More Mindfulness benefits

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Eight weeks of meditation (of the type known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR) for 30 minutes a day, significantly strengthens the immune system, reinforces positive emotions and the faculty of attention, reduces arterial pressure in those suffering from high blood pressure, and accelerates the healing of psoriasis.
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To what extent can we train our mind to work in a constructive manner—for example, by replacing obsession with contentment, agitation with calmness, or hatred with kindness?
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Twenty years ago, it was almost universally accepted by neuroscientists that the brain contained all its neurons at birth and that their number did not change in adult life.
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We now know that new neurons are produced up until the moment of death.
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Moreover, scientists speak of “neuroplasticity,” the brain’s ability to continually change its structure and function in response to new experiences, so that a particular training, such as learning a musical instrument or a sport, can bring significant and lasting functional and structural changes in the brain.
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Mindfulness, altruism, and other basic human qualities can be cultivated in the same way.
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In general, if we engage repeatedly in a new activity or train in a new skill, modifications in the neuronal system of the brain can be observed within a month.
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It is essential, therefore, to meditate regularly.
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Study of the influence of our mental states on our way of being and our health, which was once considered a purely eccentric notion, is now becoming a mainstream approach in scientific research.
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Why Meditate: benefits

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Experienced meditators are able to generate precise targeted mental states that are enduring and powerful.
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Among other things, experiments have shown that the region of the brain associated with mental states like compassion exhibits considerably greater activity among persons who have long meditative experience than among those who do not.
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These discoveries demonstrate that certain human qualities can be deliberately cultivated through mental training.
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Such studies have led to the publication of several articles in prestigious scientific journals, establishing the credibility of research on meditation, an area which had not been taken seriously until then.
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Richard Davidson, a leading neuroscientist, acknowledges: “These studies seem to demonstrate that the brain can be trained and physically modified in a way that few people would have imagined.”
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Other scientific investigations have shown that you do not have to be a highly trained meditator to benefit from the effects of meditation: even 20 minutes of daily practice can contribute significantly to the reduction of stress, whose harmful effects on health are well established.
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It also reduces anxiety, the tendency toward anger (which has been shown to diminish the chances of survival following heart surgery), and the risk of relapse for people who have previously undergone at least two episodes of serious depression.
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Why Meditate: Working with thoughts and emotions

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Altruistic love—also called loving-kindness—is the wish that others be happy and that they find the true causes of happiness.
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Compassion is defined as the desire to put an end to the suffering of others and the causes of that suffering.
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These are not merely noble sentiments; they are feelings that are fundamentally in tune with reality.
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All beings want to avoid suffering just as much as we do.
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Moreover, since we are all interdependent, our own happiness and unhappiness are intimately bound up with the happiness and unhappiness of others.
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Cultivating love and compassion is a win-win situation.
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Personal experience shows that they are the most positive of all mental states and create a deep sense of fulfillment and wholesomeness.
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Research in neuroscience also indicates that among all kinds of meditations, those focusing on unconditional love and compassion give rise to the strongest activation of brain areas related to positive affects.
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In addition, the behavior these forms of meditation give rise to is intended to benefit others.
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If the deeds we perform for the sake of others are to have the intended benefit, they must also be guided by wisdom—the wisdom that we can acquire through analysis and meditation and that gives us a more correct understanding of Reality.
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Breath by Breath: The liberating practice of insight meditation

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Entering into this spirit of repetition can also be a wonderful lesson in simplicity, which is also desperately needed in the modern world.
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Many people come to meditation expecting some complex practice leading to an extraordinary experience.
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They can’t believe they’re just supposed to sit there and watch the breath.
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But when we learn to surrender to one simple object, we begin to see how useful this skill is in other aspects of our lives.
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How many times do we brush our teeth, go to the bathroom, put on our clothes, make the bed?
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Our days are dominated by such ordinary and repetitive activity, which we generally handle by going on automatic pilot.
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That means that we miss out on much of our lives.
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This practice teaches us to stay fresh in the midst of all routine activity, really to live our lives.
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The Undefeated Mind: Loss Aversion

 

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Which brings us to the second reason happiness is difficult to achieve: it requires not only the presence of joy (meaning a positive emotional state), but also the absence of suffering.
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Unfortunately, we often fail to appreciate these things as separate and focus most of our efforts on finding things that bring us joy rather than on preparing ourselves to withstand hardship.
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We may think things that bring us joy—a good job, money, a loving spouse, and so on—simultaneously immunize us against suffering, but if anything they actually make us more vulnerable to suffering by providing us more attachments to lose.
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And avoiding the pain of loss is more important than experiencing the joy of gain.
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At least, that’s how many of us behave when forced to choose between the two, a phenomenon psychologists term loss aversion.
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In the world of day trading, for example, most experts agree the best way to make money is by selling losing trades quickly and letting winning ones ride.
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But in one study, 62 percent of traders on average did just the opposite, selling their winning trades quickly and letting their losing ones ride.
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Why?
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Because their desire to avoid the pain of loss, which they could only do by holding on to losing trades long enough for them to become winners and selling their winning trades before they became losers, was greater than their desire to experience the joy of gain (by riding out winning trades until they’d peaked).
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Focused and Fearless: Intention


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Actions don’t happen only in the body; they result from an intricate interrelationship of body and mind.
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Momentary impulses, springing from your contact with the myriad perceptions you encounter, shape the countless choices you make everyday.
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Being mindful of intentions presents an opportunity to explore how this mind-body process works, how a thought leads into an action.
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Intention is the basis of all deliberate action.
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Intentions are subtle forms of thought that link a mental impulse to physical action.
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As the Buddha said, “Intention, I tell you, is action.
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Intending, one creates action by way of body, speech, and mind.
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Some intentions will lead to happiness; others will generate suffering.
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Witness

Floral background of dense clusters of dainty white flowers covering a leafy green shrub in a garden, full frame

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Be the witness of your thoughts.
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Buddha
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