The Science Is In: Meditation Affects Aging and Telomere Length

Science is all about precision, controlled studies, and measurable, repeatable results. So for years researchers resisted working on alternative practices such as meditation, dismissing the few studies done as “fuzzy science,” “subjective,” or “impossible to duplicate.” But as research methods have advanced, so has the accuracy of the latest research. There is ample evidence now that stress leads to increased risk of health problems and that meditation reduces stress. What’s new are the studies showing how stress is related to aging and telomere length.

Thanks to groundbreaking work from researchers such as molecular biologist Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and psychiatrist Elissa Epel, (video) we can now definitively link meditation with slowing, and perhaps even reversing the aging process. Blackburn, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize for the discovery of telomeres, the protective caps on our chromosomes that wear down from aging, decided to study the effects of meditation on telomere length. Blackburn, named one of Time magazine’s 100 “Most Influential People in the World” in 2007, effectively launched the field of telomere research. Blackburn and Epel have now released a book with their research, The Telomere Effect – Living Younger, Healthier, Longer, and have appeared on Dr. Oz and other tv shows.

On his Natural Health website, www.lifespa.com, John Douillard writes, “Dr. Blackburn followed the logical paper trail: shorter telomeres cause accelerated aging, highly stressed people had shorter telomeres, and short telomeres are linked to health concerns….. meditation has been found to increase the activity of an enzyme called telomerase, which protects the chromosomal caps, called telomeres, from shortening. These chromosomal caps protect our cells from aging, degeneration and disease. Chanting, yoga, and other Ayurvedic lifestyle practices were shown to also increase the activity of telomerase in the body.” In addition to his website for natural health and Ayurveda, Mr. Douillard (video) has developed the Transformational Awareness Technique (TAT), a practice that combines meditation with action.

For more information, go to www.telomereeffect.com

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Peace and Where to Find It

| review by Cheryl Shainmark

Peace and Where to Find It is a slim gem, packed with insight and wisdom. For fans of Eckhart Tolle, Peace takes up where Tolle’s The Power of Now leaves off, (and, in fact, Eckhart Tolle wrote the introduction for this book), but it’s not necessary to have read one to enjoy the other. The author, Christopher Papadopoulos, has clearly walked the walk, done the work, and come back to share his transformative experience with us.

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Meditation, Spirituality & Brain Changes with Dr. Andrew Newberg

You’ve probably heard of Dr. Andrew Newberg’s work on meditation, even if you didn’t realize it — he’s the scientist who did the ground breaking studies of Tibetan monks meditating that showed how dramatically it changed the brain . He went on to study nuns praying and Sikhs chanting and found similar brain states as those of meditation. His ground breaking work led to the development of a new field of science called “neurotheology,” which studies the relationship between the brain and religious experience.

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Reconnecting to Your Heart: A Guided Meditation from the Angels

As a mystic, I have been receiving information and guidance from the angels since I was a very young girl. As I watch the news, what I see is a world of souls searching to make sense of the daily Surprise that is thrown upon us. Recently in my meditation The Archangels (the architects of the Heavenly Realms) came to me with a message for our time. I would like to share this with you.

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Does God Listen to Prayers? by Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra writes on his website, www.chopra.com, “Without taking a poll, it’s safe to say that people who believe in God also believe that he answers prayers. If he didn’t, one would be left with an indifferent, distant deity who pays no attention to human affairs. This alternative is hard to reconcile with faith, and so believers are left with a God who seems to answer prayers selectively. It’s as if there’s an invisible telephone line to Heaven, and when you call, sometimes God picks up and sometimes he doesn’t….”

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Teaching Mindfulness in UK Schools

The UK has for the first time invested public funds to study the benefits of mindfulness in the class room. Hundreds of children in the UK will be taught mindfulness among a range of innovative techniques with the aim of promoting good mental health, through one of the largest studies of its kind in the world (in terms of participant numbers). As reported in The New York Times this February, through this initiative…

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A Talk with William Meyer, Author of Three Breaths and Begin: A Guide to Meditation in the Classroom

William Meyer is the author of Three Breaths and Begin: A Guide to Meditation in the Classroom. He has long taught history, economics, and humanities in urban and suburban high schools, where he has also taught meditation in a variety of forms. He has worked with fellow educators in workshops and professional development courses, is the author of two published middle-reader novels, and is currently working to augment his MA in education from Harvard with a PhD from NYU. More information at BillPMeyer.com.

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Sounds Wonderful by Rick Heller

It’s common to meditate while listening to beautiful music, but I’ve found that meditating to ambient sounds—whatever sounds are present at this very moment—is not only a wonderful meditation, it provides a deep insight into where we can find joy in our lives. I lead weekly meditations at the Humanist Community at Harvard, and one of our mainstays is the ambient sound meditation. I first learned it myself when I attended a workshop by the Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. The idea is to pay attention to all the sounds around you with a friendly welcoming spirit. This includes the sounds of trucks and buses going by, sirens, coughing, rustling and other sounds that we typically label as “noise.”

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Keep Making It Simpler by Marc Lesser

The following is an excerpt from Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader: Lessons from Google and a Zen Monastery Kitchen, by Marc Lesser. Whenever I lead trainings or give talks on using these seven mindfulness practices, I can often feel the room’s energy shift as I describe the seventh practice, “Keep making it simpler.” People experience a sense of relief, as though a weight has been lifted. Their shoulders drop and they relax. Though we yearn for and need practices to support our leadership, mindfulness, and growth, we also have a basic and primal yearning to let go, to let it all go — all our concerns and judgments about our health, well-being, improvement, effort, and struggles over everything, including these practices. What a relief to stop struggling!

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Up the Hill – Down the Hill by Stephen Thomson

| by Stephen Thomson

When I was in my thirties I began to meditate. Most of my friends were doing it, so I thought I would try. I became addicted to my practice and progressed to a point that I was meditating daily for periods as long as three hours during one sitting. I was also becoming pretty full of myself and had a kind of spiritual arrogance at the same time. Now as I look back, I think I approached meditation in the same way I did any competitive sport. My efforts were about being the best I could be, the one with the most endurance and greatest success.

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