Ongoing research continues to affirm what seasoned meditators have been claiming for centuries, if not millennia. How we experience our world, including our perceptions of our internal world, can be dramatically changed, mediated, through meditation.
In the most recent work done at the Departments of Neurobiology, Anatomy and Biomedical Engineering at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the Psychology Department at Marquette University, and published in the Journal of Neuroscience, 2011 Apr 6;31(14):5540-8, researchers found the data to indicated that, “…meditation engages multiple brain mechanisms that alter the construction of the subjectively available pain experience from afferent information.”
"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally."
The benefits of teaching mindfulness to adolescents are confirmed in research between Tonbridge School and the Cambridge University Well-being Institute in the UK.
Recently I was watching a movie called, “The Peaceful Warrior” about a young athlete at a California University who happens upon a spiritual mystic and teacher in the guise of an old mechanic working at the neighborhood gas station. One of his mysterious guru’s most pointed messages is that we completely miss out on life because we’re always distracted by thoughts of past and future. At one point he takes his student to a park and asks him to take a look around. The student replies, “There’s nothing going on here,” At which point the teacher takes the student by the shoulder and miraculously transforms his perception.
A recent study showed that participants in a three-month shamatha meditation retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado had an increase in their telomerase length. Telomerase decrease has been associated with aging (Cawthorn et al (2003), so an increase in telomerase length would correspond to an increase in longevity. Although of course we'll have to wait quite a few years to check whether this really is the case, and although the statistical significance for these effects is weak, I think these results are quite interesting.
When was the last time you missed a turnoff, misplaced your cell phone, lost your car keys or overlooked an important detail at work?
If you counted the number of times these small errors of mindlessness occur in a single day, you might be taken aback. In fact, a great deal of time, energy, and money can be lost through these simple mishaps of mis-attention.
Mindfulness is not just an esoteric practice for monks ensconced in Himalayan caves. It actually has a very powerful and practical application at work and in daily life. It can increase your effectiveness and productivity, bring more presence into your interactions, and foster more joy in your family life.
To my mind, some of the most convincing evidence that meditation has a serious impact on one's functioning is how serious long-term practitioners deal with pain. One example is a story relayed by Matthieu Ricard of a lama who was tortured by the Chinese for many years, and when after his release the Dalai Lama asked him what he was most afraid of, he said it was of losing his compassion for his torturers. Similarly, Garchen Rinpoche, during his visit to Lerab Ling said that he did not suffer at all during his time in prison camp. Clearly they have a different way of dealing with pain than we do.
Over the years I have heard Sogyal Rinpoche say that as result of meditation practice, we will make better decisions. Well, here is some really interesting new research that shows that meditators not only make a more rational decision than the control group, but that meditators may actually be using a different part of the brain to make decisions!
Recently I caught up with Dominique Side, who is holding the What Meditation Really Is: Meditation and Health workshop in France next month. I had a camera in tow and Dominique answered some questions about the connection between meditation and health, what meditation really is and what meditation is not.
See the videos after the jump. Workshop space is limited, but you can still register here.
Yesterday, I blogged about Dharma Master Cheng Yen, whose meditation practice has blossomed into a profound, compassionate dedication towards relieving the sufferings of humanity. Hopefully, you voted for her here.
Today, there is a story of compassion from a student in the What Meditation Really Is class that I gave in New York this spring.
Half Baked Buddha
I’ve always had an aversion to insects. So waking up this morning to find a giant gray worm with a billion legs, inside my kitchen sink, was not the ideal way to start my day. I put my coffee mug in the sink as far away from it as possible, and bolted out of the kitchen and off to work. I was sure it would be gone by the time I got back.