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Meditate for an Open Heart

Meditation might be your prescription for a happier mind and kinder heart, a new University of Wisconsin-Madison study shows. Scientists worked with 16 Tibetan monks and 16 meditation novices, giving the beginners lessons on compassion meditation two weeks prior to a series of brain-scan experiments. Those brain scans -- taken while the participants responded to different emotional cues -- revealed that the monks had more activity in certain brain regions involved in processing empathy. The findings, according to study authors, suggest that meditation may train the brain to increase feelings of compassion and happiness.

To start your own meditation practice, try this exercise created by "Untrain Your Parrot" author Elizabeth Hamilton:

  • Sitting with your spine erect, breathe deeply, placing your fingertips over the center of your chest if you like.

  • As you inhale, picture a person to whom you want to extend compassion. As you exhale, silently say, "May compassion awaken." Inhale and exhale for several breaths, focusing on the center of your chest.

  • Recalling the person, silently say, "May whatever clouds compassion be healed." Repeat this cycle with the phrase, "May this moment be experienced, exactly as it is," and finally, "May compassion be extended to all."
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