According to researchers, meditation can increase your brain matter, enhance your ability to empathize, and reduce sensitivity to pain.
Using MRI scans, researchers at UCLA examined the brains of long term meditates and noticed that areas of the brain for regulating emotions were larger than non meditates. In another study, researchers found that people who meditate on compassion and kindness actually alter their brain pathways and increase their ability to empathize and express kindness toward others. Furthermore, researchers in Canada found that Zen meditates were able to reduce their sensitivity to pain by 18% compared to non mediates.
Most of the studies involved long term meditates but I think it is possible to reap some of these benefits with a daily practice of meditation even if you start today.
I started a daily meditation practice several years ago after attending classes at the Vajradhara Buddhist Center in Charlotte. I usually aim for 20 minutes a day and over time I find that I am much calmer and less likely to lash out in a fit of anger.
I meditate in a quiet and comfortable location focusing on my breathing until I reach a state where my mind becomes still and empty (the true reality)…
If you can find a meditation society, Buddhist center, or a Zen meditation group it will greatly help you develop the practice and also introduce you to a community of like minded people. If there are no groups in your area you can always start by closing your eyes and focusing on your in and out breath. Try it for a few minutes a day until you can work up to 20 or more minutes. As an alternative, you can download and buy meditation CD’s to get you started. (see relaxation and meditation CD reviews)
Meditation does not have to involve any religious affiliation and can be done within the context of your own spiritual practice.
I know that the pain I feel from a biking injury is reduced after I meditate for 20 or more minutes, and I get the added benefits of a calm, less egoic mind. Try it you’ll like it.
Here is a list of local places/communities to meditate:
- Vajradhara Buddhist Center
- Charlotte Community of Mindfulness
- The Spiritual Living Center of Charlotte