Prayer and meditation have been around for ages, and in today’s world, both practices play an important role in our lives where they help in relieving stress, keep our mind calm, and help us increase our spiritual awareness. What is more interesting is that scientists are attempting to understand the spiritual experience and what happens in our brains and bodies when we connect with the divine through prayer and meditation.
The study of this subject is called “neurotheology”, and although it is new, scientists have made a profound discovery. They discovered that when people are praying or spending time in meditation, their brain patterns are different.
Study Shows How Prayer and Meditation Change Our Brain Activity
The Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine, Dr. Andrew Newberg, who has studied the neuroscientific effect of religious and spiritual experiences for decades, says that prayer and meditation did, in fact, changes our brains.
In one of Newberg’s experiment, he asks Mc Dermott, a United Methodist minister to enter a darkened room and asks the minister to pray for someone else. And then Dr. Newberg injects the minister with a radioactive dye to show the blood flow to his brain. The dye slowly migrates to the parts of the brain where the blood flows is the strongest. After about twenty minutes when McDermott has gone into the highly focused state, the image from the computer screen shows increased activity in the frontal lobes and the language area of the brain. This is the part of the brain that activates during the conversation.
Therefore, Dr. Newberg comes to believe that when people are praying or meditating, the activity is similar to having a conversation with someone. He says, “When we study Buddhist meditation where they are visualizing something, we might expect to see a change or increased activity in the visual part of the brain.”
After the incident, Dr. Newberg continues and did the same experiment with Michael Baime, a doctor of the University of Pennsylvania and a Tibetan Buddhist who has meditated for at least an hour a day for the past 40 years. And guess what, Dr. Newberg found the same brain activity increased pattern in the frontal lobe.
Focusing Affects Your Brain and Your Reality
Now you have learned that prayer and meditation did affect our brain activity, what should you do with prayer or meditation with your life? Dr. Newberg says, “The more you focus on something — whether that’s math or auto racing or football or God — the more that becomes your reality, the more it becomes written into the neural connections of your brain.”
When we focus on a certain thought and when visualize a certain thing in our mind, we tend to increase the brain activity in that particular area. And because our brain cannot differentiate between what is real and what is imagined, our brain tends to create neural connections to make body feels that way.
For example, try to close your eyes and imagine you pick a big yellow lemon from your kitchen. You then pick a knife and cut the lemon into half. See the picture vividly in your mind and feel the texture of lemon. Now, visualize that you take one half of the lemon and then squeeze the juices into your mouth. If you vividly picture this practice, you will have more saliva in your mouth. Although this is only happening in your mind, your mind makes it real. And thus, your body will create the feeling and follow what your brain tells it to do.
Visualization Improves Your Skills
Visualization is one of the most powerful mental rehearsal techniques in the sports industry. Many years ago, researchers conducted a study on a group of basketball players. The researcher divided the basketball players into three groups and tested their free throws skill.
The first group practiced free throws every day for an hour. The second group just visualized themselves practicing the free throw in their minds. And the third group did nothing. After thirty days, the researcher discovered that the third group did not improve, which was expected. The first group that went through the actual training improved their free throw skill by 24%. And to the researcher’s astonishment, the second group who train through visualization improved their skill by 23%, without even touching the ball.
Visualization is a practice that focused your thoughts on something that you desire. The same goes for prayer and meditation. When you pray for something, you are actually focusing your thoughts on it, and this is why Dr. Newberg says that the more you focus on something, the more it can become your reality.
The Importance of Prayer and Meditation in Your Daily Life
It has been proven that prayer and meditation can directly influence our brain activity and neural patterns, hence, it is extremely important to understand and make good use of these two powerful practices that can shape your life and destiny.
First, studies have found that prayer and meditation are able to create calmness within ourselves. We feel calm when we believe that there is a higher power to support and help us and to give us guidance with hope. Not only that, prayer and meditation also relieve our stress and make us feel happy, grateful, and elevate our mood.
Furthermore, when you pray and meditate, you can choose to concentrate your thoughts on something that you want in your life. Wherever the focus goes, energy flows. When you focus your thoughts on a certain area of life where you want to improve and become better, it will eventually become your reality because you are changing your thoughts on a subconscious level. This is why the Law of Attraction works and how prayer and meditation play a vital role in your life.
Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist says that you can change your brain with experience and training, just like exercising to your muscle. He says, “You can sculpt your brain just as you’d sculpt your muscles if you went to the gym. Our brains are continuously being sculpted, whether you like it or not, wittingly or unwittingly.” And since you are going to condition your brain in a certain way, you can choose to consciously practice your brain for what you want by praying and meditating for a better life.