A few months ago I read The Willpower Instinct, a book by Kelly McGonigal a PhD lecturer in psychology. In the book she describes some of the potential of meditation on scientific basis. I was thrilled to read that science had picked up on meditation. This was when I decided to start meditating and do some extra research.
Our brain has an awesome way of reorganizing itself through a mechanism called neuroplasticity. This means your brain is plastic, malleable. Whenever neurons are activated, their connection become stronger: “Neurons that fire together, wire together”. The stronger the connection in a certain area of the brain the better the function that area is providing. Kelly discribes the brain as a muscle you can train (1). This means we can rewrite our own software and even decide what software to rewrite! How could we use this information to increase our potential?
Meditation changes the anterior cingulate cortex, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (2) and the corona radiata (3). A few of the processes associated with these brain regions are decision-making, empathy, impulse control, emotion and abstract reasoning. A mere 11 hours of meditation in one month creates a noticeably changed brain (3). Scientists describe the effects of these changes as following: “[Meditators gain] skills in sustaining the focus of attention, detecting distractions, disengaging from such distractions, and redirecting the attention to the object one should focus on (4).”[They] stand back and witness their own thoughts and experiences instead of being immersed in them (4).”
As a meditator slowly you’ll gain a more 3rd person perspective over your life. This means you take a step back and distance yourself from all those emotions you needed to act upon. It frees you from them. In daily life this means you have a stronger ability to choose not to eat the extra candybar, to do your homework, to not get irritated with your partner; you wouldn’t get so mad in traffic and even the amount of stress you would normally experience decays over time (5). You are not distracted by these emotions as you work to reach for your maximum potential and greatest goals in life.
But not every word about meditation has been said. There are loads of low quality studies, there are some high quality studies with no results and there even are studies suggesting meditation has negative effects. We don’t know exactly how meditation works yet and there is no consensus among the scientist about everything. We can conclude that there still is a lot of research to be done but there seems to be consensus on the fact that meditation has a lot of positive effects on a wide variety of things. Some scientist even argue that we become more open and nonjudgmental and that the 3rd perspective helps us to recognize what is really important in life (6).
- “A piece of knowledge, unlike a piece of physical property, can be shared by large groups of people without making anybody poorer.”
– Aaron Swartz
- “What is the most important thing you could be working on in the world right now? And if you’re not working on that, why aren’t you?”
– Aaron Swartz
- “You make decisions, take actions, affect the world, receive feedback from the world, incorporate it into yourself, then the updated ‘you’ makes more decisions, and so forth, ’round and ’round.”
– Douglas Hofstadter
- “I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”
– Elon Musk
- “The is a secret for greater self-control, the science points to one thing: the power of paying attention.”
- “Once we realize the extraordinary power we have to compose our lives, we’ll move from passive, conditioned thinking to being co-creators of our fate.”
– Jason Silva
- “Everything that we design is designing us back.”
– Jason Silva
- “We are part of this universe; we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us.”
– Neil deGrasse Tyson
- “Nations are invented. Borders are invisible. Prejudice is learned.”
– Abby Martin
- “Tradition is a idiot thing.”
– Rick Sanchez