Meditation has been an integral part of human existence for thousands of years yet is so often misunderstood, especially here in the West. The practice of meditation helps us to develop an awareness of the present moment, to accept reality for what it is, and to live in harmony with that reality and with the continuous changes that happen in our everyday lives.
Meditation also helps us to accept ourselves for who we are right now and to develop a gentleness toward ourselves that evolves into a loving kindness that we can then bring into the world around us. All we really have is this present moment and nothing more. It is here, in this present moment, that meditation will enable us to find peace and happiness.
Through meditation, we discover how to develop Mindfulness, which is nothing more than a constant awareness of the present moment. By becoming mindful of our present thoughts, of our body’s present reactions and condition, our mind will become clear. It will not get lost in the regrets of the past or in the projected anxieties of a future that never comes.
Only the present moment ever comes…
Physiological changes and benefits:
The crush of existence today is something that everyone must encounter on a daily basis. Most lives are a relentless cyclone of motion, of responsibility, of work, of a continuous and maddening inner dialogue.
The damage that a modern day lifestyle wreaks upon the body and the mind is enormous. Quite often, the ultimate consequences of living the way in which most people live tends to go unnoticed and ignored until they are laid low by sickness or by something far worse.
The physiological damage done to the body and the mind by living such lives is silent, yet deadly. What faithful practitioners of meditation have known for thousands of years, and what the followers of Science are just now beginning to discover, is that meditation counteracts this physiological damage and actually reverses the chemical reactions that leave so many people in a constant state of high stress and high anxiety.
There are many who attempt to point out methods by which we may reduce, or even manage, the stress and anxiety levels in our lives. Meditation, however, does not simply reduce or temporarily relieve and meditation sees no reason to manage anything. Meditation will actually eliminate stress, anxiety, frustration, fear and anger when practiced on a regular basis.
Overall, meditation changes and alters brain function. Even when practiced for just twenty minutes at a time. The changes are noticeable and measurable. Meditation relaxes muscles as well as decreases heart rate and blood pressure. Meditation also increases concentration while reducing the conflict, frustration, stress, anxiety and anger that is triggered by the unrelenting stress and anxiety found in the modern day lifestyle. Many major university and hospital studies and research have just recently begun to understand the physiological benefits of meditation. For the practitioners of meditation, these are things they have known, and felt, for quite a long time.
Decreasing cortisol levels:
Most importantly, meditation causes an immediate decrease in cortisol levels while increasing the body’s supply or serotonin and alpha brainwaves.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone, secreted by the adrenal glands, which gets produced in great abundance as stressful situations and stress hormones become present. While cortisol can help with the human “fight or flight” responses, if levels are not returned to normal, if left unbalanced, it can cause permanent damage to the body. Because many people tend to live under such high stress conditions almost continuously, their cortisol levels are never allowed to return to normal so as to bring the body back to its natural balance.
It is because a person’s cortisol levels are rarely allowed to balance themselves due to most people existing in an environment of continuous stress and anxiety, the short, and long, term damage that can occur from this imbalance include the following:
- Constant fatigue and weakness
- Suppression of the body’s immune system
- Blood and sugar imbalances
- Suppressed thyroid function
- Impaired cognitive performance
- Decrease in bone density and muscle tissue
- High blood pressure
- Anxiety attacks
Meditation allows for the relaxation of the body and the mind so that cortisol levels are reduced and brought back into balance. Practiced over time, meditation will eliminate stress and anxiety by creating a stillness of the mind that simply no longer reacts the same way to certain situations and stimuli that a person would consider to be a stressful situation.
Increasing serotonin levels:
Serotonin is a chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter which, basically, relays signals from one area of the brain to another. Meditation increases the production of serotonin and numerous medical studies have found higher levels of serotonin in the brains of those people who meditate on a regular basis than in the brains of those who do not.
Constant stress and anxiety, aside from triggering cortisol and adrenaline production, greatly reduces the amount of serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin affects such things as mood and sexual desire, sleep patterns and appetite, as well as memory and learning capabilities. Such reduced brain levels of serotonin has been scientifically demonstrated to produce such damaging effects as:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Sleep deprivation and sleep disorders
- Unexplained sadness
- Triggering addictive behavior habits and patterns
- Obsessive/compulsive disorder outbursts
- Prolonged periods of unfocused anger and, often, rage
Once again, meditation can bring, not only spiritual well being to the practitioner, but can counteract damaging physiological reactions. Bringing stillness and a calming to one’s mind is a natural antidote to stress, anxiety, frustration, and anger.
The stimulation of alpha brainwaves:
The existence, and release, of alpha brainwaves is a signal of relaxation activity in the brain. An increase in alpha brainwave activity happens when both your body and your mind are relaxed and serene. Alpha brainwaves are shown to greatly improve a person’s immune function and they are a natural antidepressant.
The existence of alpha brainwaves also greatly increases your brain’s production of serotonin. Additional benefits to increased alpha brainwave levels include:
- A more relaxed and creative state of mind
- Better physical coordination
- A more positive outlook and amplified problem solving abilities
- Elimination of stress, anxiety, and frustration and natural antidepressant
- Enhancement of the immune system and increased self awareness
Meditation, even if only done sporadically, will always bring an immediate and steady measurable surge of alpha brainwave activity to the brain.
Part Two will teach you basic meditation skills so that you can reap meditation’s body and mind benefits right now…