The Bay Area is known for being a fast-paced, technologically-advanced area where hard working, highly productive individuals with impressive degrees live. This is where we go to high school. This is where we watch people work hard to graduate from highly competitive schools so that they can get into that prestigious college and land a highly stressful job. Here in Silicon Valley we’re so distracted by our thoughts and day-to-day schedules, always picking apart our past and worrying about the future that we’re rarely present in the our lives. This is why meditation can be so important for those living in an area like this.
People fall into the practice of meditation for various reasons, but those who stick with it are often looking for more out of their lives. There are many steps to meditation. The first is completely relaxing your body and your mind and positioning yourself so that you’re comfortable but won’t fall asleep. After this begins a stage called Hang-Sau, a simple form of meditation that teaches one to clear the mind by focusing on the breath or on the “spiritual eye” (located on the forehead) if you’re more experienced. This attention on the breath allows the mind to relax completely.
Contrary to the beliefs of many, meditation takes a lot of focus and energy. “It takes a lot of energy to meditate. If you don’t have energy while you’re meditating you go to sleep. When you go to sleep, then you go into your subconscious, but in meditation… you’re trying to go into superconscious,” said Rammurti Reed, a meditation teacher, and a meditator himself for decades.
In a Ted Talk from 2012, Andy Puddicome, the founder of Headspace (an award-winning digital health platform that provides users with guided meditation), a former Buddhist monk, and “the international poster boy for the modern mindfulness movement,” according to the Times said, “Most people assume that meditation is all about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind, but actually it’s much different than that. It’s more about stepping back, seeing the thought clearly — witnessing it coming and going — without judgment, but with a relaxed, focus mind.”
Meditation is also beginning to have measurable benefits and is scientifically proven to reduce stress, anxiety, likelihood of depression and has endless other benefits. Several studies show that meditation is providing measurable benefits, including the reduction of stress.
In 2012, 201 volunteers with coronary heart disease were asked to either take classes on exercise and diet or take classes on meditation. Researchers followed up with participants up to 5 years later found that volunteers that chose to take meditation classes, had a 48% reduction in their overall risk of heart attack, stroke, and death compared to those from the health education group (Blue).
In an additional study, researchers at UCLA took MRI scans of 100 people, half of which were non-meditators and the other half long term meditators. The long term meditators showed higher levels of gyrification, which can be associated with faster information processing (http://journal.frontiersin.org).
At the University of Washington, 45 human resource managers were randomly split up into 3 groups. For eight weeks, one group practiced mindfulness meditation, one practiced body relaxation, and one had no training at all. The groups were given stressful multitasking tests before and after the eight weeks. The study showed that the mindful meditation group reported less stress during the test than the two other groups (http://faculty.washington.edu).
Especially around the time of AP tests and finals, meditation is a great stress reliever that everyone should try incorporating into their lives.