How Meditation Changes Your Brain

I recently did a guided meditation with my teacher, and at first it was the usual: Find your seat, get comfortable, check in with your body, feel your breath, notice your mind, thoughts, and feelings.

What he said next surprised me:

“Just let them be.”

Just let your mind, thoughts, and feelings be.

Wow.

It was as if someone lifted a weight. I automatically felt more inner space – like I was on a mini retreat.

As I sat with that phrase I began to realize how different just let them be is from just let it go.

I never really liked the phrase let it go. It sounds good, but who can really do that?

Letting it go implies that the events in your life are going to leave, when in fact they might stay, or go and then come back.

We need to manage, process, and heal, rather than just trying to let it go.

That’s where meditation comes in. Your meditation time is a retreat, or like having tea with your best friend.

Meditation changes your brain by creating space. When your mind is clear, you can effectively manage events, thoughts, and feelings.

Thousands of years ago, Patanjali, who compiled the yoga sutras, and the Buddha both promised that meditation could eliminate the discontent of an untamed mind.

They taught their students about the concept of cultivating focused attention.

Sounds like a good idea and a big promise, right? Well, it works. And scientists agree.

Meditation makes you resilient, allowing you to respond instead of react.

The space between stimulus and response is longer, and that’s really nice. It makes everything feel a little softer around the edges.

So, how does meditation create this lovely feeling of mental spaciousness?

1. Increases grey matter, which makes it easier for us to manage emotions and make mindful choices.
2. Strengthens the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain associated with how we perceive situations and relationships.
3. Weakens connection to the amygdala, which is the fight or flight part of the brain. This decreases stress, depression, and anxiety.
4. Boosts concentration.
5. Improves addictive patterns and monkey mind, both associated with unhappiness.
6. Practicing meditation builds new connections in the brain, just like yoga poses strengthen and bring forth new muscles in the body

Letting it be takes the focus off the challenges, creating more joy and lightness.

It gives me confidence that I can come back to “real life” stuff when I’m done meditating and be better equipped to gracefully handle whatever’s going on in my life.

Practicing meditation is like putting money in the bank. It gives you mental energy and clarity when you need it most.

What’s your experience with meditation, if any?

Would you like to try it if it’s new to you, or if you’re already doing it, deepen your practice?

I’d love to hear from you.

Warmly,
Michele

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