In my list of seven most useful Power Brain techniques, meditation is second on the list. It is the key to truly changing your brain, which, in turn, is the key to changing your life. Meditation allows you to gain control over your mind in ways that no other exercise can by reducing the constant flow of thoughts that bring mental stress and lack of focus to your daily life.
For that reason, more and more people are wisely integrating meditation practice into their lives. And the good news is that you don’t have to study for years or give up your life and join a monastery. In this blog, you’ll find what you need to start a simple, yet highly effective practice.
Meditation Is Now Science
Because meditation has been associated with religious practices for generations, many people still do not see it as a practical exercise that can be part of everyday life. But the fact is that meditation is not just a way to achieve spiritual enlightenment; it is a simple, easy-to-use tool that can make measurable, immediate differences in mental and physical health.
These benefits have been confirmed not by only a few scientific studies, but by many. Here are some of the benefits that have been confirmed.
- Improved immune function
- Reduced inflammation at the cellular level
- Lowered stress hormone, cortisol
- Reduced depression
- Improved social connection
- Developed ability to feel compassion
- Increased ability to focus
- Improved memory
- Increased emotional control
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There have been hundreds of studies showing the positive physical and psychological effects of meditation. Also, these studies have verified that there is a measurable physical effect on the brain. In other words, the actual structure of the brain is changed through meditation, including increased grey matter, increased volume in areas related to emotional regulation, and increased cortical thickness.
A National Health Interview Survey has revealed that some 20 million U.S. adults meditate for health reasons. If you really care about your brain, start meditating today. Here’s a simple routine you can use to start accessing these benefits today:
Deep Body Relaxation
- Lie down on the floor, using a yoga or exercise mat if needed for comfort. Part your legs shoulder width and bring your arms out to the sides at 45 degree angles with your palms facing the ceiling.
- Breathe for 2-3 minutes, focusing on the chest and releasing all tension from the body. (See my previous Patheos blog for more detailed instruction on Chest Breathing here.)
- Begin to scan the body, releasing all tension from each area of the body. Spend several seconds on each part of the body, releasing tension from the muscles, tendons, and organs in that area. Start with your head and move down to your chest, then your arms, abdomen, thighs, calves, and feet.
Simple Seated Sensory Meditation
- After you have fully relaxed your body and mind through Deep Body Relaxation, slowly sit up and assume the traditional meditation posture: legs crossed, back straight, shoulders relaxed, palms resting on the knees and facing upward. If this is uncomfortable, you can simply sit with your palms upward on your knees while seated in a sturdy chair with your back straight, not resting on the back of the chair.
- Keeping your body completely relaxed, begin to focus on the sensations in your body, beginning with your head and then working down to the legs. Do not try to analyze the feelings you notice; just feel them without thinking about them. If you find your mind wandering, bring it immediately back to the sensations, without judgement.
- After 5-10 minutes, slowly bring yourself back to ordinary consciousness. Shake out your arms and legs, and slowly stand.
Make Meditation Your Daily Routine
To get the most out of meditation, your practice must be regular and consistent. It would be helpful to do the above exercises just when you feel stressed, but that will not create the profound, positive brain changes that regular practice will. So, see if you can carve out just 10 minutes in your busy day for yourself, and for a chance to start changing your brain into a real Power Brain.
In the next installment in our series on the foundational practices of Brain Education, you’ll learn how to take meditation a step further, opening yourself to energy sensitivity practice.