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How Loving Kindness Meditation Can Change Your Life

March 17th, 2016 | Posted by horoscopesign in Meditation - (Comments Off on How Loving Kindness Meditation Can Change Your Life)
Meditate In The Sand

How Loving Kindness Meditation Can Change Your Life

The age old practice of meditation can come in many different forms. For centuries meditation was practiced in connection with the world’s great religions. Indeed, it has only been since the early 1920s, with the work of American physician, Edmund Jacobson, that more modern, health benefiting forms of meditation have become more known and popular. Loving kindness meditation, for instance, is rather new to the meditation roster, having grown out of that research.

The Benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation

In her article entitled, 18 Science-Based Reasons to Try Loving-Kindness Meditation, Emma Seppälä, Ph.D., author and Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, stated:

“In a landmark study, Barbara Frederickson and her colleagues found that practicing seven weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, amusement, and awe. These positive emotions then produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms), which, in turn, predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms.”

Sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it?

If Loving Kindness Meditation Has Such Benefits, How Do I Do It?

The wonderful part about loving kindness meditation is that it is very easy to learn and incorporate into your life.

Here are the simple steps you need to know in order to get started:

1. Find a quiet and restful place to meditate: Make sure that the place you choose will be free from distractions. You might wish to play some meditative music during this time. Make sure it does not distract you though.

2. Choose the posture that is most comfortable for you: Although the default posture is sitting erect in a chair with both feet planted on the ground, if that is not most relaxing for you, choose another posture. If you choose to lie flat on the ground, do not cross or bend your legs, and keep your hands at your side.

3. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, release tension and relax: Once your eyes are closed breathe in and out slowly and deeply. Let the tensions and thoughts drain out of you with each breath.

4. Choose 4 words that are meaningful to you (i.e. well, happy, peaceful, loved): You will use these 4 words throughout your meditation in the following phrases: “May I (or you) be well, may I (or you) be happy, may I (or you) be peaceful, may I (or you) be loved.”

5. Begin by wishing yourself happiness and fulfillment using the words you chose: Here we stress that it is important to begin with yourself. The theory is that you need to love yourself first before you can pass the loving kindness on to others. Using the phases above, wish wholeness to yourself.

6. Wish the people who are closest to you the same: By now, you should be ready to spread that loving kindness on to your family and closest friends – all who are special in your life.

7. Wish the people you know, but are not close to, the same: It is amazing how many people we interact with who we know, but don’t really know. This step takes the loving kindness thoughts to them. The same 4 phrases are used for these people as well.

8. Wish strangers and people you don’t know loving thoughts, using the same 4 phrases: This step may take a little effort at first, but eventually it will become second nature to wish a stranger the same well-being as you wish yourself and those close to you.

9. Follow the same pattern with people you don’t like. This is the hardest challenge, but one of the most healing: When we dislike a person, our human tendency is to wish that person ill. That is especially true if the person we dislike has been personally offensive to us by their behavior toward us. When we can turn that abuse around and wish the other good for evil, we are the ones who receive the blessing.

If you like the idea of trying out loving kindness meditation, here is a meditation video that you may find very helpful in getting started.

Meditation Changes Your Brain, So Says Recent Research

February 25th, 2016 | Posted by horoscopesign in Meditation - (Comments Off on Meditation Changes Your Brain, So Says Recent Research)
Meditate On Beach

Meditation Changes Your Brain, So Says Recent Research

In order for you to understand how meditation changes your brain, you need to take a look at the history of meditation and the structure of your brain. So let’s take a brief look at how meditation began.

According to Wikipedia:

“The word meditation carries different meanings in different contexts. Meditation has been practiced since antiquity as a component of numerous religious traditions and beliefs.…

“The history of meditation is intimately bound up with the religious context within which it was practiced….”

From this we see that meditation is firmly rooted in religion. Some of the earliest references of meditation can be traced back to the Hindus and Buddhists. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to discover that western Christian meditation developed in the 6th century from the practice of reading the Bible by Benedictine monks. By the 12th century, four formal steps of meditation had evolved. They were: read, ponder, pray and contemplate. Many Christians follow this form of meditation today.

Secular meditation is actually rather new. It began in India in the 1950s as a “Westernized form of Hindu meditative techniques.” This form of meditation spread to the United States and Europe during the 1960s. The emphasis is not on spiritual growth but on stress reduction, relaxation and self-improvement.

Although both the spiritual and secular meditation forms have been extensively researched, it is mostly the secular form that has now revealed that meditation changes your brain.

How Meditation Changes Your Brain

Rebecca Gladding, M.D. in her article, This Is Your Brain on Meditation, explained the different parts of the brain and how they are affected by meditation. The brain, of course, is very complex, but the two main areas that I will give an overview of are:

Lateral prefrontal cortex: The lateral prefrontal cortex is the section of the brain that helps us have a more rational, logical and balanced perspective. In her article, Dr. Gladding calls that the Assessment Center.

Medial prefrontal cortex: Dr. Gladding calls this section (which before meditation is the dominant part of the brain) the Me Center. It is labeled such because it deals with everything that relates to you. It is the “Self-Referencing Center.”

Dr. Gladding states:

“…science ‘proves’ what we know to be true from the actual experience of meditating. What the data demonstrate is that meditation facilitates strengthening the Assessment Center, weakening the unhelpful aspects of the Me Center (that can cause you to take things personally), strengthening the helpful parts of the Me Center (involved with empathy and understanding others) and changing the connections to/from the bodily sensation/fear centers such that you experience sensations in a less reactive, more balanced and holistic way. In a very real way, you literally are changing your brain for the better when you meditate.”

If you like what you have read so far about meditation and how meditation changes your brain, you may want to follow the links throughout this article. If you are still wondering how to begin meditating, you can learn how by watching this video: Beginner’s Guide to Meditation – Learn to Meditate in 5 Easy Steps.

John Denninger, Director of Research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospitals, says:

“The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.”

Mindfulness Meditation and Your Brain: Carnegie Mellon Research Findings

February 25th, 2016 | Posted by horoscopesign in Meditation - (Comments Off on Mindfulness Meditation and Your Brain: Carnegie Mellon Research Findings)
Meditation Benefits

Mindfulness Meditation and Your Brain: Carnegie Mellon Research

Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is renowned as a private global research center. Recently a major breakthrough in the area of mindfulness meditation and its effect on the brain has begun to emerge from a published study in Biological Psychiatry. The study was led by David Creswell, an associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, one of the units of the Carnegie Mellon University. What makes the results of this study stand out is the finding that mindfulness meditation “reduces interleukin-6, a biomarker of systemic inflammation, in high-stress, unemployed adults more so than simple relaxation techniques.”

Professor Creswell went on to say:

“Not only did we show that mindfulness meditation training could reduce a health biomarker of inflammation, but we also showed what mindfulness training-related brain changes drove these beneficial health effects.”

Now for anyone who is new to how mindfulness meditation differs from traditional relaxation techniques, let us explain.

Mindfulness Meditation: What Makes it More Effective?

According to Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life:

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

“Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”

If you think that is easy to do, try it sometime. You will be amazed at how easily your mind will wander. I should also say here that if you are depressed, anxious or stressed, as the 35 adult participants in the Carnegie Mellon study were, it is fully understandable that the test results were so positive with mindfulness meditation over simple relaxation. By its very nature of deep breathing coupled with present moment focus, one is allowing one’s body chemistry to balance out. As we all know by now, inflammation is one of the major causes of disease and illness.

How the Benefits of the Mindfulness Meditation Were Determined

Before the tests began, the 35 participants were divided into two groups. The first group received a 3 day mindfulness meditation training, and the second group received only relaxation training. Both before and at the conclusion of the training, brain scans and blood work was done. The concluding brain scans showed that the mindfulness meditation training had caused the dorsal prefrontal cortex of the brain to function at a higher and more connected level. The result was better attention and executive control. Those in the relaxation training showed no brain changes.

Another outcome that was exciting is that the mindfulness meditation group also had a reduction in the interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels. Those lower levels, coupled with the changes in brain functional connectivity resulted in lower inflammation levels.

Looking to the future, Professor Creswell concluded:

“We think that these brain changes provide a neurobiological marker for improved executive control and stress resilience, such that mindfulness meditation training improves your brain’s ability to help you manage stress, and these changes improve a broad range of stress-related health outcomes, such as your inflammatory health.”