New research shows that meditation can help you improve your ability to concentrate in two ways. First, it can make you better at focusing on something specific while ignoring distractions. Second, it can make you more capable of noticing what is happening around you, giving you a fuller perspective on the present moment.
Some of the most fascinating research on how meditation affects attention is being conducted by Antoine Lutz, PhD, an associate scientist at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, in collaboration with Richard Davidson and the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin. Their work has shown that concentration meditation, in which the meditator focuses complete attention on one thing, such as counting the breath or gazing at an object, activates regions of the brain that are critical for controlling attention. This is true even among novice meditators who receive only brief training. Experienced meditators show even stronger activation in these regions. This you would expect, if meditation trains the brain to pay attention. But extremely experienced meditators (who have more than 44,000 hours of meditation practice) show less activation in these regions, even though their performance on attention tasks is better. The explanation for this, in Lutz’s view, is that the meditation training can eventually help reduce the effort it takes to focus your attention. “This would be consistent with traditional accounts of progress in meditation practice. Sustaining focus becomes effortless,” Lutz says. This suggests that people can immediately enhance concentration by learning a simple meditation technique, and that practice creates even more progress.
adapted from Yoga Journal by Kelly McGonigal
Although meditation can be done in almost any context, practitioners usually employ a quiet, tranquil space, a meditation cushion or bench, and some kind of timing device to time the meditation session. Ideally, the more these accoutrements can be integrated the better. Thus, it is conducive to a satisfying meditation practice to have a timer or clock that is tranquil and beautiful. Using a kitchen timer or beeper watch is less than ideal. And it was with these considerations in mind that we designed our digital Zen Alarm Clock and practice timer. This unique “Zen Clock” features a long-resonating acoustic chime that brings the meditation session to a gradual close, preserving the environment of stillness while also acting as an effective time signal.
Zen Timer for Yoga and Meditation
Now & Zen – The Zen Meditation Timer & Clock Store
1638 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
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