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We hear it all the time: Meditation can improve our creative thinking, our energy, stress levels and even our success. Studies show that meditation is associated with improvement in a variety of psychological areas, including stress, anxiety, addiction, depression, eating disorders and cognitive function, among others. This story appears in Issue 47 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, May 3. Quite literally, sustained meditation leads to something called neuroplasticity, which is defined as the brain's ability to change, structurally and functionally, on the basis of environmental input.
For much of the last century, scientists believed that the brain essentially stopped changing after adulthood. But research by University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has shown that experienced meditators exhibit high levels of gamma wave activity and display an ability -- continuing after the meditation session has attended -- to not get stuck on a particular stimulus. Nine master teachers, nine wisdom traditions, two 9-day residentials, one journey of the human spirit into the direct experience of living awake. Grokker is an online video network featuring thousands of yoga, meditation, fitness, and cooking classes designed to give you the tools you need to lead a healthier life.
A new study shows that mindfulness meditation may help lessen the duration and severity of a migraine—one of the most painful and debilitating types of headaches. Most migraine sufferers share similar symptoms—throbbing headache, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound—but there is no single specific cause. For the study, researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center recruited adult migraine sufferers to see if mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) could help ease their symptoms. Before and after the study, researchers assessed the participants’ state of health as well as their ability to practice mindfulness techniques.
Of the 19 participants, ten received MBSR and nine were offered standard medical treatment.
Seeking out something to laugh about on a daily basis—such as watching your favorite comedian online—may be just what you need to create a more relaxed, zen-like state of mind. Using laughter as a form of therapy—also known as Humor Associated with Mirthful Laughter (HAML)—is increasing in popularity as a holistic and non-pharmacological treatment. As the participants watched the humorous video, the EEG data showed that the brain produced significant levels of gamma waves (30-40Hz). What types of brain waves were created when the participants watched the other types of videos? Our local sangha had our four-hour block meditation yesterday--people coming and going, with a number of us staying and sitting the whole time. Since we had no discussion group to tell you about, I thought for today I’d offer a few more poems you may not know. What I notice in what I’ll call “Buddhist poetry” is the way it takes the authority of the moment for granted. We don’t fly away in these poems, as the nineteenth century poet John Keats put it, on the “wings of Poesy.”  We don’t fly away anywhere.

Poet and writer Fleda Brown reflects on the gatherings of her weekly meditation group, speaking to you as one who has long practiced meditation but still comes to the practice with a learner’s mind. When the word “meditation” is mentioned, many people’s response is “I cannot do it.” Some say it’s against their religion, others say that they cannot do it because their mind races in all directions and they cannot get it quiet. Sleep specialists, doctors, and other professionals will tell you the first thing to focus on for a good night’s sleep is good sleep hygiene. A 2009 study by the Associated Professional Sleep Society found that meditation greatly improved quality of sleep, increased the amount of time participants slept soundly, and lowered risk for depression and anxiety.
I was trained in Transcendental Meditation (TM) in the 1970s, at the age of 10.  After 30 years studying and practicing meditation, I de-veloped my own approach, and began teaching people.
I offer everything from one-hour lunch & learns to comprehensive courses and leadership training.
My clients include Garmin International, The National Court Reporters Association, and The Department of Veterans Affairs. Hedy Kober, a neuroscientist who who studies the effects of mindfulness meditation, which she has practiced for 10 years, at her lab at Yale University. There's also research to suggest that meditation can reduce blood pressure, pain response, stress hormone levels and even cellular health. The cells and neurons in the brain are constantly making new connections and disrupting old ones based on response to stimuli, a quality that researchers call experience-based neuroplasticity. In this meditation, Grokker Meditation Expert Mark Coleman will demonstrate how to open to, feel, and sense emotional states with acceptance and curiosity.
Whether you want to take a quick stretching break at your desk or do a high intensity workout from your living room, Grokker has the tools you need to fit healthy living into your busy life. This is a significant finding as many sufferers have found little to no relief with conventional treatments. Therefore, conventional medicine can only treat the symptoms, never truly getting to the source of the problem. The subjects were also asked to keep a log recording the frequency and duration of their migraines.
The MBSR group attended eight weekly classes to learn meditation techniques; they were also instructed to practice what they learned for 45 minutes a day, five days a week.
Their migraines were shorter in duration and less disabling than those in the control group.
MBSR is a safe intervention that holds promise in decreasing the misery of migraines, but more research is needed with a larger group of participants to fully evaluate its effectiveness. A new study by Loma Linda University Health reveals that joyful laughter produces an abundance of gamma brain waves, similar to those found in a person who meditates often. Gamma waves are abundant in the brains of people who meditate often and have reached a state of contentment and happiness.
The spiritual videos evoked significant levels of alpha brain wave bands, similar to those experienced when a person is resting.  In contrast, participants watching the distressful videos actually experienced flat brain wave bands across the board, similar to those experienced by people who feel detached or feel like they want to be somewhere else.

Plus our 30-minute snack time afterward, which is gradually creeping into the realm of an actual meal, so much food!
Here are two from Ryokan (1758-1831), a Japanese Buddhist hermit who spent much of his time writing poetry and doing calligraphy. It doesn’t seem to be just opening the immediate moment to a companion—it’s “telling me” something. Many doctors and psychologists are beginning to see the benefits of meditation as a complimentary solution for stress release, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and the list continues to grow.
Medical experts suggest that practicing meditation may protect against sleep disturbance by reducing stress and promoting relaxation. In recent years, I’ve turned my attention to corporate wellness, where stress is prevalent, employee engagement is low, and health care costs are skyrocketing. She admitted during a TED Talk that she started meditating to deal with a break up, but found that it helped her handle stress and unpleasant feelings in all areas of her life.
This affects the neural circuits of the brain, which in turn affects how we respond to situations.
The ability to witness the changing nature of pain and to understand how to hold your emotions with spacious attention can bring both relief and self liberation.
For some individuals, migraines are so severe and persistent that the only option is to lie down in a dark, soundless room until the pain finally subsides.
They also saw an increase in mindfulness and experienced a sense of personal control over their migraines.
In fact, almost 11 million people report migraines as the source of their moderate or severe disability. Additionally, the breathing techniques and body relaxation that accompany meditation can be used as self-soothing tools to initiate sleep, or help induce sleep if you wake up in the night. You never know, a few minutes of silence each day might be all you need to finally catch some Zzz’s! It also affects the actual structure of our brains -- thickening some areas and making others less dense. Through this practice you can return to a neutral emotional state no matter what conditions arise, and train yourself to stay present when the mind and body are in need of compassionate awareness.
Whatever it is, be sure to seek out a little humor on a daily basis to increase your calm and happy gamma waves. He loved children, and supposedly sometimes forgot to beg for food because he was playing with the children of the nearby village.

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