While most folks teaching, coaching and consulting within holistic health are not scientists, it has been refreshing to not only know deep in your bones that what you have practiced in your mind and body truly works, but that science is now backing it.
Science has now proven that meditation restructures the brain. Therefore it literally changes our mind and in turn uplevels our lives.
We think over 70,000 thoughts per day. And whether we want to believe it or not, they totally create our realities.
Yes, yes, yes, some folks just cannot imagine a daily moving meditation such as a yoga asana class much less sitting in daily meditation. I’ve been there. However, the day just may come when this is something that will prove to be useful. Knowing that it is scientifically proven to be of use – why not challenge yourself and give it a whirl? It won’t likely be easy. Shit will come up. But that’s the point.
Within those 70,000 thoughts every single day of your life, there are both empowering uplifting thoughts and negative thoughts whirling like a dervish in a repetitive feedback loop. Meditation serves you in that it gives you the freedom of choice. It generates space to notice the thoughts and change them. In time you will not only have the awareness to choose, but to further notice whether any thought reduces or replenishes your energy. Please note that this is very different from ignoring anything that comes up that doesn’t feel good. It is of utmost importance to deepen your curiosity about what feels “bad”, investigate it, dive much deeper into it, in order to learn ways to transmute it. For now, the opportunity you give yourself to change the thought is your first opportunity to create change.
We now also know stress is proving to be the ultimate contributor to much of the dis-ease we experience today. The word ‘stress’ did not even exist a few decades ago.
Acute stress is a specific response to a real or anticipated trigger. It is temporary. Work demands, preparation for a new baby, divorce, and car accidents are all examples. Chronic stress is an intrinsic response based on your past experiences that wires your brain to be on alert to defend from the source of the stressor. This stems from stressors such as growing up in a violent neighborhood, constant financial strife, or ongoing physical illness. These often lay deep in the subconscious and play out by way of the psyche forming defense mechanisms such as rigid thinking, prejudices and exaggerated fears. Going back to embodiment, the physical body will even transform itself to protect itself. Think – caved in chest, slumped shoulders, spine shaped like a cashew – as one visual example.
The physical experience of stress is as follows: 1) stressful event occurs, 2) body sends sensory message to brain about the event, 3) brain interprets sensory data as positive or negative, 4) if negative, brain sends message back to the body to respond.
Responses include: releasing stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, muscle tension, extraction of vital energy out of the organs to prepare for “fight or flight”. When we are living with chronic stress, our bodies are never given the opportunity to recover. Our bodies continue to try to protect themselves and the parasympathetic nervous system is unable to reset itself. This can go on for years and years in a vicious cycle resulting in weight gain, heart disease, adrenal fatigue and on and on.
Meditation is one of the best ways to reduce inflammatory stress from all of the above examples in a constructive daily way.
Meditators are regenerating on a cellular level resulting in youth, vitality, and optimal wellness.
87% decrease in chances of heart disease
55% less chance of getting cancer
Research also shows that practiced meditators may have an increase in tissues in brain areas that involve impulse control and attention.
Research also shows that people who meditate may be kinder than those who do not.
The two main neurological factors:
1. The Amygdala Gland
Inside the “thinking mind”, this is the part of the brain that processes anxiety and stress. Meditation reduces activity in the amygdala thereby the severity of the experience of stress. It also regulates emotions.
2. The Hippocampus
The hippocampus activates learning and is responsible for housing our memories. Meditation lights up this area of the brain increasing our capacity to work with both sides of our brain (neural integration), support stronger memory and problem solving skills, and allow for more vivid creativity.
Meditation literally weaves new neural pathways to create new ways of thinking. Our neurotransmitters fire faster so new tissues can be generated (neuroplasticity). This proves we are physically transforming the tissue of our brains through the power of awareness and thought.
There are many styles of meditation and some meditation teachers choose to break it down and analyze it thoroughly, which is amazing and helpful to many. For me, I prefer not to overthink it and depend on my simple practice learned from my teachers along the way. There is no one way and there is no right way. Find a way that works for you. While you may need to utilize moving meditations (individually and with no digital devices recommended) for years before being able to sit still, that is A-OK. Implementing a daily seated practice is 100% achievable for anyone.
Want to know more about how trail running as a moving meditation is similar, but does not quite deliver the same benefits? Session It
More reasons to meditate? Ask me... and here's a big one.
What is my simple meditation practice? Ask me.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. – Viktor E. Frankl