Meditation - Take Control of Your Life!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

"THE BEST WAY TO GET STARTED IS TO QUIT TALKING AND BEGIN DOING" - Walt Disney

 It’s 30 degrees in Melbourne and in a room overlooking the leafy garden of Linden Gallery, a JinLi class chill out and tune in.

As they relax, they send their brain on a high intensity workout.
 
With every breath they focus attention, increase concentration, develop sensory awareness. In effect, they are growing and strengthening their neural pathways, or brain training.
 
In other words, the JinLi class are meditating.

How do I meditate? How can I stop thinking? I’d like to meditate but I don’t have the time. Does it even work anyhow?

Meditation brings people into contact with their potential and defines their purpose in life. The conscious practice of meditation makes us more aware of who we are and why we think like we do and why we do what we do.
 
In this program our aim was to explore the brain and consciousness to more fully understand ourselves. We learnt to pay attention to what is going on within and around us instead of operating on auto-pilot. We can reduce stress, unlock creativity and boost performance.
 
We experienced several methods of meditation practice including:
-  Focused attention including breathing awareness to improve concentration,
-  Mindfulness through observation and stream of consciousness,
-  Compassion in cultivating feelings of empathy and kindness to increase peace and avoid burnout,
-  Visualisation techniques to redirect the wandering mind, improve creative thinking and enhance goal setting.

These techniques have been proven by Neuroscience to increase brain activity and diminish the stress response, leading to increased happiness. All in all, the coordination of mind and body will fully enliven our sense of purpose.

But why meditate?

There are over 3,000 scientific studies on the benefits of meditation. As of 2015, over 1400 studies credit meditation and mindfulness with everything from longevity to increased productivity, happiness and even kindness.
 
 
Our brain has the incredible ability to reformat itself by forming new connections between brain cells also known as neurons. Our experiences fire our neurons, and our plastic brains reorganize throughout life. Changes in the brain occur when we learn new things or memorize new information. In this way we can fine-tune our brain for efficiency.
 
This ability of the brain to change throughout life is referred to as Neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity.
 
You change the wiring in your brain if you change the way you think. We have ‘use-it-or-lose it’ brains. So what we practise gets hardwired in, and what we stop practising gets hardwired out.

How does Neuroplasticity link with meditation?

Neuroplasticity gives the neuroscientist a framework to track meditation research. Meditation can alter the brain through changes in Neuroplasticity.
 
Studies have shown that meditation increases the density of grey matter/cortical thickness in the: 

Anterior cingulate cortex - connected to our ability to self regulate, our motor attention and cognitive flexibility,
Pre-Frontal cortex - responsible for executive functioning such as planning problem solving and emotion regulation,
Hippocampus - governs learning and memory and is susceptible to stress disorders like depression,
Amygdala - meditation decreases Amygdala size, our brain’s fight or flight centre and the seat of our fearful and anxious emotions.

Meditation improves functionality in the brain’s networks/connections: less reactivity, high attention, high concentration, reduced activity in the “Monkey Mind” centre of our brain.

Meditation doesn’t only change the brain, it changes the mind. To suggest meditation is simply only brain training is to sell meditation short.

Meditation brings people into contact with their potential and helps discover and define their purpose in life. Meditation practitioners develop empathy, show greater compassion, and communicate more mindfully.

Our JinLi participants explored a fuller understanding of their mind and how to control and expand it through simple but powerful meditation practices. They gained enormously from the knowledge that happiness and contentment are skills. The "Meditation - Take Control of Your Life" course was also an opportunity to practise a mindful approach to the chaotic roller coaster the festive season can bring, and a means to clarify intention for the New Year.

- Dr Lisa Pizaro 2016