A Buddhist Monk Shows “Unheard Of” Brain Activity During Meditation
What if happiness was a skill you could learn to master? According to Matthieu Ricard, a 66 year old Tibetan Monk and geneticist, it is. Ricard submitted himself to scientific testing which revealed a brain wave pattern previously unseen by neuroscientists. Indeed, the unusual activity in his brain accounts for what scientists say makes Ricard ‘the happiest man in the world”.
“Meditating is like lifting weights or exercising for the mind. Anyone can be happy by simply training their brain.” MR
To study the physiological states Ricard regularly enters into and to understand how quantitatively happy he is, neuroscientists at the University of Wisconsin placed 256 sensors onto his skull and asked him to meditate.
When Ricard performed compassion meditation, the neuroscientists could hardly believe what they were seeing. The monk’s brain was producing a level of gamma waves that went entirely off the charts. They found also that his brain demonstrated extreme activity in the left prefontal cortex in comparison to the right. What this means is he exhibits an unusually great capacity for experiencing happiness with a much lower than normal tendency towards negativity.
As part of the same study, the researches delved into the minds of other practicing monks to see if the results may be comparable. It was revealed that monks who were long-term meditators- meaning who had sat in 50,000+ rounds of meditation, exhibited altered brain function in important ways, though they also found that individuals who practiced meditation for only 20 minutes a day for 3 weeks demonstrated some degree of change as well.
Ricard wishes to spread his profound happiness and meditation benefits to others, and does so in his book “Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill.”
The proceeds from selling his book are donated towards more than 100 humanitarian projects.
“Try sincerely to check, to investigate. That’s what Buddhism has been trying to unravel — the mechanism of happiness and suffering. It is a science of the mind.”
We all have the power to literally reprogram our brain to produce good feeling thoughts, which directly impacts our bodies and overall well-being. As Deepak Chopra reminds us, “the biochemistry of the body is a product of awareness.”
Another of putting it? We aren’t happy because of external circumstances, because we have this or that, or don’t have this or that. We are happy when we choose to be. If you are even a little bit conscious, you will see that this is a true statement. Your favourite place to go can become your worst, depending on your mood, and an enemy might even become a friend.
It seems that the more often we can allow our brains to tap into these certain brainwave states, associated with being clear-headed, relaxed, alert, conscious, and at peace, the more able we will be to consciously switch into these states of brain function while meditating, but also crucially while going about our daily lives as well.
As the study shows, it begins with a commitment to do a short meditation session every day – as little as 20 minutes.
It is vital to monitor one’s thoughts as the witnessing presence. The more we can cultivate a conscious relationship with what we are thinking, the more control we will have over our own happiness, rather than being subject to knee-jerk reactions caused by our childhood programming.
We can change thoughts that are not in alignment with our well-being or who we really are.
Watch the inspiring TED talk by Ricard here: