If you look at most ‘masters’ in the field of meditation, a common theme that currently exists is a big misconception about meditation, that it has to be done a certain way, that you have to sit a specific way or do something in particular in order to reap the benefits. These masters will be the first to tell you that it doesn’t have to be one specific way.
That being said, many spiritual groups, like certain monks for example, are taught different types of meditation in several different ways, so really, there’s no correct way to meditate, and the process of connecting with one’s higher self and quieting the mind can be done in multiple ways and practiced at various levels.
When meditating, one shouldn’t try to “empty” their mind, but instead, try to let ones thoughts, feelings, and whatever emotions end up ‘popping’ in there, pop in there. There should be no resistance to thoughts, no judgement of them. Simply let them be, don’t attach to them and just be at peace with it. You’re not doing anything wrong, just focus on your breath.
Personally, I believe that meditation is a state of being more than anything else. Throughout the day, one can resist judging their thoughts, letting them flow until they are no more, or just be in a constant state of peace and self-awareness. Contrary to popular belief, you can meditate anywhere, it can be done before bed, in the shower, while you are going for a walk, or even while washing the dishes.
That being said, I do also believe, speaking from my experience, that sitting down and doing the proper breath work and being present is a slightly different method and can sometimes create a more powerful experience, but there seems to be different variations of the exact same thing.
What’s interesting about meditation is the fact that it’s been practiced for thousands of years, and several ancient cultures were well aware of not only the non-physical benefits but its physical benefits as well, something modern day science is just starting to discover.
One of the most recent studies has found that different types of meditation can actually effect different areas of the brain.
As Alice G. Walton, a writer for Forbes points out,
“Meditation and mindfulness training have accumulated some impressive evidence, suggesting that the practices can change not only the structure and function of the brain, but also our behaviour and moment-to-moment experience.”
She is correct, probably even more so than she knows. The evidence showing just how strong the mind-body connection is can actually be overwhelming. In fact, studies in the field of parapsychology have just as much, if not more, statistical significance via peer-reviewed research than the science which has been published to approve several different drugs, like antiplatelets, or the science that shows a daily dose of aspirin can help prevent a heart attack. It was published in 1999, by a statistics professor at UC Irvine.
This new study, which was recently published by the Max Planck Institute found that three different types of meditation are associated to changes in corresponding brain regions.
Watson goes on to explain,
“Participants, who were between 20 and 55 years of age, engaged in three different types of training for three months each, totalling a nine-month study period. The first training was dubbed the “Presence” module, and was very similar to focused awareness meditation, an ancient practice that’s been studied a lot in recent years. In this study, participants learned to focus their attention, brining it back when it wandered, and to attend to the breath and to their internal body sensations.”
The second phase of training was called “Affect,” and its purpose was to increase compassion and empathy for others. The participants learned about a specific meditation dealing with “loving-kindness,” and again, the sole intention here was to enhance one’s compassion and empathy.
The last one was called the “Perspective” module, where the focus was simply to observe one’s own thoughts without judgement, while enhancing their understanding towards the perspectives of other people.
The researchers hypothesized that these methods would lead to volume increases in corresponding parts of the brain. Numerous studies have proven the many physiological benefits of meditation, and the latest one comes from Harvard University of a study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) who determined that meditation literally rebuilds the brain’s grey matter in just eight weeks. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces changes in grey matter over time.
This recent study found the same thing, and they discovered that when they scanned the participants’ brains at the end of each module and then compared the groups against one another:
“Training in Presence was linked to enhanced thickness in the anterior prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which are known to be strongly involved in attention. Affect training was linked to increased thickness in regions known to be involved in socially driven emotions like empathy: and Perspective training associated with changes in areas involved in understanding the mental states of others, and, interestingly, inhibiting the perspective of oneself.”
These results further elaborate on a wealth of previous studies showing what meditation can do to the brain.
Walton goes on to emphasize,
“Lots of research has found that experienced meditators have significantly altered brain structure and function, but a growing number of studies has also found that relatively brief meditation training in novices (for instance, the well-known eight-week MBSR program) can also shift brain function, improve well-being, and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.”
The authors of the study mention:
“With growing globalization, interconnectedness, and complexity of our societies, ‘soft skills’ have become increasingly important…Social competences, such as empathy, compassion, and taking the perspective of another person, allow for a better understanding of others’ feelings and different beliefs and are crucial for successful cooperation.”
Why This Is Relevant & Important
Imagine if this type of practice became a requirement of multiple school boards, what do you think would happen? For most of us, since the day we are born we’re all encouraged to follow the same path, and one of those paths is spending a large portion of our lives, for many years, for the entire day, at school. Then, as we age into adults, we do the same thing with ‘work.’ This type of human experience is far from natural, which is why I believe it to be one of the reasons (out of many) that stress, diseases, and mental health issues, among other rates, continue to rise exponentially.
While going through this process, we’re never really taught how to question the experience, we simply comply and are never really taught any sort of emotional education, at all. We don’t learn to deal with our emotions, we don’t learn about empathy, compassion, and stepping into another person’s shoes… We’re not really taught what we are naturally gifted with from birth. It’s our empathy and compassion, our concern for others that makes human beings so special, but growing up, we don’t really talk about these things.
The world is changing in many different ways, and awareness about this kind of practice is spreading around like it never has before. Multiple schools are incorporating mindfulness education into their programs, and many parents from my generation are also incorporating these important concepts into their child’s development.
This is great to see, and as time unfolds, the more we tap into non-physical science and its tremendous benefits, the more we will speed up the changes that are so desperately needed on our planet right now.
This article (Meditation Changes The “Structure & Function of the Brain” In A Positive Way) was originally created for Collective Evolution and is published here under Creative Commons.
How To Connect With The Deeper Part Of Yourself On A Daily Basis
In our busy lives, we might find it tough at times to connect to deeper parts of ourselves on a daily basis. Yet, it’s so important that we not only take the time to meditate, but also to check in with ourselves to see more clearly how we’re feeling, what we want to do at various points in our lives, and ultimately to get guidance, on a more conscious level, from our higher selves.
First off, what is our higher self? In my definition, our higher self is our soul. It’s the aspect of us that is observing this entire experience we call life. It’s the aspect of ourselves that is here to experience human life through this vehicle we call a body and through the game we call life. Through a number of experiences — ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ as we like to label them — we gain a deeper understanding at our soul level of all we can create. Simply put, when you have a gut feeling, when you get a strong love or passion for something, when you have foresight, it’s your higher self-connecting with your conscious mind.
Becoming More Aware of Thoughts
I thought it would be helpful to offer one potential method of becoming aware of the connection we have with our higher self. We can use this method to receive guidance on decisions we might be looking to make or feelings we might have about certain experiences, or simply to help become more aligned with our soul’s purpose at any given moment. I often check in with myself in this way a couple of times a month, but the more you practice being present, the more your higher self is already in your awareness.
First we have to remember to be aware of the labels and definitions we put on things and ourselves, as this is the first step toward becoming more aware of the mind and ego. Why do I bring this up? Mainly because these states of consciousness, mind and ego, are what we are most often engaged in when we are “out of touch” throughout the day. By becoming aware of this, we create a reference point of what the mind feels like compared to what no-mind feels like. This helps us to get clearer on connecting with our higher self-versus just hearing mind thoughts.
As you are more present and pay attention to the way the monkey mind thinks and creates thoughts, you will begin to not only discern the patterns in which it operates, but also the feeling or frequency that you/it emits when those thoughts run rampant. The more you pay attention, the clearer it gets.
How to Connect to Your Higher Self
Allow yourself time to learn this. You may have to practice this method several times to connect regularly. The steps are simple and I will explain each in detail below.
- Sit and breathe to become more relaxed.
- Place your hand or fingers over your heart chakra.
- Ask your question and feel through the physical connection of your hand over your heart.
Start by relaxing and taking some deep breaths in and out to begin clearing your mind as best as possible. Focusing on breathing works very well when trying to slow the mind down. Don’t worry or fret if thoughts come in; just allow them to pass by not following or attaching to them.
Alternatively, you can stare at a candle flame if you prefer a visual meditation. In this method, does the same thing, letting any thoughts that might come into the mind just float away as you continue to breathe. After about maybe two to five minutes of breathing and quieting the mind, you should begin to feel a little more relaxed and in the moment. This is an important space to be in for the exercise.
Next, put your first two fingers or hand on your sternum area (heart chakra) and turn your attention to feeling. By bringing our hands into play and placing them in a particular area on our bodies, we tend to have an easier time focusing through the physical connection on the area where our hand is. Since our higher self is often felt through our hearts, I have found that focusing on the heart chakra helps in discerning our intuition from our minds more clearly.
Next, you can begin asking some questions and feeling for your answers. Try not to get too concerned with what it should feel like or whether you should hear anything or see anything. The most important thing here is that we are learning and developing our innate intuition skills and figuring out what works best for us. This is a process, and it may take a couple weeks of practice before you truly start to get into it. Having patience and sticking with it is the key here.
After you have asked a question, it’s typically the very first answer that comes to your awareness that is your higher self. Whatever comes after is often the mind work that starts when the ego begins to doubt what came in. “That can’t be it,” it often says.
You can go on asking more questions after this if you like, but this is the method. It’s a simple technique that, when practiced regularly, is quite powerful. In fact, I’ve found most powerful practices are quite simple.
It is best to do this exercise with no expectation for results. Having expectations can often cloud the experience and get us waiting or looking for something too intensely. As a result, we may miss what arises in place of what we were looking for. Remember, it takes time to discern between mind and higher self. I keep repeating this because we often will get discouraged and stop because it ‘didn’t work’ the first couple of times. You can do this! Just remember not to overcomplicate the process with doubt.
As you practice more and more, the connection builds, much like a muscle does, and a simple breath in and out usually connects you very quickly. Have fun with it and don’t get too frustrated. Be at peace and have patience. You can also use this method to simply enjoy some quiet time or even step into a creative space — no question and answer necessary. Feel free to share your thoughts and results below!
This article (How To Connect With The Deeper Part Of Yourself On A Daily Basis) was originally created for Collective Evolution and is published here under Creative Commons.
It Works: New Study Outlines What Meditation, Yoga, & Prayer Can Do To The Human Body
The medicinal benefits of meditation and yoga are now firmly established in scientific literature. One of the latest studies to emerge on the matter comes from Harvard researchers working at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). They determined that meditation literally rebuilds the brain’s grey matter in just eight weeks. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces changes over time in the brain’s grey matter. (1)
Another promising study has recently come out of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). These researchers conducted the very first study where the use of the “relaxation response” was examined in patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and the first to investigate the genomic effects of the relaxation response in individuals with any disorder. The report was published in the journal PLOS-ONE. (source)
When it comes to ‘prayer’ or ‘distant healing’ — directing human attention on physical systems — significant results have been obtained that warrant further investigation. For a selected list of downloadable peer-reviewed journal articles reporting studies of psychic phenomena, mostly published in the 21st century, you can click HERE.
Scientists over at the HeartMath Institute have demonstrated that when a person is feeling really good, and is full of positive emotions like love, gratitude, and appreciation, their heart beats out a different message that’s encoded in its electromagnetic field, which in turn has positive health effects on their body overall. You can read more about that here.
Factors associated with human consciousness (thoughts, feelings, emotions, perception, intention) have long been studied to see how they affect and interact with our physical world. You can read more about that here.
The Power Of Meditation, Yoga, & Prayer on Human Health
Meditation, yoga, and prayer are all grouped into a category (in medical terms) called ‘relaxation-response techniques.’ These techniques have been subject to several studies which clearly show that regular practice directly affects physiologic factors such as heart rate, blood pressure, stress, anxiety, oxygen consumption, and more. It was first described over 40 years ago by Herbert Benson, Director Emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute and co-author of the paper presented in this article.
The new study, out of the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, from the Institute for Technology Assessment and the Benson-Henry Institute (BHI) for Mind Body Medicine, found that people participating in the ‘relaxation-response program’ actually used fewer health care services in the year after their participation, compared to how many they used the previous year.
The Harvard gazette reports that relaxation response techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and prayer, could reduce the need for health care services by 43 percent.
“Our study’s primary finding is that programs that train patients to elicit the relaxation response — specifically those taught at the BHI — can also dramatically reduce health care utilization. . . . These programs promote wellness and, in our environment of constrained health care resources, could potentially ease the burden on our health delivery systems at minimal cost and at no real risk.” – James E. Stahl, lead author of the study
The study was published last Tuesday in the journal PLOS ONE.
So, how did the research team analyse the impact of mind-body interventions on modern day medical techniques? They gathered data on people who have been participating in the BHI Relaxation Response Resiliency Program for the past eight years. After analysing more than four thousands participants, and comparing it with a control group of almost fourteen thousand (while also taking other factors into consideration — read the study for more), the participants engaging in the relationship program displayed an average reduction of 43% when it came to using their regular health care services over the year after their participation in the project.
“I think of it this way: There are many gates to wellness, but not everyone is ready to walk through a particular gate at a given time. From a public health perspective, it is better to be prepared to offer these tools to people in their customary settings than to wait for them to seek out these interventions. For that reason, we feel that mind-body interventions — which are both low-cost and essentially risk-free — should perhaps be incorporated into regular preventive care.” – Herbert Benson, founder and director emeritus of the BHI and co-author of this current study
Meditation/Yoga Prayer Techniques
Personally, I believe a common misconception about meditation is that it must be done in a special way, or you must sit in a certain position. All you have to do is place yourself in a position that is most comfortable for you and focus on your breath, in and out. It’s not about trying to empty your mind, it’s about more so about developing a “non-judgemental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind” (source). Let your thoughts and feelings come and go, then return your focus to your breathe. Telling yourself not to think will only produce the opposite effect, but you can work on choosing how to feel and respond to those thoughts. Meditation can be similar to state of mind, in that some might have the ability to produce the same brainwave frequencies that are commonly seen in meditators without actually meditating. On the other hand, there are many devout students of meditation who spend hours of their time each day devoted to this ancient practice.
If you are someone who doesn’t have much experience with meditation and would like to try it, you can check out some of our articles on the topic that offer some advice/tips on meditation, as well as find some guided meditations here.
This article (It Works: New Study Outlines What Meditation, Yoga, & Prayer Can Do To The Human Body) was originally created for Collective Evolution and is published here under Creative Commons.
Tips For Those Who Have Trouble Meditating & How To Overcome Them
Everyone runs into a few bumps when they’re first learning to meditate. It’s pretty common. Fortunately, just recognizing and acknowledging an obstacle can often help you overcome it.
With one of the latest rough estimates gauging that anywhere between 200 to 500 million people meditate with regularity globally, there is a pretty good chance you’ve either tried it at some point or at least have been encouraged to — especially if you decided to read this article.
And while there are plenty of people who swear by its power, myself included at times, I’m convinced that there are plenty more of us who just don’t get what all the hype is about. While I don’t personally believe that we all need to become meditation aficionados, I wanted to create a resource for those of you who have interest in jumping on the bandwagon but always seem to hit a roadblock.
I’ve nailed down 4 of the most common reasons why so many of us struggle to meditate and how we can change that. Watch it or read it, the choice is yours!
1. Preconceived Belief That Meditation Is Boring
Compared to the sights and sounds of ordinary conscious life, meditation certainly can be substantially less sensorially stimulating — especially at first. But that’s part of the point! One of meditation’s greatest potential powers is its ability to bring us into the present moment without any glaring distractions, a reality that many of us haven’t experienced in years.
So if you’re part of the crowd that keeps putting meditation off because you think it’ll be too boring, I challenge you to ask yourself: is boredom really the issue? Or am I instead either so addicted to stimulation or even worse afraid to be alone with my thoughts?
Solution: Involve others! Either set up a challenge with your friends to add an element of competition and accountability to it, or meditate with a group in a public space. It’s amazing how much less intimidating being alone with your thoughts can be if you’re not the only one intending to do it.
2. Crazy Expectations
If I were to ask you to create a mental image representative of the word meditation, what would come to mind? I’m willing to bet that at least one (if not several) of the following elements would come up: the sunrise, a sunset, a monk, mountains, or someone sitting cross-legged with great posture.
While these visuals certainly are accurate depictions of meditation, they don’t account for the vast majority of the 200 to 500 million of us that are practicing it regularly. Meditation can be done at any time of day, in a countless number of settings, on a comfy chair, and sitting or laying quite normally. So rather than setting these unrealistic expectations of what meditation is supposed to be like, why not just try making it your own?
Solution: Remind yourself that we are all human. Even those who claim to have attained the most profound insight while meditating have had just as many random thoughts pop into their head, so you’re not broken and just as capable.
3. Shear Impatience
We live in a world where a substantial number of us are not only used to but fully expect things instantaneously. We’re run by instant gratification, and when something fails to provide that, we’re quick to lose interest and ultimately our patience.
If you want to meditate regularly but patience is an issue for you, I’ve got some bad news: meditation will never satisfy your need for instant results. But meditation is also one of the best tools for developing a state of mind that won’t be so hungry for them!
Solution: Start by “forcing” yourself to practice patience through a reward and/or punishment system. Establish something that you are going to reward yourself with for meditating 7, 14, or 21 days in a row. Or even better, set up a punishment (ex. donating $100 to a cause you don’t believe in) for not sticking to your goal.
4. Overreacting To Thoughts
One second you’re focusing on your breath, and before you know it several minutes have gone by and your mind has drifted through a random string of thoughts you never thought imaginable. As I mentioned above, this is far more normal than you may think!
The part we need to focus on is how we choose to react to noticing that our mind has drifted off rather than the fact that it has.
There is a substantial difference between allowing yourself to get pissed off while believing that the entire meditation is ruined, and just noting that you’ve drifted, and bringing yourself back to your initial intention.
Solution: I’ve highlighted the word noting above because I believe it’s one of the best solutions for this issue. When you realize that your mind has drifted, choose to make a calm mental note that it has happened and then bring yourself back either by re-focusing your attention on your breath or by doing a numeric countdown (anything with a meditative purpose that your mind can easily focus on).
If you enjoyed reading this article and want to see more like this one, we’d be humbled if you would help us spread the word and share it with your friends and family. Join us in our quest to promote free, useful information to all!
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