Meditation Changes Your Brain, So Says Recent Research
In order for you to understand how meditation changes your brain, you need to take a look at the history of meditation and the structure of your brain. So let’s take a brief look at how meditation began.
According to Wikipedia:
“The word meditation carries different meanings in different contexts. Meditation has been practiced since antiquity as a component of numerous religious traditions and beliefs.…
“The history of meditation is intimately bound up with the religious context within which it was practiced….”
From this we see that meditation is firmly rooted in religion. Some of the earliest references of meditation can be traced back to the Hindus and Buddhists. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to discover that western Christian meditation developed in the 6th century from the practice of reading the Bible by Benedictine monks. By the 12th century, four formal steps of meditation had evolved. They were: read, ponder, pray and contemplate. Many Christians follow this form of meditation today.
Secular meditation is actually rather new. It began in India in the 1950s as a “Westernized form of Hindu meditative techniques.” This form of meditation spread to the United States and Europe during the 1960s. The emphasis is not on spiritual growth but on stress reduction, relaxation and self-improvement.
Although both the spiritual and secular meditation forms have been extensively researched, it is mostly the secular form that has now revealed that meditation changes your brain.
How Meditation Changes Your Brain
Rebecca Gladding, M.D. in her article, This Is Your Brain on Meditation, explained the different parts of the brain and how they are affected by meditation. The brain, of course, is very complex, but the two main areas that I will give an overview of are:
Lateral prefrontal cortex: The lateral prefrontal cortex is the section of the brain that helps us have a more rational, logical and balanced perspective. In her article, Dr. Gladding calls that the Assessment Center.
Medial prefrontal cortex: Dr. Gladding calls this section (which before meditation is the dominant part of the brain) the Me Center. It is labeled such because it deals with everything that relates to you. It is the “Self-Referencing Center.”
Dr. Gladding states:
“…science ‘proves’ what we know to be true from the actual experience of meditating. What the data demonstrate is that meditation facilitates strengthening the Assessment Center, weakening the unhelpful aspects of the Me Center (that can cause you to take things personally), strengthening the helpful parts of the Me Center (involved with empathy and understanding others) and changing the connections to/from the bodily sensation/fear centers such that you experience sensations in a less reactive, more balanced and holistic way. In a very real way, you literally are changing your brain for the better when you meditate.”
If you like what you have read so far about meditation and how meditation changes your brain, you may want to follow the links throughout this article. If you are still wondering how to begin meditating, you can learn how by watching this video: Beginner’s Guide to Meditation – Learn to Meditate in 5 Easy Steps.
John Denninger, Director of Research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospitals, says:
“The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.”