Meditation is growing more and more popular in the Western world, only Yoga surpasses it. No longer confined to mystics or world travellers, meditation has also become a field of scientific research. There is now scientific “proof” that meditation can alter the way your brain works: a fact known by its practitioners since the beginning. Meditation training actually is brain training. When you are doing meditation and maintaining a deep focus this brings the brain’s functions to an elevated level. The brain will release dopamine, nor-epinephrine and serotonin, three essential brain chemicals. Countless studies describe how these three neurotransmitters are a vital way brain cells communicate and how they adjust the psychology and physiology capabilities of the brain. The temporal lobe of our brain controls our emotions and memory; meditation can slow down activity here and strengthen our ability to use our brain more efficiently. Research also describes how during meditation our body’s basal metabolic rate will substantially lower. Because body functions are interdependent this, in turn, decreases oxygen consumption by 13.5%. In people who meditate often, there is an associated reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and a reduction in the frequency of arrhythmias. Meditation changes brain waves and is especially good at helping us “wake up” when we are conscious. For people who regularly suffer from high stress meditation can help them settled emotionally and promote concentration.
Professor James H. Austin in his book Zen and the Brain provides his individual experience. He thinks that if you can meditate twenty minutes every day then it can help most people relax. He is a Clinical Professor of Neurology, University of Missouri Health Science Center (HSC), and Emeritus Professor of Neurology, University of Colorado HSC. He is also a practicing Zen Buddhist. His well-known book Zen and the Brain aims to establish links between the neurological workings of the human brain and meditation. He has recently published a sequel, called Zen-Brain Reflections if anyone is interested in finding out more.
Besides sitting meditation some people think T’ai Chi and Chi Kung are another kind of meditation in motion. This is because when you practice T’ai Chi or Chi Kung you need to focus on breathing into your Dantien as well as how your body is moving. With this exercise you can get some of the same benefits as with sitting meditation.