Ancient sages said it and lived by example. And now, modern scientists are corroborating it, while Deepak Chopra champions it on Dr. Oz. Meditation is one of the most powerful tools for transformation that we have. And while the potential effects of a meditation practice on one's life can be myriad, one important place surrounds our seemingly insurmountable stress levels.
Stress is essentially what results from the body staying in a perpetual state of "fight or flight," a natural response mechanism in the body that was quite useful back when we had to deal with the wiles of the wild, such as natural predators. But now, life is riddled with things that elicit this response - from car horns and near accidents to in laws, rushing, income, worry, self doubt and the like — causing our hearts to beat faster, blood pressure to rise and coping chemicals to be released from the brain way more often than they should — all leaving us run down, lethargic and stressed out.
Meditation can provide the "relaxation response" to stress, reversing the effects it has on the body and inducing a state of deep rest. Recent studies at Stanford and Harvard have put highly stressed individuals through eight-week courses in stress reduction using mindfulness meditation, where brain scans showed an awesome pattern. Not only did the mindfulness "intervention" show that participants experienced lessened activation in the amygdala — which is the region of the brain associated with stress and anxiety — the participants' suffering decreased, reporting less anxiety and worry. Findings showed that the brain became less reactive and more resilient, changing the way the brain responds to negative thoughts.
Philippe Goldin, director of the Clinically Applied Affective Neuroscience project in the Department of Psychology at Stanford University, says, "The goal of meditation is not to get rid of thoughts or emotions. The goal is to become more aware of your thoughts and emotions and learn how to move through them without getting stuck." First though, the goal is to carve out enough time to make it onto our meditation cushions. But all that holiday stress may have you inspired...