A group of Harvard neuroscientists came together to study the benefits of meditation on the brain and how it affects mindfulness. Sara Lazar enrolled her team of 16 subjects in an 8 week mindfulness program to test if meditation could, over a short period of time, begin to create changes in lifestyle and the brain.
Each person was given a 45 minute guided mindfulness exercise to be used daily and they were encouraged to do various daily activities with as much mindfulness as possible. On average the subjects performed about 27 minutes of mindfulness each day. The results of this study is discussed below.
Britta Hölzel, the lead author on the paper says, “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.”
One of the biggest things that happens to our brains when we meditate is that it stops processing so much information. Beta waves generally indicate a processing of information. When beta waves are decreased, we see a decrease in information processed. Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging, (MRI) we can see how and where beta waves are decreasing the most. This is indicated by the color changes in the image below.
The following areas of the brain were affected by meditation in different ways.
This is the most highly evolved part of the brain, responsible for reasoning, planning, emotions and self-conscious awareness. During meditation, the frontal cortex tends to go offline.
This part of the brain processes sensory information about the surrounding world, orienting you in time and space. During meditation, activity in the parietal lobe slows down.
The gatekeeper for the senses, this organ focuses your attention by funneling some sensory data deeper into the brain and stopping other signals in their tracks. Meditation reduces the flow of incoming information to a trickle.
As the brain’s sentry, this structure receives incoming stimuli and puts the brain on alert, ready to respond. Meditating dials back the arousal signal.
“This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.” Sara Lazar Ph.D., the study’s senior author.
Given that our consciousness acts as the foundation for our world, imagine what life would be like if everyone meditated daily. To change our world from the source – our consciousness – would trigger a different understanding of who we are are, how we live and the world we create for ourselves and others. Instead of simply operating from belief and programming, we would instead create from a space within ourselves, connected to our hearts and our true selves (our pure being).