Bohemian Buddhist Review

"Altered Traits" by Daniel Goleman & Richard J. Davidson

Who doesn't want to be happier? If you knew a guaranteed way to increase your quotient of well-being, even physical health, painlessly and with virtually no expenditure, wouldn't you go for it?
This is the territory of "Altered Traits." The authors have spent decades monitoring clinical studies of our brains meditating. And by now they've come up with some pretty conclusive proof of its manifold benefits. 
Since the seventies, Goleman and Richardson have been tireless in tracking only verifiably standardized studies. As the years have peeled by, they've seen new fields emerge like neuroplasticity, which offers a "scientific basis for how repeated training" -- i.e., meditation -- could create "a life best described as flourishing." 
With a committed long-term practice, some of the attainable results from meditating include self-acceptance, personal growth, autonomy, satisfying relationships, and life purpose. This is no small deal. There's now a significant body of evidence showing that meditation can help us achieve all or most of these goals. 
The "how" of these achievable traits has to do with our amygdalas -- tiny centers in the brain that trigger our freeze-fright-or-flight response -- and the fact that meditation helps keep us from getting hijacked by sudden wayward emotions. In other words, we can choose how to react from our higher brain centers.
Jon Kabat-Zinn's famous work with mindfulness has shown what meditation can do for relief of stress and chronic pain. It can even help with Alzheimer's: "Meditation helps preserve the brain by slowing atrophy." Even inflammation in the body can be affected as well. "Mindfulness training -- even as short as three days -- produces a short-term decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines, the molecules responsible for inflammation." 
And while meditation isn't a substitute for psychotherapy, it can ease many symptoms of mental unease, including depression. With the oversight of a qualified teacher, it can help increase peace of mind and decrease emotional conflict. 
Some of the best news is that the effects keep on growing. "Expertise continues to increase steadily with the number of lifetime hours."  So it would seem smart to let go of so much doing and do a lot more sitting.
PSW -- June 2018