In the past, meditation has conjured up the image of monks sitting silently with their eyes closed for hours at a time, but as we move into the present, we are now seeing images of companies and institutions like Google, Harvard, sports teams, and even the U.S. public school system making time to sit in silence. Meditation is becoming mainstream as research has substantiated the benefits of the ancient practice.
If you are already on a wellness path, then including meditation could be the final ingredient. It clears stressful thoughts to allow new perspectives. It literally awakens the brain. The good news is that it’s surprisingly easy.
How to get started
Put away your expectations and beliefs about meditating. The mystical stories of gurus with psychic abilities and mind-reading powers may be true, but if that happens to you, consider it a bonus. Quieting the mind is not an easy task. But, by focusing on one particular thing, all the mind’s thoughts and chatter fall by the wayside which leads you to quiet. For example, when engrossed in a great book or movie, you may not hear a friend calling your name because your mind is so focused.
We Can Grow Our Brains
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal (PNAS) published a study in 2010 showing that,
“After just 11 hours of practice over 4 weeks, scans showed…(the brain’s) white matter grew greater amounts of connections and the myelin sheath that protects the brain and spinal cord began to grow, as well.”
The growth of white matter in the hippocampus, known for its importance in learning, critical thinking and reasoning, is worth 20 minutes of our time per day. In addition to hippocampus growth, MRI’s show that the amygdala, which responds and grows under stress and anxiety, shrinks during meditation. Effectively, meditation is “un-working out” the anxiety muscle, assisting us with better responses to stress and releasing the storage of residual stress in our bodies.
A Healthier Future
As adults, we can make the choice to meditate, but without stories or teachers to introduce it, children have little chance to come across it themselves. These simple introductions are the first steps to a healthier future for all of us. Additionally, PNAS published research showing changes due to meditation may be similar to changes “found during brain development in early childhood, allowing a new way to reveal how such changes might influence emotional and cognitive development.” This means adult brains can regain the flexibility of their younger childhood brains.
What If You Started When You Were A Child?
I am revealing my true intention to you now; giving kids all of the advantages we can. By introducing meditation, we help them avoid the accumulation and storage of all of their childhood stress that they could potentially carry into adulthood. Counting breaths, doing a guided visualization, or repeating a word that they enjoy can connect them with deeper, healing levels of brain activity on a regular basis. While the science and medical communities are still learning about the complexities of our neural network, we do know that these simple practices have already been scientifically proven to help and improve our brains function. According to Professor Michael Posner at the University of Oregon, the following results were found after studying the benefits of meditation:
“(Positive) changes were seen in the area that helps regulate behavior. Communication problems in this area are linked to Attention Deficit Disorder, dementia, and depression.”
A Happier, More Compassionate Future
As adults who know the benefits of meditation, it’s our duty to introduce our children to this amazing practice. Encouraging and bringing them to a kids’ meditation class, teaching them a simple visualization technique, or empowering them by introducing them to a breathing exercise (like pranayama) to keep their brains as flexible as possible, will benefit their short-term and long-term health. These skills give them the advantages to stay balanced and afloat in our challenging world.
The Chopra Foundation shared a study showing significant improvements in ADHD symptoms in children who were taught to meditate. Children reported improved attention spans and less hyperactivity, and 50 percent of the children that were on medication either reduced or stopped their medication completely. Symptoms continued to improve through continued meditation.
About Dr. Bill Kalatsky
Dr. Bill Kalatsky is a New York City-based chiropractor, energy worker, educator and author who focuses on freeing up energy and patterns in the mind, body, and spirit. Dr. Bill works with frequency-based healing modalities and meditation along with conscious lifestyle coaching. His first children’s book is an adventure titled, “Piranha Yama & The Art Of Non-biting.” The story introduces yoga and meditation to kids as a way to wake up their inner abilities. His website is PiranhaYama.com and serves to educate parents about the benefits of meditation and yoga for their kids.