Here’s an interesting look at how mindfulness meditation works:
If a friend or relative won $100 and then offered you a few dollars, would you accept this windfall? The logical answer would seem to be, sure, why not? “But human decision making does not always appear rational,” said Read Montague, professor of physics at Virginia Tech and director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.
According to research conducted over the last three decades; only about one-fourth of us would say, “Sure. Thanks.” The rest would say, “But that’s not fair. You have lots. Why are you only giving me a few?” In fact, people will even turn down any reward rather than accept an ‘unfair’ share.
Unless they are Buddhist meditators, in which case – fair or not – more than half will take what is offered, according to new research by Ulrich Kirk, research assistant professor with the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at Virginia Tech; Jonathan Downar, assistant professor with the Neuropsychiatry Clinic and the Centre for Addition and Mental Health at the University of Toronto; and Montague, published in the April 2011 issue of Frontiers in Decision Neuroscience.
Their research shows that Buddhist meditators use different areas of the brain than other people when confronted with unfair choices, enabling them to make decisions rationally rather than emotionally. The meditators had trained their brains to function differently and make better choices in certain situations.
Non-materialist neuroscience is not about woo-woo. It starts with the premise that you are not your brain, in sum, and that by focusing directed attention on a given feeling or behaviour, you can guide it in a more mature or more healthy direction.
The meditators had doubtless decided that getting upset with someone close to them over a few dollars was just not worthwhile, and were able to shape their behaviour to reflect that fact.
Note: One need not, of course, be a Buddhist, but Buddhists have led the way in developing this approach.
See also The Spiritual Brain.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose