As a healthcare practitioner, I am also by necessity a self care practitioner. The most powerful form of self care that I have experienced is meditation. Like most people, I struggle to maintain a daily meditation practice in the midst of a busy life. But the days that start with meditation (or contemplative prayer) always feel different.

When I have maintained a regular practice over time I have felt changed from within. As my practice lapses, I can feel those changes slowly ebb away. As a bodyworker, I see firsthand the effects of stress on the body: in the tension of the muscles, in the set of the muscles or the jaw, or in the struggle to relax on the table.

Meditation may seem unrelated to massage, but I think that meditation is in fact a form of massage. Our mental equilibrium directly effects our nervous system and the tone of our muscles. Regular meditation creates a new ecosystem that we live within and from. Harvard University just released the results of a study that examined the effects of meditation, and MRI scans revealed significant structural changes in the brain with just 27 minutes of meditation practice per day. As they state in the article, “people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

From the article (click to go to full article):

Participating in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. In a study that will appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reported the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s gray matter.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”