How to Meditate

Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, Ph.D., and Antoine Lutz, Ph.D., at the University of Wisconsin documented that disturbances (such as loud noises) had less effect on the brain areas involved in emotion and decision-making in long-term meditators than in novice meditation practitioners. The scientists documented that for meditators with more than 40,000 hours of lifetime practice, these areas were hardly affected at all.

Yet another study showed that after just eleven hours of meditation, researchers could measure changes in the brain. At UCLA, a study headed by Eileen Luders, Ph.D., focused on long-term meditation practitioners and documented a statistically significant increase in blood flow to the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which allows the brain to process information faster. The PFC is the part of the brain that allows us to execute Step 2: Interrupt the Obsessive Food Thought. More blood to that region of the brain indicates a higher ability to weigh the consequences of compulsive overeating.

Most studies showed that meditation leads to mindfulness and positively affects not only the brain, but the whole body. A partial list of the benefits of meditation include:

    o Lowering blood pressure
    o Promoting the relaxation response
    o Increasing energy level
    o Improving ability to sleep
    o Drastically improves the quality of sleep
    o Lowering stress level
    o Improving mental acuity
    o Plus many, many more benefits.

These benefits all by themselves would contribute to a higher quality of life. But in our quest to restore our NTW neural nets, meditation is the single most effective practice to help us achieve that goal.

To meditate, all you need to do is:

    o Secure a room where you will not be disturb or interrupted
    o Sit in an upright, but comfortable and relaxed, position
    o Close your eyes
    o Take relaxing breaths
    o Channel your entire mental focus toward your breath
    o Every time you notice that the verbal center of your brain activates -- you begin to worry about the future, make a list of what you need to do, anything that involves language -- simply return your focus to your breath
    o It's critical not to judge or become disappointed if your verbal center activates 10 times or 100 times during your meditation, what is important is to let go of the thought and return your focus to your breath
    o What we are developing is the ability to observe the verbal center and the ability to shift to a mental activity of our choice, in this case our ability to quiet our verbal center.




That's it! No esoteric mumbo-jumbo, no mysticism. Just focus on your breath and return your attention to it whenever your mind wanders off. Do not be overly concerned about how many times your mind detours, especially in the beginning; it doesn't matter. Building your mindfulness "muscles" take practice: the more times you bring yourself back to focusing on your breath, the more natural and easy it becomes. Don't beat yourself up if you don't "get it" right away, keep practicing - you will!

Recapping the "How to Meditate" instructions:

  • Secure a place where you will not be disturbed.
  • Turn off all potential distractions: cell phone, Skype, etc.
  • Simply sit comfortably, upright, feet on the floor.
  • Take slow, deep, deliverate breaths.
  • Focus 100% of your attention on your breath.
  • Whenever your mind wanders off your breath, gently bring it back.