You’ve undoubtedly heard about the benefits of meditation. People who meditate regularly talk about it as if it were some magic elixir for all of life’s problems. They tell us that meditation is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety in our lives, make us more compassionate, and improve concentration, perspective, self-awareness, sleep, energy levels, and our overall sense of happiness.
Perhaps meditation is one of those resolutions you have every intention of starting next Monday. Or maybe you’ve tried meditation before, but gave up because you were frustrated with your inability to quiet your mind. Well, here’s your chance to give meditation another shot.
On Monday, February 12, 12 – 1 p.m., in the Columbia Library, 624 S. Michigan, 3rd floor north, a member of Columbia’s Library staff will provide students, faculty, and staff with a basic guide to meditation that will be easy for you to incorporate into your daily life.
Meditation is part of every major religion. At its most basic, meditation is about training our attention to our own breathing as a way to increase our own self-awareness of what’s going on inside and outside of ourselves. Through meditation, we learn to develop our capacity for concentration, mindfulness, and compassion.
Concentration is the ability to let go of distractions. Distractions waste our energy. By focusing on our breath, we learn to let go of thoughts, emotions, and feelings that distract. By letting go of distractions, we are able to focus on what’s important in our lives. Mindfulness teaches us to move our focus to the outside world. We are able to develop perspective, the capacity to assess the world around us without making judgments or assumptions. Compassion is the ability to open our hearts and learn to love ourselves and others with imperfections.
In the last several years, there is an emerging body of scientific research that clearly demonstrates that daily meditation is as beneficial to our physical health as exercise. Just as regular exercise strengthens muscles and increases stamina, regular meditation produces greater serenity, concentration, perspective, and connection to others.
Research shows that the circuitry of the adult brain can be rewired to form new cells and pathways. Meditation has been shown to strengthen the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, which can improve memory, concentration, problem-solving, and cognitive and emotional well-being. Other studies show that meditation can shrink the gland responsible for stress hormones. Still other studies show that meditation helps people with ADHD, OCDs, chronic pain, immune deficiencies, insomnia, and high blood pressure.
Come to the Columbia Library on Monday and discover the benefits for yourself. The Library also has a Meditation Room and more than 50 books on meditation available for you to dig deeper into science of meditation, as well as traditions, history and science. There are books on Daoist, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions. There are books by the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and the Vietnamese spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh. There are also books on mindfulness and psychotherapy.