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Your Brain on Zen

Can love change the way your brain works? What is happening in the minds of people who have developed a greater capacity for forgiveness and compassion? Can a quality like love?whether it?s shown toward a family member or a friend?be measured in the brain?

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques, researcher Richard Davidson has been able to demonstrate that significant positive changes in brain behavior can be activated through meditation and other contemplative practices.

Davidson says, "This is totally uncharted territory, ?meant to launch a new field where the wisdom of the contemplative traditions can intersect with hard-nosed mainstream science to understand how the brain can be transformed, through certain exercises, to strengthen these kinds of positive qualities."

The Zen practice of "thinking about not thinking" could help free the mind of distractions, meaning that Zen meditation could help treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, major depression and other disorders marked by distracting thoughts.

To see the effects of Zen meditation on the brain, researchers compared the brains of a dozen people who had been meditating for over 3 years with 12 people who had never tried it. In LiveScience, Charles Q. Choi quotes neuroscientist Giuseppe Pagnoni as saying that they "had to screen ? and discard ? a number of colorful characters who during the interview declared that they were meditating regularly by screaming in a towel while stomping their feet on the ground, or that they were communicating frequently with beings of other planets. Such are the unexpected joys of this research!"

Some of our readers and listeners might have taken the people who claimed to be in contact with "beings of other planets" more seriously than Pagnoni did. Did you know that our subscribers participate regularly in meditations?about crop circles with Whitley?

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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