Aug 26 2010

Meditation and Your Brain

Rae

I recently read an amazing article in Yoga Journal on “Your Brain on Meditation,” by Kelly McGonigal (www.yogajournal.com/health/2601). She teaches yoga, meditation, and psychology at Stanford University and is the author of Yoga for Pain Relief. It is so inspiring that there is now scientific evidence that your brain on meditation actually changes its structure in different regions of the brain depending on the meditation. For instance, “over the past decade, researchers have found that if you practice focusing attention on your breath or a mantra, the brain will restructure itself to make concentration easier. If you practice calm acceptance during meditation, you will develop a brain that is more resilient to stress. And if you meditate while cultivating feelings of love and compassion, your brain will develop in such a way that you spontaneously feel more connected to others.”

Meditation in the Christian faith is often read and talked about, but not often taught. Meditation is compared to learning a skill like playing an instrument or a sport. In the Message version of Matthew 6, by Eugene Peterson, Jesus say’s “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”

Prayer and meditation are two integral practices that join or unite us to our Creator. Prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to Him. However, they both are forms of communication and require practice, patience and time. Our brains are so complex, yet we are designed in such a way that when we take the time to meditate a physical manifestation of gray matter in the brain is produced in different regions. According to “Eileen Luders, a re-searcher in the Department of Neurology at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine found that increased gray matter typically makes an area of the brain more efficient or powerful at processing information.”

How do we put meditation into practice and deepen our faith? Meditation is an ancient old practice and is used in many religions to connect with God and non-religious meditation techniques link the breath or repeat positive phrases (mantras) to calm the nervous system.  When Jesus visited Martha “her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42). Learning to be still and quiet in our inundated culture and living up to the expectations that we place on ourselves and others requires discipline.  By practicing just 10 to 90 minutes a day you can experience immediate results of calm and peaceful feelings.

This meditation was taught to me at Yogaville, an Ashram in Virginia.

Connect to God in Meditation

  1. Go to a quiet secluded place
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Draw your shoulder blades on the backside of your heart as you melt your shoulders away from your ears
  4. Expand from your heart center and smile with your collar bones
  5. Ground in through your sitting bones by pulling back any access flesh
  6. Inhale and Exhale:”Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
  7. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still and know that I am.”
  8. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still and know that.”
  9. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still and know.”
  10. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still.”
  11. Inhale and Exhale: “Be.”