Researchers have found evidence that mindfulness meditation can cause brain changes. Here is a description of their findings and a guide to getting started.
Advocates have long claimed that mindfulness meditation can improve the regular practitioner’s mental state. Now there is evidence that it may change the brain.
A study included in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging found changes in grey matter concentration in brain regions associated with learning and memory, regulating emotions, self-referential processing and perspective taking as a result of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR). Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital based their findings on brain images of 16 healthy adults. The images were taken before and after the group underwent an eight-week meditation program.
What is mindfulness meditation?
According to the New York Insight Meditation Center, mindful awareness, also known as Insight or Vipassana Meditation, is the practice of living in the present moment without judgment, which over time can help the meditator cultivate a more peaceful mind and change relationships with stresses. It is developed through walking and sitting mindfulness practices where the meditator focuses on breathing, sounds from outside or inside the body or sensations. The Center said the practice dates back 2,500 years to the time of the Buddha and is mainly practised in Southeast Asia. Americans brought it to the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
How to do it yourself
While the evidence is building up about the benefits of a daily mindfulness meditation practice, incorporating it into your daily life may seem daunting. But plenty of resources are available on the web to help the beginner get started, including guided meditation podcasts, books, CDs and written directions.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is known for pioneering the clinical application of mindfulness practice in medicine. He has authored several books on the subject, including “Wherever You Go, There You Are,” available for $9.05 on Amazon.com. His guided meditations can be viewed on YouTube.
Also known in the mindfulness community are Sharon Salsberg and Joseph Goldstein, co-founders of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass. Both spiritual teachers have authored audio and written books on the practice. Salzberg has podcasts available through her website.
Jack Kornfield, an American Buddist teacher whose website describes him as one of the founding directors of vipassana meditation in the west, also has audio, video and meditation instructions available. Find them on his site or zencast.org.
So explore these spiritual teachers, set up a calm environment, choose the best time of day for practice and get started living in the present moment, and maybe even changing the landscape of your brain.…
Weeping Willow Tree’s Strength and Flexibility Inspiration for Meditation – Amy Ivy
A weeping willow empowers personal strength and awareness in a nature-based guided meditation.
Weeping willow trees are common sights by lakes. Their pendulous branches float effortlessly in the wind, and their roots run deep seeking sustenance. For someone experiencing stress, grief, conflict, or other difficulties that prevent the self from enjoying life, imitating the willow’s flexibility and persistence may increase self-empowerment.
Preparing for the Weeping Willow Guided Meditation
Set aside ten to twenty minutes. Minimize distractions by turning off the cell phone and putting other obligations on hold. Take off your shoes, so that your feet are either bare on in socks. Drink some water to prevent dehydration. The meditation may be performed sitting or standing, depending upon what’s more comfortable for you.
Close your eyes and settle comfortably into a position where your body won’t disturb you for the following meditation:
Be careful not to get up too soon, as your body may not move as quickly as desired. Instead, spend several more minutes reflecting on the experience and any personal insights gained from it.
Variations of the Weeping Willow Guided Meditation for Self-Empowerment
For additional reflection, try the following variations and activities after meditating with the willow:
With a simple guided meditation exercise, the natural beauty and strength of a weeping willow tree can inspire and empower for relaxation and increased self-awareness.…
Meditation is a listening process that has been around us for thousand years, and is mentioned everywhere regardless of religions. Due to the fact that humans have two ears and only one mouth, we should listen twice as often as we speak. However, some people are always in the talk mode and enjoy talking, and many people can’t stand silence and even sleep with the television on all night. That’s why we increasing need meditation to help us.
Imagine if you would be listening to a full-integrated 78-person-Orchestra and watching as each instrument stops playing until just one single violin is left playing by itself, and we are listening carefully for that single note, all else is silent. The idea of being still and quiet does not appeal to many people who fill the air with noise. But at any one time there must be about fifty million people in the world who are meditating so we know that we are joining a large group and partaking of that energy.
The mystics tell us in their writings that we live in a “closed” system where nothing (energy) is ever lost. The “cosmic mind” that surrounds the planet earth contains every thought that ever was and this is why inventions occur in many places at the same time, as people tap into the cosmic mind from wherever they happen to be. They all get it at the same eureka moment.
Isaac Bentov’s book called “Stalking the wild pendulum” demonstrates how we can be two places at once, and that the pendulum is actually our heartbeat. Each time the pendulum swings to one end and stops to return back, the heart is stopping beating before it swings back. At that moment we can flip out and be in another place altogether, such as another city. This is how mystics appear in two places at the same time.
Stopping time and living longer. When the heart comes to rest, we do not age. This is why people who meditate appear younger than those who don’t. We are actually stopping time and living longer.
Alice Bailey, the author of some thirty gigantic books on esoteric subjects such as the “The Seven Rays” stated that we have a finite Number of breaths allotted to us, and to breathe deeply and live longer. Those of us who take short breaths will use up our allotment sooner, which ties in with smokers dying younger because of shorter breaths, makes sense.
When we meditate, we take deeper breaths and thus prolong our life. What we hear in our meditations. As we sit in the silence we receive ideas, thoughts, inspirations, messages that are answers to our questions that have been posed by our subconscious mind, which have been sitting there waiting to get out. In fact, if we pose a question and then listen for the answer, we will find that we do have all the answers if we take the time to listen. This brings up the point of the quickest way to get in the zone.
If we meditate in a symmetrical way, that is, at the same time and place each day, we build up an energy vortex in that spot so that when we get into that space, we are in the zone, and can connect much faster than having to energize a new place.
Other energy boosters are devices such as crystals that are really batteries with their own energy added to our energy.
People do meditation for a vast array of reasons. One reason is to look deep into one’s self and reflect. A way to do this is with the use of Tarot cards. The following visualization meditation is good for gaining insight and problem solving.
Preparing to Meditate on a Tarot Card
Begin by selecting a Tarot card. If a deck of cards isn’t owned, a quick Internet search will produce a variety of sites that will have pictures and definitions of the cards. Simply find a card that appeals to you. Please keep in mind that the card will have one meaning straight up and another if reversed. Once a card has been selected and the meaning has been read, it will be time to start the meditation.
How to Begin a Tarot Card Meditation
Hold the chosen card and study it. Try to memorize as many details as you can. After two to three minutes, put the card down and get into a comfortable sitting position while keeping the back upright. With eyes closed, begin to take relaxing, deep breaths.
Next, envision the card in the mind’s eye. Try to recall as many details as possible. If attainable, envision yourself as being part of the card. Continue to do this for a couple of minutes until it feels like every part of the card has been experienced
Experiencing Insight Meditation
It’s now time to concentrate on the meaning of the card. What kind of meaning does this card have in your life? For example, let’s say the strength card came up. This card represents not only physical strength, but inner strength as well. If using this card, think of problems that have been overcome in the past due to courage.
Remember what it felt like to draw inner strength for courage. Is there any thing happening in life that would require drawing from this inner strength? While thinking about this, see if any ideas enter the mind. Often, answers to questions and problems will come while in a relaxed state of meditation.
No matter which card is chosen for a meditation, think about the meaning and the positive effects it has had in life, then reflect on the meaning when the card is reversed and what can be done to help improve life.
How to End a Meditation
When finished reflecting on the card, take a minute to clear the mind and just focus on the breathing. When ready, open the eyes, slowly get up, and resume the activities of the day. Feel free to do this meditation any time some insight is needed.
A Tarot card meditation not only allows for a visualization exercise, but provides an opportunity to gain deep insight. What makes this such an interesting meditation is that although the formula for the meditation is the same, the meditation will be different each time depending on which card is chosen.…
Meditation is a good way to relieve stress, balance the spirit, and find peace of mind. Some studies even say that meditation has certain health benefits. Mastering meditation techniques certainly isn’t easy, but once learned meditation can always be repeated.
Sometimes, it may seem that even deep physicial relaxation doesn’t always free the mind. For most, relaxing the body isn’t the difficult part of meditation. It’s relaxing the mind that’s the hard part – and this is where certain meditation techniques come in. Understanding meditation may help with mastering relaxation techniques. To meditate is to quiet the conscious mind and let the subconscious lead. This sounds simple in theory, but meditating isn’t always easy.
If relaxing is a problem, try some relaxation techniques like deep and slow breathing. Counting breaths may help with relaxation, or even just counting backwards from one hundred. It’s a good idea to stretch the muscles for a few minutes, then sit or recline comfortably and just let the body go limp. Pre-stretching often makes this limp, relaxed feeling easier to get into. Sometimes, it seems hard to keep still, as the world is a very fast place. Stillness and quiet are the cornerstones of true meditation. Gentle music, or other noises that won’t be distracting, are perfectly okay. Meditation is about the individual’s own personal comfort.
Deep relaxation means letting the mind relax, too. When trying to meditate, don’t try to balance a checkbook or pen the grocery list mentally. Though it should be simple, the hardest meditation technique is learning how to just stop thinking. Just stop thinking. When serious about meditating, it’s best to relax in a comfortable and quiet location. Deep, relaxed breathing and the absence of conscious thought is the goal of meditation. Getting there is the hard part. If counting does not help, try to focus your mind on a single image. A candle flame, a tree, a flower blossom, even just a ball of light – hold this picture in your mind’s eye, and then change it. Add wind, change the color, but deviate the image only slightly. Focus on this until it’s very solidly in your mental vision and you can change the picture with ease, and then focus on nothing at all for a time.
Some meditate just to relax, and lying quietly without thought is a wonderful way to achieve this goal. For more serious meditating, certain techniques may be used to achieve different goals. Some may use meditation as a way to deal with problems, and some to find spiritual guides. Whatever meditation is used for, mastering the basic techniques of total mind and body relaxation is the starting point.…
Why do we find it difficult to concentrate during meditation and what can we do to improve our ability to focus?
Concentration is said to be the key to meditation. Whether we are meditating on a candle, a mantra, a verse or our breathing, the most important aspect is to focus our mind on the object of our meditation.
Why is concentration so important?
In all walks of life, concentration is a great strength. Students who are able to concentrate on their studies without being distracted by the TV or by other members of their family are more like to succeed in their exams than those who can’t do this. Likewise, those who achieve success in the business world will often speak of devotedly applying themselves to their goal and not allowing other distractions to get in their way. This may be a very worldly form of concentration, but the principle is the same – concentration is the key to success. During meditation, concentration is needed in order for us to be able to bring the mind to rest; it is this rest that brings about the peace which so many of us long for in today’s society. Swami Paramananda, author of Concentration and Meditation (Eighth Edition, Vedanta Centre Publishers 1996) states it unequivocally:
“Meditation is inseparable from concentration. When the mind has gained its full strength through singleness, it naturally becomes meditative”.
Why is it hard to concentrate?
Although we talk about modern life being busier than ever, a restless, agitated mind has been a human problem for a very long time. In the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Geeta, (Faber & Faber 1982) estimated to be written 5,000 years ago, Arjuna presses the Lord Sri Krishna for advice on how to rest his “fickle and turbulent, obstinate and strong” mind. Krishna acknowledges his difficulty:
“Doubtless, O Mighty One! The mind is fickle and exceedingly difficulty to restrain, but O son of Kunti! with practice and renunciation it can be done”.
Our minds are very active – they’re used to making plans, forming opinions, commenting on what’s going on and generally chattering away. It’s not surprising, therefore, that when we sit down to meditate we find that it’s not so easy to stop all this chatter and attend to our intended focus. We’ve been allowing our minds to wander without any form of control for years – or decades – and unless we’re very fortunate, they’re not going to just fall calm and quiet just because we sit quietly and sound a mantra.
What do we do when we find it difficult to concentrate?
The ability to concentrate is an innate faculty, not only of humans, but of every living creature. Take a look at a cat who stops still for a couple of seconds before pouncing on a mouse. It’s true that our minds can be very scattered, but we’ll usually find that there are certain activities that we do attend to with a good degree of attention – reading a book, playing a musical instrument – even watching a football match requires concentration! There are steps we can take, however, if we wish to strengthen our ability to focus during meditation:
The above steps will enhance your ability to concentrate and subsequently help your meditation.…
Metta meditation is one of the most popular vipassana techniques. This insight meditation is for bringing peace and tranquility into one’s own heart and sending loving kindness, along with compassion to others.
How to Begin a Metta Meditation
While sitting comfortably with a straight posture, begin to take slow, deep breaths while keeping the eyes closed. Once feeling relaxed, focus the mind on feelings about health, well being, and happiness. Take these feelings and turn them into a positive feeling of loving kindness or friendliness. With an open heart, begin thinking kindly of yourself.
Now, in the mind say, “May I be happy,” while envisioning being happy. Remember, in order to truly love others, one must first love themselves. Continue to bask in this positive, loving environment for as long as desired until ready to end the meditation.
Sending Loving Kindness to Others
Once comfortable with sending loving kindness to yourself, it’s time to start sending it out to others. Metta can be sent to friends, teachers, or relatives, along with neutral people and even enemies. When getting ready to send loving kindness, first envision the group of people it’s being sent to in the mind’s eye, then begin to send them metta.
When choosing neutral people, pick a group of people in which no emotions are attached. In order to build skill in sending metta, it’s best not to send to enemies until skilled at sending to familiar people and neutral people. When sending loving kindness, a couple of ideas of what to mentally say are, “May these people be happy,” or “May these people live with peace and joy.”
Metta and Universal Connectedness
One might first wonder why should a person should send loving kindness to their enemies. Try to envision everyone being a part of a universal connectedness or a collective unconscious, as Carl Jung referred to it. In other words, in sending kindness to an enemy, it’s also sending kindness to yourself. The more kindness a person feels, the more compassion they can feel towards others.
The vipassana technique known as metta meditation is a form of insight meditation that allows a person to further open their heart to not only accept loving kindness, but, to send it to others as well. When practiced over time, true love and compassion are achieved which projects positive energy to the collective unconscious that is said to be shared by all people.…
While meditation is still fairly new to the Western world, it has long been practiced in the Eastern world. One discovery made is that meditation can help develop psychic powers. One of those powers is telekinesis which is the ability to move an object with the mind.
A very popular form of telekinesis has been spoon bending, popularized by Jack Houck. However, for now, let’s start with something more simple.
How to Be Psychic
When working on psychic development, practice is very important. In one way or another, psychic abilities involve the mind. In order to keep the mind clear, use meditation as a tool. Meditation can also play a key role when trying to learn telekinesis.
When learning how to do telekinesis, start with trying to move a lightweight object. For this experiment, use a small pencil. Place a piece of paper on the table. Put a small pencil on the piece of paper. Trace the pencil on the paper in order to track its movement.
It’s best to already know basic meditation in order to use meditation for telekinesis development. Otherwise, the following meditation may not be successful. If you have never meditated before, learn some of the basics in the articles Sitting Meditation and Breathing Meditation.
Begin by staring at the pencil. Make sure you burn the image into your mind. Now, sitting with good posture, allow your eyes to close and start taking relaxing, deep, slow long breaths. Clear your mind of all thoughts. Once you feel relaxed and focused, envision the pencil in your mind.
Using your mind only, try to roll the pencil. Visualize the pencil physically moving. Imagine part of your energy being transferred to the pencil in order to help it move. When you think you were able to psychically see the pencil move, end the meditation, open your eyes and see if you were successful.
Don’t be disappointed if nothing happened. Meditation skills and psychic development both take time and practice. An alternative to this experiment is to use a feather. Caution needs to be taken that you are far enough away from the feather that your breathing doesn’t cause it to move.
Many forms of psychic skills can be learned with the aid of meditation. Psychic meditation is a great way to try to learn telekinesis. Long practiced in the Eastern world, meditation can help develop other psychic abilities as well.…
Difficult people or times in a relationship are an unfortunate part of life. The following three meditations protect from such encounters, so one feels empowered and aware instead of drained and scared.
Judith Orloff’s Heart Meditation
Dr. Judith Orloff, psychiatrist and energy healer, recommends focusing on one’s own heart to boost energy, especially when dealing with difficult people.
The following adaptation of Orloff’s Three Minute Heart Meditation focuses on the beat of one’s own heart.
The heart meditation can be practiced anywhere or anytime one has a free hand. One may desire to try it during or before a conversation with a difficult person to see how the exercise changes one’s perspective on the situation.
Blocking the effects of a negative person or encounter can prevent one from feeling drained and hopeless. The following visualization invites one to visualize a protective shield between him/her and a difficult person or situation.
When the threat has passed, or when one feels in control of the situation again, breathe in the shield of light, knowing that one can exhale it again at any time when needed.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s Compassion Meditation
Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace advocate Thich Nhat Hanh recommends seeing a situation through another’s eyes to increase compassion and understanding. The following adaptation of Hanh’s Compassion Meditation can be practiced in two parts, focusing on one’s own feelings surrounding a situation and focusing on the difficult person’s feelings.
Try this meditation to increase awareness about a difficult or frustrating relationship. The exercise works best with a person one knows well. Note that this meditation will invite deep reflection and self-awareness that may not necessarily be relaxing, though it certainly will bring healing in a relationship.
This meditation may bring up information that is useful for personal reflection. Keeping a journal or piece of paper nearby may also be helpful.
Draining people are a part of life, but with meditation, their negative effects can be minimized.…
What makes you happy? If you're not as happy as you'd like to be, how do you decide what to do to become happier?
Though there are many things people acquire in search of happiness, you've probably found that new material possessions make you happier for a brief time, but that quickly fades. Psychologists call this hedonic adaptation, a fancy name signifying people adjust to new things. If something new brings a burst of happiness, it won't last long—the newness and the happiness it brought wear off.
There is a way, though, that you can systematically decide on a course of action to find greater happiness. The things most likely to increase your happiness won't be found on The Shopping Channel or display shelves of a store. Instead of looking around for sources of greater happiness, psychologists and spiritualists agree that you should be looking within.
Tapping the Source: Using the Master Key System for Abundance and Happiness (Sterling Publishing, 2010) updates Charles Haanel's Master Key System, published in 1912. Tapping the Source authors William Gladstone, Richard Greninger, and John Selby have modernized Haanel's rendition of the necessary ingredients for happiness.
The Ingredients of Happiness
According to Tapping the Source authors, the following ingredients are necessary for a person to feel happy:
How do you use this list? Though reading through it may give you ideas about things that will make you happier, the authors suggest a more certain and powerful way to select areas for increasing your happiness.
Learn Meditation for Greater Happiness
The path to finding greater happiness winds through meditation. The authors maintain that each person's source of wisdom and energy is internal. To gain access to the natural, internal wisdom about yourself and what you need, you must first quiet your mind through meditation.
While your mind is quiet in meditation mentally examine the ingredients of happiness. Your internal wisdom will point out the areas that will bring you greater happiness. This can only occur when your mind is quiet, otherwise your ego will respond to your queries for happiness solutions with the latest marketing pitches you've witnessed—a new car, the latest smartphone, sparkling jewelry, a promising new relationship, or a new career.
Though the benefits of meditation are well known, many people have difficulty quieting their minds sufficiently to reap meditation's benefits. Failing to quiet your mind while mentally examining the happiness ingredient list will sabotage this effort, too.
The authors provide an easily implemented suggestion that should enable you to quiet your mind so your meditation is pleasant and effective. Readers having difficulty with meditation due to an over-active mind can find this technique in Learn Meditation: Positive Affirmations and the Law of Attraction.
Your Secrets of Happiness
What it takes to make you happier is already within you. The secret to your happiness is to look within while meditating on the ingredients of happiness summarized in this article.…