More on Meditation…………..

We all know that regular, moderate exercise is good for us. Excessive exercise is not. And the same is true for mental exercise. Moderate use of our minds is good, excessive use, not so much. Yet most of us spend far too much time thinking and over-exercising our minds. We never allow our minds to rest. It can be quite exhausting. This is where the regular practice of meditation can be helpful.

The practice of meditation can feel like a nap for the mind, allowing the mind to rest, recover, refresh. Meditating does not necessarily mean sitting in a perfect state of peace while having no thoughts. The biggest objection I hear from people I recommend meditation to is, “I’ve tried and I can’t stop my thoughts”. That’s a big misconception. The idea is to create a different relationship with thinking, at least for a little while, not to stop thinking.

Instead of your attention being drawn away by whatever thoughts happen to arise, in meditation you watch your thoughts from a different, more stabilized or detached perspective. And when your mind invariably does wander off, you can gently bring your attention back to your breath or mantra or bodily sensations, depending on what type of meditation you practice.

Meditation has drawn the attention of science. When studying the brainwaves of meditating monks, Dr. Richard Davidson, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, found that brain circuitry is different in long-time meditators than it is in non-meditators. In the brains of meditators, there is especially high activity in the amygdala and right prefrontal cortex. These 2 parts of the brain are associated with happiness and optimism.

One of the most amazing findings about this study is that for a long time scientists thought that     each person is wired with certain ‘set’ points for happiness, compassion, and joy. That we all have a predetermined capacity for positive feelings and there’s nothing we can do to change that preset level. Dr. Davidson’s study shows that our brain can be rewired and alter its set points through regular meditation, so that we can experience greater amounts of happiness, joy, and compassion.

Other research clearly shows meditation can also improve, and in some cases completely reverse, the symptoms of stress-related illnesses including depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic pain, asthma, insomnia, and headaches.

Focused-attention meditation is like weight lifting for your attention span. It helps increase the strength and endurance of your attention. One study concluded that mediation may even reverse patterns in the brain that contribute to mind-wandering, worry, and poor attention. Even meditating for a short period may be of benefit. One study found that 4 days of meditation practice was enough to increase attention span.

Our perception of pain is influenced by our state of mind. If we feel stressed or anxious, we feel increased levels of pain. One study that used functional MRI techniques found that meditators reported less sensitivity to pain and in general reported less chronic or intermittent pain. An additional study of patients with terminal diseases found that meditation helped mitigate chronic pain at the end of life. In each of these scenarios, meditators and non-meditators experienced the same causes of pain, but meditators showed a greater ability to cope with pain and even experienced a reduced sensation of pain.
Meditation is something everyone can do to improve their mental, physical, and emotional health. You can do it anywhere, without any special equipment or memberships. Trying out a style of meditation that suits you is a great way to enhance your quality of life, even if you have only a few minutes to do it each day.
To your continued good health!

David Mortell, Licensed Acupuncturist
412 888 9390






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