Yes, I know it’s only February in “We the North”, and we have quite some time to go before we see the likes of crocuses, hyacinths, daffodils, or even one tiny tulip, push its way up through the frosty loam to receive its first kiss from the sun.
There is, however, a kind of garden we can cultivate all year long, no matter where we lay our hats. It is the garden within, cultivated through the practice of meditation.
And it’s all based on proven science. Lots of it.
University of California (UCLA), Laboratory of Neuro-imaging Research Results
Californians know from gardening, and Chardonnay, but I digress. 😉
There are more than 30 types of soil in the Napa Valley itself. This, however, is about a whole different kind of gardening, rather meditating. Same thing.
In 2012, researchers at UCLA’s Neuro-imaging lab found that long-term meditators have have larger amounts of gyrification or “folding” of the cortex, which may allow their brains to process information faster than than the brains of those who don’t meditate.
Another exciting area that received growth was the central back part part of the brain, called the “insula” or “insular cortex”.
Researchers took MRI scans of 50 meditators; 28 men and 22 women; and compared them to 50 control subjects matched for age, handedness and sex. The meditators practiced regularly in different forms of meditation; Samatha, Vipassana, Zen and other forms.
What provided “the edge” (more about that later) in this study was that there is a DIRECT LINK between the increase of folding in the brain to the amount of years of meditation you have under your belt.
The image above compares meditators of more or less than five years and more or less than one year. The difference in that short period of time is remarkable.
A Significant Growth in Brain Folds – Where Compassion Grows
The gains found in the UCLA study were largely located in the outer-front part of the brain called the cerebral cortex, which has the key role in functions of memory, attention, thought and awareness.
The folds of the brain are like “root highways” in the earth, carrying vital information to the plant life they support. The thicker the roots, the more nutrients they provide. The more nutrients they provide, the better the yield.
Area of the brain that processes empathy identified – Brain Journal
An article published by ‘Science Daily’ in 2012, revealed that “an international team led by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York has for the first time shown that one area of the brain, called the anterior insular cortex, is the activity center of human empathy, whereas other areas of the brain are not. The study is published in the September 2012 issue of the journal ‘Brain’.
Empathy, the ability to perceive and share another person’s emotional state, has been described by philosophers and psychologists for centuries. In the past decade, however, scientists have used powerful functional MRI imaging to identify several regions in the brain that are associated with empathy for pain. This most recent study, however, firmly establishes that the anterior insular cortex is where the feeling of empathy originates.”
The corollary here is straight-forward. The more you meditate, the more empathy you cultivate. The more empathy, the more compassion. The more compassion, the better the human being.
And that’s why meditation is like gardening; It grows beautiful, heart-centred, compassionate people. Proven fact.
Here’s an excerpt from the actual study:
“Bridging the hemispheres in meditation: thicker callosal regions and enhanced fractional anisotropy (FA) in long-term practitioners
Source: NeuroImage 2012 May;61(1):181-187.
Author: Luders E, Phillips OR, Clark K, Kurth F, Toga AW & Narr KL
Recent findings suggest a close link between long-term meditation practices and the structure of the corpus callosum. Prior analyses, however, have focused on estimating mean fractional anisotropy (FA) within two large pre-defined callosal tracts only. Additional effects might exist in other, non-explored callosal regions and/or with respect to callosal attributes not captured by estimates of FA. To further explore callosal features in the framework of meditation, we analyzed 30 meditators and 30 controls, carefully matched for sex, age, and handedness. We applied a multimodal imaging approach using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in combination with structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Callosal measures of tract-specific FA were complemented with other global (segment-specific) estimates as well as extremely local (point-wise) measures of callosal micro- and macro-structure. Callosal measures were larger in long-term meditators compared to controls, particularly in anterior callosal sections…”
Here’s an excerpt from yet another UCLA research paper published around the same time as the one above by Eileen Luders, except this time she has a different team working with her. This time, they explored the frontal brain matter of long-term meditators.
“The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter
Source: Neuroimage 2009 Apr;45(3):672-678.
Author: Luders E, Toga AW, Lepore N, Gaser C
PubMed ID: 19280691
Although the systematic study of meditation is still in its infancy, research has provided evidence for meditation-induced improvements in psychological and physiological well-being. Moreover, meditation practice has been shown not only to benefit higher-order cognitive functions but also to alter brain activity. Nevertheless, little is known about possible links to brain structure.
Using high-resolution MRI data of 44 subjects, we set out to examine the underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation with different regional specificity (i.e., global, regional, and local). For this purpose, we applied voxel-based morphometry in association with a recently validated automated parcellation approach.
We detected significantly larger gray matter volumes in meditators in the right orbito-frontal cortex (as well as in the right thalamus and left inferior temporal gyrus when co-varying for age and/or lowering applied statistical thresholds). In addition, meditators showed significantly larger volumes of the right hippocampus.
Both orbito-frontal and hippocampal regions have been implicated in emotional regulation and response control. Thus, larger volumes in these regions might account for meditators’ singular abilities and habits to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability, and engage in mindful behavior.”
Clearly, the data is out there to support the notion that meditation is GOOD FOR US. In more ways than we could have ever imagined.
Here, we’re just looking at a few aspects of physiological and emotional benefits meditation offers; we haven’t even BEGUN to explore the deeper, more esoteric and spiritual elements of a daily meditation practice.
Beginners, take heart!
If you’re new to meditation, or contemplating starting a meditation practice, that’s GREAT! Think of all of the above as CONFIRMATION of the amazing benefits of daily meditation you will soon be directly experiencing as you maintain your practice!
The Ocean of Bliss that is Meditation
To those who have tasted the sweet “manna” or nectar of sublime connectivity and ONENESS through meditation, you already know exactly what I’m talking about.
Chenrezig, in Tibetan Buddhism, embodies the Infinite Compassion of the Awakened Mind. Exploring a simple Chenrezig practice, along with mantra recitation, can not only expand one’s view beyond their own boundaries of self-reflection, but can also develop a greater sense of compassion for themselves and others, including an ocean of bliss beyond compare.
Let’s acknowledge the fact that there are as many roads to that “ONENESS” (however one defines it for themselves) as there are spiritual seekers on that road throughout the galaxies, and the Tibetan Buddhist path is but one of them.
I’m going to get a little personal here. Hopefully my sharing will bring some insight into how we are all ONE, in essence. Unique, yet still, and always, ONE.
Many years ago, I myself was, much to my own surprise as I was not seeking it out, “welcomed back” to the Tibetan Buddhist faith by a Rinpoche (an incarnate lama or highly respected religious teacher), who told me that my Tibetan name was “Yeshe Yangtsom”, and that the name meant “luminosity of wisdom”.
I had come to hear the Rinpoche speak at the request of a friend, and because he stared at me all night, my friend said we should go up and speak to him. I did so reluctantly, because the whole thing seemed very unfamiliar to me.
It was then, just as I met him, that he asked one of his accompanying monks to tie a red string bracelet around my wrist. And that’s when he said, “Welcome home.”
As grateful as I was for the enlightening encounter, it occurred at a time in my life where I was firmly ensconced in duality, and my good Catholic upbringing and general spiritual ignorance prevented me from understanding the relevance of it, and I just tucked that information away. Frankly, I didn’t give it another thought.
Much to my surprise, many years after that, I met another Rinpoche through a fortuitous string of events, with whom I developed a friendship over time, albeit through an interpreter.
During one of our visits, he explained the philosophy and science behind how he could take a smallish rock into his hands and meditate over it, and within about 5 minutes it would change its state and become so hot, it could sear skin.
Which is exactly how he generated enough money in his travels to support an orphanage and a monastery back home in Tibet.
Said stone he would apply to various body parts of the sick or wounded that regularly lined up to receive his healing in all the cities he regularly traveled to around the world.
I myself experienced the “sear” of the hot rock, the Rinpoche’s mantras and prayers, and the spontaneous disappearance of the back pain that had ailed me since I gave birth to my daughter, 15 years earlier.
This along with witnessing my friend Julia’s wrist pain disappear immediately, along with the wrist brace she arrived wearing to see the Rinpoche – straight into the garbage, as she exclaimed, “Well, I won’t be needing THAT any more!”
The Rinpoche’s explanation as to how he achieved his hot stone healing capability was brilliant. First, it had to do with the fact that it took him 15 years of solitude, in meditation in a cave, to develop and harness the ability.
Second, that it was through praying for the spontaneous healing of the afflictions of ALL OTHERS who had the same affliction as the person who came to him for healing, that the healing could occur. And it did, over and over again, right before my eyes.
This second Rinpoche, during one of our visits, also asked me if I wanted to know my Tibetan name through his interpreter. Keep in mind, this is about 20 years after the first Rinpoche asked me the same question, as mentioned earlier.
I said, “yes, please”, half forgetting that I’d already been to this picture show with the first Rinpoche. He said, “Your name is Yeshe Yangtsom, luminosity of wisdom.” And I said, “that’s what the other Rinpoche said!” And he said, “that’s because that’s who you are!”
They both also said that I was the reincarnation of the third Dalai Lama’s master student; the current Dalai Lama, HH Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, being the reincarnation of the third Dalai Lama. Go figure…
I’m also from a long, and I mean long…… line of Catholic clergy. About 400 years worth. And my dearly departed mother’s Godfather, the Blessed Nykyta Budka, is a beatified Saint. https://www.crc-canada.org/en/biographies/bienheureux-nykyta-budka/
All I can say is that I described my “take” on that dichotomy in a poem I wrote some years back. Here it is.
what is the colour of my love?
it is not simply the Buddhist’s saffron robe, the monk’s gray habit or the Swami’s orange shawl.
it has not one language, one religion, one doctrine or one faith. it is not merely the blessed blue sky, the golden sunset or the lush, green meadow.
it is not only the rosy blush on a child’s cheek, the ruby red lips of passion, or the deepest hazel eyes of one in love.
it is not simply the butterfly’s crimson wing, the zebra’s stripes or the gray-white wings of a dove.
it knows no boundaries of earth, or sky, or sea, or wind. it recognizes not the black clouds of malice, anger, fear or oppression.
it delights in laughter, devotion and simple acts of kindness.
it knows not one creed, one way or one definition. it exists in life everlasting, in every breath and in every beating heart.
it’s companions are truth, compassion and the beauty in all things.
it is “love-begetting” love, manifested through love, belonging to no one and everyone alike.
and so, the colour of my love, you see, is none but the reflection of You, my sweet Lord, in me.
Regardless of who I may or may not have been once upon a time, today, here and now, I’m just me… Renata. And I’m passionate about meditation – and healing the world – through the world healing itself through it.
In the words of the brilliant light and soul, James Gilliland, best-selling author, internationally known lecturer, minister, counselor, multiple near -death experiencer and contactee, who I had the honour to meet a few months ago, and who I was just listening to a few moments ago on his internet radio show, As You Wish Talk Radio…
…“when you become ONE with nothing, you are everything.”
And THAT just made my heart sing. Thank you James, for all you are and do to raise the consciousness on the planet. Namaste to you…
Coming up next!
In next weeks Blog, we are going to explore the Pineal Gland and the secrets yet to be revealed to us about it, how it’s being damaged by toxins in our environment, and the true nature of our own 12-strand DNA, of which only a fraction is currently activated.
Oh, and to those out there who call what is, as of yet, human dormant DNA, “junk DNA”, I have news for you: it’s about as much “junk” as vibranium is to the Black Panther, the citizens of Wakanda and Captain America. 😉
So please stay tuned!
Speaking of healing, this weeks NEW Guided Meditation is “Healing the Mind and Body”.
And speaking of meditation being like cultivating a garden, the creative visualization in this Guided Meditation uses the healing power of water, nature and the rainforest to help you heal and nurture your body/mind/soul complex back to optimum health.
Here are links to both the 15 and 30 Minute Versions:
Healing the Mind and Body Guided Meditation – 15 Minute Version:
Healing the Mind and Body Guided Meditation – 30 Minute Version:
About Meditation.Works Guided Meditations
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Once again, please allow me to express my gratitude…
Meditation has given my life richness and meaning beyond words, and I am passionate about sharing my Guided Meditations, and the myriad transformational benefits meditation offers, with the world.
It is my sincerest wish that my Guided Meditations bring you the results you are looking for in your meditation practice, and that you continue to come back and listen to more Meditation.Works Guided Meditations on subject matters that just may matter to YOU most!
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Heal the self, help others heal: Before you know it, we’re all healed!
Thanks for the gift of your time and attention!
Wishing you all the joy your heart can hold, all the love – in all its forms – that you can possibly bask in, optimum health, prosperity and abundance, the spiritual transformation you crave, and the attainment of all your wishes and goals this 2020 and beyond!
With Great “Lovitude”,
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Remember, coming soon…
…more Guided Meditations for adults and new Guided Meditations for children, teens and elders, on subject matters that matter to them most!
As always, till next week, Happy Meditating!
Oh, and just one more thing!
Do Cats Meditate?
I haven’t researched this extensively – YET. But I can tell you, it sure looks like it to me.
Here’s my darling Mala, mid meditation (and at only 6 months old too!), in one of her favorite meowditation positions… 😉
I did recently read, however, that cats use their purring abilities to effectuate calm and relieve stress.
Almost like a form of chanting in meditation practices, purring helps a cat achieve peace.
Unfortunately, we humans don’t have a built-in purring mechanism like cats, so I guess we’ll just have to settle for MEDITATION to achieve peace! What a great idea! 😉
As always, Happy Meditating!
…and “Meowditating”, of course, to all my feline friends.