Meditations Can Build a Bigger Brain

Many people who meditate regularly have better focus and control over their emotions, reduced levels of stress, and
bolstered immune systems, but does meditation do anything to the brain structure itself?

Eileen Luders and colleagues at UCLA used MRI to scan the brains of people who meditate to find out. They examined 44 people (22 control subjects and 22 who had practiced
various forms of meditation) who had practiced an average of 24 years. Meditators showed significantly larger volumes in regions known for regulating emotions.

The researchers found significantly larger cerebral measurements in meditators compared with controls, including larger volumes of the right hippocampus and increased gray matter in the right orbito-frontal cortex, the right thalamus and the left inferior temporal lobe. There were no regions where controls had significantly larger volumes or more gray matter than meditators.



Because these areas of the brain are closely linked to emotion, Luders said, "these might be the neuronal underpinnings that give meditators' the outstanding ability to regulate their emotions and allow for well-adjusted responses to whatever life throws their way."

Link - via holeinthedonut

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I have frequent contact with a group of ordained Buddhist nuns who meditate for about 2 hours twice a day.

I've not measured the size of their brains, however my observation is that they have no greater mental faculty than any other group of similarly educated women of a similar age. As to bolstered immune systems, this particular group seems to be more prone to ailments of various kinds than the more general population. They do however make nice marmalade and cordial.
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"who meditate regularly have better focus and control over their emotions, reduced levels of stress"

Now I understand why Monks are like that..with their controled emotions, and suport the asceticism (especially sexual activity and consumption of food and drink)
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Many meditative techniques require one to sit still and silent. But for most of us accumulated stress in our bodymind makes that difficult. Before we can hope to access our inner powerhouse of consciousness, we need to let go of our tensions.
Osho Active Meditations have been scientifically designed by Osho over a period of time to enable us to consciously express and experience repressed feelings and emotions, and learn the knack of watching our habitual patterns in a new way.

Modern man is a very new phenomenon. No traditional method can be used exactly as it exists because modern man never existed before. So, in a way, all traditional methods have become irrelevant.

For example, the body has changed so much. It is so drugged that no traditional method can be helpful. The whole atmosphere is artificial now: the air, the water, society, living conditions. Nothing is natural. You are born in artificiality; you develop in it. So traditional methods will prove harmful today. They will have to be changed according to the modern situation.

Another thing: the quality of the mind has basically changed. In Patanjali's [the most famous commentator on Yoga] days, the center of the human personality was not the brain; it was the heart. Before that, it was not even the heart. It was still lower, near the navel. The center has gone even further from the navel. Now, the center is the brain. That is why teachings like those of Krishnamurti have appeal. No method is needed, no technique is needed – only understanding. But if it is just a verbal understanding, just intellectual, nothing changes, nothing is transformed. It again becomes an accumulation of knowledge.

I use chaotic methods rather than systematic ones because a chaotic method is very helpful in pushing the center down from the brain. The center cannot be pushed down through any systematic method because systemization is brainwork. Through a systematic method, the brain will be strengthened; more energy will be added to it. Through chaotic methods the brain is nullified. It has nothing to do. The method is so chaotic that the center is automatically pushed from the brain to the heart. If you do my method of Dynamic Meditation vigorously, unsystematically, chaotically, your center moves to the heart. Then there is a catharsis.

A catharsis is needed because your heart is so suppressed, due to your brain. Your brain has taken over so much of your being that it dominates you. There is no place for the heart, so the longings of the heart are suppressed. You have never laughed heartily, never lived heartily, never done anything heartily. The brain always comes in to systematize, to make things mathematical, and the heart is suppressed. So firstly, a chaotic method is needed to push the center of consciousness from the brain toward the heart.

Then catharsis is needed to unburden the heart, to throw off suppressions, to make the heart open. If the heart becomes light and unburdened, then the center of consciousness is pushed still lower; it comes to the navel. The navel is the source of vitality, the seed source from which everything else comes: the body and the mind and everything.

I use this chaotic method very considerately. Systematic methodology will not help now, because the brain will use it as its own instrument. Nor can just the chanting of bhajans help now, because the heart is so burdened that it cannot flower into real chanting. Consciousness must be pushed down to the source, to the roots. Only then is there the possibility of transformation. So I use chaotic methods to push the consciousness downward from the brain.

Whenever you are in chaos, the brain stops working. For example, if you are driving a car and suddenly someone runs in front of you, you react so suddenly that it cannot be the work of the brain. The brain takes time. It thinks about what to do and what not to do. So whenever there is a possibility of an accident and you push the brake, you feel a sensation near your navel, as if it were your stomach that is reacting. Your consciousness is pushed down to the navel because of the accident. If the accident could be calculated beforehand, the brain would be able to deal with it; but when you are in an accident, something unknown happens. Then you notice that your consciousness has moved to the navel.

If you ask a Zen monk, "From where do you think?" he puts his hands on his belly. When Westerners came into contact with Japanese monks for the first time they could not understand. "What nonsense! How can you think from your belly?

But the Zen reply is meaningful. Consciousness can use any center of the body, and the center that is nearest to the original source is the navel. The brain is furthest away from the original source, so if life energy is moving outward, the center of consciousness will become the brain. And if life energy is moving inward, ultimately the navel will become the center.

Chaotic methods are needed to push the consciousness to its roots, because only from the roots is transformation possible. Otherwise you will go on verbalizing and there will be no transformation. It is not enough just to know what is right. You have to transform the roots; otherwise you will not change.

When a person knows the right thing and cannot do anything about it, he becomes doubly tense. He understands, but he cannot do anything. Understanding is meaningful only when it comes from the navel, from the roots. If you understand from the brain, it is not transforming.

The ultimate cannot be known through the brain, because when you are functioning through the brain you are in conflict with the roots from which you have come. Your whole problem is that you have moved away from the navel. You have come from the navel and you will die through it. One has to come back to the roots. But coming back is difficult, arduous.

Traditional methods have an appeal because they are so ancient and so many people have achieved through them in the past. They may have become irrelevant to us, but they were not irrelevant to Buddha, Mahavira, Patanjali or Krishna. They were meaningful, helpful. The old methods may be meaningless now, but because Buddha achieved through them they have an appeal. The traditionalist feels: "If Buddha achieved through these methods, why can't I?”

But we are in an altogether different situation now. The whole atmosphere, the whole thought-sphere, has changed. Every method is organic to a particular situation, to a particular mind, to a particular man. The fact that the old methods don't work doesn't mean that no method is useful. It only means that the methods themselves must change. As I see the situation, modern man has changed so much that he needs new methods, new techniques.

Osho: The Psychology of the Esoteric, #4

What Meditation Is

There are many different, even contradictory ideas, about what meditation is. Primary to the Osho approach is the need for the meditator to understand the nature of the mind, rather than fight with it.

Most of us most of the time are run by, dominated by our thoughts or feelings. It follows that we tend to think we are those thoughts and feeling. Meditation is the state of simply being, just pure experiencing, with no interference from the body or mind. It’s a natural state but one which we have forgotten how to access.

The word meditation is also used for what is, more accurately, a meditation method. Meditative methods, techniques or devices are means by which to create an inner ambience that facilitates disconnecting from the bodymind so one can simply be. While initially it is helpful to put time aside to practice a structured meditation method, there are many techniques that are practiced within the context of one’s everyday life – at work, at leisure, alone and with others.

Methods are needed only until the state of meditation – of relaxed awareness, of consciousness and centering – has become not just a passing experience but as intrinsic to one as, say, breathing.

www.osho.com/activemeditations
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Having read the original article, I must point out that the researchers correctly recognized the possibility that those with larger brains in the mentioned areas might be attracted to meditation more than others.

I think maybe another case of journalistic overstatement of tentative results and a speculative explanation.
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The problem with any study of this nature is that the conclusions aren't necessarily the only ones that follow from the observations.

The observations mentioned are just as consistent with the conclusion "only people with larger brains are driven/motivated to meditate" as with the conclusion they chose.

If alternate conclusions are just as logically valid, one can't rightfully declare any one of the possible explanations is de facto correct. More research is required that, for example, measures the growth of those parts of the brain as a result of meditation.

Even then, it is plausible to suggest that the enlargement of those brain regions is a side effect of crossing your legs for a period of time on a daily basis rather than meditation per se.

Deep waters....
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