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Kevin Schoeninger / Source: Secrets
The research is pouring in on the profound benefits of meditation practice.
Science now confirms what practitioners have known for centuries: Meditation
is a powerful tool for human evolution.
How could sitting quietly "doing nothing" possibly make such
a difference in your life? The truth is found in many dimensions. We’ll
explore some of the most important points in this brief article.
to fully understand, you’ll have to meditate for yourself. If you
need some inspiration or re-motivation for that venture, read on.
The Many Benefits of Meditation
Let’s talk about the benefits of meditation in four dimensions
of our being: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Meditation
in its best forms is a truly holistic practice; it works on all levels
of your being. It has the power to improve your health and immune function,
increase your emotional sensitivity and emotional balance, clear and
focus your mind, and strengthen your sense of spiritual connection. Let’s
go through each of these in turn.
Dr. Herbert Benson began his research into the physiological changes
during meditation practice at Harvard University in 1968. He published
a groundbreaking book, called "The Relaxation Response" in
1975. In this book, he described a state of deep relaxation that occurs
in meditation that counters the physical and emotional effects of stress
or the "fight/flight" response.
Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system which puts us in a state
of hyperactive readiness that can be useful during real emergency situations.
However, chronic stress is a condition that tears down the body and inhibits
its ability to adapt, grow, and repair itself. Chronic stress shunts
blood away from the internal organs to the extremities which hampers
digestion and immunity. Our muscles tighten into a state of persistent
tension, blood pressure rises, emotions get locked into a protective
fear mode, and our mind is less able to process new information and find
In addition, chronic stress is associated with chronic inflammation in
the body which is being linked to almost every major disease, including
cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune dysfunction. With the speed, pressure,
and intensity of human life at an all-time high and on the rise, it’s
absolutely imperative that we learn to master stress and relax our bodies.
The relaxation response described by Dr. Benson activates the parasympathetic
nervous system which is our recovery and repair mode. People who learn
to activate the relaxation response using a simple meditation technique
show almost immediate positive physiological changes. Their breathing
slows and deepens, their hearts come into rhythmic coherence, their brainwaves
slow and synchronize, and they experience a pleasurable sense of relief
Long-term meditation practice lowers blood pressure, increases the release
of "feel good" neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine,
and GABA, and stimulates the production of DHEA, a hormone which helps
the body repair and regenerate itself.
When you meditate, your body not only comes down from stress, but you
feel better and more in charge of your inner life. You are more aware
of your inner feelings and more able to manage them. Research at the
Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania
shows that meditation practice develops the anterior cingulate, a structure
in the midbrain that enables you to manage your thoughts and feelings
and increases your ability to empathize with and have compassion for
others. In other words, meditation is good for your personal well-being
and for building strong relationships.
Meditation also develops the prefrontal lobes in the front of the brain,
just behind your forehead. The prefrontal lobes enable you to focus your
attention and integrate your experiences in meaningful and productive
ways. Studies with Tibetan monks at the University of Wisconsin have
shown increased thickness in the prefrontal lobes and increased neural
connections between the frontal lobes and the rest of the brain in those
who have meditated for extended periods of time.
Research at the University of Pennsylvania also suggests that meditation
practice enhances memory formation and retention. This points to its
use as a possible preventive measure for Alzheimer’s and other
conditions associated with aging and the brain.
Not only does meditation have these powerful effects on the body, emotions,
and brain, but there are more profound and less easy to study spiritual
effects. In general, meditation develops your ability to feel connected
to life. People often describe their deep meditations as times when they
feel most like themselves. They also experience themselves as part of
the One Life that we all share. Meditators often describe a deep sense
of trust, support, and guidance that comes in their meditation practice.
of Meditation, Energy and Manifestation