Why Meditate

“To meditate means to go home to yourself.

Then you know how to take care of the things that are happening inside you, and you know how to take care of the things that happen around you.”

  • Thich Nhat Hanh

Meditation… what is it?

Effortlessly focusing on one point for an extended period of time.

It can be sitting down continually repeating your name

It can be walking or running, focusing on placing one foot in front of the other- no variations

It can be sitting watching your breath. Feeling the sensations of the inhalation and the exhalation as your draw breath in and out.

Be it running, walking, repeating your name… continually bring your attention back to that when the mind wanders.

HOW can meditation help me?

It’s the gateway to better health, vitality, clarity, well being and a happier longer life.

Meditation is increasingly recommended by the medical professions for people suffering from : stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, physical tensions, sleep disorders, the list goes on. Western medicine acknowledges it will make you feel better, physically, emotionally and spiritually (i.e. in your connection to the world around you, the life you live).

So HOW does meditation work? What actually happens when we meditate?

The following article from Psychology Today gives a well balanced (and not too technical) explanation as to what exactly occurs in the brain when we meditate and why it makes people feel better all round:

www.psychologytoday.com/blog/use-your-mind-change-your-brain/201305/is-your-brain-meditation

The link below is to an article which tells us what actually happens in the brain and body- with perceived stress. It also explains how it can cause long term damage and refers to Dr Herbert Benson’s findings of ways to counteract stress through the “Relaxation Response”. Although Dr Benson does not specifically mention meditation- the techniques he refers to are what meditation encompasses  (e.g: mantra- use of a repetitive word/sound; deep abdominal breath etc).

http://www.youramazingbrain.org/brainchanges/stressbrain.htm

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Private sessions

In need of some guidance and help getting started? Looking for some simple techniques you can incorporate in to your daily routine? A one to one session can help you tremendously. I can help tailor a suitable meditation to fit in to your day which can help you with whatever specific situations you are facing at present.

What are the benefits…?

Better Focus

Meditation is a practice in focusing our attention and being aware of when it drifts, this actually improves our focus when we’re not meditating.

Less Anxiety, Chronic Stress and Pain

This point is technical, but interesting. The more we meditate, the less anxiety, pain and stress we have, and it turns out this is because we’re actually loosening the connections of particular neural pathways.

There’s a section of our brains that’s sometimes called the Me Center (it’s technically the medial prefrontal cortex). This is the part that processes information relating to ourselves and our experiences. Normally the neural pathways from the bodily sensation and fear centers of the brain to the Me Center are really strong. When you experience a scary or upsetting sensation, it triggers a strong reaction in your Me Center, making you feel scared and under attack.

When we meditate, we weaken this neural connection. This means that we don’t react as strongly to sensations that might have once lit up our Me Centers. As we weaken this connection, we simultaneously strengthen the connection between what’s known as our Assessment Center (the part of our brains known for reasoning) and our bodily sensation and fear centers. So when we experience scary or upsetting sensations, we can more easily look at them rationally.

More Creativity

Researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands studied both focused-attention and open-monitoring mediation to see if there was any improvement in creativity afterwards. They found that people who practiced focused-attention meditation did not show any obvious signs of improvement in the creativity task following their meditation. For those who did open-monitoring meditation, however, they performed better on a task that asked them to come up with new ideas.

More Kindness and Compassion

Research on meditation has shown that empathy and compassion are higher in those who practice meditation regularly. One experiment showed participants images of other people that were either good, bad or neutral in what they called “compassion meditation.” The participants were able to focus their attention and reduce their emotional reactions to these images, even when they weren’t in a meditative state. They also experienced more compassion for others when shown disturbing images.

Part of this comes from activity in the amygdala—the part of the brain that processes emotional stimuli. During meditation, this part of the brain normally shows decreased activity, but in this experiment it was exceptionally responsive when participants were shown images of people.

Another study in 2008 found that people who meditated regularly had stronger activation levels in their temporal parietal junctures (a part of the brain tied to empathy) when they heard the sounds of people suffering, than those who didn’t meditate.

Less Stress

Mindful meditation has been shown to help people perform under pressure while feeling less stressed. A 2012 study split a group of human resources managers into three, which one third participating in mindful meditation training, another third taking body relaxation training and the last third given no training at all. A stressful multitasking test was given to all the managers before and after the eight-week experiment. In the final test, the group that had participated in the meditation training reported less stress during the test than both of the other groups.

More Gray Matter

Meditation has been linked to larger amounts of gray matter in the hippocampus and frontal areas of the brain. More gray matter can lead to more positive emotions, longer-lasting emotional stability, and heightened focus during daily life. Meditation has also been shown to diminish age-related effects on gray matter and reduce the decline of our cognitive functioning.

Emily Reed