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  • Meditation Fact Sheet: Scientifically Proven Benefits & a Who’s Who of Famous Meditators

    Filed under Focus
    Apr 29

    I’m calling this article a “fact sheet.” That’s because instead of the usual paragraphs and paragraphs of prose, I’m providing a condensed summary of the following:

    • The Proven Benefits of Meditation (scientifically studied & reported in respected journals)
    • A Who’s Who of  Meditators & Organizations Who Encourage Meditation

    To create this fact sheet, I’ve culled information from several bloggers, book authors, and websites. I’ve included links to all these so you can easily go to the original source for further details.

    [NOTE:  In this fact sheet I use the word "meditation" in its broadest sense to include any activity that helps you focus attention, step outside the stream of internal mental chatter and achieve what Dr. Herbert Benson refers to as "the relaxation response."  Examples of such activities include:  repeating a mantra, mindfulness meditation, transcendental Meditation, Vipassana meditation, breath focus, Kripalu or Kundalini yoga, repetitive prayer, or even walking or jogging with a focus on regular footfalls.]

    __________________________________________

    The Proven Benefits of Meditation

    According to an article at the Mayo Clinic website, “meditation… results in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.”  This conservative website is careful to present its medical topics without a lot of hype. And its conclusions and recommendations are typically peer reviewed and use carefully chosen, scientifically-defensible descriptions.  Regarding meditation, it states:

    “The emotional benefits of meditation include:

    • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
    • Building skills to manage your stress
    • Increasing self-awareness
    • Focusing on the present
    • Reducing negative emotions

    Meditation also might be useful if you have a medical condition, especially one that may be worsened by stress. … some research suggests that meditation may help such conditions as:

    • Allergies
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Asthma
    • Binge eating
    • Cancer
    • Depression
    • Fatigue
    • Heart disease
    • High blood pressure
    • Sleep problems
    • Substance abuse”

    In his extensive article for io9, The Science Behind Meditation and Why it Makes You Feel Better, George Dvorsky reviews how meditation changes the brain and subsequently results in several health benefits. In addition, Dvorsky provides links to several scientific studies.  Below are highlights from his article: 

    Changes to the Brain

    • “Higher levels of gyrification  — the “folding” of the cerebral cortex as a result of growth, which in turn may allow the brain to process information faster.
    • green-brain-activeLarger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter , resulting in more positive emotions, the retention of emotional stability, and more mindful behavior (heightened focus
    • Diminished age-related effects on gray matter and reduce cognitive decline
    • Decreased activity in default mode network activity and connectivity — those undesirable brain functions responsible for lapses of attention and disorders such as anxiety, ADHD — and even the buildup of beta amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease.
    • Dramatic changes in electrical brain activity, namely increased Theta and Alpha EEG activity, which is associated with wakeful and relaxed attention.

    Health Benefits

    • An easier time sustaining voluntary attention
    • Significant improvements in mindfulness and contemplative thoughts, the alleviation of depressive symptoms, and boosts to working memory and sustained attention.
    • Significant reduction in stress after just eight weeks of training
    • Increased levels of empathy” [observed "live" during brain scans of meditators/non-meditators]
    An article at Rodale.com, 6 Surprising Benefits of Meditation, lists the following benefits of meditation and provides many links to the scientific studies supporting them:
    • “#1: Meditation can make you more productive.
    • #2: It’s good for surly teenagers.
    • #3: Meditation helps you ditch the painkillers.
    • #4: It’ll keep you happy.
    • #5: Meditate, combat hot flashes.
    • #6: Your heart loves it when you meditate.”

    Finally, an article at the Medical News Today website titled Yoga And Meditation Change Gene Response To Stress reviews the recent work of Dr. Herbert Benson at his Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine. (Note: Dr. Benson wrote the landmark 1975 work, The Relaxation Response, which defined this response as the opposite of the “fight or flight” response.)  The article presents this stunning finding:

    “…mind body techniques like yoga and meditation that put the body in a state of deep rest known as the relaxation response, are capable of changing how genes behave in response to stress.

    OK. One more time, because that’s a very big deal!! The researchers found that yoga & meditation are

    ” … CAPABLE OF CHANGING HOW GENES BEHAVE IN RESPONSE TO STRESS….”

    The article quotes Dr. Benson:  “Now we’ve found how changing the activity of the mind can alter the way basic genetic instructions are implemented.” And it quotes Dr. Towia Libermann, director of BIDMC Genomics Center and co-author of the study:  “This is the first comprehensive study of how the mind can affect gene expression, linking what has been looked on as a ‘soft’ science with the ‘hard’ science of genomics.”

    __________________________________________

    A Who’s Who of  Meditators & Organizations

    Who Encourage Meditation

    What follows is my “Who’s Who” of meditators and organizations who practice, and encourage others to practice, meditation.  My goal is to do some significant name dropping and show you that many of the best, brightest, and most successful handle their stress with the help of meditation. The list includes everyone from rock stars to money market managers! So you may be surprised at some of the names that appear here!

    Online MBA News lists these 10 Big Companies That Promote Employee Meditation

    • Apple
    • Prentice Hall Publishing
    • Google
    • Nike
    • AOL Time Warner
    • McKinsey & Co.
    • Yahoo
    • Deutsche Bank
    • Procter & Gamble
    • HBO

    The American Meditation Institute provides this long list of its corporate customers at its website:

    • “West Point Association of Graduates
    • Berkshire Medical Center
    • Albany Medical College, Family and Community Medicine Residency
    • Albany Medical Center Bioethics Committee
    • M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston TX
    • The Commonwealth Club of California
    • Washington University Medical School, St. Louis MO
    • Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
    • “The New York Times” Workshop: Yoga: The Power to Change Your Life”with Dean Ornish, M.D.
    • University of Wisconsin School of Nursing, Madison WI
    • University of Colorado Medical School Alternative Medicine Department
    • College of St. Rose, Albany NY
    • Hudson Valley Community College, North Greenbush NY
    • Wesley Healthcare Center, Saratoga Springs NY
    • The Cancer Center of Albany Med
    • International Himalayan Yoga Teachers Association, Calgary, Canada
    • New England Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine, Boston MA
    • SUNY Empire State College, Saratoga Springs NY
    • Rensselaer County ARC
    • Baptist Retirement Center, Scotia NY
    • Knolls Atomic Power Labs, Niskayuna and Ballston Spa NY”

    In its article Money Managers Find Benefits From Meditation, Huffington Post names the following meditators:

    • “Ray Dalio, founder of $130 billion hedge fund firm Bridgewater Associates
    • Bill Gross of Pimco (Bond king )
    • Jason Voss, ‘a former money manager who now works for the CFA Institute and who has written a book about meditation and investment'”

    The article concludes: “Meditation is likely to continue spreading among fund managers in the way it has in the rest of society: from hand to hand as something that people do and find helpful.”

    In Sit. Breathe. Be a Better LeaderInc.com identifies these entrepreneurial meditators and organizations:

    Harley Murphy, who heads the Ireland operations of BNY Mellon… Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons… Ray Dalio, the 61-year-old founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund…. Bill Ford’s a big advocate…. Steve Jobs was often associated with the practice. … Facebook, Ebay, and General Mills execs are meditators. Google set up separate rooms so senior staff would be able to pursue it.”

    In Bill Clinton Gets His Meditation On, the MindBodyGreen website describes how “”Bill loves meditating because it helps him stay focused and calm.”

    In 14 Executives Who Swear By Meditation, Business Insider’s War Room names these meditating movers and shakers:

    • “Hedge fund manager Ray Dalio
    • Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff
    • Panda Express Founder Andrew Cherng
    • Former Monsanto CEO Bob Shapiro
    • Former CEO Bill George (Medtronic)
    • Def Jam Founder Russell Simmons
    • Oprah Winfrey
    • Legal Sea Foods CEO Roger Berkowitz
    • Green Mountain Coffee Roaster Founder Robert Stiller
    • Ramani Ayer, former Chairman and CEO of The Hartford Financial
    • Steve Rubin, former CEO and chairman of United Fuels International,
    • Executive Management Associates CEO Nancy Slomowitz
    • Marnie Abramson, who owns Tower Companies real estate
    • Tupperware CEO Rick Goings”

    Zimbio.com presents this huge list of Famous Well Known People who Meditate. Are some of favorites listed here?

    • “The Dalai Lama (Religious Leader),
    • Albert Einstein (Scientist),
    • Mick Jagger (Singer),
    • David Lynch (Filmmaker),
    • Bruce Lee (Martial Artist),
    • Jennifer Lopez (Singer, Actress),
    • Clint Eastwood (Actor, Director, Politician),
    • Rob Cohen (Director),
    • Harrison Ford (Actor),
    • George Lucas (Producer),
    • Alice Walker (Author),
    • Roberto Baggio (Soccer Pro),
    • Jerry Seinfeld (Comedian),
    • Phil Jackson (NBA Coach),
    • Melissa Mathison (Screenwriter),
    • Leonard Cohen (Singer, Songwriter, Poet),
    • Orlando Bloom (Actor),
    • Herbie Hancock (Musician),
    • Steven Seagal (Actor),
    • Belinda Carlisle (Singer),
    • Frank Herbert (Author),
    • William Ford Jr. (Ford Motor Company),
    • Sting (Singer, Musician),
    • Allen Ginsberg (Poet, Author)
    • Nathaniel Dorsky (Filmmaker),
    • various members of the Beatles (Singers/Musicians),
    • K.D. Lang (Singer),
    • Andy Kaufman (Actor),
    • Cher (Singer, Actress),
    • Mark Wahlberg (Actor/Singer)
    • Sheryl Crow (Singer, Songwriter),
    • Kate Bosworth (Actress)
    • Russell Simmons (Record Label Owner),
    • Richard Gere (Actor),
    • Tiger Woods (Golf Pro),
    • Julia Roberts (Actress),
    • Gwyneth Paltrow (Actress),
    • Tina Turner (Singer),
    • Goldie Hawn (Actress),
    • Oliver Stone (Movie Producer),
    • Elle MacPherson (Supermodel)
    • Deepak Chopra (Author),
    • Wayne Dyer (Author),
    • Paramahansa Yogananda (Guru),
    • practically every author and teacher in the spiritual growth arena,
    • native Americans and those who practice shamanism and earth-based spirituality
    • yogis and gurus from everywhere”

    And finally,  in it’s Health & Wellbeing page at MSN New Zealand we’re presented with this slideshow of Zen celebs: Famous people who meditate:

    • “Oprah
    • David Lynch
    • Russell Brand
    • Katy Perry
    • Miranda Kerr
    • Gemma Ward
    • Kristen Bell
    • Paul McCartney
    • Ellen DeGeneres
    • Wes Carr
    • Hugh Jackman
    • Eva Mendes
    • Santigold”

    Conclusion

    The bottom line:  1) Meditation provides many scientifically-proven benefits and is capable of bringing about tangible, measurable physiological changes.  2) Many of the most successful and productive people and organizations rely on it to help them maintain their successes and overall health.

    ====== Related Posts & Podcasts =======
    Many of the articles referenced above include information on how to start your meditation practice. (See the links.) In addition, some of my articles listed below are for meditation newbies. But you don’t need a lot of formal instruction! Your practice can be as simple as quietly sitting and focusing on your breathing, while witnessing thoughts that arise and gently dismissing them to re-focus on your breathing. That’s it! The key: Be patient and kind to yourself!  

One Response to “Meditation Fact Sheet: Scientifically Proven Benefits & a Who’s Who of Famous Meditators”

  1. And there’s this from the prestigious “SharpBrains.com — “12 Ways Yoga Meditation Helps Nourish The Body, Brain & Mind” ow.ly/qbfmx #positiveliving#parenting

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