Dr. Sid Jordan
Expanding Creative Potential and Peaceful Moments
Whether you are an experienced or beginning meditator your can benefit from a more intensive period of silent meditation to quiet the mind and reset your heart-felt priorities. We need to remember that silent meditative or contemplative moments have been a natural part of our lives on nature walks, gardening, or sitting quietly somewhere in nature or on our porch. These moments of reflection in nature or in our morning shower are often punctuated with insights into issues we have been intensely pondering for some period of time. In these slower-paced and quieter moments a needed solution spontaneously appears. Imagine these moments of insight being multiplied by days devoted to silent meditation. Cutting through the mind’s chatter in extended silent meditations we discover that just below the surface of our busy lives and thoughts there is a clear and peaceful mind and heart that offers creative and clear directions. With disciplined effort, we can return repeatedly to this peaceful abode for guidance.
A review of neuroscience studies of meditation reveals the positive effects of meditation on brain activity and structure. This research shows short term and long term improvement in brain functions related to attention, regulation of emotions and increases in grey matter. These results are obtained during the “state” of meditation and also in longer lasting “trait” effects of meditation on brain functions.
Many Electroencephalography (EEG) studies using electrical leads placed all over the scalp to measure the collective electrical activity of the cerebral cortex have demonstrated lower frequency alpha and theta waves associated with the meditation. These lower frequencies are an indication of brain activity associated with the deep relaxation and focused attention brought about by meditation.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a new technology that measures increases in blood flow and metabolism, has been used to study state brain changes during meditation. Recent studies have shown heightened activity in the cingulate cortex and frontal cortex indicating more voluntary control over the mechanisms of attention. The same results were achieved with a wide variety of different meditation techniques.
Regarding meditation and emotions fMRI results have indicated heightened activity in the cingulate cortex related to attention and the areas of the brain controlling emotions (amygdala, temporo-parietal) in response to emotional sounds. These studies conclude that meditation produces greater sensitivity to emotional expression due to the neural circuitry activated.
Most exciting is a recent study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital indicating that “meditation literally rebuilds the brains grey matter in just eight weeks…the very first study to document that meditation produces changes over time in the brain’s grey matter.”
The study involved taking magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brain’s of 16 study participants two weeks prior to participating in the study. MRI images of the participants were also taken after the study was completed. For the study, participants engaged in meditation practices every day for approximately 30 minutes. These practices included focusing on audio recordings for guided meditation, non-judgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind.
Britta Holzel, the lead author of the study stated, “The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.”
He continues, “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life. Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Sid Jordan
As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Sid Jordan taught psychotherapy and directed mental health, alcohol and drug services while in the Department of Psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC. from 1969-1993. He began his practices of yoga and meditation in 1971 pursuing the integration of yoga and psychology in his teaching and clinical practices. In 1997 he trained as a yoga and meditation teacher in India applying the tantric yoga teachings of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti the preceptor of Ananda Marga.
Currently, he is CEO and Director of the Neohumanist College of Asheville. At the Prama Wellness Center, he offers yoga therapy and stress management to individuals and groups. He continues to offer his 40 years of experience and teaching of yoga psychology, philosophy, and practices to audiences worldwide.
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