A Followers journey

.

.

Posted by powerfulbeautifulwise:

“Until I found your blog, I’d discounted meditation because I thought of it like you described “a Zen center filled with intellectuals pursuing the abstract awakening or enlightenment goal.” I’m starting with baby steps – breathing in self-acceptance and breathing out regret when difficult memories overwhelm me. By starting small, I don’t feel the judgment that I might be doing it wrong.

In working with people recovering from abusive relationships, I’ve also wondered why some are willing to invest in the hard work while others continue to suffer. I’ve concluded that suffering does bring some payout. Until I bottomed out, I took some pride in my ability to suffer. I try to understand that someone trapped in suffering is getting some reward from it. Western society has been elevating the victim status, which may explain one of the rewards.

Thanks for your post. You’ve helped me sort out some thoughts.”

.

.

.

A few of the Benefits of a Meditation/Mindfulness practice:

Improving Attention

One of the most obvious benefits from meditation is that it improves our attention. One study has shown that just 5 days of 20 minute training can show significant improvements in our ability to focus and concentrate. The fact that mindfulness meditation can improve our attention is one of the most well-documented benefits. And the practice of staying focused on our breath can build concentration that often spills over into many other activities.

.

Improving Cognition

Another interesting study showed that just 4 days of 20 minute training showed significant increases in cognitive functioning, especially memory and learning. Other related research indicates that meditation can help slow down Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some of this may in part be due to our increased attention, but it seems meditation also acts on other parts of the brain more directly related to learning and memory, such as increasing gray matter in the hippocampus.

.

Managing Stress and Anxiety

Meditation has also been shown to reduce gray matter in the amygdala, which is a part of the brain commonly associated with stress, anxiety, and emotional processing. This demonstrates why meditation does so well in relieving stress and increasing relaxation. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of The Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine at the University of Massachusetts, is one of the leading teachers and researchers in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Here you can find a wonderful lecture he gave to Google summarizing a lot of the research demonstrating how effective mindfulness meditation is for reducing stress and improving medical outcomes.

Improving Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

In light of meditation’s ability to reduce stress, it has also been reported to lower your blood pressure and heart rate. This particular study followed 200 participants for 5 years who were at a “high risk” for heart attacks and strokes. They found that those who practiced meditation regularly reduced their risk for heart attacks and strokes by almost 50%.

Reducing Pain

Mindful breathing has also been discovered to reduce pain, according to a recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience. After just four 20 minute mindfulness sessions, participants did better at reducing unpleasant sensations (such as 120 degrees of heat, a temperature that most people find painful) than those who did not receive mindfulness training. Researchers theorize that mindfulness trainees have an easier time keeping their focus directed toward their breathing and thereby ignoring the discomfort caused by the heat. It’s likely that mindfulness can show similar effects on other types of pain as well.

Overcoming Depression

Surprisingly, mindfulness meditation is said to be on par with antidepressants in preventing depression relapse. According to researchers, mindfulness prevents excessive rumination (a common cause of depression) by teaching individuals how to reflect on thoughts and emotional states in a non-judgmental and non-attaching way. Instead of clinging to “negative” thoughts and feelings – and feeding into them – mindfulness teaches us to sit back and watch these emotions and thoughts without needing to overreact or feel guilty about how we feel. This makes it a lot easier to fully experience these passing thoughts and emotions, and then let them go.

Overcoming Fears of Death

Another recent study published earlier this year found that mindfulness can also ease fears and anxieties related to death. Mindful people tend to be more accepting of their limited time while alive. They also tend to be less dependent on fantasy-filled beliefs and desires for self-preservation or immortality. They understand that death is not the opposite of life, but a necessary part of it. Thus, they accept the reality of their demise, instead of being defensive.

Changing Bad Habits

There is a particular technique in mindfulness training that helps individuals overcome addictions and other bad habits. It’s called urge surfing, and it’s a popular tool in some psychotherapies to help individuals quit smoking or stop obsessive eating. The main goal of the meditation is to “ride out” your desire to do certain negative habits, but not act on them. Mindfulness teaches you that many of these desires are impermanent, and if we just sit back and watch them, it is very likely that they will subside and go away (without us necessarily needing to smoke another cigarette, or eat that slice of cake).

.

Changing Brain Structure

In addition to many of the benefits mentioned above, it has also been shown that 8 weeks of mindfulness training can cause long-term changes to our brain structure. While this isn’t necessarily a “benefit” in-and-of-itself, it is evidence for just how powerful mindfulness training can be. For more on this you can also check out my article Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity.

.

.

.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Great Post Marty. When we surrender to change and transformation. Our freedom begins. 👏🌈

  2. That only happens when the “Ego” recedes and focus is acute.

    I agree. Thanks Karen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: