Meditation: the Discomfort Zone

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Many people believe that meditation will bring peace and tranquility, and at a certain point, when we are freed from the distress of our discomfort, we do achieve the equanimity which many of us long for.

When I began meditating many years ago I was taught that the mind and its thoughts and reactions was the source of all problems, and practicing meditation would free me of its influences.  I spent hours in sitting meditation, working hard to eliminate all thoughts.  I became very good at being numb, but I did not achieve inner peace.  The more numb I became to the insistent chatter in the brain, the more anxiety I began to feel until I finally experienced full blown panic attacks.

I now believe that the real secret of meditation is in learning a mindful approach to our discomfort.  When we feel emotional or energetic discomfort we often reach for something palliative to relieve the discomfort.  Food, drugs, alcohol – all of these are methods of reducing the level of discomfort in the body that triggers distress.   Mindful breathing and focus can help us to befriend the anxieties and emotional triggers to go THROUGH them and release them rather than go BEYOND them as I was taught years ago.

The breath holds the secret to befriending our discomfort.  Many of us hold our breath, either on the inhale or the exhale, in a fear of letting go to the experiences in the body.  This is a learned reaction to stress or unpleasant emotions, and learning to regulate the breath through deep inhalation and slow exhalation can help to decrease the anxieties around our discomfort and slow our reactions to it.

This is coming up for me personally because transiting Uranus is hitting a sensitive […]

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By |2015-04-23T09:19:43-04:00April 23rd, 2015|Astrology in my world, Consciousness|6 Comments

Meditation increases the size of your brain

meditationIf you needed an excuse to begin meditating or expand your practice, this could be it:

Push-ups, crunches, gyms, personal trainers –people have many strategies for building bigger muscles and stronger bones. But what can one do to build a bigger brain?

Meditate.

That’s the finding from a group of researchers at UCLA who used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of people who meditate. In a study published in the journal NeuroImage and currently available online (by subscription), the researchers report that certain regions in the brains of long-term meditators were larger than in a similar control group.
Specifically, meditators showed significantly larger volumes of the hippocampus and areas within the orbito-frontal cortex, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus — all regions known for regulating emotions.

“We know that people who consistently meditate have a singular ability to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability and engage in mindful behavior,” said Eileen Luders, lead author and a postdoctoral research fellow at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging. “The observed differences in brain anatomy might give us a clue why meditators have these exceptional abilities.”

Research has confirmed the beneficial aspects of meditation. In addition to having better focus and control over their emotions, many people who meditate regularly have reduced levels of stress and bolstered immune systems. But less is known about the link between meditation and brain structure.

In the study, Luders and her colleagues examined 44 people — 22 control subjects and 22 who had practiced various forms of meditation, including Zazen, Samatha and Vipassana, among others. The amount of time they had practiced ranged from five to 46 years, with an average of 24 years.
More than half of all the meditators said that deep concentration was an essential part of […]

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By |2009-05-20T08:19:09-04:00May 20th, 2009|Consciousness|Comments Off on Meditation increases the size of your brain
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