Updated: May 16, 2022
“It does not sufﬁce to ponder how the human psyche works and elaborate complex theories about it, as, for instance, Freud did. Such intellectual constructs cannot replace two millennia of direct investigation of the workings of mind through penetrating introspection conducted with trained minds that have become both stable and clear.”
This got me right in the feels, I read it and read it and then read it again, now I am sharing this with you because I feel like I found a really great explanation for how I feel. At times as a social worker, a therapeutic support and university educated person I am unable to just accept that inner work doesn’t need the evidence base, doesn’t need the quantitative data and analysis. As a yoga and meditation teacher I am very much expected to accept that the millennia of practice and faith people have is enough to prove somethings worth. As Alison I have always felt a strong pull toward the spiritual things, the awe of the unknown and the trust we can place in the Devine Universe but always felt I need to also get educated, follow a trusted path and not teach things or practice in a way that is not evidence based and safe.
This may be why I resonate with the story of Matthieu Ricard and his unique brand of eastern heart meets western mind. He is a scientist, has a PhD in cell genetics and after visiting Tibet in the 60’s he moved to The Himalayas more than 50 years ago to become a Buddhist Monk. This guy brings “together ancient wisdom and scientific insights” in such a unique way that he has captured the interest of the world.
He argues that meditation is a way to disrupt the brains habit of rumination, in particular how rumination uses energy and does very little to add value or wellbeing to our lives. Matthieu has participated in and discusses an overwhelming number of scientific findings across the globe that talk of the neuroplasticity that happens when we meditate often and regularly. Meditation particularly serves to interrupt this path of neurons that ruminate and I am sure many of us would love to be able to stop or shut down this over thinking our minds can do at all the wrong times!
He has also participated in Neuroscientific studies of brain activity during meditation and that of a skilled practitioner going about daily life and the results are astounding. “The scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard's brain produces a level of gamma waves - those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory - 'never reported before in the neuroscience literature'” (Davidson, 2005). This is just one finding, there are reports that indicate improved emotional regulation, reduction of attention deficit and improved memory, Davidson (2005) also discusses findings that showed improved immunity linked to meditation in a clinical study! My favourite is higher levels of compassion and kindness are also reported, so the Buddhist Monks are right when they report that meditation is the way to peace on earth.
The good news is that the benefits of meditation do not only exist after a thousand (or more) hours of practice, they actually exist from the very first time you practice. You can improve your attention, memory, kindness and awareness just from meditating (which lets face it is really about doing very little) and you can kick this off with just a few minutes a day? What are you waiting for? Seriously get meditating! I have guided meditations free to listen listed here or head to Insight Timer to find me and thousands of fantastic teachers and find a way that works for you.
Davidson, R. (2005). Meditation and Neuroplasticity: Training Your Brain. EXPLORE, 1(5), 380–388. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2005.06.013 Mead, E. (2019, May 27). The History and Origin of Meditation. PositivePsychology.Com. https://positivepsychology.com/history-of-meditation/ Ricard, M. (n.d.). Blog—Matthieu Ricard. Https://Www.Matthieuricard.Org/. https://www.matthieuricard.org/en/blog Ross, A. (2016). Meditation History: Religious Practice to Mainstream Trend | Time. https://time.com/4246928/meditation-history-buddhism/ What is the impact of meditation on aging of the brain ? - Matthieu Ricard. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2022, from https://www.matthieuricard.org/en/