Meditation: A scientific perspective

A fascinating article titled “How meditation changes brain rhythms to sooth pain and depression” was recently published on the Natural News website. The article, written by Sherri Baker, is a great piece to illustrate the benefits of meditating on a regular basis from a scientific point of view, as well as the ways in which our brain changes its perception of the world. Really worth the read.

How meditation changes brain rhythms to sooth pain and depression

by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor

CZ 1506Meditation isn’t only a way to relax or a throw-back to the 1960s when the Beatles first made the practice popular in the U.S. In fact, in recent years, mainstream scientists have published several studies showing that mindfulness meditation, which is centered on being aware of the present moment by focusing on the body and breath sensations, can prevent and treat depression. Meditation has also been found to help chronic pain.
But what’s going on in the body to produce these benefits? According to Brown University scientists, the answer appears to lie in how meditation changes the brain’s rhythms.

People who meditate regularly, the researchers say, gain control over sensory cortical alpha rhythms. In simple English, this means meditation appears to change brain rhythms that regulate how the brain filters and processes a variety of sensations – including depressing memories and pain in the body.

The Brown University researchers, who just published a paper outlining their findings and ideas about how meditation works in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, base their proposal on published experimental results as well as a computer simulation of neural networks. Because mindfulness meditation training begins with a highly localized focus on body and breath sensations, the scientists write, this enhances control over localized alpha rhythms in the part of the brain (known as the primary somatosensory cortex) where sensations from different body are “mapped.”

In a way, by learning to control their focus on the present moment, mindfulness meditators become able to “turn down” a kind of internal “volume knob” for controlling specific, localized sensory alpha rhythms. That seems to allow them to turn away from internally focused negative thoughts and sensations.

“We think we’re the first group to propose an underlying neurophysiological mechanism that directly links the actual practice of mindful awareness of breath and body sensations to the kinds of cognitive and emotional benefits that mindfulness confers,” lead author Catherine Kerr, assistant professor (research) of family medicine at the Alpert Medical School and director of translational neuroscience for the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown, said in a press statement.

As Natural News previously covered, meditation results in beneficial physiological changes that can be measured. For example, a recent study by University of Wisconsin-Madison neuroscientists with the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds found that mindfulness meditation not only reduces stress but also reduces inflammation. And this is clearly important information for the countless people with diseases such as arthritis who can’t take, or don’t want to rely on, side effect-laden anti-inflammatory drugs.

What’s more, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) study just published in the Association for Psychological Science journal Clinical Psychological Science found that people who reported more presence in the moment (having a greater focus and engagement with their current activities) had longer telomeres, even after adjusting for current stress in their lives. Telomeres are sort of caps at the ends of DNA that prevent the ends of chromosomes from fusing with nearby chromosomes or deteriorating. They are biomarkers for aging and are known to get shorter and shorter when the body undergoes physiological and psychological stressors.

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/039139_meditation_brain_rhythms_depression.html#ixzz2NkdetpyH

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The Wise Woman’s Stone: A tale about awakening the inner power

A wise woman who was travelling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveller who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveller saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveller left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.”

Author Unknown

What did the woman have within, that enabled her to give the traveller the precious stone? Probably only two things: self confidence, and a very awake inner power. Could that be handed to the traveller? Most certainly, no. But surely enough, the traveller had the ability to awake his own inner power too… just like every other person. Including YOU!

Arjuna Ardagh: About love and spiritual self respect

The following text was written by Arjuna Ardagh. He originally titled it “Why is it important to worship a woman”. But the learning that it leaves behind goes way beyond on the importance of worshipping a woman: It speaks a lot about our physical, mental, and spiritual integrity and self respect. Moreover, it speaks about love in its purest spiritual nature. It is an amazing read from all perspectives.

“Many many years ago, I went to Bali for a vacation, on my own. I met up with some other young travelers there and we hired a Jeep to take us on a tour of the island. We drove up right to the highest point of the island, where Tourists don’t usually go. Our guide took us to one of the most sacred temples. It was surrounded by a big brick wall with an ornate entrance. After removing our shoes and wrapping scarves around our heads, we stepped together through this entrance. Inside, there was a short courtyard and then another brick wall with another entrance. After more preparations of lighting incense and giving offerings, we stepped through the second entrance. We were allowed to go through the opening in one more wall, but that was it. All together there were ten walls around the deity in the middle. Hindus could go beyond the fourth wall. Devotees of that particular deity could go beyond the fifth wall, and so it went on. The only people allowed to approach the deity directly were those who had given their lives completely and totally to its worship. Everyone else could come a little closer, a little closer, to the innermost beauty, but not all the way to the center.

I’m not a big believer of the worship of statues, but there’s a beautiful symbolism to what I saw there, because a woman’s heart is just like that. At the essence of every woman’s heart is the divine feminine. It contains everything that has ever been beautiful, or lovely, or inspiring, in any woman, anywhere, at any time. The very essence of every woman’s heart is the peak of wisdom, the peak of inspiration, the peak of sexual desirability, the peak of soothing, healing love. The peak of everything. But it’s protected, for good reason, by a series of concentric walls. To move inwardly from one wall to the next requires that you intensify your capacity to devotion, and as you do so, you are rewarded with Grace. This is not something you can negotiate verbally with a woman. She doesn’t even know consciously how to open those gates herself. They are opened magically and invisibly by the keys of worship.

If you stand on the outside of the outermost wall, all you have available to you, like many other unfortunate men, is pornography. For $1.99 a minute, you can see her breasts, maybe her vagina, and you can stimulate yourself in a sad longing for deeper love.

Step through another gate, and she will show you her outer gift-wrapping. She’ll look at you with a certain twinkle in her eye. She’ll answer your questions coyly. She’ll give you just the faintest hint that there is more available.

Step through another gate with your commitment, with your attention, with the small seedlings of devotion, and she’ll open her heart to you more. She’ll share with you her insecurities, the way that she’s been hurt, her deepest longings. Some men will back away at this point. They realize that the price they must pay to go deeper is more than they are willing to give. They start to feel a responsibility. But for those few who step though another gate, they come to discover her loyalty, her willingness to stick with you no matter what, her willingness to raise your children, stick up for you in conversation, and, if you are lucky, even pick up your dirty socks now and then. And so it goes on. You’ve got the gist by now.

Somewhere around the second wall from the center, she casts the veils of her personality aside, and shows you that she is both a human being and also a portal into something much greater than that. She shows you a wrath that is not hers, but all women’s. She shows you a patience that is also universal. She shows you her wisdom. At this point you start to experience the archetypes of women, who have been portrayed as goddesses and mythological figures in every tradition.”

-Arjuna Ardagh

Planning your life, heartbeat by heartbeat

How many heartbeats do you have available to spend in your lifetime?

This question came to my mind when I came across an interesting mathematical model that helps a person estimate their lifespan based in their heartbeat rate (check it out here). According to this model, an average person’s life spans over 2 billion heartbeats! The estimations vary between 2.6 and 2.9 billion.

Those numbers sound quite astronomical, but they are actually not. To put them in perspective, the average heartbeat rate of an adult is 70 to 75 beats per minute, which equals something between 100,800 to 108,000 beats every day! Our heart beats a lot, doesn’t it?

Now, to put the math into further perspective, let’s acknowledge that during every single beat, we are experiencing different moods and emotions – ranging from happiness, to peacefulness, to anxiety, to anger and frustration, and anything in between. In a way, our mood and state of emotional well being depends a lot on external factors, but it is nevertheless also controlled to a high degree by our own Self-Bias. In fact, since a degree to which we react to most external factors can be attributed to our Self-Bias too, we can comfortably say that we have the power to control most of our emotions. This being true, should you ever feel overwhelmed by negative emotions or out of control of your own moods, make to yourself the following questions: “How many of my 100,000 heart beats this day do I want to give away to negativity?”

The answer is truly upon you, and there are no right or wrong answers. But when reflecting on that, consider that every single heartbeat in our day, and in our lifetime is unique – and allow us to experience feelings and emotions, for the most part at our will. How are you planning to spend your heartbeats?experience goodness and to soak yourself in positive feelings and thoughts, you should also consider that a good portion of those heartbeats that you are willing to surround to negativity can actually be used to experience positivity instead – hence having the potential to dedicate every single heartbeat of yours to positive thoughts and well being.

New year on Sight!: Self-Reflection as a tool come up with better new year resolutions

New Year’s Eve is a time of celebration with you favourite people. Friends and families gather to remember with a bit of nostalgia the memorable events that shaped our lives during the year that is just leaving – and to welcome a new year that brings an unknown mixture of adventures to each and every one of us.

Aside from an opportunity to celebrate with our loved ones, New Year’s Eve can also be taken advantage of for other self-developing purposes. Being a time of reflection, it is also a great occasion to reflect about the year that just passed. Great questions to reflect upon could be some of the following:

  • What achievements during the last year make most proud?
  • What adventures or activities did I enjoy most doing?
  • What new skills did I learn during the last year?
  • What would I like to change or improve in myself?
  • How will I achieve such improvements?

These questions, along with other similar ones that you may consider relevant for an accurate self-assessment, should provide a helpful framework of thought to guide your self reflection about how to create a more powerful you. These reflections will also help create exciting New Year’s Resolutions that will not only bring forward the best out of you – but will also awaken your Inner Power.

My very best wishes for the new year to you and all the loved ones who surround you. May this be a year full of inner power and amazing blessings for everybody!

Big Dreams, Small Dreams

A newspaper issued a special note, where it reported how a movie theatre chain in Mexico “invited” some 1500 people to watch the premiere of a local film for free. But they were no ordinary customers: These were very humble, poor people (mostly kids), some of which had never been to a movie theatre in their lives. At the end of the premiere, the newspaper interviewed some of the attendees. One of the interviewees was a 10 year-old boy. He said to the newspaper that his life dream was to watch a movie in a movie theatre. Thus that day, his dream was becoming true.

Reel

For most of us, this boy’s dream to watch a movie in a movie theatre feels like something small and trivial. We take an evening at the movies for granted, because it looks to us simply as a commodity that is readily available to us at will. From this perspective, coming into a movie theatre and watching films is not a dream – it is an available and constant reality. But for the boy, watching a movie in the theatre seemed like something big, unattainable, distant and almost impossible. And the day his dream came true – his experience at the movie theatre was lived by him with more passion and intensity than any regular customer can possibly live it. The kid found goodness in that.

There is a powerful learning from this story: Sometimes, we take certain good things in life for granted, without making the fullest out of them at every moment we have them in reach: A drive to work, an evening at the movie theatre, a walk in the park, a moment with the parents, a family vacation, a home made meal… all of them are simple things in life, but all of them have the potential to be great moments in life if we really get to appreciate all the goodness that they bring to our lives.

Be grateful for the goodness you are surrounded with at every moment – just like the kid at the movie theatre for the first time, you too have the inner power to live each of them to the fullest.

The nature of your inner power – and the purpose of this blog!

Each of us is blessed with special powers: The power to love, the power to understand, the power to move our world around in order to achieve our maximum potential every day. We are powerful indeed, whether we are aware of it. Sometimes, it might appear that we are not in control of our power, but we are. And we can improve our grip on such power.

As we will see throughout this journey, there are plenty of ways in which we can manage to get a better grip on our inner power – day by day, hour by hour. By creating this blog, my goal is to provide food for thought that will inspire you to control your inner power and maximize your potential – spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

In Mind, Body, and Soul…

Eddie Tafber