INNUMERABLE BENEFITS OF SIMPLY CLOSING YOUR EYES
What would happen to you if you meditated twenty minutes each day?
For starters, your brain would begin rewiring immediately. Your little dendrites, which resemble roots of trees, vital to brain cell communication, would increase in number and density. Blood perfusion to your frontal lobes would also increase, making them highly functional. Eventually, even your brain would grow.
But that is not all. The neural connections between your anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex, which merge attention, motivation, working memory, and many other executive functions would also be strengthened. The prefrontal cortex is the decision-making compartment in your brain— it is the place where you make good and bad decisions, where top level or executive functions to everything you do take place. It has been likened to the conductor in an orchestra— maintaining harmony and making music out the many diverse parts of your brain.
So, what happens if you strengthen these neural connections? You achieve all your goals with more precision and less effort! In other words, you will be able to prioritize your goals, see clearly what needs to get done or strategize, focus, and get more done with better results! And if you need scientific validation— a leading neuroscientist, Dr. Andrew Newberg asserts in his groundbreaking book, How God Changes Your Brain, "Thus meditation— be it religious or secular— enables you to more easily accomplish your goals." (Newberg and Waldman 20)
So whatever you do— be it the student who aspires straight A's, the creative soul who craves flow of spirit and originality, the hard-working man who yearns for success, the housewife who thirsts for efficient multitasking, or the dieting woman who fancies a piece of that scrumptious red-velvet cake— meditation preps your prefrontal cortex to function at its best and help you reach your goals more easily. Thus, twenty minutes a day could change your life!
- performance (in work, sports, and/or academics)
- focused attention
- mental clarity
- creativity (stimulates & releases)
- visuospatial skills (mental rotation and visual memory)
- visual acuity (sensitivity to fine visual distinctions)
- error recognition
- self-awareness of mental patterns (thoughts)
- mental flexibility
- goal-directed behavior
- mental processing speed
- heightened perception
- mindfulness (present-moment awareness)
- pattern recognition
- strategic planning
- verbal reasoning
- emotional self-regulation
- healthy emotional expression
- empathy for others
- compassion: including self-compassion
- self-awareness of emotional patterns: including self-defeating & reactive patterns
- ability to cope with painful life events, such as death or illness
- harmful stress hormones
- irritability and impatience
- emotional and behavioral outbursts
- releases negative patterns of behavior
- anxiety risk-prone behavior: excessive alcohol use, smoking, over-eating, and drugs
CAN MEDITATION MAKE YOU HAPPY?
Meditation can make you so happy it can make you blissful. This is particularly true of passive, zero-point focus meditation, where you keep your mind empty or clear of all thoughts. Neurophysiologist, Dr. Shanida Nataraja, provides us with insight into the physiological process for this blissful phenomenon in The Blissful Brain: Neuroscience and Proof of the Power of Meditation, "First, a blissful, peaceful state arises from maximal activation of the parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous system and then, as different neural, hormonal and other triggers swing in, there is maximal activation of the sympathetic (arousal) nervous system, producing a mentally clear and alert state." (Nataraja 88) In other words, keeping your mind empty from thoughts, focused on nothing at all— zero thoughts— will cause such degree of relaxation and such joyous sensation, while at the same time activating your nervous system to the maximum into perfect clarity and alertness. This is the state where you see reality clearly, and ironically, it happens to be with your eyes closed.
But if you are fine with just being happy without having to reach cloud nine, brain-scan imaging shows meditation activates your left prefrontal cortex, area associated with joy.
The strong neural connections meditation builds in your brain also allow you to think before you speak, act, or do anything impulsive you may regret in the future. You can direct your emotions in a positive direction that will benefit you, rather than allow negative emotions take a bite out of you. It gives you the ability to self-manage yourself not only mentally to reach your goals, but emotionally to help you feel good.
Best of all, meditation makes you self-aware, which is meditation's primary goal. The more self-aware you are, the higher the chances of success, fulfillment, and happiness, in all aspects of your life. Most problems are caused by a lack of self-awareness. Meditation opens your mind to clear self-analysis and self-observation. This allows you to see any limiting mental programs and behaviors you might have but are not aware of that may be causing you problems, lack, or limitations— be it in your personal relationships, in your finances, in your health— and make the necessary changes to create a happier and better future for yourself. >Continue to Page 2: Physical & Spiritual Benefits >