Photo Illustration by Hannah Andrewchuk / Equinox Staff

Ben Stock
Equinox Staff

In our daily lives, we tend to go on doing everything we can to keep distracted and entertained. Keeping up with school, a job or even social events that can put a strain on both the body and the mind. We tend to forget that our mind and body are connected and when the balance of one is off it can and will affect the other. Two sides of the same coin that needs rest. While sleep is very important and very much needed, during our busy days we also need to rest. The practice of meditation allows us to do this.

Meditation has been studied for thousands of years and used in a variety of religious practices such as Buddhism. However, the science behind it has just recently been studied and the results of what it can do to the brain are very impressive.

According to Sara Lizer, a Harvard neuroscientist, “four regions of meditators’ brains associated with healthy brain function become more substantial, while one of the areas associated with undesirable behavior actually shrinks.” These areas that she has associated are the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate, the temporo parietal junction (TPJ), and the amygdala. Each of these sections of the brain have a specific function.

The left hippocampus for instance, “This is the area in the brain that helps us learn. The tools that we use for cognitive ability and memory are found here, as are emotional regulators associated with self-awareness and empathy” according to Mindworks:How Meditation Changes the Brain:1. Meditation has shown to decrease the amount of grey matter that is formed in this area which affects the brain’s function.

The posterior cingulate is responsible for “wandering thoughts and self-relevance – that is, the degree of subjectivity and referral to oneself when processing information” according to Mindworks:How Meditation Changes the Brain:1.

I believe that this is very important to understand since we may allow ourselves to become subjected to our thoughts and lose touch with ourselves. Meditation allows the mind to observe the thoughts- keeping us grounded to our self and to the reality that we are living.

Meditation allows you to become in tune to the present moment. To know that the past is gone and the future is in front of us. Yet, if you don’t allow yourself to be present and content within the present, life will pull the rug under you.

The temporo parietal junction is responsible for compassion and empathy. These virtues in my opinion seem very less prominent in today’s culture of keyboard warriors and social media zealots, and not to mention the recent pandemic, making everyone afraid of each other. A loss of these connections, breaks us apart from what it means to be human. Meditation allows the brain to focus on these things and see what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes as well as being self aware of the people and the world around you. Understanding the vast connectivity of each person and the environment around them.

The last area of the brain it affects the most is the amygdala. This is the part of the brain responsible for anxiety, fear and general stress.

When looking at brain scans of people who practice meditative skills, the amygdala shrinks allowing for a more calm and self aware state of mind. I believe that this region of the brain has the most negative affects on people. The mind can be both your friend and enemy. We are born with what some buddhists monks call the “Monkey Mind.” always worried and anxious of the unknown and the chaos that circles throughout our lives and even within ourselves. We must realize that this part of the human psyche is completely natural. We are meant to feel these emotions from time and again. It is in our evolution to do so. It is a separate part of oneself. Meditation can help us see the differences between oneself and the things that are controlling the mind. Individuals must realize the importance of taking back their mind from the relentless noise that comes and goes within our own minds.

I know that it might seem like a struggle to get ourselves to calm down during our busy lives when there is so much to experience and so many things to see and do. Yet, if you take a few minutes out of your day to sit with yourself, not in a ponder of thoughts but just with your breath. Letting go of the thoughts that come to your head and imagine them as a flowing river of your consciousness. To focus your attention to the organism your body is- and find a sense of peace within. That is where great wisdom will reveal itself.

 

Ben Stock can be contacted at:
bstock@kscequinox.com

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