Is it time for evolution to evolve and could the survival of our species depend on a benefit of meditation? At first glance this may seem like an outrageous, if not silly, idea. How could meditation have anything to do with evolution?
Enter, “self-directed neuroplasticity,” a term coined by researchers, referring to measurable changes in the brain caused by meditative practice. In truth, it’s a big leap from training our brain to evolutionary changes in the human race.
Yet authors, Steven and Michael Meloan, introduce us to a compelling argument that one of the benefits of meditation, may indeed, afford us the ability to consciously direct our own evolution. ﾠﾠﾠﾠ
Enter Steven and Michael:
The driving force behind evolution is adaptation toward survival. That organizing principle has enabled life from bacteria to Homo Sapiens to thrive. But we have reached a new phase in human development. To a great degree, threats from the natural environment no longer define our existence. Night-roaming carnivores are generally not the nemesis. The most virulent threat we face today is rooted in our own Darwinian heritage. It springs from tribal and xenophobic impulses buried deep within primitive brain structures. These impulses create conflicts between countries, races, religions, and even neighborhoods.
But we can jumpstart evolution and leverage it on our own terms. We can literally rewire our brains toward greater compassion and cooperation. As always–it begins with the individual.
A recent study led by Massachusetts General Hospital found that half hour per day of meditative practice over only eight weeks led to increased feelings of compassion, self-awareness, introspection, and reduced stress. The study also reported that changes in brain structure appear to underlie these perceptions. Increases in gray matter density have been observed in structures associated with these compassionate states, as well as areas linked to memory and cognition. Researchers sometimes refer to such measurable changes from meditative practice as “self-directed neuroplasticity.”
We spend a lifetime learning the details of our culture and the tools of intellectual inquiry. But we invest virtually no energy in mastering our own consciousness. Taking control of mental states positively impacts both personal and societal well-being…
…Meditation can become an integral part of daily life. A simple pause to look at the trees or the sky helps to momentarily shut down mental checklists and rehashing of the day’s activities. It can change our mood almost instantaneously. Stopping regularly to observe the breath is another powerful interrupter. Before bed, imagining consciousness leaving the confines of the body and becoming expansive can lead to relaxation and restful sleep.
Recent developments in the biological sciences indicate that environmental influences can alter a newly recognized layer of genomic control called the epigenome. And some epigenetic changes have even been shown to persist across generational boundaries. Until recently, this was thought to be impossible. Extrapolating this notion, we might speculate that the benefits resulting from meditative practices could conceivably be passed on to future generations.
Evolution on-demand springs from the human ability to self-determine. Xenophobic instincts, while inarguably part of our biological hard-wiring, do not have to dictate our interactions. The capacity for choice is one of our greatest gifts as a species. We can positively affect our personal behavior through meditative practice. And we can all participate in that process — starting now.
While the idea of self-directed evolution may be new to the larger and mostly western, population, the idea of mastering our own consciousness is very old and predates written language in the wisdom traditions of Yoga.
Now, however, there is ‘objective’ scientific research to support what the yogis, so long ago, intuited. I would also like to note that there are growing numbers of people and groups in the ‘west’ that are implementing this benefit of meditation. Both the Integral Institute and EnlightenNext are “dedicated to catalyzing evolution in consciousness.” Click here to visit the original source of this post