What’s the Latest Development?
The mental and physical benefits of meditation (for the meditator) are increasingly verified by a growing scientific literature that has found an increase in oxygen flow to the brain during meditative periods. Now scientists also believe that meditation can confer benefits on others, even if they do not meditate themselves. In an experiment conducted at Northeastern University, subjects who underwent an eight-week long series of meditation training demonstrated more sympathy toward others in simulated real-life conditions: Meditative subjects were more likely to give up their waiting room seat to an injured person, despite others in the room who ignored the injured person’s plight.
What’s the Big Idea?
Meditation may increase our identification with other people in two principle ways: “The first rests on meditation’s documented ability to enhance attention, which might in turn increase the odds of noticing someone in pain (as opposed to being lost in one’s own thoughts).” The other explanation derives from meditation’s ability to connect practitioners with the great Oneness of Being, i.e. the sensation that all beings are interconnected. “The increased compassion of meditators, then, might stem directly from meditation’s ability to dissolve the artificial social distinctions — ethnicity, religion, ideology and the like — that divide us.”
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