Lately, there is a great amount of good research supporting the practice of daily meditation. Studies indicate that meditation increases the brains ability to process new experiences and to use parts of the brain, the frontal lobes, to assess greater resources to deal with situations of today’s life styles. The following research indicated that people who meditated were able to change the brains processing abilities allowing an individual to have greater resource in how they perceived their situations. Secondly, it was demonstrated that people who meditated could also increase their ability to focus their thought patterns and thirdly, meditation increases a person’s capacity for happiness.
Neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson’s groundbreaking research on Tibetan Buddhist monks at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has found that years of meditative practice can dramatically increase neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to use new experiences or to create changes in how the brain processes. For example, it can help reorganizing itself by creating new neural connections. This link is a Google Tech Talk Davidson gave in 2009 regarding this research.
In 2005, researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia and University of California at Berkeley traveled to India to study 76 Tibetan Buddhist monks. The study reached into how mental states , can affect conscious visual experiences — and how we might be able to gain more control over how we perceive situations.
Their data indicated that years of meditation training can profoundly affect a phenomenon known as “perceptual rivalry,” which takes place when two different images are presented to each eye — the brain fluctuates, in a matter of seconds, in the dominant image that is perceived. Resulting in no surprised, monks who practiced meditating on a single object or thought, experienced significant increases in the duration of perceptual focus. Focus for one monk was at 723 seconds compared to the average of 2.6 seconds with non-meditative control subjects.
The researchers concluded that the study highlights “the synergistic potential for further exchange between practitioners of meditation and neuroscience in the common goal of understanding consciousness.”
A third University of Wisconsin study revealed the brain scans of a monk Matthieu Ricard, an aide to the Dalai Lama has the largest capacity for happiness ever recorded and a reduced tendency toward negative thoughts.
“It’s a wonderful area of research because it shows that meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree but it completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are,” Ricard told the New York Daily News.
Davidson also found that when Ricard was meditating on compassion, his brain produced gamma waves.
Gamma waves can produce a harmony between the individual and the world around them by breaking the psychological wall of self/other, expressed as by particular changes in the neural networks of experienced meditation practitioners, the BBC reported.
While a normal brain switches between the extrinsic network (which is used when people are focused on tasks outside themselves) and the intrinsic network, which involves self-reflection and emotion — the networks rarely act together. But, the study uncovered a startling find that in brains of meditators they keep both networks active at the same time which allows the perception of “non-duality” or oneness to exist. This supports the meditative practice of the heart-center and my theory of Integrative Consciousness which provides the process of allowing the person to hold within their awareness the object of fear and the space of compassion at the same time bringing about transformative change.