How Meditation Can Help Students Master Life

Image is courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by Alec Couros
Source: Edudemic.com
Dustin Le
June 16, 2015

Some of the most successful people in the world meditate, including Josh Waitzkin, the only person to have won a championship in every category of chess. In addition, he is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a national champion in Tai Chi. He attributes much of his success to the focus gained from the practice of meditation through various forms of meditation.

Meditation is a practice that has a long history dating back to Hindu traditions of Ancient India. There was always something a bit mystical or mysterious about meditation, but as science has shown in recent years, it is not as “out there” as many think. This article goes into the benefits of meditation and the different methods of meditation that students can use in order to excel in school, perform at a high level in sports and extracurricular activities, and have more emotional control over oneself.

Five Benefits of Meditation

1. Increased Focus

Although it is not understood why, studies have shown that meditation increases the ability to focus for longer sustained periods of time. This benefits students in many ways, including being able to pay attention in class longer, thus improving the chances of material retention. In addition, students who meditate have a higher rate of success in taking quizzes and exams.

Better focus also benefits students outside the classroom — specifically, in extracurricular activities such as football, drama, band, basketball, baseball, or choir. The act of visualization is a form of meditation that many professional athletes use in order to perform at the highest level. Phil Jackson, coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, teaches his players to use Zen meditation to improve their game. He has 11 championship rings, the most in NBA history. Pete Carroll, NFL Superbowl champion coach of the Seattle Seahawks and former USC Trojans coach, also uses meditation techniques at practice. Musician Paul McCartney meditates as well. And as we covered in our recent article on Daily Meditation, even some schools are beginning to integrate meditation into their daily curriculum.

2. Improved Memory

A study in the Harvard Gazette reports that after an 8-week meditation study in which participants meditated for 27 minutes each day, MRI’s (Magnetic Resonance Images) showed an increase in grey matter in the hippocampus region of the brain that is responsible for learning and memory.

An enhanced memory allows students to retain more information, which of course, lends itself to better test scores. But this is not the extent of the benefits of a better memory. One benefit is remembering people’s names that you have just met. As Dale Carnegie wrote in his book, How To Win Friends & Influence People, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” The simple act of remembering another person’s name makes it easier to converse and create relationships. This is a plus for both personal and career lives.

In addition, a good memory means an increased ability to juggle many different ideas and thoughts at once. This is a skill that is useful in carrying thought-provoking, intelligent, and interesting conversations. Furthermore, it is a skill that comes in handy in the workplace and in the world in general, where information is king.

3. Reduced Anxiety and Stress

According to this article from the National Institute of Mental Health, stress can cause digestive issues, headaches, insomnia, depression, and anger, among other symptoms. Under conditions of chronic stress, people may suffer from more viral infections like the flu.

Tragedies, traumatic events, and even minor failures can cause an onset of stress that seems neverending. This is especially true in teenagers and college students, who go through emotional rollercoasters due to hormonal changes and stress-inducing events such as moving away to college or breaking up with a significant other.

Meditation is one way to confront emotions and deal with these stressful events in a healthy way. Vyda Bielkus of Mind Body Green writes about how yoga can be a great form of meditation for gettingover a breakup. In contrast, still meditations like transcendental meditation are great for calming the mind and body.

4. Reduced Fatigue

A study was done at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine that showed that brief meditation sessions (within 4 days) reduced fatigue and increased attention. Jerry Seinfeld is a huge advocate of meditation and its affects on his energy level throughout the day. In his own words, “Sleep is hit and miss. TM [transcendental meditation] is not.”

College is an interesting time in life where students sleep irregularly, consume foods and liquids that are less than healthy for the body, and give up on the healthy exercising habits they indulged in while attending high school. These are all hesee major causes of fatigue.  In addition to changing those three lifestyle habits, meditation can help reduce the fatigue felt by the significant life event of going away to school and being bombarded with incredible workloads.

5. Immunity Boost

With a job, five classes, a relationship, and social activities, nobody has time to get sick. Unfortunately, with the lifestyles that many students have, illness is something that is difficult to avoid.

Exercise, a healthy diet, and a regular sleeping schedule are all important to sustain a healthy way of life. Additionally, research from the National Library of Health shows that even a short-term meditation training program can provide significant measurable changes in the immune system of participants.

How to Meditate: A Quick Primer

There are many forms of meditation in the world, and every person’s approach can vary based on their personal preferences. We will go into three of the most common forms of meditation.

  1. Mindfulness is a form of meditation in which the participant observes sensations in the body. This is a great way to transition students from one lesson to another by helping them refocus and recharge mentally. To practice mindfulness, have your get students into a comfortable position, whether that is laying down, sitting, or somewhere between. Have your students close their eyes and observe how different areas of their bodies feel. Bring their attention to how their lungs inflate and deflate with each breath without necessarily changing the breathing pattern. Then have them move their attention to their feet and notice the pressure on them and whether they are cold or hot. Do this for every single part of the body. This form of meditation helps people become more aware of their mind and body, as well as of their thoughts.
  2. Transcendental Meditation is a very popular form of meditation in which minute focus is key. In addition to starting off class in a calming manner, using this form of meditation is a great way to recharge your students after lunch, when food coma starts hitting. To do TM, have your students sit up with their backs straight in the lotus position and close their eyes. A mantra, which is considered by many to be a sacred word that is gifted to meditators, is repeated over and over for 20 minutes. TM is usually done twice a day – once upon waking and again at around midday.
  3. Moving Meditation is a form of meditation that is not meditation in the traditional sense of the word, where participants sit quietly in the lotus position with the eyes closed. Moving meditation includes any physical activity that puts one in a trance-like state. This can be a martial art like Tai Chi, a focus-intensive activity like mountain climbing, or a game like chess. All of these activities require an intense level of focus that some call “the zone” or “flow”. This too is a great form of meditation and can be a great way for students to energize and refresh their minds and bodies while creating a very acute sense of focus.

Conclusion

In order to fully optimize health by reducing stress and increasing cognition performance, it is important for students to embrace a healthy diet, exercise, a regular sleep schedule, and meditation. While it has not been in the conversation until very recently, meditation is just one piece in the overall puzzle of health.

Read More At: Edudemic.com

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‘Real’ Meditation Beats ‘Fake’ in Scientific Study

Monks Meditating One

Source: YogaForTheNewWorld
Christina Sarich
September 3, 2016

Originally published at The Mind Unleashed

The benefits of meditation have been touted for decades now, with seemingly a new scientific study coming out as fast as you can say ‘Aum’.  Harvard has proven that meditation rebuilds the grey matter in our brains in as little as 8 weeks, and according to University of Toronto psychiatrist, Steven Selchen, “There’s more than an article a day on the subject in peer-reviewed journals now.” With such vast research into the study of mindfulness, how do we know if we are really practicing meditation?

Fortunately, researchers unearthed some astounding discoveries about the brain’s functioning in ‘real’ meditation as opposed to ‘fake’ meditation.

Dr. Creswell, working with scientists from a handful of additional universities, managed to fake mindfulness, in order to observe physiological changes in the brains of participants. Their findings have now been published in Biological Psychiatry, a Journal of Psychiatric Neuroscience.

35 men and women were recruited who were experiencing unemployment, and arguably, high levels of daily stress. Prior to being divided into two groups, one practicing real meditation, and the other a sham experience that looked like meditation, their brains were scanned and blood samples were taken.

Both groups did stretching exercises, but one group was taught a traditional form of mindfulness meditation whereupon they were to pay close attention to bodily sensations, including unpleasant ones. The second group went along doing their stretches without the same formal meditation instructions, while their instructor made jokes. This group was also allowed to chatter and ignore all bodily sensations as they stretched.

None of the participants knew if they were in the ‘real’ meditation or ‘sham’ meditation group.

Upon finishing a three-day ‘meditation’ session, both groups reported feeling refreshed and less stressed, however, follow-up brain scans told the real truth about ‘fake’ meditation.

The group who had practiced real mindfulness meditation showed higher communication in portions of their brains that are associated to calm and focus than those who were in the sham meditation group.

Shockingly, four months later, the real meditation group also showed a much lower level of a blood marker called Interleukin-6, which is known to cause inflammation, and subsequently, disease in the body – even though very few were still meditating.

That means in just three days of meditating mindfully, an entire group of people experienced prolonged calm, focus, and reduced markers for disease.

Dr. Creswell is rather certain that the meditation is what caused the reduction in Interlukin-6, but he has no idea how it actually works, or what ‘dose’ of meditation is needed to keep inflammation down long term.

Anecdotal accounts have given people great motivation to meditate for just a few minutes every day. People who have even a brief, but regular meditation habit have reported experiencing greater clarity, reduced feelings of overwhelm and greater resolve to accomplish their goals.

In fact, one study led by the University of Massachusetts Medical School taught mindfulness to a group of people with clinical levels of anxiety and found that 90% experienced significant reductions in anxiety and depression.

Now that we even have a study proving that ‘real’ meditation works better than ‘fake’ meditation or a placebo, isn’t it time to carve a few minutes out of your day for this life-changing practice?

Sure, your family members might be noisy, or you travel too much, or you are sick, but there really is no reason NOT to meditate. Here are some tips to get in a ten-minute meditation for the busiest people:

  • You can meditate on a plane without anyone even knowing. Just close your eyes and mindfully feel every sensation that arises in your body.
  • If you live in a busy household, try waking up just fifteen minutes before everyone else to practice a few moments of calm awareness before the hectic day begins.
  • If you are sick – what better way to help your body recuperate, than by focusing on your breath, and allowing the magic of mindfulness to start healing you?
  • Got family in town? Let them know you have to run out for an errand, and practice 10 minutes of mindfulness in your car before you grab that loaf of bread or drop off the dry cleaning.

See if you can keep up a 10-minute meditation practice for 30 days. By then you’ll have created a habit, and you can add momentum to your accomplishments by slowly sitting in mindfulness for longer stretches. If your attempting the ‘real’ thing – you will see improvements in your focus, mood, and even your health!

Read More At: YogaForTheNewWorld.com

Image credits: Lazamunda.org

www.newpathwaytohealing.com

Breaking Away From Stress With Meditation


TheBreakway
Zy Marquiez
July 5, 2016

“Meditation is not like doing reps at the gym.  It strengthens your attention muscle.”
– David Levy

“Give me silence.  Let me ponder my despair.  Where the trees and the birds know no cruelty.  And where I may learn to breathe again.  Without the harsh views of humanity.  Without judgment or jury.  Just me, the trees, the green.  And my silence.”
– Amelia Dashwood

Meditation is a tool that is as great and powerful as its precision of use.

A still mind helps employ this tool and its effect will be proportional to the drive the individual employs in its application.

Calming the mind can help:

Better sleep
Clearer focus
Greater effectiveness
Anger control
Ability to learn faster
Stress release
Less distraction
Better concentration
Reduced depression
Enhanced physical relaxation[1]

Michael Singer, in his book The Surrender Experiment, covers many experiences that expanded his consciousness when he became ready to allow things in life to happen, rather than forcing things to manifest in his own manner.  In his intriguing and thought provoking book he writes:

“Challenging situations create the force needed to bring about change.  The problem is that we generally use all the stirred-up energy intended to bring about change to resist change.  I was learning to sit quietly in the midst of the howling winds and wait to see what constructive action was being asked of me.”

This resounding passage helped me change the path of stress that was chosen by me to a more consciously calming road.

Another effect of reading the above passage was that it was as if the stress-balloon popped, and it was quite shocking at first.  This was due to the realization that change was being resisted by me, and that was one major factor causing stress in my life at the time.  Synchronistically enough, it was after that very moment subsequent to reading that particular passage and making the choice to change that everything in my life began snowballing into positive circumstances once it was decided by me to become proactive, rather than reactive.

Such resounding change wasn’t able to take place until my eyes and mind were open to it, and willing to act on it.

In Meditation For Warriors – Practical Medication For Cops, Soldiers & Martial Artists, Loren W. Christensen not only shows many anecdotal evidence by those in the martial field of the benefits of meditation, but he also offers various ways that meditation can be employed.

As the author notes, one army veteran told him:

“There was a soldier in Afghanistan into the Zen/hippie stuff.  He was always meditating, doing yoga, whatever.  Thing is, he always seemed so calm no matter what was going on.  So I asked him to show me how to meditate.  After a while, it started to make a huge difference on how I mentally dealt with stress in combat.”[3]

Christensen’s friend, Paul McRedmond, who was a long-time martial artist, retired police officer, and avid meditator for nigh five decades, related:

“The nervous system can only take so much dynamic input before it crashes/needs to sleep, etc.  It’s like filling a cup with water.  The cup can actually take more water than just the cup’s measure.  But one more drop can cause more water to flow from the cup than just that one drop.  Loren, you’ve dealt with many, many ‘last straw’ [last drop of stress] people.  With them, a seemingly random event, a single word or a glance can cause emotional upset, panic, screaming, and, sometimes, really stupid actions…There are three ways to empty the cup: You can get a bigger one.  You can dump or drain the water in the existing one, or you can avoid water.  Training, relationships, good nutrition, and exercise all enlarge the cup.  Sleep allows some of the water to drain and vacations get you away from the water.

But, meditation does all three at once.  It expands the capacity of your nervous system by creating coherence [a synergistic pattern of brain wave frequencies across the main 4 quadrants of the brain], it allows for greater restfulness during sleep [draining the water], and [here comes the woo-woo stuff] to eventually become water.”[4]

Essentially, meditation impacts the health of the individual through what are called “stress reduction pathways” within your brain.  As Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University elaborated:

“When an individual experiences stress, activity in the prefrontal cortex — responsible for conscious thinking and planning — decreases, while activity in the amygdala, hypothalamus and anterior cingulate cortex — regions that quickly activate the body’s stress response — increases.

Studies have suggested that mindfulness reverses these patterns during stress; it increases prefrontal activity, which can regulate and turn down the biological stress response.

Excessive activation of the biological stress response increases the risk of diseases impacted by stress (like depression, HIV and heart disease).

By reducing individuals’ experiences of stress, mindfulness may help regulate the physical stress response and ultimately reduce the risk and severity of stress-related diseases.”

There are countless other examples that showcase what individuals in high-stress environments thought of the regular use of using meditation as a tool.  That convinced me, as an individual, that there could probably be some merit to what they spoke of.  And there was.

After learning how to employ meditation, issues that used to bother me, melted away.

Empty/inflammatory comments people made, affected me no longer.

Stressful scenarios that used to be obstacles became puzzles to be solved rather than detriments on my path.

Because of the above reason, and more, meditation has always been a staple in my life, and always will be.

There are many ways stress can be conquered, and these techniques are up to the individual to figure out what helps them best.  In my case, reading, working out & meditating have always worked best, with the last one netting the most benefits by far.

Whatever tool/technique one decides to choose to deal with stress, it’s of utmost importance not only to refine this tool, but to hone it as much as possible for when it is needed.  The beauty of whatever technique/tool you choose, is that the more you employ it, the more efficient you will become with it.  But its benefits will only accrue by being regularly proactive.

Ponder about it, a perfectly honed tool sitting in the attic of your life most of the time does nobody any good.

Please keep in mind, when the next obstacle in your life arises, it’s not to bring you down.  It’s to test you.  It’s to show you what you’re made of.

But nothing great will happen unless you unleash the power of your mind in its full potential.

As Eckhart Tolle intimated:

“Your mind is an instrument, a tool, a weapon.”

The mind, your mind, is your greatest asset.

Be cognizant.

Hone it.

Employ it.

To sum up, the following quote is left for your contemplation:

“The mind can be our best friend and advocate in getting what we want in life, or it can pull the breaks on and be a nasty little foe – the choice is yours – choose your attitude.”
– Rachel Bermingham
______
Sources & References

[1] Loren W. Christensen, Meditation For Warriors – Practical Medication For Cops, Soldiers & Martial Artists, pg. 19.
[2]  Dr. Kelly Brogan, M.D., A Mind Of Your Own – The Truth About Depression & How Women Can Heal Their Bodies To Reclaim Their Lives, p. 260.
[3] Loren W. Christensen, Meditation For Warriors – Practical Medication For Cops, Soldiers & Martial Artists, pg. 19.
[4] Ibid., pg. 19-20
[5] [5] EurekAlert!, Carnegie Mellon Researchers Reveal How Mindfulness Training Affects Health, February 12, 2016