Meditation Overview

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.

qi gong, meditation, mindfulness

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.)

meditation, prayer
group meditation, buddhism

Sensory Meditation

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 is the art of falling in love with the present moment.

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

hand, offering, meditation

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.

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.

Meditation Leads To Brain Changes

nun, meditation

(Altruism as an Aspect of Relational Consciousness and How Culture Inhibits ItDavid Hay in Origins of Altruism and Cooperation, Editors: Robert W. Sussman, C. Robert Cloninger.)  Similar findings came from research on a group of Carmelite nuns.

The Britton Lab At Brown University Studies The Downside Of Meditation

Dr. Willoughby Britton and Dr. Jared Lindahl of Brown University, conduct an ongoing study on contemplative experiences encountered by contemporary practitioners, with a special focus on those being too challenged, or experiencing serious difficulties. Dr. Britton’s clinical research includes sleep, and novel treatment/prevention strategies for emotional disturbances. She recently completed a 3-year NIH-funded clinical trial on the neurophysiological effects of mindfulness meditation in depression, and continues to examine the link between sleep, affective disturbance and emotional regulation strategies.

Meditation is considered to be safe for healthy people. There have been rare reports that meditation could cause or worsen symptoms in people who have certain psychiatric problems, but this question has not been fully researched.

The Atlantic Interviews Dr. Britton


“One of her team’s preliminary tasks—a sort of archeological literature review—was to pore through the written canons of Theravadin, Tibetan, and Zen Buddhism, as well as texts within Christianity, Judaism, and Sufism. ‘Not every text makes clear reference to a period of difficulty on the contemplative path,’ Britton says, ‘but many did.’

‘There is a sutta,’ a canonical discourse attributed to the Buddha or one of his close disciples, ‘where monks go crazy and commit suicide after doing contemplation on death,’ says Chris Kaplan, a visiting scholar at the Mind & Life Institute who also works with Britton on the Dark Night Project.”

The Dark Knight of The Soul, The Atlantic, by Tomas Rocha, a research associate at the Mind & Life Institute and a doctoral student at Columbia University.

“There are parts of me that just want meditation to be all good. I find myself in denial sometimes, where I just want to forget all that I’ve learned and go back to being happy about mindfulness and promoting it, but then I get another phone call and meet someone who’s in distress, and I see the devastation in their eyes, and I can’t deny that this is happening.”Dr. Willoughby Britton, Ph.D.

Photo Credit: Britton Lab

Dr. Willoughby Britton is awarded the Karen T. Romer Prize for Undergraduate Advising and Mentoring At Brown University

Sustainable Mindful Kindness & Meditation Examples

Healthy life habits gain momentum quickly because the reward loop of endorphins and other chemical messengers in the brain yields many positive emotions due to real time return on effort. Starting is easy, and continued effort is a rewarding journey.

Saint Badass, mindful living, meditation

Saint Badass

Hear the backstory of how Roy, a life-sentence-serving inmate met Doug, a retired university professor, and started the journey of testing mindful kindness under the severest circumstances. The history of abuse, retaliation and transcendence without physically leaving a maximum security prison is breath taking.

  • True Story
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How Love Wins, mindfulness, kindness, meditation

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Kindness is underestimated by many cultures, but mixed with certain qualities, it’s extremely powerful. In the research based work of How Love Wins, Doug Carnine, PhD explains how fusing mindful kindness into everyday living has a profound upgrading effect to all you do, and how you feel.

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