Meditation in the 21st Century

What’s the first image that comes to mind when you think of meditation?

You might immediately envision monks in a temple, draped in robes, humming and sitting silent for hours on end.

To those who have never tried mediation, it can seem like a very foreign practice only found in the counter-culture cracks of modern society.

But the ancient practice of meditation has been anything trapped in time.

Not only has it gained a mainstream following among corporate CEOs, professional athletes, college students and more. But this ancient practice has been shown in modern times to have measurable benefits for the mind and body.

Meditation is traditionally "marketed" for the remarkable sense of peacefulness and relaxation it can create.

It’s been well-proven that meditation and mindfulness can have a positive impact on stress, anxiety, focus, creativity and even relationships.

But researchers and scientists are discovering the benefits of meditation go far beyond just cognitive benefits.

We’re finding out that meditation actually has the ability to change our biology. These changes have been shown to induce physical transformations.

Benefiting from meditation is more than just mind over matter. That’s because it can literally improve your mind … by improving the gray matter in your brain!

For example, a new study done by Harvard University showed that eight weeks of meditation had the ability to rebuild gray matter.

Gray matter contains most of the brain’s neuronal cell bodies. The gray matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control and sensory perception. That is, seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making and self-control.

The senior author of the study is Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program. Lazar is also a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. Here’s what she has to say …

"Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day.

"This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing."

Britta Hölzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany, added,

"It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life."

That’s an intriguing modern twist on this ancient practice — the ability to actually measure and collect data on the effects of meditation.

Before that, so many of the claims for meditation were brushed off as "hippie logic" or placebo effects.

But this just isn’t the case.

We’re learning that mediation can allow us to influence things like the autonomic nervous system, something once thought to be impossible.

Being able to manipulate our own autonomic nervous system, which was named that way because we believed we had zero control over it, is huge.

This means we can mindfully impact our immunity, our digestion, our hormones and our cardiovascular health.

All just by breathing and with the power of our own mind!

The biggest barrier for most people starting meditation is figuring out where to start.

Thankfully in 2016, you don’t need to go out find the nearest Tibetan temple.

You don’t even need to leave your own bedroom!

Getting started with meditation is easier than ever with numerous smartphone apps, computer games and online courses available.

My personal favorite meditation app is called Headspace, which is a guided meditation app that you can download on your smartphone.

With Headspace, a narrator walks you through each meditation session. That way you’re not on your own, desperately trying to keep yourself silent and still.

The nice thing about it is that you can dial up a few moments of mindfulness no matter where you are — in your office, at your hotel or anytime you need a moment of "me" time.

Headspace keeps track of your progress and slowly increases the length of your sessions by five minutes.

The app even comes with several different guided meditation series. These are goal-specific sessions like sports, health, relationships and performance.

You even can set a reminder within the app as well to remind you to meditate each day.

Other popular mediation apps include Calm, Buddhify and Omvana, among others.

If you want even more support and even more powerful results, there are many courses online.

To name a few of the best … The Wim Hof Method, Do Yoga With Me, The Free Mindfulness Project and Dharma Seed.

We would love to know your own personal experience with meditation and any of these new age mediation technologies. Are you now thinking of starting a meditation practice? Let us know in the comment box below.

Happy and healthy investing,
Brad


Resources:

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/

http://www.icemanwimhof.com/files/pnas.pdf

http://www.icemanwimhof.com/files/can-meditation-influence-ans-hopman.pdf

http://www.icemanwimhof.com/files/artikel-onderzoek-pickkers-amerikaans-blad.pdf

http://www.icemanwimhof.com/files/biology-now-chapter-22-Wim-Hof.pdf

Your thoughts on “Meditation in the 21st Century”

  1. Thanks Brad, I’m 82 and have been meditating every morn when I awake, I wouldn’t miss
    it, it seems to set my day up. I just sit andmy eyes and put my hands in chinmudra and follow the breath as I inhale and exhale for 30 minutes. Best thing I ever did,

  2. Dear Brad, Thank you for reminding us of the power of meditation. Working at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and then at CERN (The Large Hadron Collider) over fifty years ago I first became aware of the uncanny parallels between the theories of subatomic physics and the mystical traditions of the East – such as the practice of meditation – and the real way to self discovery. These revelations have enabled me, and many many colleagues, to deal with so-called incurable health issues, particularly persistent back pain, tricky investment issues, and much else besides. I therefore wholeheartedly urge everyone who will listen to seek out an experienced mentor and start the practice of simple (Tibetan) ‘on the breath’ meditation as soon as possible!

  3. I practiced Transcendental Meditation for several years. Thanks for the reminder that meditation is just as important to me, now, as a senior citizen. I highly recommend some form of meditation practice to all your readers.

  4. I cannot find “Headspace” on the Apple app store (nor Buddhify or Omvana). Where did you locate the app?

  5. Your article shows a remarkable lack of awareness of the scientific studies of Transcendental Meditation (“TM”), as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The earliest of these studies, by Benson and Wallace, goes back to around 1970. There have been hundreds since then. In fact, it was this particular study on this specific meditation technique that brought meditation — especially TM, into mainstream culture in America and elsewhere. I agree, though, that while at one time, TM was constantly in the news, it is less advertised now, even though it is no less present and accessible.

  6. I am 85 yrs old. 50 yrs ago I took a course in Transcendal Medidation because I was in a
    very stressful business. It was the best thing I ever did. However I did not continue it to
    date. Seeing your article on Meditation, I would like to ask you to email me whatever you are suggesting on Meditation.

    Thank you

  7. Always enjoy your Sat columns. This one brought a smile.
    The Catholic church has been “into” meditation for over 2000 years.

  8. Please also see Christian meditation on Contemplativeoutreach.org and books by Thomas Keeting such as Open Mind, Open Heart. It has changed my life and is truly life transforming.

  9. Yes I am. Have just gone through open heart triple bypass. I am not the same person. For starters I am drugged, my insides have been rearranged. I would not recommend such a drastic procedure. There are alternatives. I am not sure where or how to get started. Your article helped. Thank-you.

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