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A Neuroscientist Explains What Happens To Your Brain When You Meditate

Source: Collective-Evolution   
“Meditation is becoming very popular lately. Perhaps it’s the anecdotal evidence friends are sharing with each other or the fact that more and more science is coming out to confirm the benefits of meditation that it’s encouraging people to take up the practice. Meditation has shown to decrease stress, increase happiness,quality of life, increase gray matter in the brain, making people more compassionate, lowering blood pressure, increasing memory and more. A great series of benefits from such a peaceful practice.”


“Meditation can be discouraging at times. It’s not easy to calm your mind, stop the thoughts and get into a space that is quiet. Since many of us, especially in western culture, are never taught to explore this practice at a young age it can be even harder to get into a quiet meditative space realizing that we are not our thoughts or mind. If you are discouraged you can get some tips here. If you are looking for some great ways to get into meditation, you can check these out.”
What Happens When You Meditate ? 
“A group of Harvard neuroscientists came together to study the benefits of meditation on the brain and how it affects mindfulness. Sara Lazar enrolled her team of 16 subjects in a 8 week mindfulness program to see if meditation, over a short period of time, could begin to create changes in lifestyle and the brain.”


“The subjects were given a 45 minute guided mindfulness exercise to be used daily and they were encouraged to do various daily activities with as much mindfulness as possible. On average the subjects performed about 27 minutes of mindfulness each day.”


“Britta Hölzel, the lead author on the paper says, “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.””

“One of the biggest things that happens to our brains when we meditate is that it stops processing so much information. Beta waves generally indicate a processing of information. When beta waves are decreased, we see a decrease in information processed. Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging, (MRI) we can see how and where beta waves are decreasing the most. This is indicated by the color changes in the image below.”


Taking things a little deeper, the following areas of the brain were affected by meditation in different ways.”

  • Frontal lobe

“This is the most highly evolved part of the brain, responsible for reasoning, planning, emotions and self-conscious awareness. During meditation, the frontal cortex tends to go offline.”


  • Parietal lobe

“This part of the brain processes sensory information about the surrounding world, orienting you in time and space. During meditation, activity in the parietal lobe slows down.”


  • Thalamus

“The gatekeeper for the senses, this organ focuses your attention by funneling some sensory data deeper into the brain and stopping other signals in their tracks. Meditation reduces the flow of incoming information to a trickle.”


  • Reticular formation

“As the brain’s sentry, this structure receives incoming stimuli and puts the brain on alert, ready to respond. Meditating dials back the arousal signal.”


““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.” Sarah Lazar Ph.D., the study’s senior author.”
Societal Benefits For The Bigger Picture

“When we begin to consider the benefits of meditation we can start to imagine how different our world might look if everyone, or even the majority of people began practicing meditation more regularly. Could an increase in mindfulness, happiness, care, and empathy for others make an impact on our world? How about reduced stress and better memory? As opposed to many of the practices we do in our society today, drinking, smoking, drug use, pharmaceuticals for EVERYTHING, television, which are all seen as generally acceptable, imagine if a portion of the time spent doing things destructive to our body and mind was replaced with meditation instead. What might the outcome look like?”

“Certainly some interesting things to ponder when you realize that many of the issues we see today in our world on a daily basis stem from a lack of mindfulness and a take over of egoic individuality where we lose sight of how our actions might affect others or how we can get caught up in taking things personally. For example, studies have shown that meditation makes people connect better with others and feel more compassionate towards them. Given how many of our daily and worldly challenges stem from seeing others as a problem to our own lives, isn’t it fair to say that suddenly seeing beyond these perceived perceptions and gaining a connection to others could instead create a more peaceful and joyous reality?”
“I feel that many of our worlds problems are not necessarily due to the structures around us presenting limitations but because the consciousness or mindset that acts as the foundation for our world is creating this experience. To change our world from the source, a change in mindset (consciousness or world view) would trigger a different understanding of how we could live and create our world. Instead of simply operating from belief and programming as we do today, we could strip that away and create from a space connected with our hearts and true selves, something I believe would drastically change our world.”

Want to learn more? Check out these articles: 

  1. This is Your Brain On Meditation
  2. Meditation Can Change the Brain

Is Mindful Meditation Safe?


Safe Meditation?
“There has been some growing concern recently about the safety of mindfulness meditation. Some claim that the practice can have severe side effects, such as panic, depression, and confusion. Are these concerns well founded? Maybe.”

“The main study cited by opponents of meditation is a British study of the effects of mindfulness meditation on a group of prison inmates. The inmates participated in a 90-minute weekly meditation class for 10 weeks. The study found that the inmates’ moods had improved and they had experienced a lower stress level, but remained just as aggressive as before the intervention.”

“I fail to see how this study disproves the positive effects of mindfulness meditation. First, prison inmates are not a representative sample of the general population. Many of them have severe psychological disorders. Many mental health professionals would agree that they need more than meditation to overcome their mental illness.”

“Second, a 90-minute weekly class is not representative of an effective meditation practice. Most meditation teachers advocate a daily practice of at least 20 minutes of sitting meditation as a way of life, and not just for a limited period of time. Furthermore, a good meditation practice involves more than just sitting meditation. It includes participating in a meditation group, attending retreats regularly, and practicing mindfulness in all our affairs.”

“If anything, the study seems to confirm some of the positive effects of meditation, such as improved mood, and lower stress levels. So, I don’t see how this study shows that mindfulness meditation is ineffective or dangerous.”

“I should also stress that most meditation teachers, including myself, do not proclaim meditation to be a cure for all mental, emotional, and physical ailments. However, mindfulness meditation can help prevent many disorders, and is a useful tool to complement standard medical and psychological treatments.”

“In all fairness to those concerned about the safety of mindfulness meditation, from my more than 19 years of teaching experience, I have noticed one area for concern when meditating. As we practice, over time our mind will calm down significantly. As a result, memories of our past will begin to surface, and this will include unpleasant memories. If we are not yet strong enough to face them, then these memories can cause us more stress. However, if we want to be truly at peace, then we must confront the painful memories of our past, and deal with them once and for all.”

” In our teachings, we address this potential side effect. We recommend to our students three main components of a safe and effective meditation practice: 1) practice sitting meditation daily, 2) get involved in a meditation group, and 3) practice loving-kindness writing meditation daily.”

“The sitting meditation is essential for developing mindfulness. It helps us steady our mind and calm our emotions. It also helps us develop the inner strength necessary for dealing with painful memories. A meditation group can go a long way toward helping us heal. It is a resource of experience and support, so that we don’t have to deal with our problems alone.”

“The writing meditation is a fairly new approach to practicing loving-kindness meditation. What this practice does is reprogram our subconscious to see all people from a more loving, forgiving, and compassionate point of view. So, when memories of people who have hurt us arise, they won’t trigger such painful emotions. I think these three practices are the reasons why we never see people have adverse reactions to mindfulness meditation.”

“The benefits of mindfulness meditation have been well researched. I think we still need to do more rigorous research on potential side effects, so we can develop methods and techniques for addressing them. Up to now, there doesn’t seem to be any conclusive evidence of harmful side effects of mindfulness meditation, and in my almost two decades of teaching, I have not yet encountered any. What I have seen is people overcome the wounds from their past, improve their relationships, and live more peaceful and fulfilling lives.”


Transcendental Meditation


“Do you recall the last time you felt really anxious? Maybe the time your car hydroplaned on a slick road. Or perhaps when you spent a sleepless night before a final exam or a major sales presentation. These situations typically produce short-term anxiety which disappears after the event. However, for about 6.8 million Americans with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), anxiety is an on-going nightmare that can severely limit their daily activities. Whether you have GAD or just the occasional worry, the anxiety reducing suggestions in this article may be helpful.”

IMG_2951.JPG“People with GAD worry excessively. Typically they fret about a multitude of things, rather than one specific problem. They may be anxious about money, health, family, work or even about facing the day. The anxiety they experience is unwarranted and often unprovoked by an event. Physical symptoms of GAD may include insomnia, easy startle response, fatigue, irritability, muscle tension, headaches, inability to relax, trembling, twitching and feeling out of breath. The diagnosis of GAD applies when generalized anxiety lasts for more than six months.”


IMG_2952.JPG“When people with GAD have mild to moderate symptoms, they can maintain their normal activities. However, they may be known by their co-workers or families as “catastrophizers,” always anticipating the worst possible outcome. When their symptoms become severe, they may become housebound.”



8 Tips To Get Started with Meditation




“Did you know by spending just a little time preparing for your meditation, you can actually have a deeper experience in meditation? For your ease, the tips given below will help you prepare for your meditation. Once done, click on the guided meditation below to begin your meditation.”




Meditation Time!

Before You Meditate…


Everyone who is bipolar, & even if you’re not, read this before your next yoga, or meditation session!

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