Meditation and brain function: a review

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Abstract

Spirituality draws people to places of worship, prayer, meditation, sacred dance, mountain tops or other inspirational activity. Some of us find spirituality through religion; others find it through science, music, art or a connection with Nature, while still others find it in their personal values and principles. No matter how it's defined, this elusive entity describes the way we find meaning, hope, comfort and inner peace in our lives. Having some sort of mystical or religious experience is not an uncommon human experience and for some the experience may be so intense that it changes their life forever. But what does this experience mean? Is it a trick of the brain's structure, the subconscious self, or a manifestation of the presence of a higher being? The scientific exploration of spiritual consciousness and the brain-generated sensations unique to this experience, has provoked both skepticism and critical acclaim. Experiments on the human brain have, however, led neuroscientists to accept that 'Spirituality' is somehow hardwired within. Hence our preoccupation, through the millennia, with relationships between Nature, science, medicine, ethics and spirituality. But how is spirituality related to health? No one really knows but since body, mind and spirit are connected, the health of anyone of these affects the health of the others. This review adopts a bioscience-ethical perspective. It discusses recent observations that have forced scientists to rethink the workings of the human brain and its ability to be rewired in the regulation of common emotions such as happiness, anxiety, fear, sadness and depression. An analysis of the meditating Buddhist mind will form a point of comparison. In conclusion, a fresh concordance between secular-based science and spiritual practice provides new possibilities for the advancement of mental and social wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-34
Number of pages7
JournalEubios journal of Asian and international bioethics
Volume14
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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