#5--How to Feed the Soul and lead a more creative life---MEDITATE

{taken from The Daily Herald, DuPage County, IL, 6/15/15}
"Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard and Medical School, was one of the first scientists to take anecdotal claims about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and test them using brain scans.  What she found surprised her--that meditating can literally change your brain....".I did a literature search of the science and saw evidence that meditation had been associated with decreased stress, decreased depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia, and enhanced ability to pay attention, and an increased quality of life."
    "The first study I did, looked at long-term meditators versus a control group.  We found that long-term meditators have an increased amount of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, the auditory and sensory cortex, versus the control group.  Which makes sense.  When you are mindful, you are paying attention to your breathing, to sounds, to the present moment experience, and shutting cognition down.  It stands to reason your senses would be enhanced.  We also found they had more gray matter in the frontal cortex, which is associated with working memory and executive decision-making."
     "It is well documented that our cortex shrinks as we get older.  It is harder to figure things out and remember things.  But in this one region of the prefrontal cortex, 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter as 25-year-olds.  So, the question was:  Did the people with more gray matter in the study have more gray matter before they started meditating?  We did a second study.  We took people who had never meditated before and put one group through an eight-week program of mindfulness-based stress reduction.  We found differences in brain volume after eight weeks in five different regions in the brains of the two groups.  In the group that learned meditation, we found thickening in four regions:  1]The posterior cingulate, which is involved in mind wandering and self-relevance, 2]The left hippocampus, which assists in learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation, 3] the temporoparietal junction, or TPJ, which is associated with perspective-taking, empathy and compassion, 5] An area of the brain stem called the pons, where a lot of regulatory neurotransmitters are produced.  The amygdala--the fight or flight part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear and stress in general--that area got smaller in the group that went through the mindfulness-based, stress-reduction program.  The change in the amygdala was also correlated to a reduction in stress levels......Mindfulness is just like exercise.  It is a form of mental exercise,...and just as exercise increases health, helps us handle stress better, and promotes longevity, meditation purports to confer some of those same benefits."

     So, she goes on to say, "find a good teacher."  What better teacher than the One who created you and knows you inside and out.

"The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.  But I, GOD, search the heart and examine the mind.  I get to the heart of the human.  I get to the root of things.  I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be."  Jeremiah 17:9,10 The Message translation.

     Meditation is a daily time-out from life as usual for quiet thinking, listening and noticing thoughts, breathing and feelings.
     Meditation is pausing to think, to reflect, to imagine.  It is stopping our reactive behavior and pausing to think why we are reacting that way.  We establish patterns and fall back into them because they are comfortable.  That is mindless living, almost going through life by rote without thinking because we are so busy and so scheduled.
     Meditation is focused thinking.  Instead of going through the motions of our busy, over scheduled lives, it is pausing to receive focus from the only One, God, who knows our future.
     Meditation is pausing to stop our many scattered thoughts and activities to focus on the one thing that is important for that particular situation.
     Meditation is stopping our mind from automatically going into "problem-solving" mode, to listen to the One who knows our problems and has a different, higher, thinking perspective on our problems.
     In essence, meditation is pausing our lives for a time of listening prayer--not talking prayer, since God knows what we are going to say anyway, but actual listening and noticing the feelings and peace of being in the presence of someone stronger, wiser and more able than ourselves.  We were wired for this central connection--it heals, lowers blood pressure and stress.  Without the God connection, we are left to our own ways of thinking, our own limited wisdom, our bad patterns of behavior and old ways of dealing with problems.  We resort to old patterns, even though they may be destructive, simply because they feel familiar.  RUTS.

     So plug into a channel for a new way of thinking, a new perspective, new ways to solve problems that you have never dreamed about, as well as new dreams that God has for you.  The possibilities are limitless.  Be transformed.

Prayer For Focus by Carol Kraft taken from Birthed by the Spirit by Carol Kraft

Lord, {that} we would be centered,
                     we would be quiet,
                     we should listen for your voice.
           Remind us, Lord,
                     remind us of your Presence,
                     remind us,
                     call us,
                     sustain us with your Word.
May we know
                     beyond our knowing
May we see
                     beyond our seeing
May we hear
                     the voice you speak
Bless us, Lord,
Bless us more and more,
That we may come before your Presence,
and find ourselves transformed.


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