Copyright 2006 Frank Mangano
Researchers from some of the country’s most prestigious medical centers have found in their studies that meditation can impact the thickness of the cortical tissue in the brain. This type of change is significant in the way the tissue is then able to process sensory, cognitive, and emotional responses.
The group of researchers from Harvard, Yale, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts General Hospital studied 20 people each one with significant commonality. They were all extensively trained in the Buddhist Insight meditation practices. This generally meant that the subjects spent about 40 minutes each day in deep meditation. This was enough to affect grey matter in the brain and increase cortical thickness.
Using an MRI the researchers were able to monitor the changes brought about through regular meditation. Not only were cognitive regions of the brain impacted, but the MRI showed that the normal thinning of the frontal cortex associated with aging was much slower. Also, the right hemisphere of the brain, which is responsible for attention is whats “exercised” through meditation.
There are many different meditation techniques that can be used to achieve this sort of mental rejuvenation and increase grey matter. Following some of these steps can help you make the most of your time meditating. The Zen form of meditation is commonly practiced and easy to apply.
1. Find a relaxed position sitting on the floor or in a chair. The legs can be crossed in the lotus, half lotus or Burmese positions. The goal is a stable position that creates a tripod.
2. Close your eyes and gently sway or circle your body. Your hands should be folded in your lap as you begin breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
3. Next, begin counting the breaths one through ten. You continue doing this until the mind stops wandering. When a thought enters in you acknowledge the thought and then consciously push it away to being counting one to ten again. Eventually, you will have control over entering thoughts and be focused only on the counting.
4. The next level of mediation is to continue counting your breaths over and over again, one through ten. Each inhale and exhale together is counted as a single number. The purpose of this is to concentrate on one thought only, which is the breathing. Once you have mastered the counting concentration, the next level of meditation allows you to focus on one specific thought completely and without distractions or wandering.
5. There is no magical time frame or way to come out of meditation. You simply stop counting the breathing and open your eyes.
Just taking the time to stop and focus on one aspect of your life can be refreshing in and of itself. This is the short-term and immediate benefit of meditation. In the fight to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, meditation can strengthen the mind in a real and physical sense.