redefining spirituality and opening to non-limitation

Archive for the ‘health’ Category

research on benefits of meditation

Participants in an 8 week mindfulness meditation class experienced structural brain changes including increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.
This is the first research to document meditation-produced changes in the brain.

Previous research has identified differences in brain activity and structure between practiced meditators and non-meditators.

Researchers noted that long-term meditation alters brain-wave patterns, with greater activity in brain circuits involved in attention. They also found that brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing were thicker in meditators than in controls. The question was whether people with a thicker brain cortex in areas associated with awareness and sensory processing were more likely to meditate.
The current study is the first to document that these structural changes are in fact produced by meditation.

“This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing,” said study author Sara Lazar, PhD, of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program
During the study MR images of participants’ brain structure were taken two weeks prior to and immediately following an eight week mindfulness based stress reduction programme. MR brain images were also taken of a control group over a similar time interval.

The meditation course consisted of weekly meetings including guided meditation and audio meditations to do at home on a daily basis. Analysis of MR images found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress.

“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.” says Britta H√∂lzel, PhD, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany.
The research will be published in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging

Further health benefits of meditation

Several studies designed specifically to understand the beneficial effects of meditation have shown that meditation helps to prevent heart disease, reduce pain, reduce blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, decrease anxiety and help manage asthma2.

Meditation has been shown to increase alpha waves (relaxed brain waves) and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol. It appears that some of the positive physical changes associated with meditation have their roots in stress management.

Conditions benefitted by meditation

  • Pain: There is a body of research work indicating that meditation can reduce chronic pain3. One notable study conducted at the Texas Tech University found that meditation in conjunction with traditional medicine enhances the effectiveness of western medical treatment. In another study published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine, patients suffering from backache, chronic migraine and tension headaches were able to significantly reduce pain medication4. Another study found that people who meditate regularly find pain less unpleasant.5
  • HIV: There is emerging evidence from other studies that shows that meditation and behavioral stress-management programs can buffer HIV declines in HIV-positive people6
  • High Cholesterol: In two prospective, random assignment studies, meditation reduced total cholesterol over a relatively short period (three months)7 as well as a long period (11 months)8.
  • Anxiety and Depression: Since the early sixties, scientists have speculated that meditation improves mental functioning. Meditation decreases oxygen consumption, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, and increases the intensity of alpha, theta, and delta brain waves, the opposite of the physiological changes that occur during the stress response.
  • Diabetes: Meditation also aids in controlling blood sugar levels. Researchers at the University of Virginia have shown that following meditation, reduced stress levels correlate with a decrease in blood glucose levels.9
  • Hypertension: Besides its role as a stress buster, meditation also reduces blood pressure10 and contributes to the overall reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease.

Meditation is more that just a way for us to get in touch with ourselves and calm a busy mind. It appears that meditation has a direct effect on the physical body, brain activity and underlying brain structure. So what are you waiting for?

basic yogic breath

(photo courtesy steve evans)

most of us use only about 30% of our lung capacity, which means our body is not getting the oxygen it fully needs, one of the basic results being that our bodies are not alkaline enough to ward off disease (the more oxygen, the more alkaline the blood).

Also, most of us breathe too quickly, not allowing our body the time needed to properly process the oxygen and clean the blood and body of impurities.

there is a simple yogic breathing practice you can try which helps.

get into a relaxed state.

find your pulse.

breathe into your belly and then up into your entire chest as you count your pulse beats.

as you reach the limit of your inbreath, you should have counted between five and seven pulse beats (perhaps more).

hold this breath in for half the number of your inbreath pulse beats.

exhale fully and slowly while counting your pulse beats, pushing out the last breath with your stomach contracting. The number of pulse beats should match your inbreath, though it’s not important if they don’t.

hold the exhale out for half the number of pulse beats.

repeat the cycle for several minutes.

strive to perform this breathing throughout the day, while watching tv, or driving, or walking about; when you get up in the morning and before you go to bed.

you’ll feel the difference immediately, and you’ll know what the yogis know: that fear and anger and judgment and criticism and all other negative human emotions cannot exist in the same space and time when you are performing this breath.


The Absentee Landlord

(photo courtesy s-t-r-a-n-g-e)

Everything in the universe is conscious at varying levels. Everything is a manifestation of Divine Mind. As Yeshua says, even the chair we’re sitting on has consciousness running through it.

In metaphysics it is believed that the evolution of consciousness in the world of matter begins with the mineral kingdom, which as contradictory as it may seem, is consciousness learning to move for the first time. Though we can’t see it, in fact all minerals are ever-growing and changing. Like the child that must first learn to crawl before it can walk, consciousness must learn the rudiments of movement through the seemingly immobile stone.

It is then believed that the next evolution is that of first emotion, and occurs within the plant kingdom.

The next is consciousness experiencing the first sparks of intelligence within the insect kingdom, though the seemingly pre-programmed intelligence of a species as one mind.

Then the wild animal kingdom and the experience and expression of group consciousness within a ‘family,’ or heard, or pack.

Then onto the domestic animal kingdom where individual consciousness begins to grow; your pet as your companion.

Then the mammalian kingdom of the whales and dolphins — and the human kingdom — as the expression of higher intelligence and compassion and ultimately, the spiritual.

There is an ancient metaphysical statement of profound truth: “As above, so below. As within, so without.” It means that there is no such thing as size or distance (see quantum physics and “non-locality”). It means that the earth is made up of the same stuff as the universe; the universe is made up of the same stuff as the earth.

That our bodies are not separate from the kingdoms of the earth, but that our bodies are made up of these very same kingdoms. That our organs directly relate to the stars and planets of our solar system. That our solar system directly relates to the galaxy and the universe as a whole, and that they all are duplicated within the smallest sub-atomic particle.

To understand the human body, study the universe.

To understand the universe, study the human body.

The point in question? That our human body is not just alive but also conscious. That the entirety of the universe is within it. That our organs, tissues, fluids, etc. possess all of the various levels of evolutionary consciousness. That quite simply, the heart ‘knows’ it is a heart, the liver a liver, the tooth a tooth, the cell a cell. And they ‘know’ their purpose and they perform their tasks magnificently.

I think of our bodies as made up of “magnificent children.” They are ‘savants’ at their jobs, but don’t completely understand the ‘world’ around them or the energies that effect them. They don’t ‘understand’ stress or anger or hate or fear. They only ‘know’ to do their best to process these attacking energies within their individual abilities. But they can only do so much, and once overwhelmed, they begin to collapse and dis-ease takes over. Even death.

For the most part we have been “absentee landlords” in the dwelling called our bodies.

So, how about a different approach to the body? How about considering it as an equal partner in our health, which wants nothing more than to do its job successfully, resulting in a full, happy life, and assuring its own conscious evolution.

Consider beginning a personal relationship with the conscious universe within us. As silly as it may sound, consider introducing ourselves to our bodies (you’ll be surprised by the response you get). Consider talking to each and every body element and asking them questions about the state of our health — and guess what? You’ll get answers.

And here’s a really silly idea which is surprisingly powerful. Consider giving names to various body parts; ask them what they’d like to be called (again, prepare to be surprised). We don’t have to name every tooth or cell, but just a few organs here and there to integrate our consciousness into our body. To become, in effect, a team with a shared goal.

How about this: Tell each and every organ and system that you love them. And feel your body light-up with gratitude.

Like everything else in the universe — including the rocks and ants and tulips — the body wants to be loved and appreciated. It wants to evolve, just as we do.

It needs us.

And we need it.