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Meditation might be viewed as a form of alternative medicine but, unlike the situation for many members of the alternative medicine family, there is a growing scientific consensus that regular meditation confers benefits on practitioners.
Ricard defines meditation as the cultivation of basic human qualities such as a more stable and secure mind, emotional balance, a sense of caring mindfulness, even love and compassion and developing a more serene way of living. The three best known forms of meditation were developed by Buddhism and are now practiced worldwide in a purely secular context.
Focused-attention meditation calms and centres the mind in the present moment while remaining vigilant to distractions. Mindfulness meditation has been defined as “the art of conscious living” (Jon Kabat-Zinn – Professor of Medicine, University of Massachussets Medical School) and as “a means to focus the mind in order to see clearly what is happening in each moment” (Martine Batchelor – former Buddhist nun). Mindfulness meditation develops awareness of all that is happening without preoccupation with any particular thought. It helps meditators to handle normal daily problems more easily, to develop a sense of well-being and to cultivate less emotionally reactive responses to emotions, thoughts and sensations, preventing their distressful escalation out of control. Main said that Christian meditation will “verify the truth of the Faith in your own experience”. He emphasised that this meditation does not replace other forms of prayer but “it revives their meaning”. Neuroscience shows that the adult brain remains transformable through experience – neuroplasticity. Meditation enhances the capacity of meditators to remain vigilant and this has been demonstrated by measuring the capacity to detect images rapidly presented to the eye.
Subjects were asked to detect two numbers rapidly flashed on a screen amid a succession of letters.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is effective in reducing relapses of major depression (Psychiatry Research Vol. Ricard and co-authors also report that mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety, improve sleep patterns and reduce the effects of pain.
Further information on therapeutic uses of mindfulness is available on Oxford University’s Mindfulness Centre website.
There is evidence also that meditation can diminish biological stresses at the molecular level. Cells in most tissues frequently divide in two, prior to which the chromosomes also divide in order to provide identical copies for each daughter cell. Chromosomes have special DNA segments at their ends called telomeres and when chromosomes divide the telomeres shorten. When telomeres shorten below a critical length the cell stops dividing and enters senescence.
Longevity of cells is regulated by an enzyme called telomerase that prevents the shortening of the telomeres at the ends of chromosomes.

I learned TM many years ago at an American university and practiced it intermittently over the years.
Mindfulness adds flavor to the ordinary experiences of everyday living and builds in space allowing one to consider optimal choices when decisions have to be made. The Parish Meditation Garden was constructed as part of our celebration marking the 20th Anniversary of the founding of St. If you or anyone you know struggles with prayer or is looking for a way to enhance their prayer life, this is a fantastic resource at a very reasonable price (only $6.95!) Click here to purchase or learn more. I have both books, and The Better Part is a wonderful way to understand the Gospels in 5 different ways! What I was requesting,since I cannot afford to purchase the books with my meagre resources, and the books may not even be available here at the Catholic Bookshop at the Holy Family Minor Basilica, Nairobi,if it would be possible, Fr. Discernment of Spirits: Rule 3 “Spiritual Consolation” May 13, 2016How does spiritual consolation help us in discernment? Please help us in our mission to assist readers to integrate their Catholic faith, family and work. We Depend on Your DonationsYour generous prayers and financial donations are essential to the mission of Integrated Catholic Life. Transcendental meditation (TM), a mantra-based practice from the Vedic tradition, used be the most popular form of meditation but has now ceded first place to mindfulness meditation. Recent research confirms that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is an effective treatment for depression, at least as effective as drug-based therapy.
Meditation is a universal contemplative tradition found in all the great religions, but strongest in Eastern religions.
And compassion and loving kindness meditation fosters an altruistic outlook towards others.
It was revived in recent times largely due to the efforts of Benedictine monk John Main (1926-1982), but is not widely practiced.
For example, if I take up learning the piano, the brain region that controls my keyboard fingering will get progressively larger as I gradually master the instrument. Several studies have shown that meditation affects brain structure and function, ‘rewiring’ brain circuits to produce discernible effects. When the second number is flashed 300 milliseconds (ms) after the first, participants often miss it (‘attentional blink’), but if the delay is 600 ms the second number is easily detected.
Our body cells are highly sophisticated biochemical machines and their biochemical activities are controlled by genes, made of DNA, located in cellular structures called chromosomes.
Meditators have higher telomerase activity than control groups, suggesting meditation slows cellular aging.
You need a system of values to guide you, but the ultimate goal of mindfulness meditation is to allow us to make healthy, loving, peaceful and compassionate choices.

In the beginning of The Better Part Father John provided us with a brief but profound guide to Christian meditation.
John, for you to include some quotes from the books, from time to time, in your future articles, to assist those of us who cannot either find or afford the books. Tell your family and friends about this article using both the Share and the Recommend buttons below and via email.
Please help us continue to help you and others live the faith throughout the ordinary and extraordinary moments of daily life. Extensive scientific investigations are afoot to understand how meditation affects the human brain and this work is summarised by Matthieu Ricard and colleagues in Scientific American, November 2014. Christian meditation is similar to TM but uses an ancient Christian prayer word as the mantra. Experiments have shown that mindfulness meditators can perceive numbers flashed at 300 ms intervals more reliably than non-meditators.
But, meditation is a tool whose value depends to some extent on the ends to which it is recruited. The good news is that now you can have that guide in a new book called A Guide to Christian Meditation. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Like ICL on Facebook, follow ICL on Twitter, connect with us on Google+ and subscribe to our feeds via RSS. Some American colleagues took the TM training course at that time primarily because they hoped meditation would enable them to get by with less sleep, allowing them to work longer – hardly the most life-enhancing ambition.
In this book, after a brief historical introduction to Christian meditation (not available in The Better Part), Father John provides an elegant and memorable method for meditation along with very helpful examples of specifically how to put this method into practice.
And, to take an extreme example, Anders Breivik, the 2011 Norwegian mass-murderer, used meditation to numb himself in order to kill.
Barbarito, Bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach, blessed and consecrated the Garden in November of 2007.
This emphasis helps the reader to avoid common and unfortunately popular errors that overemphasize the means instead of the all important end – a deeper relationship with Christ himself.

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