Part one: Altered Traits”: Different methods of focus while Meditating


“These various mind training methods drive the brain in different ways.


During compassion practice, the amygdala is turned up in volume, while in focused attention on something like the breath, the amygdala is turned down.


Meditators are learning how to change their relationship to their emotions with different practices.


The amygdala’s circuits light up when we are exposed to someone feeling a strong negative emotion—fear, anger, and the like.


This amygdala signal alerts the brain that something important is happening; the amygdala acts as neural radar detecting the salience of whatever we experience.


If what’s going on seems urgent, like a woman screaming in fear, the amygdala has extensive connections to recruit other circuitry to respond.


Meanwhile the insula uses its connections to the body’s visceral organs (like the heart) to ready the body for active engagement (increasing blood flow to the muscles, for example).


Once the brain primes the body to respond, those who have meditated on compassion are more likely to act to help someone.


But then there’s the question of how long such effects of mental training in compassion last.


Is this only a temporary state, or does it become a lasting trait?

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