Thursday, December 18, 2008

Meditation and Compassion

Rembrandt Van Rijn - Philosopher in Meditation

Psycology Today is a great resource for finding how to change for the better.
In one particular article Mastering Your Own Mind, this quote struck me:

Scientists have only recently begun to map the brain regions related to positive emotions such as empathy. But when Davidson observed Ricard meditating on compassion while hooked up to EEG sensors, he found a striking increase in gamma waves in the left prefrontal cortex, an area correlated with reported feelings of happiness. The findings furnish scientific support for something the Dalai Lama often says: A person meditating on compassion for others becomes the first beneficiary.

So compassion is the key to happiness, and it's a big part of meditation. Meditation is not simply about "emptying the mind." I consider prayer a form of meditation. When you pray for others, this is compassion in action. But meditation is not just compassion for the people in your life, but for all humanity. Think about all the gamma waves that could generate in your prefrontal cortex.

The article goes on to say:
Compassion can also help people manage their own suffering, since it's a reminder that others are also in pain. "After that, our pain does not feel as oppressive," says Ricard. "We stop asking the bitter question, Why me?" The link between compassion for others and for oneself may explain why recent studies connect altruism to health and happiness.

So screw you, Ayn Rand!