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What Is Meditation?

Experiencing Present-Moment Awareness

For thousands of years, people have used various techniques to bring their minds to a quieter state of being using an extraordinarily rich array of practices for going beyond the ordinary waking state to expanded states of consciousness. Although religious and cultural influences vary the method in which people meditate, some examples include chanting, breathing, ecstatic dancing, healing touch, listening to music, making love, visual stimulation, aromatherapy and even ruminating on the taste of chocolate. Each technique is specifically designed to move the mind from its current state of activity to one of present-moment witnessing awareness.

Although you may not realize it, you have already experienced the phenomena of present-moment witnessing awareness many times throughout your life. These are the moments when you are in the “still zone.” It’s that moment on a roller coaster when you are screaming at the top of your lungs as your body plunges downward, or when you are playing sports and every shot you take, every move you make, is the perfect one. It’s during that big presentation—rather than reading a memorized script, you spontaneously seem to channel just the right words in an effortless flow.

It’s when you spontaneously say or do the perfect thing at the exact perfect moment, cook the most brilliant meal as if you were a culinary genius, make passionate love . . . merging into your partner and surrendering to the bliss of an orgasm. These are states of present-moment witnessing awareness, when we are not thinking about the past or reaching into the future.

When we experience present-moment awareness in a state of restful alertness, we are experiencing the same stillness zone we experience during deep meditation . . . pure unbounded consciousness . . . the realm of no thought, no sound, and no sensation. When you are in that space, you have essentially disconnected from all the things in your world that are in the realm of activity.

Meditation Goes Mainstream!

In the language of many meditators, this is referred to as accessing the space between your thoughts—the gap—a space pregnant with pure potential and infinite possibilities.

When you have a consistent daily meditation practice, instead of only having sporadic tastes of the bliss of present-moment awareness, you begin to experience that bliss more and more in your everyday life. As you meditate regularly, a physiological shift occurs that grows deeper, stronger, and more profound with repetition. Like building any muscle in your body, meditation is a practice that transforms your entire physiology over time. This shift is subtle at first, and as the process of physical and emotional softening occurs, you begin to view life in new and expanded ways. Life takes on a different hue . . . a deeper meaning . . . a more universal understanding that pervades every cell of your being. The present-moment awareness you experience in meditation begins to flow throughout each thought, each conversation, each keystroke and each breath.

In both ancient and modern writings on the experience of meditation, this change, shift, or transformation of awareness—this space of being—has been referred to by many names, including enlightenment, transcendence, awakening, satori, the aha! moment, Brahman, rapture, bliss, being in the gap, astral projection, connecting to source, turiya, remote viewing, witnessing awareness, bhagavan or brahmi chetana, cosmic consciousness, God or Christ consciousness, being in the moment, atma darshan (glimpsing the soul), one-ness, unity, ananda, and samadhi.

And when you experience no activity within you or outside of yourself, you actually open yourself to realms of expanded consciousness and a greater depth of feeling that include higher levels of creativity, intuition, personal growth, compassion, subtle empowerment, forgiveness, and peace of mind. Whether this stillness lasts for a tenth of a second, ten seconds, or ten minutes is of no consequence. Touching stillness—even in the smallest of doses—allows you to connect to your unconditioned Self . . . to your source.

Mindful ‪‎meditation‬ can help those suffering sleep disturbances, researchers say.

Scientific Research Highlights Benefits of Meditation

Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in eight weeks

Date: January 21, 2011
Source: Massachusetts General Hospital

Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres.

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1172 (August 2009): 34-53.
Elizabeth Blackburn, et al

Food and Addiction: A Comprehensive Handbook 1st Edition

Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, is Dean and Professor of Public Policy, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University.
Mark S. Gold, MD, is the Donald Dizney Eminent Scholar, Distinguished Professor, and Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Florida, College of Medicine.

Reduced stress and inflammatory responsiveness in experienced meditators compared to a matched healthy control group.

Melissa A. Rosenkranz, Antoine Lutz, David M. Perlman, David R.W. Bachhuber, Brianna S. Schuyler, Donal G. MacCoon, Richard J. Davidson
Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging & Behavior and Center for Investigating Healthy Minds
University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1500 Highland Ave., Madison, WI 53705, USA
Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, INSERM U1028, CNRS UMR5292, Lyon, France
Accepted 16 February 2016, Available online 20 February 2016

Study: For cops, exposure to high-stress situations dysregulates vital biological function

The Official Journal for Psychoneuroendocrinology
John M. Violanti, PhD, Desta Fekedulegn, Michael E. Andrew, Tara A. Hartley, Luenda E. Charles, Diane B. Miller, Cecil M. Burchfiel

Study reveals gene expression changes with meditation

Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Perla Kaliman, first author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain (IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS)
Study funding came from National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (grant number P01-AT004952) and grants from the Fetzer Institute, the John Templeton Foundation, and an anonymous donor to Davidson.

Emotions, stress and rate of telomere shortening – are our cells listening to us?

Dr. Elissa Epel, UCSF Department of Psychiatry

Chronic stress and obesity: A new view of ‘‘comfort food’’

Mary F. Dallman*, Norman Pecoraro, Susan F. Akana, Susanne E. la Fleur, Francisca Gomez, Hani Houshyar, M. E. Bell, Seema Bhatnagar, Kevin D. Laugero, and Sotara Manalo
Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 30, 2003
Mary Dallman, PhD, is a Professor Emerita of Physiology at UCSF and is one of the world experts on stress and metabolism. She has deciphered the roles of stress induced glucocorticoid secretion on brain and feeding behavior and the stress-damping role of pleasurable food intake on brain pituitary-adrenal responses to chronic stressors in rats.