Meditating on Compassion



Of course, Matthieu Ricard:

“A few years earlier, Davidson had studied the asymmetry between the right and left prefrontal cortexes of an elderly Tibetan monk who had meditated on compassion several hours a day throughout his life.

Davidson had noticed that the predominance of activity on the left was far higher in the monk than in the 175 “ordinary” people tested to that point.

This time again, the figures registered by the meditators were outside the distribution curve representing the results of tests on several hundred subjects.

The most astonishing was the spike of so-called gamma activity in the left middle frontal gyrus.

Davidson’s research had already shown and that fluctuations in its balance are generally modest.

But the data drawn from the experiments with the meditators were striking.

As they began meditating on compassion, an extraordinary increase of left prefrontal activity was registered.

Compassion, the very act of feeling concern for other people’s well-being, appears to be one of the positive emotions, like joy and enthusiasm.

This corroborates the research of psychologists showing that the most altruistic members of a population are also those who enjoy the highest sense of satisfaction in life.

Using fMRI, Lutz, Davidson, and their colleagues also found that the brain activity of the practitioners meditating on compassion was especially high in the left prefrontal cortex.

Activity in the left prefrontal cortex swamped activity in the right prefrontal (site of negative emotions and anxiety), something never before seen from purely mental activity.

Preliminary results obtained by Jonathan Cohen and Brent Field at Princeton University also suggest that trained meditators are able to sustain focused attention upon various tasks over a much longer period of time than untrained controls.”




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