In an interview with Tami Simon as part of The Mindfulness and Meditation Summit, Dr. Richie Davidson spoke of the positive impacts of meditation both on our behaviour and our brain. His presentation was based on the book, Altered Traits, that he co-authored with Daniel Goleman.
Among the many points that Dr. Davidson makes is the statement that there is a distinct increase in benefits gained for people who undertake retreats in addition to engaging in daily meditation practice. He surmises that the benefits are broader and more sustainable for retreat practitioners because we are invariably away from our normal daily environment and the associated reminders and triggers and are assisted by a leader who can guide us and provide feedback.
However, you do not have to go on retreat or undertake 10,000 hours of practice like full-time, contemplative monks, to realise the benefits of meditation.
What is important is sustaining practice – daily practice to build new habits and enhance our brain functioning. The benefits grow with regularity of practice and the longer we sustain meditation practice in our lives. So, the more experienced meditators are likely to gain greater benefits than those who persist only over a short period of time.
Scientific research has reinforced the positive impact of meditation on our behaviour . We are better able to maintain focus and handle stress, are less reactive to triggers and more resilient in the face of difficult situations. While we retain the capacity to experience the whole breadth of emotions [and may increase our capacity for expression of emotions], we are more in control of our response to these emotions.
A key behavioural change that has been evidenced in research is the reduction in “unconscious bias” and the negative impact of associated assumptions. Dr. Davidson stated that the research highlights the fact that these particular changes “endure beyond the meditative state” and pervade a person’s life and way of being-in-the-world.
As a person practices meditation more and more, the positive after-effects become more enduring and habituated. Dr. Davidson instanced the personal benefit of meditation for himself as a “reduction in volatility at work” in response to workplace triggers – a behavioural change readily acknowledged by his colleagues over time.
As we grow in mindfulness through sustained meditation practice, we are able to realise not only increasing benefits but also benefits that are more enduring and integrated into our daily behaviour and daily lives.
By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)