During the past decade, I’ve heard the word “sustainable” used almost exclusively in the context of environmental issues. Yet the term simply means the ability to last or continue for a long time, without depleting resources. A personal resource is an available means that’s afforded by the mind, or by one's personal capabilities—a source of supply, support or aid, especially one that can be readily drawn upon when needed. Shouldn't health and brain function be considered a source of support, too?
Being certified in sustainable practices brought me a new level of awareness. During my years of training, the vast sea of ever-changing knowledge was humbling. Many sustainable concepts circulated during my study, and from those conversations came an understanding that there are hundreds of considerations and, more often than not, the experts disagree.
To simplify the principles of what qualifies a practice as sustainable, I adopted a theory of four primary considerations including: economy, restoration, health and wellness, and social awareness. All four categories must be met to be accepted as a sustainable practice—and meditation meets that criteria.
Economic considerations. One hour of instruction offers benefits for a lifetime.
Restorative factor. Meditation rejuvenates energy and improves memory, learning and sleep.
Health and wellness. It offers improved heart health, reduces stress, boosts immune function and offers an enhanced state of well-being.
Social awareness. With practice, meditation often offers a heightened state of awareness, beginning with self-awareness. Long-time meditators often think in terms of “we” not “I.” They easily see the universal thread of sameness throughout mankind, and they’re often compelled to work toward a larger vision for the greater good.
Stress can deplete the body’s natural resources and diminish its ability to fight disease. We know stress inhibits sleep patterns, and that lack of sleep can quickly deplete health to dangerous levels. In contrast, deep levels of rest can offer rejuvenating effects on the body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation is a simple, fast way to reduce stress, and research suggests it also improves sleep. One study, from the Journal of Counseling and Development, showed that insomnia can be decreased by as much as 42 percent with regular meditation.
HeartMath Institute has conducted numerous studies showing the relationship between the brain and heart, including how they communicate throughout the day. When stress levels increase, this communication can fail, which limits our ability to think clearly, remember, learn, reason and make effective decisions. Meditation can reduce stress and restore that connection.
Memory and learning naturally decrease as we age. Meditation can help combat this trend. Brain imaging proves that, with the regular practice of mediation, there’s physical improvement in the hippocampus (the memory and learning center of the brain) in as little as eight weeks. Additionally, new research links mediation to longevity of chromosomes, indicating that long-time meditators are, by scientific measures, younger than their biological age. Many new studies support the theory that meditators may even live longer.
Accumulated stress can freeze the flow of creativity, but we can lessen these deep levels of stress and unleash our highest potential through daily meditation. Seasoned meditators agree that creative sparks fly and solutions arise effortlessly during meditation. Steve Jobs was a meditator and became an example of the important role creativity plays in business environments. His objective for his daily meditation ritual was to improve his creativity and focus. Today, Jobs is revered as one of the most creative icons of our time.
The most highly regarded renewable resource is the human spirit.
Growth of consciousness or awareness is the natural result of releasing accumulated stress from the nervous system. Only the purposeful use of a deep relaxation technique will dissolve the deeper stress accumulated from everyday life, but dissolving this strain releases the greatest energy, creativity and intelligence of the individual. This release can elevate our mood. Military Medicine’s 2011 study on meditation reports 30 percent improvement in satisfaction with quality of life. Simply stated, if you meditate, you just might feel happier.
As executive director of DASA Meditation, Lorraine Alexander leads annual teachers’ trainings, lectures and coordinates programs. She formerly led both the U.S. Green Building Council’s Redwood Empire and the Pacific Region as chair. She learned to meditate at the age of 15. Contact her at (707) 620–5070 or l.alexander@DASAmeditation.org
DASA meditation prioritizes education to enhance health, wellness and self-awareness. To learn more about meditation, upcoming lectures, local programs or business programs, go to www.DASAmeditation.org
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