guest post via Michael Hollingworth
We all know that meditation is supposed to be good for us, but here are some facts that make a tight case for it.
Fact number one: The human brain is the most complex known object in the universe. There are 100,000 miles of circuitry – enough to go right round the earth four times. This wiring links 100 billion brain cells, but those cells have 100 trillion connections! Inside your head, the brain is constantly at work, including when you’re asleep, or even in a coma.
Fact number two: For the most part, you don’t know what your brain is up to. When we think consciously, we use our working or executive brain, located in the prefrontal cortex, directly behind the forehead. It’s a very small part of the brain, hardly thicker than a business card. In fact, if the prefrontal cortex was a cubic metre in size, then the rest of the brain would be as big as the Milky Way. Much of what happens in your brain, including decisions you make, is invisible to you. It’s automatic.
Fact number three: Your brain is a pessimist. It is five times as ready to see bad news (threat or danger) as good news (rewards or promise). This strongly biased wiring system, which was designed perhaps to protect us from danger, may date from caveman times. To deal with threats, the brain has a very sensitive panic button – what we call the fight-or-flight reaction.
Fact number four: The brain’s panic button can create profound stress. The alarm gets repeatedly set off in our high-pressure, chaotic lives. Things like a demanding email, a cranky boss, or even the endless bad news on television will trip the switch. As a result, you experience stress, ongoing tension, high blood pressure, headaches, exhaustion – all cumulatively bad for your health.
Fact number five: You can calm the brain down. One of the most compelling recent discoveries in neuroscience research is the profound benefits of the practice of mindfulness meditation.
Although mindfulness, or meditation,has been practised for more 2500 years, scientific research into its benefits has only happened in the past 20 to 30 years. Now hundreds of experiments have proved that mindfulness can calm the mind, reduce anxiety, increase clarity, expand creativity, and repair the body. And, it can reduce the effects of serious illness or chronic pain.
For those of you who haven’t experienced mindfulness meditation, here’s a short practice for you.
Sit up straight, on the floor or in a chair, with your feet flat on the floor, your hands on your lap. Close your eyes, or gaze softly at a point a metre or so in front of you. Then focus on your breath, probably the most ancient of mindfulness practices. Your breath is the meeting place between unconsciousness and consciousness. Simply observing your breathing can centre and bring you into the present moment.
Here’s how to observe your breath. Don’t try to change or deepen breathing. Just experience the cool air as it enters and touches your nostrils, then the warmth as the air exits. Let it enter and exit softly. Notice each breath cycle: air goes in – tiny pause – air comes out. Now just carefully observe – counting each one – just five breath cycles.
Now, quietly open your eyes. That was very brief, but you can make the practice as long as you like. Experiments have shown that only five minutes’ practice a day can yield positive benefits. Observing your breath connects you to the source of life itself, for of course if you stop breathing even for 90 seconds, that’s the end of your life!
As your mind and body move into the stillness of observing the breath, you may catch a glimpse of – or even get a message from – the vast, mysterious Milky Way inside your own brain.
About Michael: Michael is a business coach and facilitator, who also teaches mindfulness courses and has a particular interest in the practice of mindfulness. He is a former yoga teacher and long-time practitioner of yoga.
Michael and Eve will be leading a January intensive course – Wake Up in 2015
Come join us for five morning sessions combining yoga and mindfulness. The course will both wake you up and set you up for the year.
Each session will include an hour of yoga asanas and an hour of mindfulness teaching and practice. Asanas stimulate and energise the body. Mindfulness calms and focuses the mind.
When: January 5 – 9, 2015 6:30 – 8:30 am
Where: The Yoga Shed, 2 Scotts Rd, Mitchells Island
Contact us: phone – 6553 2056 or email – [email protected]