The Benefits of Meditation: 10 Surprising Ways Meditation Rewires Your Brain for Higher Consciousness & Health (2)
Read the first part of the article
The self-preservation processes are all triggered by the same part of your brain that
regulates hunger, thirst, sensual arousal, fear, and sleep. Your energy soars as the stress hormones adrenaline and
cortisol surge into your bloodstream. At the same time, your pancreas secretes a hormone called glucagon to immediately
raise your blood sugar with the equivalent sugar kick of you eating several candy bars at once.
As these physiological changes take place, your senses become heightened, your heart
starts racing, and all distractions, pain, thoughts, and internal conversations leave your awareness as your focus becomes
concentrated on one single goal: survival.
Because of its enormous influence on emotions and memory, the limbic system is often
referred to as the “emotional brain.” It’s also called the “old” or “early”
mammalian brain, or paleomammalian brain because it emerged with the evolution of our warm-blooded relatives and marked the
beginning of social cooperation among all animals.
But fast-forward 20,000 years to the present-day reality, and there aren’t too many
saber-toothed tigers out there. In fact, unless you’re defending your country in a war zone or in a life-threatening
line of work such as firefighting or law enforcement, the daily need for the rest of us activating our fight-or-flight mode
is a rarity.
Practicing meditation regularly allows you to minimize this fight or flight
This is what happens to your body during the fight-flight response:
– An increase in blood pressure, and stress on your heart
– An increase in your stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol)
– An increase in your blood sugar (glucagon tells the pancreas to slow insulin
– A decrease in blood circulation especially to your digestive tract
– A decrease in your growth and sexual hormones
– Suppression of your immune system, and
– An increase in the thickness and stickiness of your blood.
We can look at these as the seeds of illness because they lead directly to the following
diagnoses: coronary heart disease, anxiety, addictions, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, infections, cancer, strokes,
and heart attacks. Modern science is slowly discovering that chronic stress impacts the brain as well.
Clinical trials on mice have demonstrated that these stress hormones affect our dendrites
– the signal receivers and senders on nerve cells – by shrinking them, which impedes the easy flow of the
information they are transmitting. When this occurs in our hippocampus, it challenges our memory and learning ability.
Thankfully, the effects and benefits of meditation help to turn off these reactions and turn on meditation’s health
5. Reducing Stress
The physiological and emotional responses to stress are well documented. And it’s
pretty obvious that if we respond with an ego or fight or flight response to every fear and need that’s not met, we
will certainly die sooner or live a more painful life. Fortunately, one of the benefits of meditation is a tool that helps
reverse the impact that fight-or-flight and ego responses have on our minds and bodies. Meditation can unravel the cellular
damage that stress has caused and alter our DNA hardwiring of the fight-or-flight response.
A few years ago, a group of scientists – Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider,
and Jack W. Szostak – discovered that our chromosomes are protected by long, threadlike DNA molecules called
telomeres, which carry our genes from one cell to the next. Their research also revealed the existence of an enzyme called
telomerase, which lubricates and lengthens our telomeres. They won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering that the
length of each telomere and the amount of telomerase covering each one determines the very health of our cells as they are
As lower levels of stress hormones are introduced into our system through a daily
meditation practice, damaged telomeres mend, and our immune function rises. In addition to these direct meditation health
benefits, emotionally we start to respond more intuitively and less reactively, releasing us from the prison of conditioned
ego responses. In time as the effects and benefits of meditation add up, we will be moved from an existence of conditioned,
limiting beliefs to a more unconditioned life of infinite possibilities.
6. The Restful Awareness Response
When we meditate, our body’s chemistry changes. In fact, we experience the opposite
of the physiological effects produced by the fight-or-flight and ego responses as a benefit of meditation practice. We are
less inclined to perspire, our breathing and heart rate slow, our body’s production of stress hormones decreases, our
sexual hormone production increases, our growth hormone levels are elevated, our immune system strengthens, and our
platelets become less sticky as blood flows more easily throughout our entire body.
As these physiological shifts to our physical body occur, our mind calms, anxiety
lessens, stress seems to shed, and there is an emotional shift in how we respond to unmet needs. This state of restful
awareness in which the health benefits of meditation are activated can last for a moment or through the entire meditation.
But the beauty of this process is that restful awareness continues to benefit our bodies even after our meditation
As we meditate on a regular basis, we slowly and gently shift our automatic response
mechanism to a more unconditioned one, experiencing meditation benefits more regularly. In restful awareness, we move
through situations with greater grace and ease. We’re less impulsive and more intuitive. We’re making more
conscious choices, because we intuitively know the highest choice in that moment – the one that honors our Self and
the person we are interacting with. The one that elevates both of us to the highest plane of existence, the one that comes
from a heart filled with compassion, forgiveness, and a desire for peace. Being in tune with this experience is another one
of the profound effects and benefits of meditation.
The more time we spend in the state of restful awareness, the more we are open to
multiple interpretations of a situation or scenario throughout the rest of our day. We become less attached to our previous
interpretations, and our need to defend them feels less urgent. We see the bigger picture rather than the more narrow view
we once had.
Over the first few weeks of daily meditation, this expanded awareness weaves itself
intermittently through all our interactions as a side effect of meditation. As we continue to regularly meditate and spend
time in stillness and silence, each day becomes more comfortable, restful awareness becomes more and more our natural
state, and greater clarity begins to unfold.
It becomes less important to defend our point of view because we see greater
possibilities. Then creative solutions start to emerge to once-daunting challenges, and constrictions magically open up.
These are a few of the ways that meditation benefits our thinking.
7. Increased Creativity and Intuition
As the effects of meditation continue, we become more alert, more creative, more
intuitive, and more relaxed. We start having anxiety-free days, and stress becomes more manageable. And, as a benefit of
regular meditation, our first response to unmet needs is no longer the ego response. Our more common response to an unmet
need starts to be one of restful awareness – of silent witnessing before we act out old, conditioned response
patterns yet again.
This “new” state could also be called restful alertness because our senses
are heightened and we begin to experience a new lightness of being. Little things don’t irritate us or knock us off
course as easily. Experiencing greater peace of mind throughout the day is also a very common benefit of meditation, as is
more restful sleep, better digestion, and an entire new level of vitality. We are slowly returning to equilibrium –
Many practitioners tell 30 minutes of meditation is more restorative to them than 30
minutes of sleep and several studies now seem to confirm that specific benefit from meditation. If you have an irregular or
abnormal sleep pattern, it can normalize in just a few days after you have gotten comfortable with your new meditation
routine. Of course, if the thing that keeps you awake is a deeper emotional constriction or pain, meditation will help to
relieve the acuteness of the pain. However, only a commitment to deeper self-discovery, emotional release, and emotional
healing work will relieve the emotional pain at the core of your insomnia.
8. Spiritual Benefits of Meditation
Beyond meditation’s health benefits, the spiritual aspect of meditation has long
been misunderstood. And, this is one of the main reasons why mainstream culture has not been more open to embrace the
practice and many benefits of meditation. Even the definition of spirituality differs from person to person.
Each of us is seeking a reconnection to the whole, to our Source, to God, to our most
godly version. We each choose the most resonating path to understand and express the bigger, more profound, universal
concepts of life, death, pain, love, truth, bliss, and purpose. Some people don’t care about these things, because
their awareness has not drifted into these concepts at this point in their lives.
Ultimately, each of us will walk through these experiences and face these questions. So
even if someone is not currently engaged in this conversation, simply having an awareness of these natural life principles
invokes an understanding that there is something bigger, more expansive, more knowing, and more intelligent than we are. We
could call that entity a universal being. Never born and never died. Existing in every moment and connected to all things
In Vedanta, the ancient Indian philosophy of self-realization, there is a school
of thought known as ADVAITA, a Sanskrit term for “non-duality.” According to ADVAITA, one-ness is the only
reality. Everything else is an illusion, known in Sanskrit as MAYA. The philosophy states that our ignorance of our one-
ness is the cause for all suffering in the world. Only through the direct knowledge of this one-ness (actually experiencing
it) can true liberation occur. In Sanskrit, this liberation is called MOKSHA. Understanding that all existence is nondual
– not two things but one pure whole – is the path to MOKSHA. Meditation benefits you by gently guiding you to
9. Experiencing the Infinite
Most of us grew up in homes where we were introduced to an all-knowing, all-seeing,
infinite being known as God. How else can finite flesh beings such as us, with limited tools and a limited understanding,
ingest such a beyond-this-realm concept as oneness?
There needs to be an almighty essence that embodies all the characteristics of one-ness
so we can better understand them – a sort of guide between us and one-ness. And this is where the benefits of
meditation come in. Most of us have a similar understanding regarding our own personal God’s nature. Essentially,
this being created everything; is infinite, immortal, omnipresent, spans the existence of time and, therefore, is timeless;
controls or influences everything; is everywhere at once or has demigods or avatars who can be anywhere; is capable of
resurrection and rebirth; can be worshipped and appealed to; and has the ability to craft what we would consider
Essentially, spirituality is the journey we take in each moment from our most individual
Self to our most universal Self and then back again, integrating a bit of that godly magnificence back into our flesh-
encased human form. From constriction to expansion!
10. Expanding Consciousness
When our consciousness analyzes this “being” or power, we see this
omniscient, omnipotent, infinite God or spirit at once in everything and yet separate from us and the world.
Vedanta would say this separation exists only on the surface, only in our mind. Deeper below the surface, our
mind, body, and spirit are all the same things – pure, unbounded consciousness – one-ness wearing different
One of the benefits of meditation is to experience this perceived sense of separation
less and less. According to Vedanta, liberation lies in knowing the reality of this one-ness and experiencing
spirit through varying aspects of study (GYAN), devotion (BHAKTI), selfless service (KARMA), and practice (RAJ or the royal
Two of the practices of the royal path that most directly connect us to spirit are
meditation (restful awareness) and yoga (body-centered restful awareness). The path to this understanding of spirit is a
deeper understanding of who we are, what we really want in life, and why we are here.
This has been referred to as the expansion of consciousness – moving from a
constricted, conditioned space where we define ourselves as the roles we play in life and the things we own (essentially,
our positions and our possessions) to the more expansive perspective of who we are, how we are connected to everything, and
what we came here to do. Essentially, you are not in the universe, the universe is in you!
July 9, 2019