Meditation…. why bother?

We all know that meditation is supposed to be good for us. And if we’ve tried it, and even if we have a long term practice, we realize meditation isn’t the simplest thing to do.  Our brain is tricky, as Paul Gilbert often says!

So why bother? 

Recently I read a study by a team at the University of Sienna who wanted to measure any neuroanatomical changes that resulted from meditation practices, both at the cortical and subcortical brain levels. This research was different than others in that it didn’t use long term, experienced meditators.  Instead, they called their participants, “meditation-naïve.”

For this study, 48 participants were divided into two groups:

  • 24 went through the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction training, including body scanning, sitting meditation, walking meditation, and mindful stretching movements
    • Attend 2.5 hours of in-class sessions
    • Use the meditation techniques they learned to their lives
    • Develop personal practice for 45 minutes daily
    • Journal about their experience
    • Go on a silent retreat
  • 24 were not given the training

Both groups were asked to go through MRI scans and psychological testing before and after the 8 week period.

The results?

Those in the MBSR training group had an “increase of cortical thickness in the right insular lobe and somatosensory cortex,” as well as “a significant after-training reduction of several psychological indices related to worry, state anxiety, depression, and alexithymia” (difficulty experiencing and describing one’s emotions.”  Basically, that translates to mediation enhancing the brain areas of perception and regulation of emotion.

What this and other research suggests is that even basic mediation for beginners can change our brain.

So, what is the underlying factor that creates change?

No one is saying for sure, but from all the research I’ve read there’s a common ingredient: being able to be with what goes on inside without judgment or needing it to change.  Jon Kabat Zinn, who founded MBSR identifies the transformative ability of meditation. In an article in omega, Kabat-Zinn said, “Science is now documenting that it’s not the objects of meditation that are important; it’s the process of paying attention to them – the attending – that actually influences the organism in a while range of different ways.”

For those with trauma or attachment wounding we need another element, the capacity to focus and concentrate.  We also need to cultivate our capacity for compassion (see Compassion Focused Therapy) and specifically Self-Compassion (Chris Germer & Kristin Neff).  There’s one other key component I’ve been exploring since my early days that not many people talk about and it’s the practice  of non-separation. That’s the ability to pay attention to two things simultaneously so that the mind can rest. Research on this practice points to its similarity to neurofeedback and biofeedback – training the brain to re-pattern itself. It’s become the practice I find the most restful, rejuvenating, and nourishing.

If this intrigues you (and I hope it does!) I decided to put together a short course on Meditation – Why Bother?  It will cover both the practices and the reasons why these simple skills can change your life – and heal your trauma in the process.

What meditation have you tried? Has it helped? Not helped?  Why would you want to try meditation? Hit reply to email me with your response.  You know I always love hearing from you.

Sending goodness,


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5 Responses to “Meditation…. why bother?”

  1. Flo March 6, 2017 at 4:14 pm // Reply

    Hi Deidre, So happy I’ve found you! Looking forward to your new book, Attachment Based Yoga and Meditation. I’ve pre-ordered it. I’m curious. Are you aware of CEN? (Childhood Emotional Neglect). Dr Jonice Webb wrote a book “Running on Empty”. That was my intro to recognizing and facing my attachment injury, and subsequent retreat into left hemisphere domination. Well, one therapeutic door unlocks another, each one amazingly supportive. Currently doing Somatic Experiencing counselling, the most effective for truly shifting and gaining security, for me. Now I land at your door. You mention you will be putting together a short course on meditation. I would very much like to engage in a course on meditation with you, especially since you write “There’s one other key component I’ve been exploring since my early days that not many people talk about and it’s the practice of non-separation.” Non-separation. What beautiful words. Do you mean locating an anchor in body or right brain hemisphere? I’ve tried meditation, different kinds including embodied (Dharma Ocean) and Sacred Acoustic’s, and TM. I’ve tried shamanic journeying. Looking within, being inside my body is distressing. So while I need to look within, I fear looking within. Trauma really narrowed my awareness. It is opening now. Years ago, before I was aware I have such narrowed awareness, I did the spiritual bypass thing, not really true meditation or mysticism. In Somatic Experiencing, I have developed the observer self. It is this ‘felt’ self who gently guides me at my SE therapist’s office, enabling me to shift at a neurological level. This interior ‘felt’ experience is what I want to link with outside of the therapist’s office. I need help.

    I would very much like your teaching meditation in lives rattled by a void of caring attachment. Might you have a forum, or some manner of Q and A, in this course you’re creating? I guess I’m kind of reaching for a coach, or mentor. Thanks. I will read here, and in your book. I’ve signed up for your newsletter and look forward to reading “Becoming Safely Embodied”.


    • Deirdre Fay March 6, 2017 at 5:42 pm // Reply

      Thanks for your thoughtful inquiry, Flo. We’re putting the pieces together for the course. Your feedback and exploration helps shape what I’ll be doing. And yes, the non-separation material will be part of what we’re doing, as well as looking at the pieces you bring up in your comment. Most people who are teaching meditation don’t have the perspective of the inner disorganization that happens with trauma. Hopefully I can shed some light on that. I want you to be able to access and link to that interior felt experience outside of your therapist’s office as well!


  2. Lynn Kassner March 7, 2017 at 10:02 pm // Reply

    Hi Flo and Deirdre,
    1.) Flo, i remember a time ; I was as curious, seeking answers, LQQking desperately( not saying your desperate or looking desperately.) for new ways of viewing life. The old way left me stuck, fearful constantly, I no longer surivive like that. I live and thrive.

    Back then : : I followed Deirdre, took her courses, Read Becoming Safely Embodied ! The skills and tools presented create opportunties for anyone open and willing to practice them, a real chance at a changed view n functioning in life. First: in the inner world( yes, we all have one) then that is where we begin to see our outer lives change!! Flo, i wish you well, continued awareness.. And KNOW the changes you are searching, reaching, and working for is Very Possible. We must all continue to reach!

    Thank You deirdre for your continued work and sharing it with others!!!


  3. kate April 15, 2017 at 5:40 pm // Reply

    I would be interested in your meditation course. will it be online though?
    thank you


    • Deirdre Fay April 18, 2017 at 4:05 pm // Reply

      Hi Kate, Yes, the meditation course will be in online. It seems to make things easier for people to be able to access when it works for them. I hope that’s true for you as well. Love to have you join us. Deirdre


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