Keeping your mind calm and clear is not just a ‘technique’ or ‘trick’ – it’s a way of life. It allows you to materialize your thoughts into this world (as speech / work) with the same ease as you think them. I’ve found Meditation is an incredibly easy, yet highly effective way to do this.
Let me give you an example of myself. There was a time (back in the year 2000) when I used to be stressed, tensed and honestly could barely find time out of the stress and tension to be able to think! I remember I used to stutter a lot. And could never think up one clear thought – let alone put it on paper. Maybe it was just me back then; but I see some kids today and they have exactly the same problems that I did! It would be no surprise if they grew up carrying these burdens with them.
When I came across a meditation and relaxation technique my parents were practicing, it felt like a lifetime of relief was offered to me in mere seconds. This created an interest in learning more about the workings of the mind – its nuances, awkwardness, dilemmas, limitations – all properties of the limited mind.
Today I write about a comparative approach between modern health-tech and traditional relaxation/meditation techniques. And you will see how clearly the modern method reinforces the traditional one.
The traditional approach
[Excerpt from this SRCM.org article] – SRCM is one of the leading institutions following the traditional practice of “Raja Yoga” (i.e. the King’s method of Yoga). It’s now also known as “Heartfullness”.
Meditation can help us develop a constant balanced state, a deep sense of connection with our inner selves and a lasting direction and meaning to our lives. More and more people across the globe are turning to meditation, realising that in order to reach our full potential as complete, balanced human beings, our inner spiritual longings must be addressed along with the material demands of daily life.
The practice of Heartfulness Meditation is both simple and effective. There are various tools and levels in the practice of Heartfulness Meditation [like meditation, cleaning, etc]. As we get trained in each of the elements of the practice and integrate it into our daily life, a balance is created. We change, we grow and regulate our lives better.
Heartfulness is a simple, modern, methodical approach to meditation. Rather than homing in on your breath or repeating a mantra, all you have to do to practice it is focus inward, on your heart, to cultivate inner strength and serenity.
This form of meditation “gives many people the opportunity to master their lives [simply] by listening to their hearts,” shares Kamlesh D. Patel, global guide of Heartfulness Meditation.
Need to find balance? Focus on the heart. Looking for guidance? Focus on the heart. Seeking relaxation? Just focus on the heart!
The modern approach
The Brown University study co-senior author, Catherine Kerr, is an assistant professor of family medicine in the Alpert Medical School. Her team has found that people can learn how to manipulate their alpha rhythms in the somatosensory cortex as they switch their attentional focus though mindfulness training.
The results of their latest research expand our understanding of how mindfulness might possibly operate using the mechanism of redirecting attention via control of alpha rhythms in the brain, which can help people ignore depressive thoughts. In a press release Kerr said,
This is part of a really cool effort at Brown to see if you can take pretty high-level cognitive questions, find the relevant areas in the brain, and then figure out how to put that in a context with the underlying neurophysiology, at the level of computational models and animal models. We’re linking different ways of looking at the brain that don’t usually come into dialogue with one another.
In another recent study from Lund University in Sweden, researchers led by Jan Sundquist found that mindfulness treatment can be as effective as individual cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in patients with depression and anxiety.
Rebecca Erwin Wells, M.D.,and Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D. at Wake Forest Baptist Health are investigating the power of meditation as a therapy to reduce pain and everyday anxiety in healthy individuals with no previous meditation experience.
When Rebecca Erwin Wells was a varsity rower at the University of North Carolina, her coach had all the members of the team take a yoga and meditation class. The experience had a huge impact. In a press release Wells recalled the experience saying:
My teammates and I noticed that yoga and meditation improved our flexibility and focus, but also made us feel better, not just when we were rowing but in our everyday lives. I wondered if yoga and meditation really have scientific benefits, especially if they have specific effects on the brain, and if so, how that works.
“We’re coming to recognize that meditation changes people’s brains,” said Wells, an assistant professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “And we’re just beginning to gain understanding of what those changes mean and how they might benefit the meditator.”
In the first study, her team found that just eight weeks of meditation significantly improved functional connectivity in the brain’s network that is active during introspective thought such as retrieving memories. They also observed trends of less atrophy in the hippocampus.
Fadel Zeiden is exploring the brain mechanisms that influence meditation’s ability to reduce the experience of anxiety – i.e. stress/tension. The brain imaging performed during this experiment showed decreased neural activity in the area of the brain involved in feeling the location and intensity of pain and increased activity in brain regions associated with attention and the ability to regulate emotions.
In this research, the subjects reported decreases in everyday anxiety by as much as 39 percent after practicing meditation. The scans of their brains while meditating showed increased activity in areas associated with regulating thinking and emotions. In a press release Zeiden said,
In these studies we’ve been able to get a better sense of the brain regions associated with reducing anxiety during meditation. Basically, we had people meditate while their brains are being scanned. We’ve been able to objectively verify what people like Buddhist monks have been reporting about meditation for thousands of years.
“Our research shows that meditation produces robust effects in behavior and in the brain and may provide an effective way for people to substantially reduce their pain,” Zeidan concluded. Adding, “What we have to do now is continue to find out exactly how it works and what it involves.”
The last comment from Zeidan actually made me laugh. Such naivete is unique to the modern approach of pretty much anything, I guess 🙂
So now you have it – two different approaches; one from 5000BC from India and the other from modern studies of health and fitness. Both reinforcing the same thing.
Looks like what India learned in 5000BC is just being re-learned in today’s health world. Raja Yoga, Yoga, Pranayama, and other such things that are rare today – were simply normal in that day and age. Old is truly Gold! It’s so sad that this information is lost to most of us today.
But don’t worry. Wellness Tree is all about going right to the roots of the best of wellness and good health; and we’ll continue to dig out & bring in more facts and research.
Brain before/after pic from: lovethispic.com/image/176518/the-brain-before-and-after-meditation
Other images from Google images tagged for re-use.