In my recent presentation, Investigating the Power of Silence, at Austin’s Free Day of NLP, I drew on some research done by the Center for Healthy Minds.
I love that name! And I just got on their mailing list.
You may have heard of it. It’s located at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and is run by Dr. Richard Davidson, who was encouraged by the Dalai Lama in 1992 to study the brains of Tibetan yogis. Dozens of monks have flown into Madison over the years, been hooked up with caps of electrodes for EEGs to study their brainwaves and undergone fMRI to see where the brain is most active during meditation, rest, and tasks. These are the “professional” meditators with over 12,000 hours of practice.
The research I mentioned in my presentation was done on the Tibetan yogi with the most meditation experience they’ve studied so far, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, who’s clocked an astounding 62,000 hours of meditation (and looks like he’s about 30 years old but is actually 43 in 2018).
Here’s the link to the article, and here’s a photo of the rinpoche.
Yongey Mingyur became a wandering monk for four years, leaving behind his life as a prominent teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, and then resuming it with new perspective. His story includes overcoming panic attacks as a young teenager. Read more here. To find out about his experience wandering, read this.
The Center for Healthy Minds has also improved the rigor of the science behind studies of meditation, holding it to high standards including classifying meditators as beginning, long-term, and professional and distinguishing between types of meditation.
Dr. Davidson, along with Dr. Daniel Goleman (who wrote the ground-breaking book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ in 2005), have just published a new book together, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body.
Their findings are that the more a person meditates, the more those “altered states” become “altered traits”. In other words, meditation retrains the brain to experience more equanimity and compassion, to be more alive and embodied, to experience a vast spaciousness along with the perpetual discovery of being deeply present.
If you prefer, you can listen to the book for free on YouTube. Part 1 is here (4 hours 32 minutes), and Part 2 is here (4 hours 37 minutes). Daniel Goleman is the reader, and he sounds as good as any audio book reader I’ve heard.