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“Meditation is simply about being yourself and knowing about who that is. It is about coming to realize that you are on a path whether you like it or not, namely the path that is your life.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn.
In the last few decades, more and more research has been conducted on the biological benefits of practicing meditation or some other form of mindfulness. Did you know that practicing mindfulness can actually change the brain on a biological, chemical and molecular level? According to research, it has been scientifically proven that mindfulness improves overall brain function.
The evidence shows that incorporating mindfulness practice into your daily life can actually help develop and grow the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain that is associated with learning and memory. It is also able to reduce the activity levels of the amygdala, the area in the brain connected to fear, stress, anxiety and depression. Essentially, practicing mindfulness is a way for you to literally rewire the way your brain works.
Some people may be thinking, “Okay, that’s great and all, but what is mindfulness, and how do you practice it?”
Mindfulness practices have been around for thousands of years, but they have just recently become a popular concept in the West.
There are many different ways to practice mindfulness, but generally, the fundamental idea (regardless of which way you practice) is to focus your attention in one direction. This can be done through focused breathing techniques, repeating a mantra, or observing a certain emotion or body sensation. Instead of letting the mind wander in a million different directions, the objective is to calm the mind enough to be able to fully experience the present moment.
It may seem ludicrous that simply sitting down to focus your attention and awareness can have such profound biological effects, but if you take into consideration the state of mind we often experience (stress and anxiety about work, relationships, finances, etc.), it makes sense that these things would have an adverse effect on our health. It has been reported that meditation not only improves brain functions, but it has also been linked to decreased blood pressure, higher energy levels, and an overall sense of greater peace and happiness.
Many people find it helpful to be guided through their meditation and mindfulness practices.
There are hundreds of different techniques, teachers and programs available to help guide you in this practice. For example, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., a scientist, writer and meditation teacher, has brought mindfulness into medicine, healthcare and society. He is also a best-selling author of several books, and he has helped train thousands of people in the practice of mindfulness and meditation.
Kabat-Zinn’s audio programs, Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life and Mindfulness Meditation Workshop: Exercises and Meditations, are wonderful tutorials on how to incorporate mindfulness into everyday activities. He leads you through guided meditations, and provides the listener with the clarity and understanding that true mindfulness lies in how one lives from moment to moment, not merely in formal meditative practices.
These audio programs are now available in a boxed set, and can be downloaded through BetterListen.com, an online community that distributes spoken word titles of some of the world’s outstanding thinkers, educators, authors and healers. Visit here for more information on Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness programs and how to download them.
BetterListen! represents a wonderful array of other mindfulness teachers as well, including works by Pema Chodron, Thich Naht Hanh, Beryl Bender Birch and many more. For a list of free audio downloads click here. These free titles include works by Ram Dass, Rumi, James Hillman and more.
BetterListen! provides ideas, tools and media for a better world. Our spoken word titles feature some of the world’s outstanding thinkers, educators, authors, and healers. We publish audio and video programs with many NY Times Best Selling Authors including: Marianne Williamson, Thomas Moore, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Michael Beckwith, Shlomo Carlebach, Douglas Rushkoff, Astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell founder of The Institute of Noetic Sciences, The entire Shambhala Audio Collection and more.
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