Do You Meditate?

Cross those legs, ladies (and the gents, if you’re out there): New research has shown that meditating for just a couple of months could have a significant positive effect on your brain.

Research done by the Massachusetts General Hospital and set to be published in the January 30th issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging showed that eight weeks of meditation had measurable effects on parts of the brain that deal with stress, empathy, memory and sense of self. From this article in Science Daily:

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. Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress… None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.

Here’s the thing with me and meditating—maybe some of you can relate. I’ve done it, and in the right environment (like an ashram in India) I’ve stuck with it. But I’ve had a hard time implementing it into my everyday life outside of those controlled environments, despite my best intentions.

Do you meditate? Do you have advice? The research on it is so compelling that I’d really like to give this practice a proper shot.

Image via

18 Responses to “Do You Meditate?”
  1. Meditating is something I hope to get into the habit of doing this year. Quieting my mind is near impossible!

  2. candace says:

    I meditate and its awesome…and awesomely hard sometimes. I use the mindfulness technique which is NOT about quieting the mind but being aware of the thoughts, and letting go. I sit, I breathe deeply and try to focus on my breathing, when I have a thought I realize it and then return to my breathing. That’s it. I also don’t beat myself up for not being able to stop the thoughts. The whole purpose is to just be aware and then return to my breathing. I try to do it for 5 minutes at a time because its awesomely difficult for me to sit still sometimes. I like that there is no pressure to quiet mind and no pressure to do this for extended periods of time. I’m doing this so that when I’m in really stressful or anxiety provoking situations I will remember to come back to my breath and stay present in order to better deal. I have to say, i’ve been doing this for about two months on and off and its been helpful…a lot.

  3. reese says:

    I need help; too. major help- drunken monkey mind!! raised catholic, too, so i feel like somehow that puts me at a disadvantage ( not looking to become buddhist in the practice- or practice any set “religion” in the practice- just looking to center, heal- and apparently improve my brains :) )… also I live in a tiny, loud (trains, cars, neighbors) apartment and have had trouble coming up with a spot that makes me feel safe and fully alone…

  4. Megan says:

    There’s a 21-day meditation challenge from The Chopra Center that just started today. I have already done another challenge they had in the fall. It’s a great stepping stone (for me at least) because they are guided meditations.

    Here’s the link if interested:

  5. Steffie says:

    The best times for me is in the mornings right when I get up, and in the evening, right before bed. Of course, that’s when the baby is sleeping, but for other reasons.

    If you’re a student, or learning a course of something, right before sleeping, and right upon waking, the brain is most ready to learn or receive information – flashcards, seriously. During my meditations, I think about how I want to be that day, and how I can improve my day the next day, remind myself of important appointments or things that must get done. Then a period of deep breathing and centering myself. It’s helped! You also don’t have to be in the lotus position or cross-legged, or anything else. Comfortable. Get in an armchair, stretched out on your side, flat on your face, or juggling some eggs, whatever works. If a quiet mind is what you’re after, pick up some homeopathic medicine called Coffea Cruda. It helps to quiet restlessness in the mind. Really.

    Try meditating for a few minutes after brushing your teeth, before crawling in bed. Make it part of the routine, and you’re more likely to stick with it. 27 times makes a habit! One month. You’ll get it.

  6. Lynne says:

    Guided meditation did the trick for me – I started out learning with the Small Universe meditation from Spring Forest Qi Gong . com It’s a healing meditation (which I really needed at the time), and it’s incredibly relaxing. Their butterfly meditation is also awesome. My monkey mind could never handle meditation before this. But, now that I’ve had so much practice with focusing on breathing from these meditations, I’m finally able to enter meditative states at will. Results: I’m much more positive, open, and relaxed all the time. Things just seem to flow more easily.

  7. comagirl says:

    Candace your practice sounds very much like mine. I follow the teachings of Pema Chodron. “Thoughts are like clouds passing overhead . . . ” There is no judgment attached, just a recognition that I am thinking and a return to the focus on the breath.

    The world is full of things that constantly distract us and as technology progresses those distractions also progress. Anything, such as meditation, that returns us to the present and keeps us undistracted for even a few moments is going to have a healthy result. Otherwise, we are no more than hamsters on a wheel.

  8. Jenny says:

    I meditate every morning. I think the trick is to do it after or before another routine. I do it right after my ayurvedic oil massage, or sometimes right after brushing by teeth. Another trick, which works for pretty much everything, is to think “I’ll just do it for 5 minutes” or 3 minutes or whatever you like. When you sit there meditating you’ll probably do it longer because it feels so good.

    I’ve been meditating almost every day for four years now, and those days when I can’t focus and I’m not as happy as usual until I take some minutes to just following my breath or observing the thoughts. That’s enough to motivate me to take the time for some meditation every day.

  9. rae says:

    I do my best to meditate while listening to a track from Deva Premal’s Mantras for Precarious Times. She repeats the mantra in traditional fashion, aka 108 times, so (depending on the track) it can take a while (9 minutes or so)! Sometimes I chant along with her, and the movement and action of my mouth helps keep my mind still, or sometimes it feels like I can barely hear her, and it’s just a subtle metronome in the background.

    And get this: You know how hard it is to get out of bed in the morning? I’ve found that it’s much easier when you know that the only thing you’re going to ask your mind/body to do is to be still for the first few minutes. I hear my alarm, slide out onto the floor (sometimes I bring a blanket from the bed and yes, sometimes I don’t even open my eyes) get Deva going on my itunes, and presto! Most excellent way to start the day I’ve found.

  10. Aimee says:

    I’m with Candace and Comagirl. Focus on the breath, don’t try to suppress your thoughts but simply notice them and then let them go.

    I like Pema Chodron’s method of noticing your thoughts with non-judgement by simply saying to yourself “thinking” when a thought occurs, or when you realize that you’re thinking again. I also use mantra meditation, saying the mantra to myself with breath, and I find this very useful. It gives me something to focus on, which is nice for a girl with a busy mind like me. You can use Sanskrit mantras like “Om Namah Shivaya” or “Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha” or things like “I am filled with love,” “I am free from fear,” “I am open to ____,” “I am free from judgement.” If you use English mantras like that, it’s important to avoid using the word “not” in your mantra. For example, rather than saying “I am not afraid” you would say “I am free from fear.”

    Lastly, I meditate for 10 mins a day, first thing in the morning. If I put it off, I find it harder to step away from my busy day and sit for 10 mins. Plus, starting the day with meditation makes me calmer, more open, and more positive throughout the day. Good luck!

  11. comagirl says:

    Aimee, I have found myself saying the word “Maitri”, (instead of thinking) , which is the practice of extending loving kindness to yourself and others. It seems help me refrain rather than repress. Thank you for the other recommendations. I will definitely avoid the word “not”. That was especially helpful. I remember one Pema Chodron teaching where she said even if your mind wanders off, when you catch yourself, you should be grateful for the wisdom that caught that.

  12. Andrea says:

    I meditate every morning with a guided meditation when I get to my desk. I feel like my mind is more open after my workout at the gym and after my meditation, I feel ready for my day.

  13. Avalon says:

    I just started learning about and practicing meditation. A friend of mine recommended Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living, which is a book that describes an eight week course in learning how to practice mindfulness meditation based out of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. It is a really great book for beginners and describes step-by-step how to get started. I love how reading the book and practicing meditation is making me feel!

  14. Alexa says:

    I try to meditate every day, but unfortunately I don’t have a lot of distraction-free time alone to myself, so I’m lucky if I get to it once a week most of the time. Lately I’ve been more diligent about it and, surprisingly, I’m having to reacquaint myself with the whole process.

    My routine is to sit comfortably and set the timer for 30 minutes, with a bell at 10 minute intervals. I spend the first few moments feeling my breath fill my whole body and releasing tensions I can be aware of, and then I practice the mindfulness technique a few above have mentioned: when I have a thought, I label it (planning, anticipating, remembering, etc.) and let it go. I label my thoughts specifically so that I know where my head is that day. If I really can’t seem to let go, I’ll imagine the thoughts leaving my body and floating in bubbles away from me.

    After 20 minutes, I allow myself to either continue with mindfulness, or I’ll move on to visualizations. My favorite visualization is that I am walking along a marble path barefoot- really feeling each step as best I can- and then I enter a huge beautiful door. Inside is “my house,” which is basically just a space that changes each time but is filled with things I like to have around me. Sometimes I use this imaginary space to imagine the things in my life which I would like to have or experience, or to practice doing difficult things I need to do that day. Other times I’ll just have fun decorating, which is often harder than you’d think. It is quite meditative, feels almost trancelike and it takes a while for me to come out of it. I don’t know who suggested this to me first, I think someone read it in a self-hypnosis book somewhere and told me about it. As simple as it sounds, I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences with it.

  15. There are so many great comments here! Please do fill us in if you figure out just how to meditate (or, at least, the right way for you). I really want to learn, but I live in an environment where it is never quiet and it’s too cold these days so go outside and try.

  16. I’ve meditated on and off for years, but never on a regular basis until recently.

    I’ve been meditating for just 5 minutes every morning after my also very short yoga routine. I want to do these two things every day and starting with very low expectations is making it a LOT easier.

    It’s been one full week TODAY that I’ve done both things every morning. I was thinking about adding more time, but I think I’ll stick with the way it is for now.

    It makes a FOR SURE difference in my attitude throughout the day~

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Heather, No More Dirty Looks. No More Dirty Looks said: Meditation proven to change your brain in very little time: Pretty freaking cool. […]

  2. […] trying to clear my mind I did what I’d read about before and more recently (comments from No More Dirty Looks’s meditation post were very helpful) in just having thoughts, not paying much attention to them, and letting them go. […]

Leave A Comment