Do you ever feel as though you’re running like the proverbial chicken without a head?
Maybe not always, but sometimes or even often?
Many times it feels like my litany of tasks wants to flap around like chicken feathers fighting for flight. The responsibilities quite often seem (and are) endless.
I’m sure you know the feeling.
And that doesn’t even take into account whatever current insanity or horror is happening in the world around us. You know those things—the ones that capture the emotion and focus and, well, there just went another minute or hour of the day.
You probably don’t have a lot of time to waste like that either.
So what are some ways to keep calm as you plough through your day?
The very best one I know is meditation. Which always seems counter-productive to my monkey mind. “What do you mean?” it squawks. “You have way too much to do to sit in silence!”
And sadly, I confess, I sometimes let it convince me.
Because one thing I know for true is silence provides the most effective antidote to any sort of chaos in the world.
How do I know?
Not just from my own anecdotal evidence, and that of others, but now we have reams of scientific (via brain scans) proof.
World-renowned neuroscientist Dr. Richie Davidson at the Center for Healthy Minds, U of Wisconsin-Madison, and his colleagues have found amazing results regarding the power of silence and the mind.
“Even short amounts of practice can induce changes in the brain,”
Short amounts meaning 30 minutes of meditation a day. And these changes can be tracked on a brain scanner.
Okay, that tweaks me. Doesn’t it you?
Increased Grey Matter in these key areas:
Anterior Cingulate Cortex. Among its functions are self-regulation, including attention and cognitive flexibility.
Sign me up for more of that!
Prefrontal Cortex. This area is primarily responsible for planning, problem solving, and regulating the emotions.
Not that any of us have to worry about those. Right?
Hippocampus. Part of the limbic system, this holds sway over learning and memory. It’s also highly susceptible to stress and stress-related disorders such as depression and PTSD.
Not that any of us have any stress in our lives . . .
Also the fight-or-flight center of the brain, the Amygdala, decreases in size after meditation.
Did all of that get your attention? Boy, it did mine. I mean, I know meditating puts me in a different place. But I love when I can learn how it scientifically does so. And how enormous are its benefits.
So what’s the magic formula? How much meditation is required? See—there’s my monkey mind again, asking exactly how much it has to invest!
The good news is, not that much! In fact, surprisingly little. This study found that only 10 minutes per day over a 16 week period showed significant improvements in focus and attention.
A gazillion ways exist for useful mediation. The key is to pick one. And do it.
Consistency. As in daily.
What tweaked me the most was, however, the added bonus. The connection between the Me Center (the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex), involved in processing those people we see as different from us, and the bodily sensation center involved with empathy, grows stronger with meditation.
This enhances the ability to understand where another is coming from. Increasing the ability to empathize, to feel compassion.
Well. That certainly slays my excuses!
No wonder those Buddhists are so compassionate.
So, what do you have to lose? Even I can find 10 minutes in my day. And when I do, I don’t need scientific studies to prove what it does for my life.
How do you find silence in this crazy world?
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.