The effects of meditation on the brain – from On Being 1


I enjoyed a recent repeated episode from NPR’s On Being that discusses the way the brain works, and how we can choose influences for our brain.

I identified just a little with Richard Davidson. The part that struck me was just a moment in the longer interview where he acknowledges how he kept two interests apart (science and contemplative practice). In the 1990s he “came out” and pursued the scientific study of the effects of meditation on the brain of Buddhist monks, finding interesting things. Davidson is now applying teaching kids and adults simple strategies of meditation practices to address concerns such as ADHD and autism. This work is incomplete, but intriguing nonetheless.

Candle in the right foreground with blurry candles in the background

Candle light, made available through Creative Commons by Alesa Dam on Flickr

Not that these things are necessarily opposed, but there is some rejection of religion, mysticism, and spirituality in the culture around science (at least that’s my experience of science graduate school in the 1990s). Given that meditation practices originate in religious traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism….Well, scientific inquiry and spiritual practices don’t seem to go together. On the other hand, many scientists are meditators. So they’re not entirely opposed.

In my own life, I’ve kept these things separate, rarely mixing the friends or conversations I have from each sphere. Only recently (after a gap of maybe 10 years…) have I brought friends from other spheres to my meditation center. I can rationalize this as no one being interested and me being afraid to evangelize, but I expect I participated by not giving others a chance to express their interest because I never mentioned it.

In my experience, when I’m withholding part of myself from a conversation or a moment, I am hobbling myself and limiting what I can contribute. So, I’m inspired to more fully integrate the perspective of my meditation practice into my daily life.

You can listen to “Investigating Healthy Minds” on the On Being website or subscribe to all of their podcasts with your favorite podcast tool (I use Google Listen).

For those who would prefer to just read it rather than listen, here’s the transcript of “Investigating Healthy Minds”.

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