Research has grown exponentially since the Mind and Life Institute about 30years ago pioneered the study of contemplative science. His Holiness the Dalai Lama along with Francisco Varela and entrepreneur Adam Engle envisioned a venue where contemplative practices and science could forge a relationship in studying the nature of reality. Since that time, many universities and research teams have been asking the question about just how might the process of mindfulness be beneficial to our well-being.
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha was asked, “What have you gained through meditation.” The Buddha replied, “nothing at all.” To which the response was, “Then, Blessed One, what good is it.” The Buddha replies, “ Let me tell you what I lost through meditation: sickness, anger, depression, insecurity, the burden of old age, the fear of death. That is the good of meditation, which leads to nirvana.”
Ultimately, we all want to be happy and be free from our suffering. And the promising effect of meditation may be a part of what leads us to happiness. Science is certainly beginning to suggest that through daily mindfulness practices of at least 30 minutes, very specific neuron connections wire in an area of the brain called the Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC) which is the executive functioning center. This center has nine specific functions that I will outline in a later blog.
Because our brains are neuroplastic (the capacity to grow new neurons and wire new networks for our entire life), we have the capacity to change our habits and tendencies toward greater well-being. We are not at the mercy of our fixed reactivities, habits, tendencies that were once thought to be just the way it was. This understanding was a very revolutionary concept in neuroscience as it was once proposed that the brain did not change.
Over the next months ahead, I will be introducing the basics of brain functioning, how meditation may alter this functioning, what benefits are seen in immune and hormonal functioning, and how to bring mindfulness into your day-to-day life for greater well-being. Until then, may you all be happy, free, healthy, and safe.