There’s loads of research going on at the moment about the effects of meditation, and 2 recent studies show that meditating causes physical changes to your brain, and reduces racism!
How big is your precuneus?
Apparently, “people who feel happiness more intensely, feel sadness less intensely, and are more able to find meaning in life have a larger precuneus” – it’s a part of the brain, located in the , which seems to relate to feelings of happiness. And it’s been shown in a number of studies to increase in size with meditation.
This is quite interesting – we often think of the brain as quite ‘fixed’ but in fact brain chemistry and physiology can and do change all the time in response to behaviour and stimulation. So if you’re a ‘glass half full’ person, it’s not necessarily set in stone, and rather than just ‘trying’ to be happier, there may be definite behaviours or practices that will change your outlook.
More meditation, less racism
In another study, carried out at the University of Sussex, they investigated a form of Buddhist meditation called ‘loving-kindness meditation’ which aims to develop a non-judgmental loving attitude towards yourself and others.
And it seems to work.
In a slightly complicated study, they assessed racism by measuring reaction times to positive or negative words, associated with pictures of people of different ethnic backgrounds, to give a kind of ‘score’ to indicate degree of racism.
And it didn’t even take much meditation to have an effect: “The researchers found that just seven minutes of loving-kindness meditation directed to a member of a specific racial group (in this case, a black person) was sufficient to reduce racial bias towards that group.”
It doesn’thave to be hard
These studies both provide more evidence of the benefits of meditation, but it’s still something of an uncommon practice. I was put off of meditating for a long time by the belief that it’s really hard, and I think that puts off a lot of other people too.
In fact, you don’t need any fancy techniques, you don’t have to sit in a contorted position, and it doesn’t have to be hard. You just need to sit or lie comfortably (ideally in a quiet place) and have something to focus on – a word, phrase or sound, or your breathing, for instance.
And that’s it. Whenever your mind drifts, just return it to whatever you were concentrating on. Don’t tell yourself off, and don’t worry, just keep re-focusing your attention as often as you need to. And don’t think that if your mind wanders that it isn’t working, or that you aren’t meditating properly. Meditating is a process not an outcome – a journey, not a destination. You meditate by performing the practice, and you get the benefit whether you feel it was ‘successful’ or not.
The key is regular practice, daily if possible, even if only for a few minutes each day. The results are better concentration, a calmer, brighter outlook, less stress, better sleep, and more energy… (oh, and less racism!)
Meditation and the Shen
In Chinese medicine terms, this is all explained with reference to the Shen – the ‘Spirit’ or ‘Mind’, which incorporates all aspects of your spirituality, personality and outlook on life. Meditation is the chief tool for working with the Shen, which is why it has been part of all spiritual and self-cultivation practices throughout the ages. It’s also why it’s becoming more popular now in the stressful modern world.
If you’d like to learn more about meditation, including my simple easy-to-practice meditation technique, it’s just one of the Radiant Health tools that I cover in my online program Radiant Health Evolution