Scientific Research on the Effects of Meditation – part 1

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    Occasionally, the question arises, “But is there evidence that…” referring to concepts such as Subtle Energy, Etheric Forces, Prana, Qi, etc., where proof of efficacy or tangibility is sought. In reality, there is a vast amount of research on the subject, but it is generally undervalued. There is simply a lot of confusion around these topics, sometimes even fueled by us, operators. Therefore, let’s clarify, starting gradually, and remembering that what we propose with Informational Fields and F-Aurea is not intended to replace medical or psychiatric therapies but to serve as natural wellness approaches, spiritual healing, holistic practices, and Eastern philosophies.

    Quote: “The greater the doubt, the greater the awakening; the smaller the doubt, the smaller the awakening. No doubt, no awakening.”
    Garma C. C. Chang, The Practices of Zen.

    Influence of Meditation on the Environment

    First and foremost, it is essential to mention a rigorously conducted study by a psychology professor at Harvard University, Ellen J. Langer. The research, titled “There’s Something in the Air”, was carried out using three different but identically furnished rooms. In the first room, mindfulness (a form of meditation derived from secularized Buddhism) was practiced for 45 minutes. In the second room, volunteers watched a series of stress-inducing videos for 45 minutes. Finally, the third room was left empty.

    At the end of the session, 68 volunteers, unaware of what had taken place in each room, were divided into smaller groups and provided with a tablet containing a questionnaire. The tablet measured the reaction time to the questions. The volunteers were required to enter the rooms and respond to the questions on the tablet. The results were clear: both the room where meditation had taken place and the room where stressful videos had been watched were significantly more attractive compared to the empty room.

    However, there was another important finding: the response time to the questionnaire, measured via the tablet, varied considerably. Volunteers almost immediately identified the room where meditation had taken place as attractive, while the room where stressful videos had been shown was marked as attractive after a significantly longer response time, indicating that the volunteers spent time thinking and choosing their answers. In contrast, there were no doubts or hesitations in identifying the meditation room as attractive.

    Source: Ellen J. Langer (2023), The Mindful Body: Thinking Our Way to Chronic Health. Ballantine Books.

    Langer’s experiment leads her to conclude that scientifically “there is something that remains in the air” when people stay in a place, and what remains after a meditation practice is somehow different from other human activities. However, it is unknown what it is or how to measure it. Langer remains cautious, concluding that “ignoring strange experiences just because we cannot explain them may lead us to miss valuable opportunities.” After all, openly declaring that perhaps these so-called energies exist, and although we cannot measure them, we can detect their effects, risks discrediting us as crazy or charlatans.

    Can Meditation Alter Biology?

    Can meditation activities influence biology as well as the state of the mind? The question might seem naive, but it is perfectly legitimate, given that in today’s society, the mind and body are often considered distinct and separate entities. This perspective leads to treating one without considering its interaction with the other. But what if the boundary, the twilight zone between mind and body, were thin, or even nonexistent?

    A study conducted by a team of psychologists and psychiatrists from Stanford University and the University of British Columbia examines how deep meditation practice can alter and reshape the brain, specifically the structure of grey matter (neurons) and white matter (astrocytes). The study utilises modern neuroimaging techniques to investigate the changes in 300 meditation practitioners. Neuroimaging encompasses a set of techniques that allow mapping what happens in different brain areas from multiple perspectives: biochemical, electrical, anatomical, etc. The scientists concluded that the meditation practices studied induce significant physical changes in brain areas associated with memory, bodily and emotional awareness, emotional regulation, and communication between the right and left cerebral hemispheres.

    The authors conclude by calling for further rigorous research but assert that the observed changes cannot be coincidental. This raises the question of whether it is also appropriate to discuss the inverse effect, namely the loss of brain functions after decades of a self-destructive life characterised by intellectual and emotional rigidity. It prompts us to consider how much difference a healthy meditation practice can make in this and other contexts.

    Source: Fox, Kieran, Nijeboer, Savannah, Dixon, Matthew, Floman, James, Ellamil, Melissa, Rumak, Samuel, Sedlmeier, Peter, & Christoff, Kalina. (2014). Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of morphometric neuroimaging in meditation practitioners. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 43, 48-73. [10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.03.016] (https://www.researchgate.net/)