Harvard Study Unveils What Meditation Literally Does To The Brain

Numerous scientific studies have indicated the many physiological benefits of meditation, and the latest one comes from Harvard University.

An eight week study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) determined that meditation literally rebuilds the brains grey matter in just eight weeks. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces changes over time in the brain’s grey matter. (1)

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day. 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.” — (1) Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School Instructor in Psychology

The ancient science and art of meditation has been taught throughout the Eastern world for thousands of years. In the last century, the West has been learning meditation, and trying to understand it from a scientific viewpoint.

Meditation is something that deserves to not only be understood from an ancient, esoteric and experiential approach; but from a scientific viewpoint as well. When the practice of meditation is firmly in place, one gets to enjoy the immense benefits of meditation. When a practitioner learns about the brain, it’s functions, and which parts are in control of what; they can better navigate the landscape of their brain during meditation.

Becoming aware of how the brain operates gives the meditator the opportunity to consciously choose how they respond to emotions brought about during meditation. The physiological responses to emotions can be guided by the flow of breath during inhalation, and exhalation. Letting the body relax enough to feel what is happening when the breath is entering and exiting the body, the breath slows to a fine mist the deeper and more relaxed the meditator goes, all while being awake, and keeping a clear, calm, and focused mind.

The breath becomes a fine, energetic mist; and this is where the real magic happens. Two of the best words I have found that describe meditation correctly are animation, and intimacy. We become intimately aware of how our breath is what animates us and gives us life. Without the breath, we don’t exist.

By improving our breath, and mind-body connection; we are improving the quality of our lives on all levels. We are able to exhale the tension, stress, worry and negativity of our lives out of our bodies; while breathing in more oxygen, and leading prana (life energy) consciously throughout our entire bodies. Mindfully changing the way our brain cells operate for the better.

“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. Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.” — (1) Britta Holzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany

How To Meditate (From Original Article)

A common misconception about meditation is that you have to sit a certain way or do something in particular to achieve the various benefits that it can provide. All you have to do is place yourself in a position that is most comfortable to you. It could be sitting cross legged, lying down in a bed, sitting on a couch etc, it’s your choice.

Another common misconception about meditation is that you have to “try” to empty your mind. One important factor I enjoyed reading from the study mentioned above is that participants were engaged in “non-judgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind.” When meditating, you shouldn’t try to “empty” your mind. Instead, try to let your thoughts, feelings and whatever emotions you are feeling at the time flow. Don’t judge them, just let them come and go and be at peace with it.

I also believe that meditation is a state of being/mind more than anything else. I feel that one does not have to sit down for half an hour and “meditate” so to speak in order to reap the benefits of it, or to be engaged in the practice itself. One can be engaged in meditation while they are on a walk, for example, or the time they have right before they sleep. Throughout the day, one can resist judging their thoughts, letting them flow until they are no more, or just be in a constant state of peace and self awareness. Contrary to popular belief, there is more than one way to meditate.

“You will have to understand one of the most fundamental things about meditation: that no technique leads to meditation. The old so-called techniques and the new scientific biofeedback techniques are the same as far as meditation is concerned. Meditation is not a byproduct of any technique. Meditation happens beyond mind. No technique can go beyond mind.” — Osho

For more articles from Collective Evolution on meditation you can click HERE.

Sources:

(1) http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/

http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Grey_matter.html

via — Collective Evolution and Sadhaka

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