That is the question I asked my husband. His first response is that it’s too “up in the clouds” for him. Knowing that he deals with a lot as a school principal I asked him if he’d give it a try if it made his job easier and he said “Yes!” There needs to be a buy-in with meditation because we are all so busy even if we are busy relaxing and we don’t give our time up easily. We want proof that something is going to work.
Fortunately, there’s more and more research showing the many benefits of meditation. In fact, researchers are finding that meditation can change the brain for the better. In a magazine publication called Mindfulness, An Everyday Guide an article titled “Mapping the Mind, How You Use Your Brain Changes It”, it states “Sarah Lazar is one of several researchers who have demonstrated that certain areas of the brain actually grow larger as a result of an ongoing meditation practice.” Furthermore, Lazar states, “It’s well documented that our cortex shrinks as we get older. It’s harder to figure things out and remember things. But in this one region of the prefrontal cortex, 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter as 25-year-olds”. www.amglifestylestore.com/p-2193-mindfulness.aspx Additionally, brain wave frequency patterns can be measured during meditation and meditators can have brain activity in a range that facilitates distraction-free learning and cognition. This can have the effect of decreasing stress hormones and make every day stresses easier to manage.
Meditation can also help us become more compassionate towards ourselves and others. Why is this important? Because compassion can help us deal with difficult emotions and bounce back from mistakes and set-backs. Kristin Neff, researcher and author on self-compassion shows the benefit of self-compassion meditations and exercises to decrease negative judgments of self and others. She points out on her website that “With Self-Compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we would a good friend”.self-compassion.org
Pema Chodron, author, reflects on a meditation practice called Tonglen Meditation and it’s benefits. http://pemachodronfoundation.org I’ve found that Tonglen Meditation is a more active meditation that can help us feel more proactive in helping others. A general description of the practice is to take in or sit with the knowing of the suffering of someone else as you take an in-breath and then as you breathe out you wish that this person be free from suffering. Chodron points out that you can do this exercise towards someone you feel neutral toward, then toward someone you have strong love for and eventually for someone you dislike or have conflict with. I’ve found this meditation practice to be helpful in releasing long-term resentment I may have had toward someone. It’s also impactful to do this practice for complete strangers, someone you see on any given day who seems to be suffering.
Now knowing that meditation can change our brains for the better, guide us in being more compassionate towards ourselves and others and help us feel more proactive in helping others and releasing some of our own resentment, why not give it a try? It just might help.