meditationMeditation is as old as time itself, and is all too often associated with the search for enlightenment. Whilst this is indeed part of the goal for some, meditation is something that is accessible to everyone and is not as difficult to ‘master’ as some would have you believe. In its broadest sense, the practice of meditation seeks to help one promote relaxation, build up energy or life force (also known as qi, prana, chi, etc) and develop inner and outer harmony, peace, compassion, love, generosity and forgiveness.

Meditation has many forms: mindfulness, insight, compassion, chanting, mantra, Om… but in essence, what it really means regardless of the method, is ‘going inside’ and quieting your mind. One of the most common techniques involves focusing on your breath, and returning to that focus every time your thoughts pop into your mind. In the early stages, most people find it quite difficult to stop or quieten their mind, but with practice, this does become easier.

Advantages – The advantages and benefits of meditation are enormous, and countless clinical studies have been carried out that show meditation does indeed affect the brain. Using fMRI scans, scientists have been able to study exactly what goes on in your brain during meditation. This graphic shows the difference in one subject’s brain before and after a meditation session.

meditation brain map

Typically, your ‘busy’ beta waves slow down in the frontal lobe, which means that the reasoning, planning, emotional and self-conscious parts get a break. Activity in the parietal lobe which is responsible for orienting you in time and space, also slows down. The thalamus focuses your attention by funneling sensory data deeper into the brain and stopping other signals from entering. Meditation reduces the flow of incoming information, contributing to the ‘quiet’ needed for meditation. Finally, the reticular activation system drops down a few notches too.

Just some of the benefits of meditation include:

reduced stress, lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, improved focus and concentration, disease prevention, aided healing, anti-ageing, increased sense of well being, increased compassion, improved mental clarity.

Rich, famous and successful people who have said that meditation helps them include:

Clint Eastwood, Orlando Bloom, Russell Brand, Madonna, Sting, Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, Mike Oldfield, Martin Scorsese, Eva Mendes, Liv Tyler, Naomi Watts