Combining Neuroscience with Meditation (Mindfulness) Practice



Rick Hanson from Neurodharma:

“So how can we warm the heart and develop compassion and kindness, for our own sake and for that if others.

Mindfulness is necessary, but not sufficient.

Studies of mindfulness and related meditations have found that these can alter neural networks for attention, self awareness, and self-control. This is really good, but it doesn’t directly strengthen key parts of the neural basis of compassion and kindness.

Related but distinct networks handle these things.

For example, pleasurable social experience activate brain regions that help produce experiences of physical pleasure.

Being generous, cooperative, and fair can stimulate neural reward centers. And social pain– such as rejection or loneliness—taps the same network that underlie physical pain.

It is when we focus on warmheartedness itself that it’s aspects are most experienced in the mind and developed in the nervous system.

Compassion-focused meditation stimulates specific parts of the brain involved with the with the sense of connection, positive emotions, and reward, including the middle orbitofrontal cortex, behind where your eyebrows meet.

Long term practitioners of lovingkindness meditation develop similar neurological reactions to seeing the faces of strangers and their own faces, with growing sense of “you’re like me.”

They also build neural tissue in key parts of the hippocampus that support feelings of empathy towards others.”



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