Meditation Cultivates Kindness
Meditation increases awareness of the present moment, reduces stress, promotes relaxation, and enhances personal and spiritual growth.
For additional details on this page’s content, go to author Doug Carnine’s website here.
Meditation is a practice to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth.
Meditation practices to increase awareness have many forms. Meditation can be movement based and is commonly a part of yoga, T’ai Chi, and Qi Gong. Meditation can also be internally based, allowing thoughts to arise and pass, focusing on scanning the body feeling the energy and sensations within different places of your body. Meditation can also be concept based, a certain mantra or prayer could be the focal point that facilitates the overall state of mindfulness.
Meditation is essentially a way to experience the feeling of centered mindfulness. Mindfulness facilitates observing more clearly and a feeling of connection with a subject of our choosing. With an ability to see more opportunities for mindful kindness, you have a chance to choose a deliberate way of being that brings you and others joy.
Meditation is like falling in love. When you cannot help but focus on the object of love, you are experiencing being centered, connected, mindful, and your awareness is growing through observing. Then upon inspiration from observing, you get to choose how to demonstrate your love.
Movement Based Meditation
Qi Gong, Tai’ Chi, and yoga are forms of specific movements that hold specific meanings. These are often practiced in a gentle fashion requiring a focus and mindfulness in order to complete the movement. These movements are intentioned to help the body release tension both in the literal and metaphorical sense. Many who are kinesthetic learners with high dexterity ability are drawn to this type of meditation.
Concept Based Meditation
Concept based meditation means a specific idea is being nurtured, rested on, or being requested of a higher power. In a variety of Christianity based prayers, peace and healing are being requested. In Dharmic religions, (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism) there are specific mantras chanted for peace, protection, and happiness for a specific number of times. 108 is considered a sacred number of times (this is why bracelets or necklaces with 108 prayer beads are helpful to hold as they help keep count while the mantra is repeated.)
Sensory meditations include focusing on breathing, as well as a sensory focus on different places within the body. A body scan is one such method of giving sequential focus to different body areas to notice what it’s feeling without judgement. Reportedly, for someone living with pain, this helps to notice what parts of the body are pain free.
Meditation Leads to Self-Kindness
In a study revealing how meditation fosters kindness to self, participants were told they would be taught to meditate to reduce stress and improve their performance in different ways. The participants were not told that the study had anything to do with smoking; individuals who were trying to quit smoking were excluded from the study. However smoking was included in a set of questions they answered. The study was targeting smoking but the experimenters did not want the participants to change their smoking behavior because of the expectations of the experimenters.
At the conclusion of the study, the data showed that the amount of smoking decreased significantly for the meditation-trained group in comparison to the control group. Meditation had the indirect effect of individuals being kind to themselves by weakening their negative habit of smoking. None of the participants were encouraged to cut back on their smoking, which suggests that it could have been the meditation that brought about the drop in smoking.
Meditation Leads to Kindness Towards Others
Another study focused on kindness toward others. The researchers wanted to see the relationship between meditation and unprompted acts of kindness. The researchers focused on who would offer a seat to a stranger on crutches. Kindness behavior was not part of the meditation training.
Members of the meditation group were almost three times as likely to offer their seat to a stranger on crutches, as were comparison group members who did not receive meditation training. In this study, meditation had the indirect effect of first noticing a person on crutches was standing nearby and then acting with kindness by offering the person a their seat, in other words acting with greater kindness to a stranger.
Meditation Leads to Brain Changes
Andrew Newberg, head of the Nuclear Medicine Department in the University of Pennsylvania, scanned blood flow to measure connectedness in individuals with years of experience in meditation (Tibetan Buddhists) and in prayer (Franciscan nuns). In addition to connectedness, he used blood flow to measure awareness of their physical surroundings in these same individuals.
In these monks and nuns, blood flow decreases to the part that makes us aware of where the boundary of our body lies, or ‘where I stop and the rest of the world starts’. At the same time, the flow of blood increases to the part of the brain concerned with awareness. “The combined effect is to lose the distinction between the praying individual and their surroundings at the same time as raising the general level of awareness” (page 357).
Reducing the distinction between the individual and their surroundings may be what creates our feeling of connectedness.