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Meditation is hugely important in this. In fact, kindness and compassion are such clear outcomes of meditation that there is now an overwhelming amount of research showing how meditation stimulates the circuits in the brain associated with contentment, happiness and the feel-good factor. Dr. Davidson has scientifically studied Buddhist monks while they were meditating. When asked to focus on compassion, their brains reflected a remarkable generation of clarity and intensified kindness. The center is probably the only place in the world where there is a meditation room next to the lab!
"By training the mind, we can actually change the brain toward greater contentment," Dr. Davidson says in the book. "There is certainly evidence to show that meditation practices designed to cultivate compassion and loving kindness change the brain in many positive ways."
Practicing meditation regularly can produce discernible changes in the brain in a matter of just eight weeks. This indicates that you can quite purposefully and systematically develop qualities such as kindness and compassion. "Be Good and Do Good" is a great mantra for this!
To feel the difference in yourself, try the practice below.
Pulling Weeds Meditation
Find a comfortable and upright place to sit. Take a few deep breaths, then watch the flow of your breath as it enters and leaves.
Now bring your focus to your heart, and as you breathe in, feel as if your heart is opening and softening; as you breathe out, release any tension or resistance.
Now visualize yourself walking in a beautiful but overgrown garden. All sorts of colorful flowers surround you, but among them are numerous weeds.
You find a place to sit amidst the plants, and with awareness you mindfully begin to remove the weeds. Each one represents a negative aspect of yourself or your life. Name it as you remove it, and watch it leave your mind as you discard it.
The more weeds you remove, the lighter you feel, as if a weight is being removed from you. As you do this, the flowers are growing stronger and brighter.
Stay here as long as you like. You may not have time to pull up all the weeds, so before you leave, promise you will be back again to remove some more.
When you are ready, silently repeat three times, "May I be happy, may my mind be like a beautiful garden." Take a deep breath and let it go. Then fill the rest of your day with kindness and smiles.
Ed and Deb Shapiro are the authors of Be The Change, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World. They are featured weekly contributors to Oprah.com, HuffingtonPost.com and Care2.com. Ed and Deb write Sprint's The Daily CHILLOUT inspirational text messages. They have three meditation CDs: Metta: Loving Kindness and Forgiveness, Samadhi: Breath Awareness and Insight and Yoga Nidra: Inner Conscious Relaxation. Deb is also the author of the best-selling book Your Body Speaks Your Mind, winner of the 2007 Visionary Book Award.
Keep Reading More from Ed and Deb Shapiro:
The beauty of living in the moment
How meditation can calm your mind
Get a self-esteem boost from meditation