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Local doctor studies the mystery behind meditation

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Meditation instructor Atmah Ja works to clear her mind. (Joe O'Neill/WCIV) Meditation instructor Atmah Ja works to clear her mind. (Joe O'Neill/WCIV)

By Victoria Hansen

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- What are you thinking right now? Research shows the average person has 60,000 thoughts a day. Most are negative.

"Our attention is often caught with our own thinking", said Dr. Baron Short at MUSC.

Short said that's why he studies an ancient practice he believes can reduce stress. He found it worked in his own life and wants to prove it scientifically.

"We may find that meditation before (in the past) may have been an interest or pursuit of a few and it may become a necessity for many," Short said.

Meditation may be shrouded in mystery. But Dr. Short believes it physically changes our brains.

So, he studies the brains of people who frequently meditate.

He places a hand held, figure eight shaped device over a particular part of the brain. He flips a switch. Electromagnetic pulses make their way through the brain. The subject's fingers twitch.

It's what Dr. Short calls excitability.

Short said he does this before and after the person meditates. He said he's found, "some increases in activity in the front part of the brain that are involved with attention and regulation of emotion."

Dr. Short said he has also performed MRI's and found the brains of those who meditate are actually thicker. He believes his findings are just the beginning.

"There is research with mindfulness meditation to support a decrease in pain, a decrease in relapse of depression, a decrease in anxiety," he said. Other researchers have even found those who meditate have better immune systems and are more compassionate.

'Okay, if it's so good for you, how do you do it?'

"It's just one breath at a time" says Atmah Ja.

She teaches meditation and yoga at the Gallery of Iamikan in downtown Charleston.

Atmah Ja says simply sit, concentrate on your breath, and try to keep your mind from wandering.

Try it, it's easier said than done. But if it works, well worth it. Imagine, silencing your inner critic with your breath.

Want more information on meditation?

Gallery of Iamikan

Atmah Ja




Holy Cow Yoga





Ramita Bonadonna




Charleston Tibetan Society




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