Meditation is a great way to improve creative thinking, success, energy and stress levels. Studies show that it improves a variety of psychological areas that include istress, anxiety, addiction, depression, eating disorders and cognitive function. There’s also research to suggest that it can reduce blood pressure, pain response, stress hormone levels and even cellular health. But most people aren’t easily convinced to try it and there are a lot of misconceptions about how it really works. For one thing it changes our brain. 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. This affects the neural circuits of the brain which in turn affects how we respond to situations. It also affects the actual structure of our brains – thickening some areas and making others less dense. Yes, you read that right, meditating can really make structural changes to the brain. It can change the way neurons talk to each other by creating new circuits.
Just take it from Dr. 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. 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. What a great way to start out the new year. I am always looking for new things to try and leading a more peaceful existence is definitely at the top of my list.
Monks have been meditating for centuries and now you have the opportunity to learn from them. Just check out the Meditation with a Monk Series that starts February 4th at the Oakmont Library on 700 Allegheny River Boulevard. It will take place every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. through May 27. The course is free but sign up now to make sure you retain a spot. This Introduction to Meditation is designed for beginners as a gradual training program and as a secular meditation practice. It covers how to find your seat, ways to maintain awareness with body movements, techniques for breath meditation and ways to face common challenges in meditation such as physical pains, drowsiness and distracting thoughts. Although the instructor is a Buddhist monk, the meditation techniques that will be taught are secular and are appropriate for all adults regardless of your other beliefs or religious affiliations. At the end of the course participants will be able to be familiar with basic meditation techniques to gradually calm our mind and to develop a sense of equanimity and loving kindness.
I hope you are able to fit this into your schedule or explore it on your own right. It truly is a mindful way to start the new year and keep yourself centered.