Managing life, reducing stress with meditation

Melissa Shattuck recently was stranded for three days at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport while on her way back to Sioux Falls from a workshop in Puerto Rico with The Chopra Center.

Instead of becoming overly worried and stressed, Shattuck took the setback in stride. A friend remarked to her how calm Shattuck was during the event.

Shattuck credits her meditation practice for helping her keep anxiety and stress in check. Shattuck, who is co-owner of The Dharma Room, started meditating about four and half years ago after an experience at the The Chopra Center in Carlsbad, Calif.

She started meditating to deal with stress. “This was the most life-changing thing for me in dealing with depression and anxiety,” Shattuck says. She is a certified meditation instructor with The Chopra Center, started by teacher and author Deepak Chopra and David Simon. She also teaches Ayurveda and yoga.

During her regular practice, Shattuck meditates twice a day for 20 to 30 minutes. She notices the effects when she doesn’t meditate.

“I would say there’s so many subtle…

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benefits of meditation. … I noticed out of the blue I would respond to a situation in a different way,” Shattuck says.

A team of researchers led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that people who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. Their findings appeared in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.

The study’s senior author, Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, says the study explains why people who meditate feel better, according to the website ScienceDaily.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” Lazar says.

“This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Meditation can be as simple as just closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. Those who meditate say it helps to calm their mind and to pay attention to what is going on in their body.

More people are looking for ways to cope with stress, says Cena Keller, owner of East Bank Yoga. “I think people are stressed. … They need some sort of outlet that isn’t another device or another outlet.”

The studio currently doesn’t offer a regular meditation class, but Keller says she has been getting more requests for classes.

Veronika Ludewig is teaching a series of meditation classes using a crystal singing bowl at The Dharma Room. When played, the bowls send out sound and vibrations. “It will affect everyone differently. It allows people to tune in to their own body. It literally will resonate where people need it most within their physical self,” Ludewig says.

Ludewig combines breathing meditations and color meditations, which is a visualization technique, in the class.

The Butterfly Rainbow Center has hosted a monthly workshop with Buddhist monks for the past five months. The monks discuss Buddhist principles and give guidance on how to meditate.

Co-owner Randy Smith says 20 to 30 people have attended each session. “We get requests (for meditation) on a fairly regular basis. The interest is growing, I would say,” Smith says.

Reach reporter BryAnn Becker at 977-3908.

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