The Science of Meditation.
The Science of Meditation.The Science of Meditation. <http://thebuddhistblog.blogspot.com/2008/10/science-of-meditation.html>
via The Buddhist Blog <http://thebuddhistblog.blogspot.com/> by noreply@... (They call him James Ure) on 10/9/08
<http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_YdAacBURVXE/SO5aHH7pCBI/AAAAAAAADEY/UDKggEgV2U8/s1600-h/brain-monk-meditation-brainwaves.jpg> Emory, Georgia (USA) -- For thousands of years <http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=7,7232,0,0,1,0> , Buddhist meditators have claimed that the simple act of sitting down and following their breath while letting go of intrusive thoughts can free one from the entanglements of neurotic suffering. Now, scientists are using cutting-edge scanning technology to watch the meditating mind at work. They are finding that regular meditation has a measurable effect on a variety of brain structures related to attention — an example of what is known as neuroplasticity, where the brain physically changes in response to an intentional exercise. The same researchers reported last year that longtime meditators don't lose gray matter in their brains with age the way most people do, suggesting that meditation may have a neuro-protective effect.
A rash of other studies in recent years meanwhile have found, for example, that practitioners of insight meditation have noticeably thicker tissue in the prefrontal cortex (the region responsible for attention and control), and that experienced Tibetan monks practicing compassion meditation generate unusually strong and coherent gamma waves in their brains.
James: I think this is partly why so many Buddhist monks live so long. Thich Nhat Hanh for example is in his 80's but could easily pass for 60. He'll be 82 on the 11th of this month. I wrote a few posts back on how meditation and mantra meditation have helped me cope with my schizoaffective disorder. I spoke in that post solely on depersonalization but I wanted to do this post because of the results of the study that show improved attention and control.
Well It got my attention because I am very interested in the relation between science and Buddhism as many of you know and because I have as apart of my mental condition attention deficit disorder (A.D.D.) When a person has A.D.D. it means that they can't "screen out" or filter background "noise" and commotion like most people are able to do. So while it appears as though we are just not "listening" sometimes to someone talking to us or that we can't concentrate upon something it's because we are having to deal with many things at once, which makes it very difficult to focus on one thing. I kind of liken it to having to read a science or math text book to prepare for an exam while the t.v. is loudly playing, while someone is trying to talk to you and while your alarm clock is beeping. Is it any wonder then that we don't retain conversation details as well as folks who don't have A.D.D.?
However, when I meditate I find it much easier to deal with external stimuli. I think part of it is being able to close my eyes to eliminate all the visual distractions that often distract me as I'm very sensitive to colors and images. So with my eyes shut it's somewhat similar to putting a towel over a bird that escaped its cage. It panics and acts frantic flying around bumping into things and not knowing where it is but once you can throw a towel around them and cut off their vision they relax and calm down to where you can help them.
So with my eyes shut I am better able to concentrate upon my breathing and deal with the sounds from the daily routine and traffic of a busy neighborhood. Instead of trying to shut them out I let them pass through my ears and register in my mind. I focus on each sound and hold it in my mind as I breath in and then I let it fade away as I breath out. In this way I am able to deal with each sound mostly one at a time. Not unlike serving people one at a time in a line rather than all at once.
I contemplate the sound and recognize it so that my subconscious knows that I'm paying attention to it and I contemplate on what each sound means and then symbolically I kindly escorting the noise out of my mind with the exhale and I repeat the process as needed. I also find it helpful to thank my sub consciousness for keeping me informed but remind it that it doesn't have to work so hard and that it can take a break. It seems to work. It seems like it backs off on pushing the noise over and over and louder and louder, which is exactly what I find happens when I try to ignore it.
Then I've noticed that once I emerge from meditation that my mind is sharper, better able to concentrate without interference and better able to hold my attention a good period of time later. After meditation it also helps me feel more patient and less overwhelmed with stimuli because I am continuing that thought processing used while meditating. Of course it never lasts all day but the more I practice the longer I can go without too much interference and stress from all the stimuli. It is much like learning a language in a way, the more you practice the more your mind rewires itself. And so no wonder the great teachers all refer to meditation as practice. Of course I'd have a hard time even getting on the meditation seat without medication but it works well with meditation. So I can attest to you that indeed this scientific study is spot on.
~Peace to all beings~