that we are.

Nataraja's research, using galvanic skin response meters (which detect emotional changes through the skin) and electroencephalograms (or EEGs, which measure electrical activity produced by the brain), demonstrates that entering a meditative state can bring about the calmness, the stilling of the chatter, the shift into right-brain mode that we need. Increased alpha brain wave activity is detected, a sign that we're activating the parasympathetic nervous system, as opposed to the adrenaline-releasing sympathetic system. More parasympathetic activity means less stress and therefore better heart health.

In these overly stimulating times, reaching a meditative state is not necessarily easy. Even an apparently simple activity such as silently counting "one" at the end of an exhalation, then "two" after the next, and so on up to 10, can be scuppered by intrusive thoughts. The key, says Nataraja, is to be kind to yourself, and not to take a punitive approach. "Acknowledging the thoughts and letting them go activates certain pathways in the brain, and those thoughts therefore have less significance than if you tried to forcibly replace or suppress them."

While she encourages people to try to put aside 15 minutes at the beginning and end of every day to quietly sit and focus on being "in the moment", she is keen to stress the importance of being mindful throughout everyday life. "When you're doing the washing up, that's what you concentrate on, that's where you are, not the cup of tea that you'll have when you've finished. During the course of the day, I'm always pulling my mind back to the present. I also do yoga two or three times a week; it took me a long time to find a type of meditation that suited me. I've tried tai chi, chi gung and other approaches, but yoga really works for me with its very specific point of mindful focus on the postures. Because of my scientific mind, I like Jon Kabat-Zinn's approach, but I see there being many roads that lead to Rome."

Jon Kabat-Zinn, emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts, has developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), an increasingly popular short-term therapeutic system that combines various elements from meditation and yoga.

However, as Nataraja says, many roads lead to Rome. Only last year, the film director David Lynch was travelling the world promoting transcendental meditation's use in schools, and a growing number of corporations, including Deutsche Bank, Google and Hughes Aircraft - worlds away from incense, bells and robes - have clocked the studies that suggest that decision-making, attention and memory can all be enhanced by meditation, and now offer classes to their workers.

And long-term devotees are finding that meditation has become more accessible. In the late 60s, when Alan Fletcher was in his 20s, he began practising transcendental meditation, devised by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and made famous in the west by the Beatles. At the time, it seemed like the only option.

"I was given my own mantra, to repeat at specific times every day. It was effective for me for a while, no doubt about that, but it also became rather too restrictive, too much of a task, and I drifted away," he says. "These days, it all seems far freer, more laid-back, less affiliated to religions or movements."

Rory Singer was a Buddhist monk in the 1980s. Laid-back wasn't on the agenda. "It was a macho environment, tough monks enduring the unendurable. Meditating was seen as a hard, solitary pursuit, but now it's definitely become much kinder," he says.

Despite this, Nataraja's studies show that novice meditators often tend to put pressure on themselves to be successful, and to get there quickly - a rather left-brain, "Are we there yet?" approach - and consequently take longer to benefit. The electrical activity in the brain recorded by EEG suggests that a relaxed state is hard to come by when you're trying too hard. Singer says this initial frustration is to be expected, and that, as ever, we should not be too hard on ourselves. "Try to remember," he says, "meditation is a pleasurable activity."

The Blissful Brain by Dr Shanida Nataraja is published by Gaia at £7.99. To order a copy for £7.99 with free UK p&p go to or call 0870 836 0875.

New Scientist on Meditation

"Monks have been meditating on mountaintops for millennia, hoping to gain spiritual enlightenment. Their efforts have probably enhanced their physical health, too.

Trials looking at the effects of meditation have mostly been small, but they have suggested a range of benefits. There is some evidence that meditation boosts the immune response in vaccine recipients and people with cancer, protects against a relapse in major depression, soothes skin conditions and even slows the progression of HIV.

Meditation might even slow the ageing process. Telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, get shorter every time a cell divides and so play a role in ageing. Clifford Saron of the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis, and colleagues recently showed that levels of an enzyme that builds up telomeres were higher in people who attended a three-month meditation retreat than in a control group (Psychoneuroendocrinology, vol 36, p 664).

As with social interaction, meditation probably works largely by influencing stress response pathways. People who meditate have lower cortisol levels, and one study showed they have changes in their amygdala, a brain area involved in fear and the response to threat (Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, vol 5, p 11).

One of the co-authors of Saron's study, Elissa Epel, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, believes that meditation may also boost "pathways of restoration and health enhancement", perhaps by triggering a release of growth and sex hormones.

If you don't have time for a three-month retreat, don't worry. Imaging studies show that meditation can cause structural changes in the brain after as little as 11 hours of training. Epel suggests fitting in short "mini-meditations" throughout the day, taking a few minutes at your desk to focus on your breathing, for example: "Little moments here and there all matter." 

Read more: Heal thyself: The power of mind over matter

Meditation FAQs

From  Tulsa's Channel

Why do people meditate? 

Improved health, improved performance, deepened creativity, deepened spirituality, decreased anger, curiosity, managing depression, reduced anxiety and fear, pain management, stress reduction.

Can anybody meditate?  

Yes. No special skill or equipment is necessary.

Does meditation conflict with my Christian beliefs?  

Not at all. Christians find that meditation is an excellent supplement to their spiritual practices. While Protestant Christians have lost sight of meditation, many Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians have maintained a tradition of meditation.
Here are some facts for Christians to consider:
-Christian meditation is rooted in the Bible and is directly mentioned twenty times.
-The Bible recommends meditation. "Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10 (see also Joshua 1:8).
-Moses spent forty days meditating and fasting (exodus 24:18).
-Jesus went on a private forty-day silent retreat before starting his ministry (Luke 4:2)

Do I need a meditation teacher?  

You can learn meditation on your own from books and videos. Along with those, a meditation teacher can greatly help you master the basics, refine the process, and eliminate mistakes.

Do I have to sit on the floor with my legs crossed?  

No. The Buddha taught that meditation could be done sitting, standing, walking, and lying down.

Should I meditate with my eyes open or closed?  

Meditation traditions vary on this question. Some say to keep the eyes closed to block out distraction. Others say to keep the eyes open to prevent drowsiness and sleepiness. Most people who begin meditation find it helpful to gently close the eyes. If you prefer to meditate with eyes open, then follow the Zen practice of sitting and facing a blank wall. This will keep visual distractions from weakening your meditation.

What do I do to keep from falling asleep during meditation? 

When you're having trouble remaining awake during a meditation period, there are three things you can do:
1) Open your eyes and focus your sight on some object.
2) Reposition your body and sit more upright.
3) Stand up and meditate.

From Esquire 

Is meditation what I think it is?

Yes and no, probably. It does entail quiet time with yourself, focus on breathing, and stillness, both mentally and physically. But there's no belief system, no chanting, and no dogma. You can wear whatever you want and do it wherever you're comfortable. But not while driving, because you have to close your eyes.

Why do I need to meditate?

Because if you're like most people, you are overworked and stressed out. "People wake up in the morning and go full charge until they sleep at night. Their automatic nervous system is going all day, which leads to what's called 'sympathetic overload,' " says Dr. George Kessler, an osteopath, attending physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and clinical instructor at Weill Cornell Medical College. "Testosterone goes down. Cholesterol goes up. The thyroid is affected." Kessler routinely recommends daily meditation for high blood pressure.

How, exactly, does it lower stress?

"For one thing, meditation lengthens telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that contain genes," says Kessler. "So when you have a genetic illness, to have the disease, you have to express that gene. For certain illnesses, the longer the telomeres are, the less likely you are to express it. For people who have high blood pressure, up to 80 percent of what we call central hypertension can be regulated and controlled by meditation. Anxiety attacks, panic attacks, autoimmune diseases like lupus, asthma — all can be helped by meditation. It's not a matter of mind over matter. It's a matter of the mind does matter. The body listens to the mind."

Does it take long?

Ten minutes a day. But you have to do it every day.

Do the benefits extend beyond those ten minutes?

"Meditation can put a stamp on your brain that remains active when you're not meditating," says Dr. David Perlmutter, a neurologist and the coauthor of Power Up Your Brain: The Neuroscience of Enlightenment. "That is, there are physical, functional, metabolic changes that happen in the brain not only during the process of meditation, but remain residual after the process has been completed."

Such as?

Brain cells used or affected in a certain way can affect the cells around them, forming what are called neural networks. "It's not just how does one nerve cell work but how does it get along and communicate with its neighbors?" says Perlmutter. "The changes we've seen on the brain scans of the individuals who meditate are observable manifestations of that process of forming new networks — of nerve cells joining to other nerve cells, which is by definition neuroplasticity. The more you watch bad things on television, or read the evening news about all the horrible things that are happening around you, the more your brain becomes a conduit for negativity. The corollary is also true. The more you decide to look at things in a positive way, the easier it will be to stay positive."

Do regular people do it, or just monks and women?
Jack Dorsey, cofounder of Twitter and Square, meditates. Jack Dorsey is a billionaire. In fact, a lot of successful men meditate. Marc Benioff, CEO of, has written about it. At least three editors at Esquire probably meditated today. "Meditation allows me to focus. It removes the clutter that interferes with the actual thought process," says Roger Berkowitz, CEO of Legal Sea Foods, which has thirty-two restaurants, four thousand employees, and revenues of more than $200 million. "Before, I could wrestle with a problem for a long time. After I started meditating, I could zero in on the solution almost instantaneously. So meditation doesn't make me smarter, but it helps me connect the dots faster. You see the problem clearly, and you see a solution clearly."


I have a lot on my mind. What if I can't concentrate?
Don't worry about it. You cannot mess this up. Thoughts will enter your mind (see "Thoughts I Hope Don't Creep into My Head While I'm Trying to Meditate," right), and that's okay. Meditation is the least stressful activity a man can engage in, and much cheaper than blood-pressure medication.

Seven ways meditation changes your brain and body

From Business Insider UK

by Kevin Loria

1. Meditation can help you deal with stress and negative emotions.

2. At the same time, meditation could boost positive skills like memory and awareness.

3. Meditating for years is associated with brain changes that help you get along with others.

4. It doesn't take long to see meditation's benefits — just weeks can change your brain.

5. The benefits of meditation extend to other parts of your body too, including your heart.

6. There are also signs that meditation can help boost your immune system — or at least help ward off the flu.

7. Meditation may help prevent genetic damage.

Read it all 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Did the Sufis steal borrow their meditation techniques from the Buddhists?

Justified by the Koran

Have you ever wondered how a religion as violent, barbaric and intolerant as Islam could have given rise to a meditative spirituality like Sufism?

Well perhaps the answer is that it didn't.  According to this article from the Astana Times, the Sufis may have got their meditation techniques from the Buddhists.  In fact, it may be that the Sufis were actually undercover Buddhists who were forced to disguise their true beliefs by paying lip-service to Islam to avoid being beheaded or burned alive when their land was invaded by jihadists.

"Elsewhere in Almaty oblast, the Kora River bursts through the mountains near the town of Tekeli. In the nearby river valley is a large, pyramid-shaped rock with Buddhist images carved into it. Surrounded by a well-beaten path, the rock’s images are complex and reflect many aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. There is a stupa, a snow lion holding a stupa (the snow lion often represents cheerfulness, clear-mindedness and fearlessness in Tibetan Buddhist traditions), and symbols representing a Buddhist concept of cycles of time.

The path around the stone may indicate that passing Buddhists have practised walking meditation around it, venerating the object. This practice may also be an example of cultural borrowing between Buddhism and Islam in Kazakhstan: Kazakh sufis also walk around shrines and graves. They may meditate using mantras and breath cycles, often practice in small communities centred around a master and believe in rebirth and some other concepts associated with Buddhism.

One visitor, the mountain climber and tour leader Andrey Gundarev, pointed out that the word “kora” – also the name of the river – means “circumnabulation” or “revolution” in Tibetan and refers to a walking meditation practice."

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Forever Young(er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy

From Frontiers 

by Eileen Luders, Nicolas Cherbuin and Florian Kurth

"While overall life expectancy has been increasing, the human brain still begins deteriorating after the first two decades of life and continues degrading further with increasing age. Thus, techniques that diminish the negative impact of aging on the brain are desirable. 

Existing research, although scarce, suggests meditation to be an attractive candidate in the quest for an accessible and inexpensive, efficacious remedy. Here, we examined the link between age and cerebral gray matter re-analyzing a large sample (n = 100) of long-term meditators and control subjects aged between 24 and 77 years. When correlating global and local gray matter with age, we detected negative correlations within both controls and meditators, suggesting a decline over time. 

However, the slopes of the regression lines were steeper and the correlation coefficients were stronger in controls than in meditators. Moreover, the age-affected brain regions were much more extended in controls than in meditators, with significant group-by-age interactions in numerous clusters throughout the brain. Altogether, these findings seem to suggest less age-related gray matter atrophy in long-term meditation practitioners...  more

How Meditation Boosts Your Health Beyond The Brain

From Fast Company

by John Paul Titlow

"...Creswell and Lindsay highlight a body of work that depicts the biological mechanisms of mindfulness training's stress reduction effects. When an individual experiences stress, activity in the prefrontal cortex — responsible for conscious thinking and planning — decreases, while activity in the amygdala, hypothalamus and anterior cingulate cortex — regions that quickly activate the body's stress response — increases. 

Studies have suggested that mindfulness reverses these patterns during stress; it increases prefrontal activity, which can regulate and turn down the biological stress response...  more

Forty days of meditation

From The Medical Daily

by Stephanie Castillo

"I can remember the looks my fellow reporters and magazine editors gave Andy Puddicombe, meditation expert and co-founder of Headspace, when he said you’re not tired after a meditation — you’re aware of how tired you’ve been. He’d just finished guiding a meditation in the lobby of the Westin New York Grand Central hotel, nearby tables crowded with energizing beet and carrot juices. We were all gathered there to celebrate his appointment to the Westin Wellbeing Council, as even a successful hotel chain recognizes the importance of cultivating happier and healthier lives.

For Puddicombe, a central part of this is meditation. This ancient practice allows us time to rest and focus on a state of consciousness we don’t experience day-to-day. Our attention focuses inward, while at the same time, meditation teaches us the power of stillness. The practice — as you may well know — is associated with reduced feelings in everything from anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder. The benefits aren’t only mental, either, they’re physiological.

Scientific American cited research that found an eight-week course of mindfulness meditation shrunk the brain’s amygdala, which is our “fight-or-flight” center. The amygdala is otherwise associated with fear and emotion, and it is “involved in the initiation of the body’s response to stress.” Additionally, brain scans of meditators versus non-meditators suggested they’re able to remove or lessen painful stimulation.

Having been guided by Puddicombe himself, as well getting lost among the stacks of pro-meditation research, I realized I had zero reasons to not be regularly meditating. I specifically set out to do so for 40 days since some believe it takes 40 days to develop better habits (though you’re more likely to be familiar with the 21- to 30-day schedules). Shephali Agrawal, executive director of the Art of Living-New York City Center, is one of those people.

Agrawal and I initially met for a story I was writing on an increasing number of meditation studios. Toward the end of our conversation, she recommended people, including myself, implement a meditation schedule for 40 days “just to see what happens.”

So I did...  more

Meditation for a secular audience

From The LA Times 

by Mary Macvean

"Meditation, primarily a 2,500-year-old form called mindfulness meditation that emphasizes paying attention to the present moment, has gone viral.

The unrelenting siege on our attention can take a good share of the credit; stress has bombarded people from executives on 24/7 schedules to kids who feel the pressure to succeed even before puberty. Meditation has been lauded as a way to reduce stress, ease physical ailments like headaches and increase compassion and productivity.

Religious practitioners have long claimed that, adopted by enough people, meditation could bring us world peace. Now we hear that from Chade-Meng Tan, a Google executive charged with making the company more mindful. You needn't even put down your phone, with apps like Insight Timer, which has guided meditations and ways to track your stillness.

It has moved from its Asian, monastic roots to become a practice requiring no particular dogma on a path not necessarily toward nirvana but toward a more mindful everyday life. Some serious advocates worry it's becoming another feel-good commodity.

The practice of mindfulness meditation has become more widespread at a time when the fastest-growing group demographic is made up of people who say they are unaffiliated with a particular denomination, said Varun Soni, the dean of religious life at USC, which has launched a university-wide effort toward mindfulness.

"Every religious tradition changes when it moves to a new place," Soni said.
It fits a lot about the American spirit. You don't have to join anything. It's very private. It's a very direct answer to an awful lot of stress and confusion. - Sharon Salzberg, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society

In the case of meditation, it's also moved full force into the academic realm. Aside from the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the UCs in San Diego, Los Angeles and Berkeley are among universities that also have meditation programs. Hundreds of research papers have been published. At Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., students can earn a master's degree in mindfulness studies.

"It's mind-blowing," said Sharon Salzberg, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts and one of the people who brought Buddhist meditation to the United States in the 1970s.

"It fits a lot about the American spirit," she said. "You don't have to join anything. It's very private. It's a very direct answer to an awful lot of stress and confusion."

Marturano was one of those modern jugglers: a spouse, mother to school-age children, daughter to aging parents, president of an arts board in the Twin Cities and a top executive at General Mills.

"Every day I juggled faster and faster, and on most days, most of the time, most of the balls stayed in the air," she told the hospital group.

You know where this is going: What goes up must come down.

She was put in charge of a protracted buyout of Pillsbury by General Mills; failure would have meant 10,000 layoffs (as she put it, 10,000 families losing an income, some of them people she knew). Then, within months, both of her parents died.

Marturano was depleted; a friend suggested a spa — not really her thing. Her friend insisted, and what finally lured Marturano was that it was an "intensive" retreat to study mindfulness. She figured, if it was intensive, then it might be OK.

And so she found herself at a spa in Arizona, studying with Jon Kabat-Zinn, pioneer in bringing meditation to a secular audience. She was hooked...."    more

Meditation helps preserve brain tissue

From the Huffington Post

by Carolyn Gregoire 

"Meditation is good for the brain. A new wave of research has connected the ancient practice to many cognitive benefits, from greater attention and focus to reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression to improved cognitive control and executive functioning.

According to a new study from the UCLA Brain Mapping Center, meditation may also protect the aging brain. Researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles and Australian National University found that the brains of longtime meditators were less affected by aging than the brains of those who don't meditate.

The brain begins to decline in the 20s, and continues to decrease in volume and weight through old age. Meditation, in addition to boosting emotional and physical well-being at any time in life, may be an effective way to prevent neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, as well as help stave off some of the normal cognitive decline that comes with aging. The strategy is free, and it comes with no side effects.

The new study builds on 2011 research from the same team, which showed that people who meditate exhibit less age-related atrophy in the brain's white matter, material that makes up nearly half of the brain and is composed of nerve fibers that the brain uses to communicate.

In this study, researchers looked at the link between meditation and the preservation of gray matter, the tissue where cognition occurs and memories are stored. They examined the brains of 100 participants, 50 people who had been meditating for an average of 20 years and 50 non-meditators. Both groups were made up of 28 men and 22 women between the ages of 24 and 77.

The participants' brains were scanned using fMRI technology. While both groups showed a decline in gray matter with older age, longtime meditators experienced smaller reductions in gray matter volume than those who did not meditate. It seemed that gray matter, in those who meditated, was better preserved... more

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Can Meditation Slow Down Ageing?

Meditate for Healthy Telomeres

The New Scientist  cites a study which suggests meditation can keep you younger longer:

"Meditation might even slow the ageing process. Telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, get shorter every time a cell divides and so play a role in ageing. Clifford Saron of the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis, and colleagues recently showed that levels of an enzyme that builds up telomeres were higher in people who attended a three-month meditation retreat than in a control group (Psychoneuroendocrinology, vol 36, p 664)."