Meditation has always been a wonderful way to calm, center, and focus the mind and spirit. Evidence out of UCLA suggests that this kind of quiet, directed introspection could also strengthen the connections between neurons and increase the amount of folding in the layers of the brain. A study by the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging shows that long-term meditators have a higher rate of gyrification, (or the amount of folding found in the cortex), which may allow practitioners to process information faster and integrate emotional and rational intelligence more efficiently.
Furthermore, there was a direct correlation between the number of years spent in a variety of meditative disciplines, including Zen, Samatha, and Vipassana, and the total folding of the cortex. After scanning thousands of points across the brain, the researchers also noted pronounced increases in gyrification in specific regions of the brain, most interestingly within the insular regions. This might suggest a relationship between the area’s autonomic, affective, and integrative aspects and mediation’s goals of self-control, awareness, and introspection.
Following a form of meditation can also help manage physical pain. A study published in the American Psychological Association’s journal, Emotion, reported that research out of the of University Montreal discovered that Zen meditators had more grey matter than non-mediators. This meant that through thickening certain areas of their cortex, particularly the anterior cingulate which regulates pain, they were able to reduce their levels of sensitivity. Even their perceptions of physical discomfort were less pronounced, as their emotional reactions were more controlled and they experienced less anticipation and anxiety. Zen thought can even help re-focus someone back to their task at hand after being interrupted by distraction much more quickly.
With such amazing results, why not take a quiet moment or two to recite a mantra, do some yoga, or take a deep breath and ponder the mysteries of the universe? Your brain may fold in on itself with joy!
Bamboo and meditation
Bambu Batu is dedicated to educating the world about the many uses and benefits of bamboo. We’ve published hundreds of articles about gardening with bamboo, farming bamboo, processing bamboo into useful products, restoring forests and landscapes with bamboo and so much more. So why is our website peppered with essays about meditation and Taoism?
For starters, there’s a distinct connection between bamboo and traditional Asian culture. Although there are species of bamboo native to five continents, the association with Asia is undeniable. But the affinity between Buddhism and bamboo goes well beyond the geographical overlap.
If you’ve ever walked through a grove of bamboo, or even sat in a bamboo tiki lounge, or especially if you’ve slept on bamboo sheets, you must have noticed how profoundly relaxing this plant can be. From the green plant to the polished poles to the woven viscose fabric, all things bamboo retain some exceptionally soothing quality.
The stems are round and smooth, with no sharp edges. The leaves cascade gracefully, to form a delicate green curtain. And when the wind blows, the leaves rustle softly while the hollow canes knock together like musical instruments.
But what I find most interesting, are the intrinsically spiritual properties of these extraordinary grasses. Bamboo is hollow, for one thing, which seems significant. In some ways, this is the secret to its flexibility and its remarkable strength-to-weight ratio.
As humans, we can imitate the emptiness of bamboo, freeing ourselves from attachments to things and ideas. Instead, we remain open to new things, tolerant of outside ideas, and always able to bend in the breeze rather than snapping in rigidity. Bamboo is adaptable, as well should be. It doesn’t make great demand on the soil, and when it’s cut down, it always manages to grow back.
Perhaps after generations of observing bamboo in their forests and gardens, the sages of the Far East recognized bamboo’s great resilience and its ability to weather adversity. In time, they found a number of traits worth emulating. As with water, the softest thing that can carve the hardest rock, bamboo is the most supple of trees, always able to stand up tall after bending so low.
See our collection of Bamboo Proverbs to glean more lessons from this innocuous grass.
Learn more about meditation and the esoteric arts
It’s a funny thing, but today we seem to have arrived at the crossroads where alternative and traditional practices intersect. Here at the House of Bamboo, we’ve been promoting alternative healing and Eastern philosophy for many years. Like yoga and bamboo, meditation has been around for thousands of years, and now we are finally embracing them all in the west.
To learn more about these and other provocative spiritual practices, check out some of the following articles:
- Bamboo in Myth and Folklore
- Feng Shui and bringing balance with bamboo
- Help Me, Wabi Sabi
- The Tao Abides
- Buddhist Sand Mandalas and Non-attachment
- Om is where the heart is
Big thanks to Morgana Matus for her focused contributions to this article!