Meditation and the Brain

Neuroplasticity means that the actual physical structure of the brain is malleable and is impacted by our experiences. This implies that directing our experiences, for example, in the form of emotional regulation, can actually change the structure of one’s brain.  Repeated patterns of behavior can create more long-term changes in the brain and develop and strengthen new pathways and connections of neurons. This is exciting as it illustrates that a human being is not merely destined to its biology, but is capable of impacting it to the extent that the human will can reach.  The brain is also constantly regenerating, so the good news is that we can change our brain structure at any age based on our experiences in the present moment.

Resilence and recovery from negative emotional events is associated with greater use of the pre-frontal cortex.  Effective emotional regulation in these situations is also associated with lower levels of cortisol, a major stress hormone in the body which can be toxic at higher levels.  Cortisol can also interfere with learning and memory.  Therefore, anxiety and stress can decrease our cognitive functioning in addition to its negative effect on the body.

The findings of neuroscience are applicable to the practice of meditation.  Meditation is capable of changing the structure of our brains, particularly because of its affect on the process of emotional regulation and its potential assistance in recovery from negative emotional states.  Studies of regular, long-term meditators have demonstrated the impact of meditation on their ability to become more emotionally balanced.  Meditation practices are also increasingly used as an adjunct to therapy and has been demonstrated to assist in recovery from trauma.  Meditation can strengthen areas of the brain that can help us to learn and cultivate different qualities—such as compassion, patience, and inner peace.  Through a regular meditation practice, certain qualities can build over time. Loving-kindness meditation, mindfulness and open presence meditation can help develop these qualities and many more.

Long-time meditators can become less impacted by stress (due to the relaxation response, and emotional regulation) and therefore have greater physical and mental health.  Because stress interferes with cognitive function, meditators can also become mentally sharp as a result of certain forms of meditation, such as focused awareness.  Studies have demonstrated that focused awareness increases the ability to concentrate.

It is useful to know that helpful qualities can be learned through experience, and that methods such as meditation that achieve these results can be taught.  Traits that we once considered to be a part of our personalities, perhaps at birth, are now understood to have the potential to be deliberately cultivated through a contemplative practice.  This has enormous implications for the fields of education, health care, and psychology.  Integration of contemplative practices in these fields would likely achieve excellent results for practitioners as well as students, patients, and clients. This is why I consider meditation the cornerstone of my work and I teach it to all of my Psychic Development students.

2 thoughts on “Meditation and the Brain

  1. Hi…well my name is Krystal…i found it very interesting that i typed my so called “symptoms” into google and your blog popped up…i am not sure exactly what to say but i feel i need to tell you a little about my story… First of all i am a very spiritual person…i believe…. always have been really…however back in January i suffered major head trauma as a result of being beaten in the head with a .22 rifle after it “unsuspectedly” refused to fire as the barrel had been aimed at my head. Anyways…that experience has changed me immensely, to say the least. I lost a lot of balance…concentration…memory…ect…however during these past few months i have been noticing i have been so much more in touch with my own sense of spiritually and intuition.
    After the incident i moved away…back to my home town with my children…got a place with my tax return and coincidentally got a very good job the very next day. Which happened to be my brothers birthday. He wanted so badly for me to go to the bar with him…but since i just got my job i couldn’t risk loosing it so soon…therefor i went out that next Saturday night when i had days off. It was very strange how i met the man I now love so deeply. He only works the bar on Saturday nights… my sister thought i was lonely so she asked me that night if I could choose any one guy from that bar to take home who would i choose… and i said none of them…that there was only one guy that caught my eye from the minute we walked in and it was the guy at the door checking everyone for ID’s… so she went and talked to him for what felt like forever…by that time i was way drunk and careless…we made our way to one another and started dancing and we kissed and things…however drunk I was though…I still kept my morals about me…I asked him if he had a girlfriend, he did so i cut it off with going any further, but still felt i should invite him over to my new place since my sister was inviting people as well. He didn’t manage to make it that night or anytime recently thereafter and i put it in the back of my mind…still thought of him though…everyday since i met him. I gave up on males in this town…none of them were like me….and i am a lonely person and have learned that when i feel the most lonely… i turn to prayer more often than not…well that warm summer day i prayed deep…prayed that i could find someone like me…prayed that there was someone out there that wouldn’t judge me and that possessed the same unique qualities as I… though i didn’t think about it at the time… but later that day I was letting my kids play out in the front yard…when this sexy man comes rolling up in a tiny tractor lol, of all things to be driving down a street such as this…well it happened to be the same guy i had met at the bar about three months prior…he lost his dogs…and he just so happened to live a block away…he gave me something that day….or shortly thereafter…i cant remember which… it was a handmade wood plague that had on it my most favorite st things a fairy and stones handpicked. That is the day I found my true love…My soulmate…My other half…My twin soul…whatever you want to call it… i just know how it feels….so random our meetings….so perfect our fit…so like one another we are yet so different from everybody else…We can feel each other…we can speak to one another and not mutter a sound….its like we are meant for one another…We both have had such similarities in our own lives and experiences…almost makes it seem unreal…he was in an accident….and hit his head on the pavement…got put in acoma and claims that when he awoke he was a different person kinda…he likes different things, he can do things now he never was able to before…and i related to all of them…not in a few circumstances..every last one to this day he has shared with me…and mine the same as with him…and when we are together…we kindof change…like we are the same, we both have high anxiety for example….when we are apart that is… however when we get together and we feel each other…its like the rest of the world stops….and it is just us, and we can finally be at peace because we found each other….we have this contentment about each other that words dont begin to describe properly….a feeling we have never been able to feel till we got together…and when we part its like we tear ourselves in half to appease the rest of the world…i dont know how to describe myself and the way i feel very well…i just know he completes me…and sometimes, i know i shouldnt say this but sometimes i have memories… but they arent real memories, i guess they are thoughts, that i have had this with this one special soul for a very very long time and i truely believe that whatever happens in this life or otherwise…he will come back to me, and i to him…that our journey does not end here of this earth… that no matter what, no matter when, our connection will draw us back together. Thank you for hearing me out i just think you might be able to relate… 🙂 Happy Holidays! Trust your instincts and have a fantastic day!
    -Krystal 12/17/14
    Moab Ut

    1. Thanks for commenting and absolutely I know exactly what you are talking about 🙂 As you may have guessed. Very good advice– trust your instincts and have a fantastic day…going to do that. Blessings, V

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