Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you don’t need to be told about the relaxing effects of meditation. Its practitioners vouch for it; and even those who don’t will not dispute its effectiveness. And now, neuro-scientists are discovering how meditation can actually alter your brain’s chemistry and functionality.
Let’s see how!
Neuroscientists have been carrying out brain imaging tests on long-term practitioners of meditation for many years now, including several on Tibetan monks. According to these studies, both long and short-term meditation can produce profound physical, biochemical, and functional changes in your brain.
The Dalai Lama himself sent some of his most accomplished meditation practitioners to the University of Wisconsin to have their brains probed by neuroscientist Richard Davidson.
What followed was a revolutionary experiment that eventually proved the phenomenon of “neuroplasticity” – the ability of the human brain to continuously change it structure.
Dr. Davidson’s Research
Davidson conducted his experiment on two groups of subjects.
- Dalai Lama’s disciples who had undergone extensive meditation training for 5,000-10,000 hours, spanning periods between 15 and 40 years.
- The other group consisting of subjects who had no prior experience with meditation but were made to go through a week-long meditation training session before the experiment.
The brain scan and EEG results of these two groups showed that the monks had greater gamma wave activity in their brains than the non-meditating subjects.
The electrical activity of our brain manifests itself in waves. Gamma waves have the highest frequency, and it is our Gamma waves which affect how well we can think, remember, and recall.
MEDITATION INCREASES THE ACTIVITY OF YOUR GAMMA WAVES, WHICH IN TURN AFFECT HOW WELL YOU ARE THINKING.
In addition, studies indicate that long-term meditation improves our attention span.
Another recent study has reported that long-term meditation practitioners are generally able to process information more efficiently than non-practitioners.
The Long-Term Effects of Meditation
The positive effects of meditation continue into the day even when you were not meditating. In fact, it was recently demonstrated that meditation practitioners exhibit higher gamma wave activity even when they are asleep.
Up to 60 years ago, scientists believed our brains were “fixed,” once we reached adulthood.
The discovery of neuroplasticity has completely undermined those assumptions.
We now know that our brains are continually rewiring themselves, no matter how old we are. This gives hope to countless victims of traumatic brain injury or those suffering from potentially debilitating psychological conditions like ADHD.
These people can now dream of restoring the connections in their brains, rediscovering memories, and re-learning the skills they had forgotten.
As you can see above, our scientific discoveries about meditation are bringing the benefits of meditation into the limelight; benefits that Tibetan monks living in secluded monasteries high up in the mountains have known for thousands of years.
How Prayer Completes the Circle
It would be nice if all of us could live in secluded monasteries and increase our Gamma waves through meditation. (Well…living in a monastery doesn’t sound all that great to me….I’m just drawing a rhetorical picture here.)
However…most of us cannot live in a monastery. We’re living in a world that can be…well…VERY scary. Most of us must work, raise a family, and get along with people who drive us crazy.
And every few years, another 9/11 happens somewhere in the world.
And ALL of us must live with ourselves…which…at times…kind be JUST as scary!
As I have just shared with you, meditation can be very healthy for your brain and how you think.
But it is only a fraction of what God has created prayer for!
It is true that meditation helps us get in touch with ourselves, but prayer gets us in touch with God!
He knows of our struggles…and our disappointments…and our hurts. And it is prayer that completes the circle.
So when I meditate, I meditate on one of the 3,500 hundred comforting promises that God has written in the Bible, especially in the book of Psalms. For instance, when I meditate on the first verse of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is My Shepherd,” I think of what each word can mean to me. The…Lord…is…My…Shepherd. It is amazing the comfort that His Spirit gives to me…through meditation…and prayer!