There are many types and forms of meditation and many people are now slowly realizing the importance of meditation in their everyday life. As you go about the exercise, you might have noticed that there are certain gaps filled in by your imagination. For centuries, yogis have advocated for the use of yoga and meditation as a form of legitimate healing and now, according to Makiko Kitamura’s recent article (below), it looks like scientists are on the cusp of proving it. John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, is leading a five-year study on how the ancient practices affect genes and brain activity in the chronically stressed. While hundreds of studies have been conducted on the mental health benefits of yoga and meditation, they have tended to rely on blunt tools like participant questionnaires, as well as heart rate and blood pressure monitoring.
The government-funded study may persuade more doctors to try an alternative route for tackling the source of a myriad of modern ailments.
The science is advancing alongside a budding “mindfulness” movement, which includes meditation devotees such as Bill George, board member of Goldman Sachs Group and Exxon Mobil Corp., and comedian Jerry Seinfeld. As a psychiatrist specializing in depression, Denninger said he was attracted to mind-body medicine, pioneered in the late 1960s by Harvard professor Herbert Benson, as a possible way to prevent the onset of depression through stress reduction. It’s an interest that dates back to an exchange program he attended in China the summer before entering Harvard as an undergraduate student.
His current study, to conclude in 2015 with about $3.3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, tracks 210 healthy subjects with high levels of reported chronic stress for six months.
One group with 70 participants perform a form of yoga known as Kundalini, another 70 meditate and the rest listen to stress education audiobooks, all for 20 minutes a day at home. Participants come into the lab for weekly instruction for two months, followed by three sessions where they answer questionnaires, give blood samples used for genomic analysis and undergo neuro-imaging tests.
Unlike earlier studies, this one is the first to focus on participants with high levels of stress.
Harvard isn’t the only place where scientists have started examining the biology behind yoga. In a study published last year, scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles and Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn found that 12 minutes of daily yoga meditation for eight weeks increased telomerase activity by 43 percent, suggesting an improvement in stress-induced aging. In order to get the best results, set aside a regular time of day such as first thing in the morning or last thing at night, preferably in the same place so as to ground the practice in your very being.
If you extend your practice to a month or longer, you will be retraining your thinking patterns from past- and future-focused to present moment-focused (Brahmavamso, 1998). The aim of the present moment awareness meditation is to achieve a calm, clear, alert mind.

Because the mind has a natural tendency to think, keep it occupied with a relatively unexciting task. Sounds.First focus on the most obvious sounds and as your concentration gets sharper, notice more subtle sounds, such as bird calls and distant traffic. Thoughts.Watch your thoughts arise and pass, without getting caught up in them or feeling that you have to act on them. Fresco of Approving of bylaw of Society of Jesus depicting Ignatius of Loyola receiving papal bull Regimini militantis Ecclesiae from Pope Paul 3. This group bound themselves by a vow of poverty and chastity, to "enter upon hospital and missionary work in Jerusalem, or to go without questioning wherever the pope might direct". They called themselves the Company of Jesus, and also Amigos En El Senor or "Friends in the Lord," because they felt "they were placed together by Christ." The name had echoes of the military (as in an infantry "company"), as well as of discipleship (the "companions" of Jesus). Even medical practitioners are now accepting meditation as a way to treat certain health conditions like depression.
But this is more evident among children; as people grow older, they use this technique much less. In fact, most of the meditation exercises that people are familiar about are all inclusive of visualization. His latest work follows a study he and others published earlier this year showing how so-called mind-body techniques can switch on and off some genes linked to stress and immune function.
Only recently have neuro-imaging and genomics technology used in Denninger’s latest studies allowed scientists to measure physiological changes in greater detail. Stress-induced conditions can include everything from hypertension and infertility to depression and even the aging process. While treatment with pharmaceuticals is still essential, he sees yoga and meditation as useful additions to his medical arsenal.
Kundalini is a form of yoga that incorporates meditation, breathing exercises and the singing of mantras in addition to postures. The study published in May in the medical journal PloS One showed that one session of relaxation-response practice was enough to enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress. Blackburn of the University of California, San Francisco, shared the Nobel medicine prize in 2009 with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak for research on the telomerase “immortality enzyme,” which slows the cellular aging process.
When you first meditate, your mind might be like an unruly teenager, undisciplined and always wanting its own way. Just allow them to wash over you, letting go of the sounds that have just passed by and being present to the sounds that arise now.

Ignatius of Loyola, who after being wounded in a battle, experienced a religious conversion and composed the Spiritual Exercises to closely follow Christ. The fresco was created by Johann Christoph Handke in the Church of Our Lady Of the Snow in Olomouc after 1743. So before concentrating on other complicated meditation exercises, you must first be able to master this specific art. Visualization grows stronger only if you keep on practicing; and you must always be prepared and concentrated to let all your imaginations go. Soon enough, the stressful feelings will disappear and you can do visualization exercises with more ease than before. Simply knowing breath-management techniques and having a better understanding of stress can help build resilience. Therefore, as a beginner you give the mind lots to focus on; as you improve your meditation and relaxation skills you give it fewer and simpler objects of focus. Notice any pains, muscle tightness, fluttering in your stomach or anxious feelings, the very things you were trying to avoid.
Out of this can arise a state of profound and blissful peace although it may take a little practice to achieve that mind state (Harrison, 2001).
Watch how these sensations shift and change, letting go of them and becoming present to those that arise. For example, if you are thinking: ‘I’m upset over that insult,” you might label it “hurt” and let it go, ready for the next thought to arise. Give the gatekeeper clear instructions at the outset and he or she will do his or her job without further interference from you. It’s like watching clouds passing in the sky and you are progressing towards a “blue sky mind” where storm clouds pass and the mind is clear, calm and alert. Silently repeat clearly and with full attention the following phrase three times: “Now is the time to be aware of the present moment.

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