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Science Says: Meditation Can Change the Way We Think

The rush for spring cleaning should involve slowing down

Spring officially kicks off this week. During this season where we’re busy cleaning and goal setting, my mind is always moving a mile a minute, and the to do lists get longer by the day.

It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of planning and excitement of the warm months to come. Especially living in New York City where you can feel the shift where everyone anxiously waits for the time of year where they can savor more sunlight.

During these busy times, it’s even more important to take time and notice what you feel like when the buzzing stops. The silent serenity of slowing down to listen to our own breath and heartbeat always reminds me of the scene from in Goodnight Moon where the old lady in the corner was whispering “hush. It’s giving your brain the permission it needs to take a break.

Meditation helps during these busy times by allowing us to access and sooth our unconscious mind. This part of our brain creates dreams and is the source of our “gut instinct”. It also can introduce us to our most authentic selves by helping us to prioritize our often-uncontrollable and buzzing thoughts

The unconscious mind, famously defined by Freud (1915), is one of three parts or “layers” of our mental processing: the conscious, preconscious, and sub conscious minds. More about the other two here, but essentially the sub conscious mind is the underlying source for a lot of our behavior. It is our judgments, feelings, or behaviors influenced by our past experiences and memories. Even though research on our subconscious varies, every psychologist or psychiatrists agrees that the unconscious mind is powerful.

Many see tapping into this part of our psyche as a key to achieving inner wisdom because this thinking shapes our everyday reality.

Emerson, the founder of American Transcendentalism, once said about this consciousness beyond waking, dreaming, and sleeping:

We
live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within
man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty,
to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal One.

People who practice mindful meditation have a heightened awareness of this inner, unconscious state. Meditation allows our conscious minds to be much more in direct contact with our subconscious. Like those moments when we have a problem, think a little, walk away from it, and then the answer “magically” pops up in our head.

Meditation changes and deepens our brain patterns, slowing it down from the normal disorganized ‘beta’ pattern to alpha waves.

Training our minds is particularly important in the whirl of information we experience everyday so we’re able to be a more precise, better quality, higher functioning data filter. This allows us to grasp the memories and parts of information that matter in the moment to be more in the present. And this makes us more mindful and happy people in the process — and much more creative and much less limited by the normal constraints of our logical mind.

Freud was mostly all doom and gloom about the subconscious, but there is great potential when combined with meditation to use it in positive ways, such as:

Better creative insights: Anyone doing creative work has experienced the feeling of being “in flow”. It requires the conscious ego mind to take a backseat, allowing the super-creative deep mind to surface.

Helps bring up inspirational ideas: when Albert Einstein was working on the modern theory of relativity, reports claimed that he would lay down on the couch waiting for inspirational thoughts to enter his mind. Despite the “lazy” rep, day dreaming combined with active meditation bridges the gap in our minds wonderfully. Whether it’s using visualization or affirmations, meditation can help us reprogram our thoughts to manifest whatever end goal we desire.

Here are some good meditation tips, but to sum it up:

  1. Sit for just two minutes.
  2. Do it first thing each morning.
  3. Don’t get caught up in the how — just do.
  4. Check in with how you’re feeling.
  5. Count your breaths.
  6. Come back when you wander.
  7. Don’t worry too much that you’re doing it wrong.
  8. Don’t worry about clearing the mind.
  9. Stay with whatever arises.
  10. Get to know yourself.
  11. Become friends with yourself. Smile and give yourself love.
  12. Really commit yourself.
  13. You can do it anywhere.
  14. Follow guided meditation (i.e. Headspace)

During this busy time, I make extra effort to focus on my meditation practice or feel like I’m going to lose my mind in all the rushing around.

This simple daily act helps us choose what to put our efforts into by breaking down any confusing mental noise. In the process, it can also give us the greatest preparation for the months ahead that we can ask for, contentment and inner peace.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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