Issue #13 - Meditation & Its Surprising Effects on Aging
Welcome to the latest issue of The Qi of Self-Sovereignty. The newsletter exploring what it means to be free in an increasingly not-so-free world.
Whether you're looking to locate your authentic self or investigate sovereignty, you're in the right place! Each week, with just a few minutes of reading, I aim to expand your awareness through a quote and a piece of content that made me go hmm...
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“The mind is the source of all experience, and by changing the direction of the mind, we can change the quality of everything we experience.” - Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
I don't know about you, but is there not something mysteriously fascinating about monks, specifically Tibetan and Nepali monks?
I was lucky enough to of had the opportunity to backpack around Nepal as a teenager. On this journey, I vividly remember talking to this Buddhist practitioner. He remarked that he knew of individuals capable of hopping 15ft from a sitting lotus position and monks who have mastered the art of drawing energy from the sun and, therefore, no longer need to eat. I was stunned!
Although I couldn't "prove it," as a westerner would say, there was something inside me that didn't doubt it.
In an old wife's tale, it is said that to train a flea, you must place it in a sealed jar. In an attempt to escape, the flea will repeatedly jump, bumping up against the lid. Then in a sudden moment of realization, it recognizes there is a ceiling.
The flea will now limit its jump to just below the lid, recognizing that its previous attempts were fruitless. It is at this moment you can remove the lid, and voila, you have a trained flea.
I think this tale perfectly symbolizes many of our limiting beliefs. We have put an imaginary ceiling on our potential.
Although the Western world has advanced in leaps and bounds in many ways, we have lost a deeper sense of connectedness to ourselves and our environment.
I very much believe this loss is partly attributable to this "prove it" mentality.
Our desire for verification has put a cap on our knowingness and beingness. We have lost sight of who we are and what we are capable of, and we now find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.
We can't move forward without proof, but we don't currently and may never have the capacity to prove many of life's gifts and quirks.
But there is light on the horizon...
As research geared towards meditation and spirituality evolves, the west is finally taking notice. With this in mind, I wanted to share an eye-opening Twitter thread I recently read.
Insightful Content which made me go, hmm...
While in a state of peaceful bliss, doom-scrolling Twitter, this thread by Benjamin Grundy caught my eye. In this short but detailed thread, he dives into the effects of meditation on the brain and our physiology.
Long story short, the effects are remarkable.
On multiple occasions, neuroscientist Richie Davidson had the opportunity to monitor Tibetan monk Mingyur Rinpoche's brain during meditation.
During these sessions, he hooked up Rinpoche to an electroencephalogram (EEG), where Davidson monitored the effects of meditation on brain wave activity.
As Grundy explains, Davidson "had Mingyur alternate between 1 min of meditation on compassion and 30sec of a neutral resting period. He would have to do this four times in rapid succession to ensure confidence in any effect measured."
This is no easy task.
To send direct your focus toward deep compassion and then back to resting in quick succession is an almost impossible task.
I find it hard enough to activate compassion on request.
But to the neuroscientist's surprise, the EEG monitor indicated significant spikes in electrical activity every time he went into compassion, with each burst of activity lasting exactly 60sec as requested.
But what's interesting is that during his 30sec resting period, although the giant spikes diminished, the elevated electrical activity was still very much present.
And this continued each time he alternated between compassion and rest.
After the EEG, they switched machines to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), where they instructed him to perform the same meditation sequence.
As Grundy put it, "During his 60sec meditation Mingyur's brain circuitry for empathy rose to a level 800% greater than the rest period."
Although monks have claimed to have such skills, up until now, it had never been measured with such accuracy.
All in all, the researchers discovered that compared to others of the same age, Mingyur's brain was in the 99th percentile. That means if you randomly sampled 100 people of the same age, his brain would be the youngest.
Moreover, even though he was 41, his brain was comparable to that of a 33-year-old—something he puts down to his meditation practice.
But as researchers have pointed out, this is but one individual. Therefore, Davidson connects with over a dozen expert meditators and repeats the tests...
This discovery sparked curiosity amongst other researchers.
So much so that engineer Antoine Lutz steps up to the plate and reanalyses Davidson's brain scans, and he finds something.
In all the baseline readings. "All the monks and yogis had the same pattern of elevated gamma oscillations BEFORE any test."
Gamma is the brainwave frequency that occurs during the elusive flow state. Where creativity seems effortless and thoughts come and go with ease.
These moments of gamma often last only a fraction of a second for most individuals. But for these monks, not only are they magnified some 25x larger than the average, they last far longer.
Reading this is when it clicked. My whole life, I have been chasing this flow state. Whether exercising, delving into new hobbies, or exploring intellectual pursuits, I have continuously looked to connect to this deeper version of myself. The part of me that can tap into more profound insight and understanding.
However, what I was really chasing was noticeably more gamma wave activity. With this in mind, my new year's resolution is to dedicate more time to meditation.
To end, I have a challenge for you.
For the next week, take 10 minutes out of your morning to meditate. Then at the end of each day, reconnect with yourself.
Did you notice any internal shifts?
Do you feel more at peace?
Have you felt more in the flow?
I'd love to hear if you notice any shifts.
Lastly, if meditation is not your forte and you're looking for some assistance, I highly recommend you check out the Waking Up app for a guided journey into meditation. This app has been an immense help on my own journey toward inner peace and connection.
"The more you practice how to generate a meditative state, the more that practice shows lasting influences beyond the session itself." - Daniel Goleman, Altered Traits
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue of The Qi of Self-Sovereignty. I hope you found it insightful.
I always welcome feedback and thoughts. So, do not hesitate to respond to the newsletter email, comment on the article or reach out via Twitter.
The future is bright!