How The Dalai Lama Stays Calm

Much has been said as to the benefits a solid meditation practice can have on a person: decreased stress, increased happiness, both physical and spiritual betterment. While for many these benefits are subjective, science is now beginning to take notice as well.

Clara Moskowitz, in this Live Science post, wonders how the Dalai Lama, a man who has faced so much destruction and violence in his lifetime, can keep his cool. Citing an article in the journal PLoS ONE, meditation may hold the key.

According to Antoine Lutz, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, using compassion meditation helps to change the way you perceive emotional sounds. In a study which asked participants to meditate as certain sounds were played meant to invoke an empathetic response, researchers using MRI scans found signifiant changes in brain activity.

When subjects heard the sounds, both groups experienced more brain activity in areas associated with empathy and emotions while meditating than while not meditating. The distressed sounds elicited stronger empathetic responses than the positive and neutral noises, and the brain activity in these regions was much stronger in the seasoned meditators.

“The difference was very clear,” Lutz told LiveScience. “We saw significantly more activation in this circuitry in experts than in novices. What is interesting is that the regions that are more activated are the regions which we think should be more important in compassion.”

Read more about this study using meditation to invoke empathy, compassion, and calmness here.

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