How does meditation work? For years scientists have tried to answer that question. Finally, they’ve done it.
When the Dalai Lama invited the Mind and Life Institute to visit India to learn western science, it was immediately clear that science does not have all the answers.
The Life and Mind Institute sent neuroscientists, quantum mechanics and psychologists to meet the Dalai Lama. They were taught meditation by The Dalai Lama and by Tibetan monks. And they learned a lot.
The discussions were enlightening.
Here were two completely opposite modes of thinking engaging in deep communication, sharing knowledge and wisdom. The discussions completely changed the way we feel about meditation. Meditation was no longer a religious practice. Meditation was a practice for everyone, religious types and non-religious/ atheists alike.
They mostly spoke about the practice of meditation, the two thousand year old Buddhist practice.And they wanted to answer one question. “How does meditation work?”
Thanks to his holiness, the scientists finally discovered how meditation works
The vast majority of people the world over live with mental clutter every day of their lives. They focus the mind on many things at once. The mind absorbs all this information in a mass frenzy. And so the world becomes a blur.
The only way to undo that damage, and to see things the way they truly are, is to learn to focus on one thing at a time.
Focusing the mind on one thing requires much training, especially for those who have lived lives of clutter.
In the West, we fill our minds with news from TV, papers, radio, movies and every other source we can find, like a greedy child gobbles up candies. And just as the body grows fat and unhealthy with too much sugar, the mind grows fat and unhealthy when it is fed too much information.
Mind control is perhaps best illustrated by the famous scene of Thich Quang Duc who in 1963 protested the repressive South Vietnamese regime. The fact that Thich Quang Duc was able to remain in lotus position meditating while burning to death seems superhuman. He didn’t even make a sound.
Recently, Robert V Coghill and colleagues experimented on mind control at Wake Forest School of Medicine. They took fifteen volunteers and had them lie in a scanner. A metal plate was attached to each volunteer on their right calf. The temperature of this plate varied from comfortable to painful (up to 49 degrees C). The volunteers were asked to rate the pain level. The hot metal plate activity in the primary and secondary somatosensory cortices, which are related to pain. They also raised activity in frontal structures, the insula and anterior cingulate cortex. After this test subjects spend 20 minutes a day practicing mindfulness for twenty minutes at a time (they practiced Samatha meditation). Samatha meditation involves focussing on the breath while observing thoughts. The subjects were then tested again. Reports of pain and unpleasantness dropped by 57 percent.
The practice lowered activity in the primary and secondary somatosensory cortices. It also raised activity in the right insula and the anterior cingulate cortices.
So, how does it work? Mindfulness and meditation give us the control to shape the impact that external circumstances have on us. With meditation we can reduce the flow of information to parts of the brain associated with pain
In 2008 scienctists at the University of Wisconsin ran tests on Buddhist monks. Skullcaps holding 128 electroencephalographic electrodes were attached to the monks. The monks were then asked to enter a state of loving kindness. This loving kindness increased high frequency EEG activity in the gamma band. This band is associated with focussed attention. The monks produced the highest frequency ever witnessed in the gamma band. The monks also showed increased high frequency activity even when not meditating, meaning that it was improving their brains even outside of the practice itself.
So, how does it work? From a scientific point of view it works as outlined above, but this is knowledge, it is not wisdom. Understanding meditation is not the same as using meditation. Science is worthless in the face of what I have witnessed about meditation.
So, how does meditation work?
How does meditation work? It works by sitting still and focussing the mind for twenty minutes work? How does it work? It works by extending universal loving kindness. How does meditation work? It works by focussing on the moment. How does it work? Meditation just works. I’m no longer certain the science matters. +