It has been said that we have anywhere from 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day and it could even be more. That’s insane! Our brain is beautiful, magical, wonderful, powerful, and its also…a liar! Think of all the silly things you think about during the day. “I’m fat, I’m stupid, I’m not good enough. I’ll never get this job, he/she will probably never call me again. My dad called 3 times, I bet something horrible happened to mom.” You know exactly what I’m talking about. We drive ourselves completely insane…over NOTHING! Some of these things are important for our survival; “Don’t touch that it’s hot, you probably shouldn’t walk down that dark alley alone, it’s dangerous.” These things keep us alive and safe. So how do we weed out the unnecessary thoughts and hold onto the ones that matter. Can meditation help?
Before we go any further let’s take a look at two things: The Brain & Meditation.
René Descartes, a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist who was dubbed the father of modern western philosophy once said: “I think, therefore I am”. This statement was made to explain that our senses sometimes deceive us.
Thoughts seem to pop into our minds all day long without permission. Sometimes they’re great thoughts, sometimes they’re not so great. Sometimes I even wonder where the heck that thought even came from. Why in the world would I think of something like that? I read somewhere that our thought process goes on subconsciously. So basically that concerns the part of the mind of which one is not fully aware but which influences one’s actions and feelings. So that would mean that these intrusive thoughts that tend to come and go without permission are part of the mind that lies outside of conscious control.
Obviously our brain and our mind have a very close, intimate relationship, but it seems that the mind is the Pandora’s box or collection of our perceptions, memories (good and bad), thought patterns and beliefs. The brain and the mind are so incredibly powerful and important and the way we think and process feelings is what separates us from other animals in the world. We’re able to imagine a future that doesn’t even exist yet and we’re able to reflect on our past, which is incredibly amazing, right? Or, could this also be a curse? Living too fully in the future takes us out of our journey completely. It’s important to have dreams, dreams are what have created everything we see and use today. It’s important to learn from our past, but to live in our past is dangerous. If we do not understand the relationship of our brain and our mind and how our thoughts affect our daily lives we will forever be stuck where we are. Repeating the same mistake over and over again. Living in a sort of cage that our memories, beliefs and perceptions have created for us. There is intuition, which is incredibly beneficial to our lives and then there is projection which is a lens that we see the world through.
Wikipedia defines meditation like this: “Meditation is a practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself.” I think that’s pretty good actually, I like this definition.
Personally, I find meditation connects me to my own body in a way that nothing else does. In those 10, 20, 30 minutes or more, I am listening to my body in a way that I cannot do while in crowds of people, or while I’m teaching, driving, etc. The cool thing is, the more I meditate on the mat, the more I learn how to silently meditate off the mat and it’s changed my life. I am no different from you, I have thoughts coming and going all day long. Some of these thoughts are admittedly horrible and they have absolutely no place in my life at all. Some of these thoughts stunt my growth; “You cannot teach this class, this is something you’ve never done before and you’re going to fail.” Am I though? Where is this thought coming from and do I actually believe it? No, I don’t. It’s in these cases that mediation has taught me to invite my fear to join me as I teach this class, to work with me instead of against me, because I know I’m going to succeed. It’s taught me to control my thoughts, to disconnect from them when they are not serving me, and to understand that they don’t define who I am.
So, what actually happens on a cellular level when we meditate?
Studies have found that when we meditate our brains stop processing so much information. Through MRI images scientists have found that while meditating we are actually changing the brain. These changes can dramatically improve our health and well-being. Here are the findings from this article I found on Collective Evolution where a group of Harvard neuroscientists came together to study the benefits of meditation on the brain by enrolling 16 subjects in a 8 week, 45 minute daily guided mindfulness program to see if meditation could create changes in their lifestyles and their brains:
This is the most highly evolved part of the brain, responsible for reasoning, planning, emotions and self-conscious awareness. During meditation, the frontal cortex tends to go offline.
This part of the brain processes sensory information about the surrounding world, orienting you in time and space. During meditation, activity in the parietal lobe slows down.
The gatekeeper for the senses, this organ focuses your attention by funneling some sensory data deeper into the brain and stopping other signals in their tracks. Meditation reduces the flow of incoming information to a trickle.
As the brain’s sentry, this structure receives incoming stimuli and puts the brain on alert, ready to respond. Meditating dials back the arousal signal.
Meditation has been known to increase happiness, care, and empathy for others. It reduces stress and improves your memory? We can find a deeper connection to ourselves as well as others. By beginning with a simple body scan we are able to feel and listen to signals our body may have been giving us for a long time, yet we did not hear it until now, about pain, tension and sickness. By learning how to count our breath as a “beginner meditator” we learn to control and listen to our breath, learning maybe how to breathe for the first time in our lives. This thing that we all do every single day to survive, yet most of us are doing it wrong. Maybe breathing only in our chests. Meditation can help you deepen the breathe, guiding it through channels it never knew existed. It’s really quite profound and I could go on and on with lots of scientific studies and personal experience or even experiences that my very own students have had, but the only way to know for sure is to do it yourself.
Where To Start
Of course you can look online, you can literally find anything on Google these day, BUT be picky with your sources. Just because it’s online does NOT mean it’s true…you already knew that though, right? Of course you did. There are also so many good books on meditation, so if you like reading and that’s your thing go for it. Let’s just be honest though, you’re strapped for time, everyone is. So here is my thought: Try out Headspace, these are guided meditations delivered to you through their app or you can do it online. The first 10 sessions are free, who doesn’t like that!!! So you get something called “Take 10.” With these sessions you get 10, 10 minute guided meditations by the lovely Andy Puddicombe, who will walk you through all the basics so you can begin your journey with meditation. Download the app or sign up online today. Of course you can always find a studio that teaches meditation which I think is absolutely amazing and I think you’ll love it. ALSO… As always you can reach out to me for advice, questions or sessions. Follow my blog on WordPress and shoot me your information on my Contact page. I’m looking forward to speaking with you and of course I’d love to meet you as well.
Happy Meditating Friends!