Tag Archive for Meditation

The Benefits Of Meditation

Meditation is a spiritual art that has been practiced for thousands of years by those who are aware of the positive effect it has on the body, mind, and spirit. Originating in eastern civilizations, this method of stress-reduction and relaxation is now very popular in the western hemisphere as well as people become educated on the benefits of meditation. Simple to learn, one does not require any special equipment to meditate and it can be done pretty much anywhere quiet and peaceful.

benefits of meditation

There are different ways to meditate, but the most effective method is the traditional approach known as mindfulness or focused attention meditation. The key is to keep the mind focused on one single thought for as long as possible, whether it be the sound of one’s own inhalation and exhalation or a chosen word, known as a “mantra”. This takes discipline and practice, and it is essential to prevent the mind from wandering if one is to reap the many benefits that meditating can produce.

Buddhist monks spend several hours every day meditating and they possess a deep understanding of the inner strength and insight it yields. This is how the monks effectively “recharge” their minds and keep their thinking on the right track. Scientists who have conducted studies in recent years have examined the MRIs of people who meditate regularly, which has revealed that there is greater folding of the cerebral cortex in these individuals, which is believed to increase the efficacy of the brain and its ability to form memories, make decisions, stay focused, and process information.

Other beneficial changes to the brain have also been associated with meditation. Another study has uncovered a connection between the density of gray matter in the brain stem and the act of meditating, those who follow this practice on a long-term basis have been found demonstrate evidence of having thicker brain stems which has been linked to improved cognition, emotional state, and immunity, and also a healthier respiratory and heart rate. Increase in the size of the frontal lobe and hippocampus has been noted as well which is believed to positively influence one’s emotional stability. Learning to meditate is also understood to help people have some natural protection from age-related cognitive decline, depression, and anxiety.

The activity of the brain also appears to be positively affected when someone meditates. Researchers have found there to be a correlation between meditating and a decrease in default mode network connectivity and activity which can be the cause of such conditions as ADHD, anxiety, and the development of beta amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s patients. It also boosts electrical brain activity that is responsible for improved attention span and the ability to remain focused for longer periods of time. If people spend just twenty minutes every day, that should be sufficient to hone the focusing ability of the mind and reduce stress.

One type of meditation, known as Zen, the preferred method practiced by Buddhist monks, has been linked to a thickening of the areas of the brain which regulate pain, thus producing a higher tolerance or pain threshold. Many people who meditate find that they no longer need to rely on painkillers as much as they did before. The reduction in stress is generally attributed to lowered levels of the hormone cortisol. One can also increase empathy felt towards others by regularly practicing a particular type of focused attention meditation with feelings of compassion and love being the focus thoughts.

Making meditation a part of one’s daily routine can help make him or her a more productive person overall. It boosts the effectiveness of their working memory which is responsible for such important processes as decision-making, complex thought, and keeping emotions in check. A general feeling of happiness has also been reported by many subjects who meditate regularly. People struggling with depression, chronic illnesses with pain, and even the hormonal mood swings of the teen years can all benefit from this activity as it elevates the electrical activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is its “feel-good” center.

Women who are going through the unpleasant physical sensations associated with the hormonal changes of menopause can benefit from meditation too. It will help draw the focus away from the body, and has been proven to reduce the number of hot flashes and night sweats experienced. This presents a safe, non-drug approach to making this stage in life more comfortable for many women. There are also notable benefits for the cardiovascular system obtained through meditating. Blood pressure is lowered, respiration and circulation improved, and one type of meditation in particular, transcendental, has been found to actually lower the incidence of stroke and heart attack by fifty percent.

Where Does Meditation Come From?

When most people hear about meditative traditions and practices, Buddhism or Hinduism spring to mind. Though Asian cultures are conventionally associated with these traditions, they are in fact universal.

Various cultures from around the world, including major religions, adopted different forms of such practices for purposes of spiritual development, including a host of acts having to dealing with healing, or praying for rain from the heavens.


Below is information on the origins of meditative practices, and why people engage in them. The question about where does meditation come from?, is likely to reveal surprising insights, even to individuals that have been engaging in it for a while.

Meditative traditions have been part of human culture for centuries, pre-dating written records of when it where it began originally. Nevertheless, in Judaism, for example, the Kabala is in essence a form of meditative inquiry. Islam contains two such practices, while Buddhism has various strands including, for instance, Zen or Tibetan Buddhism.

Scholars on the subject generally agree that these practices evolved out of the earliest spiritual or religious questions concerning the origins of the universe, and the meanings behind why life, including human beings, exist.

Though a number of very old and different religious texts – including Christian, Judaic and Taoist records – contain evidence of meditative practices, Hindu scriptures that go back about 5,000 years are some of the earliest recorded ones. Such records also show that by then, these methods for developing spirituality and gaining insights into existential issues, had already become formal rituals with specific objectives.

However, it is fair to say that even before written records were kept on the matter, the earliest human beings – puzzled by life and its myriad challenges and wonders, must have engaged in similar rituals to gauge answers that were not readily available.

Although there are many records of religious contemplative traditions and rituals in Asian societies, history shows that Aboriginal tribes in Australia, and early American Indian populations, for example, had varieties of similar practices. Meditative trance-like states were induced in shaman to help divine the future, ask the gods for rain and plentiful harvests, or to effect healing among the ailing and injured. In short, contemplative practices are much older than what current written records show.

As a conventional Buddhist practice, meditative contemplation became a formal ritual about 2,500 years ago in India. Inspired by the Buddha – who achieved enlightenment through quiet contemplation, and developing mental detachment from the material world as a consequence – it became an important avenue in the pursuit of personal spiritual truths. The idea was, and still remains, that spiritual development and insights can be had through regular acts of silent introspection that stills the usual thinking noises of the egoic mind in the head.

By the time Buddhism arrived in China via Tibet around the first century, it had already attracted considerable attention and power as a philosophy and way of life. It made profound inroads into local Chinese customs, so much so that it even replaced the then prevalent teachings of Taoism and Confucianism. When it eventually reached and flourished in Japan, various forms of Buddhist meditative traditions had already been in place, though they all the same ultimate goal as a means for spiritual development and achieving enlightenment.

Aside from it religious and spiritual connotations, today millions of people all over the world perform regular meditative practices because of its numerous advantages.

One does not have to adhere or subscribe to a religious or spiritual ethic to derive benefit from engaging in it. It leaves people feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually balanced, contribute to an inner sense of harmony and meaning, and has various positive effects on physical and mental health. Most practitioners find it helps to reduce and manage stress, stills anxiety, and is great for boosting self-esteem, while keeping depression away.

It also contributes to clear, calm thinking, which is ideal for making decisions on a daily basis. Moreover, it helps individuals overcome addictions of all kinds, while it does wonders for blood pressure levels, among other things.

Mindfulness meditative practices have become especially popular as these increase awareness of, and encourages living in, the present moment. When performed on a daily basis, it helps to cultivate a sense of inner quiet and distance from all experience, similar to the one the Buddha had when the great one achieved sudden enlightenment.

One of the most remarkable aspects about meditative practice is that it still delivers the desired outcomes today as it has been doing for centuries wherever human beings engaged with it.