When I tell people about my on-again, off-again meditation practice, I share a National Geographic story about the science of the mind. In the article, neuroscientists wire up Buddhist monks:
For the past several years Richard Davidson and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been studying brain activity in Tibetan monks, both in meditative and non-meditative states…When Davidson ran the experiment on a senior Tibetan lama skilled in meditation, the lama’s baseline of activity proved to be much farther to the left of anyone previously tested. Judging from this one study, at least, he was quantifiably the happiest man in the world.
That last sentence had a big impact on me. Here was a kind of proof that meditation rewires the brain – in a good way. In a measurable way.
So I tried it. And when I did, I started giggling.
It was January 2006 when I first tried meditation. I downloaded a podcast, sat in an uncomfortable, half-hearted lotus position, closed my eyes, and listed to the instructor. Then, laughter. Uncontrollable, tear-inducing laughter.
After that first time, I didn’t laugh anymore. But boy, what at first impression.
Then it happened again when I tried a chakra meditation, concentrating on specific centers of the body. There again, right when I started to focus on the heart and throat chakra, I started giggling like a fool.
Today it happened a third time. This time, it was thanks to a simple message on a simple website playing a simple song (courtesy of Ben Brooks). The music started, my shoulders slumped in relaxation, and – what do you know? – I started laughing uncontrolably.
What’s going on here?
For me, I think there’s a bit of self-hypnosis involved. It’s almost like there’s some magic affecting my susceptible brain, and what I feel is the release of tension. Not being used to that feeling, I start laughing. It turns out it doesn’t even take meditation to kick start my giggle reflex. It could be something as simple as soothing music.
This is all evidence in support of what I read years ago in that National Geographic article – that meditation, or a relaxed state, changes the chemistry of the brain. What I feel, as a result, is a release of tension. And that feels funny.
But good. It feels really, really good.