Other Possibilities

Parque del Retiro, Madrid, August 2, 2012

Excerpt from "Eckhart Tolle, Meditation and the Meaning and Benefits of Inner Peace," by Hugh Byrne, The Washington Post, October 4, 2012:

Have you ever been caught up in a wave of anger, craving or worry where you felt the emotion carry you away like a wild horse you could not control?  Most of us have experienced the strength of these energies and wondered how to work with rather than be ruled by them.

Have you felt such a wave of unruly emotion but been able to bring awareness to it and observe it instead? An important shift takes place: the awareness creates space and allows us to see other possibilities than just acting out whatever we are feeling. This is more akin to riding a horse we have begun to train...

...For over 2,000 years, Buddhism and other wisdom traditions have taught that there is a way out of the stress and suffering that can fill our lives, and a possibility of living a life free of suffering. Mindfulness, the practice of opening fully to our experience in this moment—the joys and sorrows; the good, the bad, and the ugly—is the gateway to this deep freedom of the heart.

In recent years, the wisdom of these ancient teachings has been confirmed by scientific studies, which demonstrate that we can train our minds, change our brains, increase our well-being, and radically lessen such afflictive states of mind as anxiety and depression.

One recent study showed that the structure of the brains of participants in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program changed with an average of just 27 minutes of meditation a day. Results from brain scans revealed an increase in gray-matter density in areas of the brain associated with memory, self-awareness, compassion and introspection, and a decrease in density of gray matter in areas associated with stress and anxiety. 

Other studies have shown that meditation may lower blood pressure, slow the progression of HIVreduce pain help break addictions, and even ward off the effects of aging.