The Science Behind Meditation and Dan Harris’ Journey to Serenity

9780062265425I’ll be the first to admit that I’m often uptight and easily stressed. I don’t meditate regularly, but when I do the relief I feel is often surprising. Just taking a few moments to focus on my breathing can release tension.

via Big Think:

Dan Harris is a self-described “fidgety and skeptical news anchor” who would probably be the last person you’d expect to buy into the hocus pocus of supposed new age wellness. But after suffering a live, on-air panic attack on “Good Morning America,” the ABC News correspondent took up meditation not because he was in search of a magical solution, but rather because of the overwhelming scientific evidence that it just works.

After his attack, Harris became an advocate for the practice and even wrote a book — 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story — in which he compiled his personal story with copious amounts of research backing the benefits of meditation. This includes, among other things, a boosted immune system, lower blood pressure, and assistance in combating psoriasis as well as other conditions. Plus, there’s the benefit of hacking your brain:

“The neuroscience is where it really gets sci-fi. There was a study out of Harvard that shows that short daily doses of meditation can literally grow the gray matter in key areas of your brain having to do with self-awareness and compassion and shrink the gray matter in the area associated with stress.”

Continue reading.

13 Comments on "The Science Behind Meditation and Dan Harris’ Journey to Serenity"

  1. BuzzCoastin | Aug 21, 2014 at 5:31 pm |

    I’ve done the 10 day goenka vipassana several times
    but rarely do the 2 hour a day recommended doseage
    but I love the 10 day recharge every few years or so
    I’ve found a few minutes of anapana or vipassana
    can really help relieve stress
    that and the question
    how’s everything right now?

    • I’m researching the 10 day goenka vipassana right now. What would you recommend for a beginner like myself? I usually just sit and focus on my breathing in a quiet place.

      I’ve really been interested in the rise of meditation to break habits. I have an issue with overeating that I was able to stave off in high school with obsessive dietary restrictions and frequent exercise. But once I hit college, things began to change. I’m much less active now and I tend to overeat when stressed. Le sigh.

      • BuzzCoastin | Aug 21, 2014 at 8:24 pm |

        the first time I did the 10 day
        I swore I’d never do it again
        I’ve done 6 since then

        no prep is required
        in fact
        they’d prefer you had no meditation practice
        to get in the way of the techniques they want to teach you

        almost everyone hates the first time
        even Goenka, who almost quit his first time too
        less than 1% of first timers attend the 2nd

        it’s extreemly simple
        just sit and mediate for 10 hours a day in silence
        using the 2 techniques they teach

        • Holy shit. Are there breaks? Can you talk? I don’t know if I can go that long without opening my gob.

          • BuzzCoastin | Aug 21, 2014 at 9:08 pm |

            that’s the usual reaction

            the meditation sessions are an hour
            sometimes 30 min more
            some are optional
            but the alternative is to sit silently in your room
            usually 10 min breaks between sessions
            with 2 hour meal breaks
            breakfast around 6ish
            last meal of the day 11am
            Buddhist monks don’t eat after 12 noon
            newbies get tea with honey at 5pm

            no talking to anyone but the instructor
            and then only with questions or when spoken to

            it breaks down your mental construct of reality
            and allows you a glimpse of
            your mental machinations very clearly

            it’s offered free of charge
            and you can’t donate until you complete the course
            at which time they tell you once
            that you can now donate

          • Yeah, I read that part about the donations. There are no centres in NY, unfortunately. Sounds like a wild experience.

          • BuzzCoastin | Aug 21, 2014 at 9:54 pm |

            Massachusetts, Shelburne Falls · Dhamma Dharā
            was the first center in the US
            closest to you, best setting for the experience

            after my first 10 day
            I told the instructor I hated it & would never do it again
            he said
            yeah, I hated the first 6 I did

            for me
            number 2 did the trick
            I sorta got it and it became fun
            I haven’t done one since 08
            and I’m kinda jonesing for a 10 day

          • BuzzCoastin | Aug 22, 2014 at 1:33 am |

            oh and one last thing
            there’s no intellectual content
            there’s a fair amount of Buddhist esoterica
            going on in the background
            but it’s never talked about

            just before the last meditation of the night
            Goenka Gi tells bedtime stories
            about meditation, the Buddha and anicca
            meta out

          • Yeah the website specifically says “It is neither an intellectual nor a philosophical entertainment.” Who knows, maybe one day I’ll travel up to MA and check it out. I’m just not confident I could handle it, though.

          • BuzzCoastin | Aug 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm |

            no one can handle it the first time
            that’s one of the challenges
            it’s kinda an initiation
            into the art of controling your mind
            by breaking its habital monkey mind
            with silence & sitting

        • Raymond Knott | Aug 24, 2014 at 4:05 am |

          BuzzCoastin, I’m a really heavy disinfo reader in Arlington, I’ve never commented before, but thank you so much for this heads up, Dhamma Siri is not too far away from me, and you may have just changed my life.

  2. Just goes to show that guys in suits and lab coats make for better spokespeople than dirty, smelly hippies.

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