Saturday, June 26, 2010

Peace Be With You


Last year around this time I made a conscious choice to be more consistent and regular about meditating. I had been involved in meditation off and on for almost twenty years, but had not had much success with sitting still for any length of time. Even more difficult than quieting my body was quieting my mind.

And, yet, I kept getting drawn to the cushion and I wanted to be more consistent in my practice. I had just read Barbara Bradley Hagerty's book, Fingerprints of God (which I reviewed here last year) and was excited by the evidence she reported in this book of the positive effects of meditation.

In just one example from this excellent survey of the latest scientific evidence about the effects of meditation on the brain, she reports about a study carried out by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others on inexperienced meditators. The results were remarkable and showed that the regular practice of meditation shifted brain-wave activity toward what Hagerty calls a "happier" state.

I had already wanted to be more consistent about my meditation, but it was the scientific evidence presented in Hagerty's book that helped convince me to try a bit harder to establish a regular meditation practice.

I knew that it takes a good 30 to 40 days of regular repetition of any activity before it becomes part of our regular ritual, so the "trick" I used to start my meditation practice was simple: I gave myself a gold star on the calendar for each day I sat on my cushion at the appointed time.

I had a few setbacks, missed a day here and there, but within a couple of months I realized I no longer needed those gold stars to convince me to sit down and light a candle. Now, a year later, I simply want to do it and I miss the moments with myself if I don't get them.

At first, most of the changes I noticed in my life occurred during those hours between the times I meditated, not during the meditation itself. The effects of the meditation made themselves known in every aspect of my life, as I became more centered, more relaxed and much, much more in touch with what I really thought and felt.

Oh, and about that study that Kabat-Zinn carried out that showed that meditator's brains shifted to a happier state? I can personally confirm that this is, indeed, true.

Peace be with you!

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