31. Ideas

The brain — it’s the least understood of all human organs. Yet scientists today are making strides in finding out just what goes on in that matter between your ears. It was a simple question recently asked a group of brain surgeons that started an interesting debate: can the mind shape brain matter? No, was the immediate answer given by most doctors. Neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to change structure according to experience, is a feature thought to be activated solely by experience. Thought, they said, is not the cause but rather the result of changes in the brain. However, current experiments are showing evidence to the contrary.

Testing the hypothesis that self directed thought might actually change the circuitry in the brain, researchers recently wired several human participants (Buddhist monks) with a host of electronic sensors designed to detect the subtle wave currents (gamma waves) of brain activity. They asked the participants to meditate on various subjects, one being compassion. During meditation their brains’ gamma waves were recorded as the physical signature of their thoughts. It was thought that once the meditation ended the gamma waves would subside. But that wasn’t the case, at least not among this control group of Buddhist monks.

These signature gamma waves continued to register on the equipment even after the period of meditation expired. It seemed that their brains — even in the “rest state” — were still sending signals thought to be associated with the meditative thoughts of compassion, meditations that had earlier been repeated as a ritual by these monks for thousands of hours.

The results of this experiment have some scientist rethinking earlier theories. It might be that self-directed thought, such as meditation, does actually change the circuitry in the brain. Essentially, because of their long term meditative practice, the brains of these Buddhist monks became “wired for compassion.”

Day 31 Guide

Think of the implications of this research. With repetition, the design of certain thoughts might be imprinted on the brain. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be wired for joy? Daily, you should affirm the habit of finding life to be new and alive. Direct your thoughts with prayer. Search for something each day – a memory, a song, a story – that might call your spirit back to Joyous Gard.

© 2007, Levi Hill

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