Scientific Benefits of Mindful Meditation

The irony was, I humbly requested to be hit by the kind, grandfatherly Zen master.  I was practicing mindful meditation at a Zen temple in Japan, and as part of the 45-minute zazensession — seated Zen meditation — there comes a part where you have the option of requesting to be hit.  Why?  Well you may be sleepy or suffering from a wandering “monkey mind”.  So when the Zen master approaches walking slowly, deliberately, mindfully and carrying an intimidating “flat stick” called kyosaku or keisaku, you bring your hands together, palms touching, and bow.  Remaining bowed, you then expose one shoulder blade where the Zen master gives you a “thwack, thwack” then expose the other and “thwack, thwack”, bow one more time to each other, then continue on your path to enlightenment.

Asking to be thwacked with the kyosaku “big stick” aside, the benefits of regular mindful meditation are many such as stress reduction, improved health, and a greater sense of clarity.  In a recent study published in Biological Psychiatry, scientific research showed how mindful meditation can actually change the brains of ordinary people and lead to improved health.  A New York Times review of the study reported,

“Four months later, those who had practiced mindfulness showed much lower levels in their blood of a marker of unhealthy inflammation, even though few were still meditating.”

And in today’s hyper-connected, 24/7, non-stop, stress-filled world we live in, who doesn’t want “unhealthy inflammation”, or any inflammation at all?

Here is one simple technique taken from my martial arts practice and used in my integrated thought leadership system, The Mushin Way, that you can start to do now to begin receiving the many benefits of mindful meditation.  And it will only take you about one minute to do:

1.  Sit up straight at your office desk before starting work — shoulders back and spine erect;

2.  Close your eyes slightly.  Leave them open a little bit so you can see a “blurry” image and some light (this will help prevent sleepiness);

3.  Breathing in and out through your nose, take five deep breaths while expanding your belly.  That is, take five deep “belly breaths”.  Count each breath as you exhale.

So the whole thing looks like this.  Breathe in and out expanding your belly.  While exhaling through your nose, count silently to yourself “one”.  Breathe in and out silently counting “two” when you exhale.  So on and so forth up to “five”.  Then stop.  Open your eyes.  And start your day.  On average, each in-and-out breath sequence takes about 10 seconds.  So the entire mindful meditation technique will take around one minute to complete.

Simple enough, right?  Try this Monday through Friday before you start work, when you finish work, and before you go to bed.  This will only take about three and a half minutes to do.  I know you can do it.  I guarantee you will start to gain the benefits mentioned above plus a whole lot more.

Leave a comment below or tweet me @mpveltri with any questions, ideas, or anything else you want answered about mindful meditation.  I promise to “hit you back up” with my answer.  Not with the intimidating “flat stick” that the kind, grandfatherly Zen master hit me with.