Meditation and Learning to Pause

Meditation and Learning to Pause

Meditation & Learning to Pause

People are often confused by the concept of meditation because it tends to be inextricably linked to the content being meditated upon. It’s important to understand that meditation is nothing more than a technique. It’s a tool that we can use to help in a wide variety of tasks, including attaining mindfulness, reducing stress or pain, and practicing spirituality. Meditation itself is not necessarily related to any of these goals, other than the fact that it can help us achieve them.

What is Meditation?

To meditate is to use focused effort to calm the body and mind. Every moment of our lives, we are exposed to a plethora of information that is generated from within ourselves. A train of thoughts and sensations constantly plows through our heads, most of which is not important to whatever we happen to be doing at the time. This background noise can be extremely troublesome, distracting us from our lives and potentially becoming a source of negative emotions. Meditation helps us to pause the chaos and allows us to focus primarily on what is important at the time.

How to Meditate

The concept being meditated upon can sometimes require or recommend a specific form of meditation, but we can find similarities among most meditation techniques. The first step in meditation is to achieve a calming of the body so that it doesn’t interfere with the mind. This is usually practiced by sitting in a comfortable position, closing one’s eyes, and concentrating on relaxing the entire body, piece by piece.

When the body is relaxed, we can move on to the mental tasks required by our content. For example, mindfulness practitioners would concentrate on things related to the present moment, like their own heartbeat or sensations on their skin. Alternatively, someone meditating to reduce pain may focus on a visualization of switches and dials that they can manipulate to essentially “turn down” the pain signal. Meditation is a valuable tool that can assist in many tasks by teaching us to pause our lives for a moment so that we can focus on what matters.

7 Ways Meditation Changes Brain

7 Ways Meditation Changes Brain

Every week there is new information about brain research and the effects that meditation can have on the brain. It is now believed that meditation changes the brain in a good way. The beneficial effects of meditation have always been known by the Ancients, people of ancient times, and for many many years meditation has been recommended for reducing stress, making you a calmer person and generally leading to an overall improvement of health. Meditation Changes Brain

However with the advances within medical science and the use of MRI’s (magnetic resonance imaging)  and EEG’s (echoencephalograph – uses ultrasonic waves) the way meditation changes the brain in a beneficial way can be clearly seen and empirically logged.  The brain has always been one of the great mysteries, but now more is being found out about it and these studies are helping with an understanding of the ancient science of meditation and its effect on the  brain. meditation changes brain

In this article about 7 Ways Meditation Changes Brain, Alice Walton writes about the most exciting studies to appear in the the last few years about meditation and the effects of meditation on the brain. In her article entitled: ‘7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain she says; “Just a few minutes of meditation may reduce stress, study finds.”

7 Ways Meditation Changes Brain

The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, with new studies coming out just about every week to illustrate some new benefit of meditation. Or, rather, some ancient benefit that is just now being confirmed with fMRI or EEG. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions. Below are some of the most exciting studies to come out in the last few years and show that meditation really does produce measurable changes in our most important organ. Skeptics, of course, may ask what good are a few brain changes if the psychological effects aren’t simultaneously being illustrated? Luckily, there’s good evidence for those as well, with studies reporting that meditation helps relieve our subjective levels of anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being.

Meditation Helps Preserve the Aging Brain

Last week, a study from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged. Participants who’d been meditating for an average of 20 years had more grey matter volume throughout the brain — although older meditators still had some volume loss compared to younger meditators, it wasn’t as pronounced as the non-meditators. “We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating,” said study author Florian Kurth. “Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”

Meditation Reduces Activity in the Brain’s “Me Center”

One of the most interesting studies in the last few years, carried out at Yale University, found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts – a.k.a., “monkey mind.” The DMN is “on” or active when we’re not thinking about anything in particular, when our minds are just wandering from thought to thought. Since mind-wandering is typically associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future, it’s the goal for many people to dial it down. Several studies have shown that meditation, though its quieting effect on the DMN, appears to do just this. And even when the mind does start to wander, because of the new connections that form, meditators are better at snapping back out of it.

Its Effects Rival Antidepressants for Depression, Anxiety

A review study last year at Johns Hopkins looked at the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team found that the effect size of meditation was moderate, at 0.3. If this sounds low, keep in mind that the effect size for antidepressants is also 0.3, which makes the effect of meditation sound pretty good. Meditation is, after all an active form of brain training. “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” says Goyal. “But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.” Meditation isn’t a magic bullet for depression, as no treatment is, but it’s one of the tools that may help manage symptoms.

Meditation May Lead to Volume Changes in Key Areas of the Brain

In 2011, Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain: Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing. There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress – and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well. In fact, a follow-up study by Lazar’s team found that after meditation training, changes in brain areas linked to mood and arousal were also linked to improvements in how participants said they felt — i.e., their psychological well-being. So for anyone who says that activated blobs in the brain don’t necessarily mean anything, our subjective experience – improved mood and well-being – does indeed seem to be shifted through meditation as well.

Just a Few Days of Training Improves Concentration and Attention

Having problems concentrating isn’t just a kid thing – it affects millions of grown-ups as well, with an ADD diagnosis or not. Interestingly but not surprisingly, one of the central benefits of meditation is that it improves attention and concentration: One recent study found that just a couple of weeks of meditation training helped people’s focus and memory during the verbal reasoning section of the GRE. In fact, the increase in score was equivalent to 16 percentile points, which is nothing to sneeze at. Since the strong focus of attention (on an object, idea, or activity) is one of the central aims of meditation, it’s not so surprising that meditation should help people’s cognitive skills on the job, too – but it’s nice to have science confirm it. And everyone can use a little extra assistance on standardized tests.

Meditation Reduces Anxiety — and Social Anxiety

A lot of people start meditating for its benefits in stress reduction, and there’s lots of good evidence to support this rationale. There’s a whole newer sub-genre of meditation, mentioned earlier, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness (now available all over the country), that aims to reduce a person’s stress level, physically and mentally. Studies have shown its benefits in reducing anxiety, even years after the initial 8-week course. Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation, in contrast to attending to the breath only, can reduce anxiety – and that these changes seem to be mediated through the brain regions associated with those self-referential (“me-centered”) thoughts. Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to help people with social anxiety disorder: a Stanford University team found that MBSR brought about changes in brain regions involved in attention, as well as relief from symptoms of social anxiety.

Meditation Can Help with Addiction

A growing number of studies has shown that, given its effects on the self-control regions of the brain, meditation can be very effective in helping people recover from various types of addiction. One study, for example, pitted mindfulness training against the American Lung Association’s freedom from smoking (FFS) program, and found that people who learned mindfulness were many times more likely to have quit smoking by the end of the training, and at 17 weeks follow-up, than those in the conventional treatment. This may be because meditation helps people “decouple” the state of craving from the act of smoking, so the one doesn’t always have to lead to the other, but rather you fully experience and ride out the “wave” of craving, until it passes. Other research has found that mindfulness training, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) can be helpful in treating other forms of addiction.

Short Meditation Breaks Can Help Kids in School

For developing brains, meditation has as much as or perhaps even more promise than it has for adults. There’s been increasing interest from educators and researchers in bringing meditation and yoga to school kids, who are dealing with the usual stressors inside school, and oftentimes additional stress and trauma outside school. Some schools have starting implementing meditation into their daily schedules, and with good effect: One district in San Francisco started a twice daily meditation program in some of its high-risk schools – and saw suspensions decrease, and GPAs and attendance increase. Studies have confirmed the cognitive and emotional benefits of meditation for schoolchildren, but more work will probably need to be done before it gains more widespread acceptance.

Worth a Try?

Meditation is not a panacea, but there’s certainly a lot of evidence that it may do some good for those who practice it regularly. Everyone from Anderson Cooper and congressman Tim Ryan to companies like Google GOOGL -0.9% and Apple AAPL -0.56% and Target TGT -0.5% are integrating meditation into their schedules. And its benefits seem to be felt after a relatively short amount of practice. Some researchers have cautioned that meditation can lead to ill effects under certain circumstances (known as the “dark night” phenomenon), but for most people – especially if you have a good teacher – meditation is beneficial, rather than harmful. It’s certainly worth a shot: If you have a few minutes in the morning or evening (or both), rather than turning on your phone or going online, see what happens if you try quieting down your mind, or at least paying attention to your thoughts and letting them go without reacting to them. If the research is right, just a few minutes of meditation may make a big difference.

Follow me @alicewalton or find me on Facebook.

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7 Ways Meditation Changes Brain

Curated by Liz McCaughey©Copyright 2018 aMindset.HK
aMindset
Kumarahub
Date: September 22, 2018

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About Liz McCaughey:

Liz McCaughey is a qualified psychotherapist with her own private practice in Hong Kong and Australia. You can arrange an appointment here.

If you are unable to travel to Liz’s practice there is an online portal where Skype appointments can be arranged.

Liz has recently opened her new business aMindset in Hong Kong. aMindset is a comprehensive mental health resource that incorporates Psychotherapy, Counselling, Mentoring and Workshops. Liz originally founded the company “Kumara” in Perth, Western Australia in 2003. Kumara is affiliated with aMindset and you can read more about Kumara in the website, KumaraHub.

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Meditation at the Full Moon

Meditation at the Full Moon

The following information is provided by the Lucis Trust.  The Lucis Trust is a nonprofit service organization incorporated in the United States in 1922 by Alice Bailey and her husband Foster Bailey, to act as a trust for the publishing of twenty-four books of esoteric philosophy publised under Alice Bailey’s name, and to fund and administer activities concerned with the establishment of “right human relations”. These include the Arcane School, a school for esoteric training, World Goodwill, Trianglesa lending library, The Beacon magazineas well as the publishing company.

Meditation at the time of the full moon is one important form of service. The full moon each month is a time of intensified energy and of heightened spiritual activity; a time of inspiration, of vision and insight, and of increased opportunity to serve. Meditation at the time of the full moon is a technique for effective contact with the light and love needed today in human affairs. At the time of the full moon festivals, the moon stands on the far side of the earth, away from the sun. This leaves a full, direct and unimpeded relationship between the earth and the sun, the source of our life, energy and consciousness, symbolic of the relationship between the human personality and the soul.

The time of the full moon is the high tide of spiritual energies both in the planet and in the world of human thinking. Those who choose to serve this way undertake the mental work of redemption and renewal, transforming and illuminating the inner atmosphere of human consciousness. A subjective alignment with the planetary group of meditators is necessary, in order both to carry forward scientific work of this scope, and to protect the individual from possible overstimulation. The participation of people in many nations increases the effectiveness of this service work through meditation; the group is greater than the sum of its parts.

The pouring in of spiritual energy at the time of the full moon is augmented by the focussed thought of cooperating meditators. This has several effects: it strengthens the subjective relationship among all members of the human kingdom; it also influences the relationship between humanity and all other kingdoms coexisting on this planet. Right human relationships are an indication of right relations between man and man, and between man and God this in turn, clears the way for the emergence of a higher quality of life.

Each month during the full moon the sun is aligned with one of the twelve zodiacal signs. The signs indicate the quality of the subjective energies available for transmission during that month. In the annual cycles humanity as a whole is exposed to the full range of experience. These energies and qualities stimulate the evolution of human consciousness; all zodiacal energies can be used by all individuals.

Conscious work with these various types of spiritual energy brings inspiration and ideas into the reach of human minds and hearts. Meditation, especially in subjective group formation, stimulates a new factor in human awareness–a growing spiritual maturity. This vast, planetary work of world service contributes to the task of spiritually civilising planet Earth.

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Meditation: A Spiritual Discipline

Meditation: A Spiritual Discipline

The following information is provided by the Lucis Trust.  The Lucis Trust is a nonprofit service organization incorporated in the United States in 1922 by Alice Bailey and her husband Foster Bailey, to act as a trust for the publishing of twenty-four books of esoteric philosophy publised under Alice Bailey’s name, and to fund and administer activities concerned with the establishment of “right human relations”. These include the Arcane School, a school for esoteric training, World Goodwill, Trianglesa lending library, The Beacon magazineas well as the publishing company.

MEDITATION: A SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE

Since the word “spiritual” applies virtually to the whole of life, it describes anything that leads to greater vision, understanding, and integration with the various forms life takes. Spirituality involves an ever-widening sphere of influence and responsibility.

The key word in spiritual development is discipline. A life that is self-disciplined mentally, emotionally and physically, can be depended upon by the soul. The initial occasional contacts between soul and personality, fostered by meditation, can be increased both in duration and intensity as the disciplined personality offers a ready channel for the soul to use. The careful, non-fanatical discipline of the self-centered personality vehicles-or states of awareness-establishes a working relationship between the personality and the soul, bringing the personality life into alignment with soul intention.

The discipline of daily meditation as a means of contacting the soul and of developing soul consciousness and soul fusion, is a major means of spiritualising life on this planet and helping to externalise the Kingdom of God.

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What is Meditation? Why is it a Science

What is Meditation? Why is it a Science

The following information is provided by the Lucis Trust.  The Lucis Trust is a nonprofit service organization incorporated in the United States in 1922 by Alice Bailey and her husband Foster Bailey, to act as a trust for the publishing of twenty-four books of esoteric philosophy publised under Alice Bailey’s name, and to fund and administer activities concerned with the establishment of “right human relations”. These include the Arcane School, a school for esoteric training, World Goodwill, Trianglesa lending library, The Beacon magazineas well as the publishing company.

Webster’s dictionary defines the term “to meditate” as “to engage in contemplation or reflection.” This is an accurate description of one effective form modern meditation can take. It goes beyond the mystical method of seeking the ecstasy of union with the divine or with God for its own sake. It transcends the goal of many modern types of meditation which emphasise “peace of mind” by detaching the mind from all its normal functions, often inducing a sense of mental paralysis rather than peace. The mind is thus incapable of registration, interpretation and application.

These three words probably supply the most accurate definition of creative meditation- -registration, interpretation, application. They imply mental activity, involving cause and effect, contact with a source of inspiration, and the consequent ability to use and apply the fruits of meditation.

There is a way, which can be learned and practiced by which the consciousness can be focussed aligned and turned towards the first source of spiritual inspiration–the soul This starts with mental activity; not only that of the lower mind, the analysing, directing faculty, but also the ability to bring the lower mind, through conscious direction into alignment with the higher mind and soul. A thought or “seed idea” contemplated in the light of the soul produces new thoughts, mental illumination, which the lower mind interprets and applies.

Because meditation is concerned with mental receptivity, it is essentially a means of channelling energy. Scientists today tend to agree that ”all is energy”–a basic occult aphorism. The life force that holds all manifestation in being, is energy; consciousness is response to the energy infusing human hearts and minds. Clearly directed thought in meditation, with the mind held steady in the light of the soul, is a scientific means of contacting those major aspects of the life force we call light and love and power, giving them right interpretation, and directing them, in the form of ideas and planning, into specific activity.

Meditation is a scientific technique which can be relied upon to produce results if followed through with care and precision. While the techniques of meditation can be learned, the way the techniques are applied varies for each one. Each must find that way for himself, for it is in experimentation that we gain experience in the right use of the mind, bring the consciousness into alignment with soul energy, and learn how to give right expression in meditation to the abundant spiritual resources available in service.

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At aMindset we value good content for our readers. In that spirit we will often curated or excerpt content from top quality sources on the web.The very internet itself was created on the foundation of linking, sharing, and recommending good content from other sources on the web.

Curation means finding good, well-written, and highly relevant material for our readers. By choosing content from your site, we are giving it our vote of approval. This not only means that we excerpt your content, we also give it our highest recommendation, and we encourage our readers to view your content on your website with a direct link back your source material.

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