Glide Lunch & Learn: Benefits of Meditation

I was honored to be invited to give a presentation at Glide about the benefits of meditation.

Glide’s clinic provides health care to the residents of San Francisco in the Tenderloin District, with intention to break the cycle of poverty and marginalization.

Here is a summary of the information I covered.

I have been meditating since 2008 and learned from a Zazen practitioner, Gabriel Rogers.

Yoga as it pertains to meditation:

Yoga has eight limbs, many of which encapsulate aspects of meditation. Asanas focuses on mastering the body by way of holding poses.

Limbs five, six, seven, and eight; Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi (respectively) may be interpreted as practices of different types of meditation.

5 – focuses on controlling senses

6 – involves concentration & cultivating inner perceptual awareness

7 – specific meditation on the Divine

8 – union with the Divine

The practice of Yoga has a similar culminating journey toward Nirvana (bliss) in Buddhist meditation.

Scientific Benefits of Meditation

Sourced from links on Dr. Emma Seppala’s webpage. I found it to be an excellent source of scientific research and evidence of the many benefits of meditation.

  • Increases Immune Function – subjects meditating in a compassionate, mindful manner demonstrated increase antibody production to combat influenza.
  • Decreases pain – guides our mental processes to interpret the experience of pain in a more manageable way.
  • Decreases Inflammation on a cellular level – participants at suffering from cardiovascular disease demonstrated a decrease of stress and CRP (c-reactive protein) levels.
  • Improves memory, creativity, and attention span – subjects who meditated for four continuous days for twenty minutes each day showed an improved capacity for memory construction, creativity, and focus.
  • Increases grey matter – subjects who meditate show a measurable increase in grey matter density in certain cortices.
  • Increases volume of brain tissue in centers of emotional regulation, self-control, and positive emotions.
  • Increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention.

Summaries from the ArtofLiving.org list these benefits and more:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Regulates seratonin production
  • Boosts energy levels
  • Lowers blood lactate; reducing anxiety.

The question was posed: What are some different ways to meditate?

My answer: there is no wrong way to meditate. One can meditate laying down, seated, in traditional full/half-lotus postures, on a seiza (meditation bench). One can meditation by focusing on breath, with prayer beads, counting finger segments, using a mantra (focus phrase), holding a mudra (hand position), or an combination of these and more.

Conclude with a brief meditation exercise. Follow-up with insights and observations from group.

Thank you for your warm welcome, attention, and participation in today’s presentation.

Medical Journals and Articles sourced

Psychoneuroendocrinology

Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune & behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. 2009

Journal of Neuroscience

Brain Mechanisms Supporting Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation. 2011

Brain, Behavior, and Immunity

Workplace based mindfulness practice & inflammation: a randomized trial. 2013

Neuroimage

The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter. 2009

Psychosomatic Medicine

Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. 2003

Neuroreport

Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. 2006

Cognitive Therapy and Research

The effects of mindfulness meditation on cognitive processes and affect in patients with past depression. 2004

General Hospital Psychiatry

Three-year follow-up and clinical implications of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention in the treatment of anxiety disorders. 1995

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