With regular practice (at least once or twice a day), students will see improvements ranging from health and well-being to academic performance. Here are ten reasons to back up this enthusiasm, based on recent research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Deep inside, everyone is an Einstein: students practicing meditation benefit from increases in brain function across the board. Most dramatic increases occur in creative thinking, practical intelligence, and IQ (as measured by the ability to reason in novel situations, called “fluid intelligence”).
Not only do their grades improve, but students who practice meditation report lower levels of stress. They also have better concentration, more alertness, and greater resistance to the physical effects of stress during exams. Meditating students show considerably improved academic performance — in one study, 41% of students allocated to the meditation group benefitted from improvement in both Math and English scores. Thanks to their minds calming down, students doing meditation report a whooping 50% reductions in stress, anxiety, and ADHD symptoms. This in turn triggers a positive chain reaction where an improved ability to focus better on tasks at hand results in increased brain processing and improved language-based skills.
Not only does meditating make the brain sharper, it also helps to make it a more harmonious unit: university students who took up meditation were found to have changes in the fibers in the brain area related to regulating emotions and behavior. Among other benefits, these changes again lead to better cognitive and intellectual performance. Doing meditation leads to significant reductions in depressive symptoms (an average of 48% lower than the non-meditating control group). And that’s apparently true for everyone, including even those who have indications of clinically significant depression. Studies looking at both students and adults find that daily Transcendental Meditation practice greatly reduces both substance abuse problems and antisocial behavior.
These results hold for all kinds of addictive substances — drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, prescription medications, and even food (which, by the way, can be as addictive as cocaine).
Students who do meditation benefit from lower levels of absenteeism, lower levels of behavior incidents at school, and lower levels of suspension.
As one study showed, students formerly at-risk of hypertension witnessed a major change in blood pressure already after a few months of meditating. Last but definitely not least — research finds that students who meditate daily get higher scores on affectivity, self-esteem, and emotional competence. For the last 10 years, I have been involved in researching the impact of meditation on health and well-being. When my colleagues at Stanford and at other universities started researching meditation, most of us expected that meditation would help with stress levels.
Hundreds of studies suggest that meditation doesn’t just decrease stress levels but that it also has tangible health benefits such as improved immunity, lower inflammation and decreased pain. Inspired to share these findings, I recently wrote a post on the science of meditation that summarizes much of this data.
You may use the infographic above on your website, however, the license we grant to you requires that you properly and correctly attribute the work to us with a link back to our website by using the following embed code. Emma Seppala originates from Paris, France and is Associate Director at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University. I started to meditate a few years ago when the stresses and strains of modern life were beginning to get on top of me.
Great article, I started on the headspace programme in September and have to say it certainly works for me. I really commend your research and dedication to the study of meditation and its useful effects. Has anyone ever done a study comparing theistic focused meditation to non-theistic meditation? I teach meditation and have worked with a handful of cancer patients in conjunction with their medical treatment. I’m not 100% sure of the studies but I am not surprised because meditation reduces stress which we know impacts many disease states.
Meditation is essentially non interfering, cleansing, provides self knowledge and inclines us in favour of good.
As we learn to meditate in the purest way we can understand the infinite wonders it holds for us. Meditation benefits are both scientific and subjective, and have a positive affect on the body, mind and spirit.
Goldie Hawn promotes the benefits of meditation, which is a part of the MindUP™ curriculum. It’s easy to see how Goldie Hawn’s vision to bring mindfulness to the classroom has evolved. She answered the obvious question first: Why is Goldie Hawn speaking at a brain conference?
Hawn was no brain expert, but she reasoned that teaching kids about the brain might make them more aware of their own thoughts and emotions. So Hawn asked a team of educators, neurologists, psychologists and social scientists to develop a new curriculum built, in part, around lessons about how the brain works. Not all scientists think explicit knowledge of brain anatomy is necessary for prepping kids for study. Scientists I spoke to about MindUp were enthusiastic about its potential to benefit children, particularly those at risk of being unhappy and failing in school. Meditation is a journey into self-awareness and neuroscience is allowing us to explore the landscape of the mind itself.
Is the benefit of meditation  real, and more fundamentally, how do we define or discover what is real? The ultimate benefit of meditation is self-realization or Unity consciousness, the deep feeling of peace and the physical benefits that attend this feeling are the ‘side effects’ of a regular meditation practice.
As meditation is finding its way in the West and looking for authentic cultural roots, we are bound to re-enact Siddhartha’s own search, re-discover his own disappointments and illuminations. These are the questions that Siddhartha asked as he continued his spiritual quest, continuing to probe deeper, until he was satisfied that he had gotten to the bottom of his inquiry.
To see ‘behind the curtain of illusion,’ we must learn how to be still and examine what is within ourselves, sometimes found in the silence, but always found in awareness. And if you want the message of meditation to spread, please click the LIKE button below share this article on Facebook.
Meditation can boost your happiness, and happiness is the goal of all goals and the purpose of life. Wray Herbert, author of “On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits,” had the same question and the answers he discovered will be surprising to many. So imagine how encouraged I was to come across a recent study that seems designed for impatient souls like me. The scientists recruited a group of volunteers, ranging in age from 18 to 73, all interested but inexperienced at meditation practice. The participants had volunteered in exchange for training by experienced instructors, and half were immediately enrolled in such training. It’s not clear from these results whether these brain changes are lasting, or if they are limited to actual meditation and its immediate aftermath.
While the jury may still be out on the long term benefits of a short term meditation practice, anyone who moves ahead with a regular practice can certainly expect results.
Meditation can boost your happiness because as the studies are showing, it alters the brain in many positive ways. There are three stages of the breath as a vehicle for meditation, witnessing, relaxing the nervous system and stilling the mind. In the wisdom tradition of Yoga, the breath is used as a vehicle for self-awareness and as a subtle focus that carries us inward. Meditation begins as we bring our awareness to the breath, following the rhythmic movements and the natural sensations of the many elements of breathing.
As we settle into awareness there is a shift that begins to take place in our nervous system. Witnessing is the process of bringing your attention fully to each of the sensations in the mind-body. Notice the cool feeling as the air rushes up through your nose on the in breath and how it’s warmed as the air is expelled.
Once you have become comfortable with allow your awareness to move into the body, follow the breath into your chest, feel the movement of all the muscles as each expands and contracts as the breath fills your lungs. Remember this is a natural process, so let it occur naturally, there is no need to ‘conform’ to a ‘style’ of breathing. Later during meditation you can maintain awareness even if you return your attention to the breath.
As your practice evolves it will, naturally and organically, become less about controlling your breath and more about being the witness.
Meditation is a process of letting go, especially in the beginning; there is the release of negative energy in the form of stress, negative emotions, worry or regret. Because the breath can be voluntary it is possible to maintain equilibrium reducing the natural tension between negative thoughts and conscious relaxed breathing.
It is while practicing meditation that breath awareness will interrupt the flow of negative energy, keeping it from taking up residency, which in turn calms the nervous system. It is in the deeper stages of breath awareness and as our nervous system relaxes that leads us in to the meditative state. When the attention is on the breath, the air moving in and out of the nose, then the focus of our concentration is on a physical sensation. As our practice evolves the mental repetition of our mantra will replace breath awareness, allowing it to fade gently into the background. Understanding and practicing the three stages of the breath as a vehicle for meditation, will allow you to move from meditation as a practice to meditation as an experience. I’m aware that every moment offers us the opportunity to be mindful, but this too is a practice.
The traditional time for the first meditation of the day is the hour or two right after you get up and around sunrise is preferred.
Early morning meditation, where you can set your intentions for a peaceful and enjoyable day, will help bring peace of mind to your activities throughout the day. Meditation corrects this discord by training a practitioner to sit completely inside time, not ahead of it or behind it. Now, when I feel myself push against time or pull it toward me, I stop what I am doing and imagine not the small, strict circles of a watch dial, but the enormous, planetary circling of the earth around the sun.
Colleen Morton Busch has eloquently described her relationship with meditation and her obvious love of meditation.
A meditation teacher can help you deepen and refine your meditation practice and they can help answer basic questions that arise. A spiritual teacher can coach you as you move through the transformational process and they can even help accelerate this process by bring awareness to places where you get stuck. There are many pitfalls that you can encounter when looking for a teacher, such as idealizing them, expecting them to be perfect, and becoming disillusioned when they don’t live up to that expectation. Meanwhile, you can begin to practice meditation from what you read and from podcasts or recordings on the web, and seek the advice of any meditators whose qualities you admire. Because it’s so important, and fraught with so many potential pitfalls, the subject of finding a teacher deserves a special subset of guidelines of its own.
If you find that you are the type who is easily confused or bewildered by exploring many paths or studying with many teachers, it may be wise to simplify your spiritual pursuits. If you are by nature a weaver and synthesizer, your temperament may better suit you to seek inspiration from study and practice with a diversity of traditions. If you are a mature practitioner with a clear sense of your path and tradition, there is little to fear and much to gain through encounters with other traditions. Spiritual communities, though potential havens, can also become escapes for the socially challenged. Over the years, in search of a deeper understanding, our work, travels, and research have lead us to encounter many different spiritual paths.
Be especially discerning if you encounter people who seem to display unusual or extraordinary powers.


No matter their style or approach to meditation and spirituality, all good teachers create space for you, allowing you to experience for yourself, the joy and wonder of the transformation which takes place within you. Choosing the teacher that’s right for you should always, in the end, be made by consulting the guru within.
If you found this article useful … please click the LIKE button below to share it on Facebook. Meditation can heal you in less than a day, this what the data shows in research done by Yi-Yung Tang, of Dalian University of Technology in China, and Michael Posner, of the University of Oregon. In what amounts to a revolution in science, recent discovers reveal that the human adult brain remains open to change during our full lifespan. More than 1,000 papers have been published on meditation in the peer-reviewed literature between 2006 and 2009. Because meditation affects the limbic system, developing the discipline allows one to become more volitionally in control of these responses. A team at the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, headed by Sara Lazar, used MRI to scan the brains of long-term meditators to see if the physical structure of their brains really were different.
In 2009, at the Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience at Denmark’s Aarhus University, Peter Vestergaard-Pulsen led a team seeking to explore the effects of long term meditation on brain structure.
Though the study by Yi-Yung Tang and Michael Posner shows that meditation can heal you in less than a day, even Mr. So take a deep breath, sit and quiet your mind, take a break from your daily stress and overwhelm from multitasking and running on autopilot, and balance your brain and let the connections in your brain improve along with the connections others and yourself. To deepen your practice of meditation you will want to practice each of these skills regularly.
Concentration is applying mind to what is felt, seen or thought without an effort to change a thing.
Whatever we choose to use as our focus of concentration, whether it’s the breath or a candle, it becomes the center of our attention. Instead of trying to suppress the thoughts (an almost impossible task) we let go of our instinctual need to react to them.
Our craving and our moments of silent bliss come and go in meditation; non-attachment is the process of watching without trying to understand them.
As the practice develops an experience of one-pointed concentration becomes part of our unconscious mind as well. Concentration and non-attachment work together supporting each other allowing the other to deepen.
As our practice of concentration and non-attachment grows there is a transformation that takes place in our awareness. The Sanskrit translation of the term “mindfulness” is smriti, and it means ‘to bring to mind’ or ‘to bring to remembrance.’ In describing mindfulness Dr.
Non-reactivity is the ability to respond to your experiences rather than react to your thoughts. Sensing your emotion is the process of becoming aware of the emotions that give rise to your thoughts. The three elements of meditation, concentration, non-attachment and mindfulness, help us move along our inward journey of self-realization. Music and meditation and Alzheimer’s disease are coming together in a forth coming book to be penned by, esteemed researcher, Rudolph Tanzi and renowned author and Doctor, Deepak Chopra. Now, I meditate in the library for twenty minutes, and feel even better than I would if I had just gotten eight hours of sleep,” says Matthew Poulton (23) from Clementon, NJ. In many cases, TM has been shown to be two or three times more effective than traditional drug prevention and education programs. Regular meditation practice helps students to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and depression. These changes were associated with a 52% lower risk of developing hypertension later in their life. However, what many of us did not anticipate was the extent of the benefits the data ended up showing.
After it went viral on Twitter & Facebook, I thought I’d create this infographic to help readers visualize the data and inspire would-be or regular meditators to keep up with their practice! The experience has been revelatory and my overall sense of wellbeing and purpose has been transformed in a really positive way.
Both my article and infographic really just summarize data on a number of different types of meditation.
I too have been practicing meditation for a long time, and I found this infographic outstanding for its purpose of bringing awareness to people. Good for you for helping your patients find greater well-being, what a gift to them and to you!
Meditation is integral and foundational to this program, a program which at its core philosophy seeks to transform and help children transform their lives by creating opportunities to develop necessary social and emotional skills. An article by Ingrid Wickelgren, on the Scientific American blog reviewed Hawn’s address at the Second Annual Aspen Brain Forum speaks directly to the programs evolution.
As she talked, it occurred to me that vivaciousness and beauty did not alone propel her to stardom. Decades ago (in 1972 she said), when she became famous, she felt newly anxious and something hard to imagine happened: she lost her signature smile. While watching the rain outside her meditation room sometime in 2002, Hawn’s quest turned outward—in particular, to children. Kim Schonert-Riechl, an applied developmental psychologist at the University of British Columbia and her colleagues tested the effectiveness of MindUp in 75 schools in her area. In today’s world our children face so many challenges that have created unprecedented stress which compromise our children’s chance of academic success and wellbeing.
That is the real treasure that Buddhism has to offer, and it may take us a long time in the West to bring this treasure to full fruition. If your meditation practice, regardless of the technique, gently awakens you to the different levels of your being, one after another, and you have be authentic with yourself in this process, then you will discover the truth, which is the highest form of reality.
When you are happy you are more likely to make choices that will bring you things you desire like success, good health or wonderful relationships.
Psychological scientist Christopher Moyer, and a large group of colleagues at the University of Wisconsin — Stout, designed a brain study to see if there might be at least some benefit after a very brief period of meditation training.
The volunteers completed an emotional inventory before starting the study, and they also closed their eyes and tried to meditate for 18 minutes on their own. The others were wait-listed; they received training later on, but served as controls for the brain study. As reported online in the journal Psychological Science, the trainees ended up averaging fewer than seven sessions, and meditated at home just a couple times a week — so they only got about six hours of training and practice in all over the five weeks. I also anticipate that some purists will object to the whole idea that beginners would want to get something for nothing.
Meditation stimulates the release of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and other brain opiates. Following the breath is the means to a deeper connection and concentration of the mind-body, which leads to a sweet sense of peace and tranquility. This witnessing, which is the first stage of breath awareness is the process of bring awareness to all the physical and mental elements, from awareness of the air movement in and out of our lungs to the slowing of thoughts arising in the mind. There is a close relationship between the breath and our nervous system; if we are frightened or apprehensive our breath is shallow and short, stopping and starting erratically, if however, we breathe slowly and deeply our nervous system relaxes. As you settle in to your awareness, begin to focus on the inhalation, feeling a sense of renewal with each breath in and then renew your focus on the out breath and the release of tension that takes place with it. You will notice a difference in the way and amount different muscle will contract and expand depending on the position you are in, whether sitting erect or lying down, be aware of those differences. If you sit in an upright and erect position you will become aware that there is less expansion of your chest as you breathe and it becomes more of a widening in your rib cage.
Each emotion has its own unique form of breathing, whether crying or laughter, the breath changes. These thoughts are released as we slip into the meditative state, arising from their subconscious moorings. Through awareness and presence (witnessing) when we notice the negative thoughts arising by focusing on and preserving the relaxed breath, we can maintain self-control. It’s breath awareness and the associated relaxed nervous system that allows us to create distance between our witnessing self and the causes of our stress. This is accomplished as we combine breath awareness with a mantra; a process of watching the breath move in and out through the nose while repeating a mantra or sound. When we add the mantra to the breath, we move our focus from the physical sensation to the mental sound.
Breath awareness works much like a meditation ‘safety net,’ catching us when we inevitably lose our concentration. Ultimately, the same process will happen to the mantra, and as it fades the silence that has always been there emerges as we enter the field of unbounded awareness. The second biggest challenge (the first being thoughts) that a new meditator will face is establishing a regular meditation routine.
Creating a regular practice routine allows the new meditator time to develop a relationship with their practice and chance to fall in love with meditation. This is because your mind and body are rested from deep sleep, and your mind hasn’t moved into full gear with the concerns of the day. The ticking of the clock, the wind-blown loops of the mind, the corridors of breath and flickers of birdsong: The moment contains all of it and is all of it. Someone rings the bell when it’s time to sit down for meditation, to get up, work, eat or sleep. Once you’ve stepped into that place, meditation becomes, not discipline, but a sense of expanding awareness, an experience that creates time. If, however, you wish to develop a meditation practice that will help you cultivate a spiritual path then you will need a mentor or a master.
Maybe you’ve encountered challenges, like dealing with strong emotions of anger, fear or sorrow. When we first began our own practice, there were three meditation centers in Seattle and two yoga teachers. The role of any good teacher is ultimately to help you learn to trust your own intuitive wisdom, your own inner guru or inner guidance system, which will ultimately be your most reliable source of true direction. Research and visit different meditation centers and teachers until you find a path that is spiritually satisfying for you, and then through study, practice, and contemplation, go deeply into the heart of that path. Seek to find the common heart and core around which they come together, and appreciate how each contributes to deepening your wisdom and love, and to strengthening your faith. And teachers from other cultures, though masters in their spiritual disciplines, may lack the experience they need within their new culture to give realistic counsel to their students — and sometimes get distracted as they encounter the enticements of the West. Open-minded skepticism will help you to find a healthy balance between over-critical cynicism that may miss the real thing, and gullible naivete that is easily duped into signing up for misleading or dangerous pursuits. Spiritually naive people may easily confuse psychic sensitivity with spiritual maturity, deluding themselves and others.
Their research shows that meditation creates physiological changes in the brain in as little as 11 hours. How and what we think about creates and regulates a flow of energy and information, understanding this we then understand that the mind can change the brain.
He links the seemingly universal need to connect to something greater than ourselves to meditation, and meditation to science.
Although meditation is often associated with Asian cultures, it is not Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Satanic or any faith at all.
There is not one meditation literature, but multiple branches to this literature in several disciplines, from physics to pastoral counselling, concentrating on everything from using meditation to end addiction, to symptom reduction in Fibromyalgia. The practice has a calming effect that leaves us relaxed and physiologically more evenly regulated. Schwartz believes that a person should commit to at least a nighty day program in order to affect lasting changes. There’s nothing mystical or spiritual about concentration, and like breathing we all do it in one form or another. There is, however, a difference between the type concentration we use to solve a problem and the focus we bring to meditation. Thoughts, emotions, sounds or sights in the environment can all disrupt concentration and when that happens, usually we react.


This is the process of non-attachment, allowing whatever thoughts that arise in the mind to pass as clouds pass through the sky, dissipating as they go.
It is these objects of thought that not only disturb our meditation but our daily lives as well. And when we do not give them new energy through continued attention, the power of these distractions is diminished, they leaves us without acquiring new power. As we become aware of the consistent mind chatter and begin to slowly step away from it, our mind begins to settle and we become aware of our natural state of silence and presence. Remain in the present moment instead of fantasizing about the future or worrying about the past, or as Ram Dass put it, “Be here now.” This is ‘seeing’ things as they are, without judgment, being aware of things as they are now. Letting go of judgment allows you to see things as they are instead of seeing thing through the filter of your conditioning. To realize the self is the gift of meditation and the means to understand and experience the center of consciousness within. Perhaps most importantly, it has been linked to increased happiness and greater compassion. I am an osteopath and regularly treat patients whose symptoms are aggravated or even caused by stress and anxiety and I recommend meditation to all them. As more data comes in, we’ll be able to really tease apart how each practice impacts different cognitive and affective processes both in the brain, body and behavior. Then I would try every morning to meditate for at least ten minutes, sometimes 20 if I was up early enough.
Then explore all the options out there and find the shoe that fits: mindfulness, vipassana, Art of Living, loving-kindness, compassion. Also try to get in some breathing exercises throughout the day which also calm the anxious mind..
I had no idea you created this and would love to share it on my website and youtube channel and of give you credit if that’s ok! That awareness would then give them better control over their own mind—directing their attention more appropriately or calming themselves down—in ways that could improve learning.
They know about mirror neurons, Hawn says, and they learn that you become happy when you give to someone else, a lesson in line with the teachings of the Dalai Lama?. So far, the program seems to have had “incredibly positive effects,” says Diamond, who helped parse the data.
After all, meditation exercises of the type used in MindUp can help adults better orient their attention, according to work presented by psychologist Amishi P. Goldie Hawn’s program promotes the benefits of meditation and as she said, “We are going to change education as we know it,” I believe her!
He went on to explain that most religion, including Buddhism, offers an escape from reality, rather than a transforming insight about it.
In fact, without some calmness in meditation it is impossible to see anything clearly or distinguish what is real from what is illusion.
This is something of the reverse of what many people believe, thinking that if they attain success, health or nurturing relationships, and then they will find happiness.
All they were told was to focus on their breathing, and if thoughts intruded, to re-focus their attention on their breathing. But really, for newcomers to a practice so unfamiliar, even evidence of a temporary shift away from negative emotions is something to build on, and keep us coming back. So just in creating higher levels of these neurotransmitters, meditation is one of the more effective ways of changing the brain’s set point for happiness. But, whatever position you choose, let each breath flow into the next, without pause but without forcing or trying to control it, this is because a pause leaves an opening for the mind to become distracted. Stress also has a deep and pervasive effect, restricting the normal flow of our breath, because of this our health can be adversely affected. Once this relationship is established then time always is easily found, but until that time, some discipline is required.
Students are supposed to follow the schedule completely, taking off their watches and listening instead for the timekeeper’s cues. Perhaps you simply need some accountability, someone that will help you stay focused on your path. Now, there are thousands of yoga and meditation teachers and hundreds of meditation centers! Though it is possible you may find some of the following warning signs on an authentic path, they are often associated with less trustworthy situations. Is it for limited self-interest — or service for the good of the whole and benefit to many for generations to come?
Purported channeling and clairvoyance may have little to do with authentic spiritual teachings. In other words, what and how we focus our attention and intention on, how we direct the flow of energy and information can directly affect the brain’s structure and activity. Scientific studies verify that when compassion is practiced that the social circuits of the brain light up, which helps us to transform all our relationships, even the one we have with ourselves. It can be done in the name of any of these faiths, or without faith in a religion — as distinct from a spiritual sense. This, in turn, allows us to be coherently focused, because we are less distracted by our inner dialogue and emotions as well as our physiological responses. His belief is that if a person practices meditation for ninety days, they will have established a regular practice. From this place there is never a time when we are not meditating, only a time when we are unaware of it. The second is an attitude of non-attachment, where our thoughts are left fleeting unable to disturb our awareness or gain energy. The focus of our attention when developing a meditation practice can be a candle or Sri Yantra or mandala; more often it is the breath or a mantra. Meditative concentration is the process of bring together all our scattered energies and letting them settle down, restoring a sense of wholeness. This, especially, includes the judgmental self-talk that is so often our inner companion, and allow the feelings of self-acceptance to wash in and fill the void.
You cannot find the qualities of kindness and compassion outside of yourself, you must look within; and when you can see yourself with awareness as who you truly are, then you can be genuinely compassionate to others. I wanted you to know that my blog readers have liked it a lot and I thank you for the same. If the neuroscience community was going to be delivered an advocate, they could have done a lot worse. Six years ago Hawn established a nonprofit group called The Hawn Foundation “to promote children’s academic success in school and in life through social and emotional learning.” It is based on the notion that kids’ intellects do not exist in isolation from their emotions, their connections to others or the rest of their bodies. Similarly, in “gratitude journals,” children regularly jot down what they are grateful for.
It not only boosted kids’ self-reported feelings of happiness, liking of school, and sense of belonging, but also moderated kids’ cortisol levels, suggesting it lowered stress in the classroom. People in every generation have the same opportunity as the Buddha had to see behind the curtain of illusion to the reality beneath. Expert Buddhist practitioners log some 10,000 hours of training, and even neophytes should expect to log 70 or more hours of training, over months, before seeing any noticeable benefits.
During this trial, they were hooked up to an EEG, which measured their baseline brain activity. But even with this very modest commitment of time, the novices showed a significant shift in brain activity from their right to their left frontal hemispheres over the course of the study.
However, as we develop an awareness of our breath through practice and because we can control our breathing voluntarily, we can make adjustments that will have a positive effect. In both cases, meditation shows me that even if time does not appear to be on my side, it is inside me.
At any moment, wherever you are, if you feel like time is a barking dog nipping at your heels, just pause, close your eyes if it helps and breathe. If you are fortunate enough to be able to spend time with them, your life will be truly enriched. Because some teachers misrepresent themselves, claiming spiritual authorizations, realizations, or backgrounds that are downright lies, it’s always good to check references or question their authenticity. But the emerging evidence on the lasting effects meditation has on our neuro-anatomy, and particularly our brains is, perhaps, the most fascinating research of all. These studies show us that the limbic system is responsible for assigning emotional values to persons, places, everything in our total life experience. The third element is mindfulness, being fully present in this moment by awakening to our natural state of quietness, where awareness becomes aware of itself.
The easiest way to have them move out of our conscious awareness is to remain neutral and this is the practice. The MindUp program, the Foundation’s signature educational initiative, is designed to address these oft-neglected components of learning. I doubt most grownups would be similarly confident that kids could ably control their minds if shown how. One six-year-old girl, Hawn says, explained that it was her aunt’s amygdala that saved her life when the aunt pulled her out of the way of an oncoming car. I think this is also designed to make them feel good (Hawn invoked dopamine, the brain chemical for reward, in her talk), and to build better relationships.
The sixth ancestor of Zen, Hui Neng, specifically taught that to empty the mind of all thoughts during meditation is not a Buddhist practice. I have no name or responsibilities except to maintain an upright posture, breathe and let go.
Following the schedule frees up energy that would normally go into entertaining preferences and exercising choice. From your own side, you should have confidence in your teacher and be able to communicate well with him or her. Since the limbic system, among other things, regulates relaxation and ultimately controls the autonomic nervous system, heart rate, blood pressure and metabolism, it produces both emotional and physiological effects when you react to a specific object, person or place. She saw psychologists and began meditating, embarking on a nine-year psychological journey. My kids are told to do this at Thanksgiving, and every November I have the passing thought that we really should be counting our blessings more often.
Some studies exist on the effects of gratitude as well: expressing your appreciation for a romantic partner, for example, seems to solidify those important bonds.
Where do these thoughts and feelings that rise and fall originate, and where do they go when they subside? In short, the promised benefits of meditation may be much more accessible than previously thought. The schedule becomes a strict but empathic teacher, revealing time’s flowing and easy nature when we harmonize with it. How do you know if you are pursuing an authentic spiritual path, or have met a good teacher? Such an adventure might make lesser folks crazy or depressed in itself, but Hawn became surprisingly analytical about it. She particularly wanted to prevent stress from shutting down executive function, the self-control of thought, action and emotion that is essential for learning.
We encourage you to proceed slowly, mindfully, and to be both open-minded and very discerning.
It may be a matter of years before you meet the person who can answer your questions and be this special spiritual friend and teacher for you. Wonderful things seem to happen out of the blue, but I believe it’s because I am more connected and allowing joy in my life. As for different types of meditation having different benefits, I have done several types (lovingkindness, mindfulness, guided imagery, chakra clearing, breath awareness, etc.) and they all have a positive effect.



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How to be more beautiful
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