The art of meditation is a means of transforming the mind. It does not have to be associated with any religion. As Mathieu Richard states ‘every one of us has a mind and every one of us can work on it’. Meditation is perhaps the most crucial instrument to help harness the power of so many thoughts. Meditation is a way of slowing down the mind and observing our thoughts. Through meditiation we can cultivate more peace, clarity and importantly happiness. Meditation is an essential means of transforming the mind. There are many forms of meditation to help in this process. By engaging with a particular meditation practice you learn the patterns and habits of your mind. Only by knowing your mind and observing your thoughts can you begin to understand yourself and cultivate a new and more positive ways of being.
The eminent neuroscientist Richard Davidson states “Meditation gives you the wherewithal to pause, observe how easily the mind can exaggerate the severity of a setback, and resist getting drawn back into the abyss.”
Meditation has been the subject of scientific research for about the past 40 years but only started to gain popularity in the late 1990s. Within the brain there are 80 to 100 billion neurons signalling to one another in a network with about a half a quadrillion connections called synapes. Experience flows through our brain constantly but does not really effect our thinking. We experience, learn and forget all the time. New synapses are formed and old synapses wither and die. Yet with intensive prolonged activity, especially if it is conscious and mindful synapses are created and become stronger leaving an enduring imprint in our neural structure.
Neuroscientists have found that long-term meditators have an increased amount of grey matter in the insula and sensory regions, the auditory and sensory cortex, which makes sense. When you’re mindful, you’re paying attention to your breathing and this helps you to experience to the present moment by shutting cognition down. It stands to reason that your senses would be enhanced when brain traffic is reduced. Studies by other scientists have shown that meditation can help enhance attention and emotion regulation skills. Mindful meditiation is just like exercise, a form of mental exercise. Just as exercise increases health, helps us handle stress better and promotes longevity, meditation purports to confer some of those same benefits.
According to Zeidan, the whole point of meditation is to take what you learn from the practice and transform it to the rest of your life. He says this is both a conscious and subconscious practice: At the start of your meditation practice you might be doing what he calls “conscious appraisal”—where you look at a situation and try to actively apply some of the calm you’ve learned through meditation to it. Over time, mindfulness will take a lot less conscious thought—it’ll become automatic. And, according to research, this can translate to greater levels of happiness and self-satisfaction.