Not for the first time, the entire mindfulness industry and the world of contemplative neuro science is abuzz with rumors of scientific proof that contemplative practice holds the key to solving some of the most pressing issues of our troubled times.
“Certain forms of thinking changes the brain”, Lawrence Miser, jolly good professor at Richard M Nixon University, affirms. His excitement centres on a longstanding experiment known as the “Advanced Brain Interferometer Neurological Observatory” (informally known as “the very expensive machine that goes ping”) which uses state of the art technology to take really cool color images of the brain.
Miser says that he’s 99,9 % confident that new images prove that the part of our brain that helps process critical theory and irony, the inner amygdala, appears larger in people who are habitually engaging in discursive thinking.
But what’s really interesting is what these images say about the brains of mindfulness practitioners:
They look the exact opposite!
Experienced meditators show more capacity for suppressing impulses towards critical thinking and independent, open-ended discursive cognition. In other words: meditators show a significantly lowered risk of getting lost in a thicket of views. Long-time mindfulness practitioners also appear virtually immune to subversive forms of rhetoric, such as humor, irony, teasing, and sarcasm.
“Now, these findings really just confirm what we’ve expected for a long time,” says Professor Miser. “That’s valuable in itself, but that’s not what makes us so excited.
You see, what we also found was that subjects exposed to MBSR or similar programs for more than a couple of weeks become considerably less prone to engage in activism. On the other hand, they tend to be extremely aggressive and trigger-happy when faced with a perceived threat to their newly acquired belief system. When someone mocks their faith in mindfulness, for example, these subjects show cortisol, testosterone, and adrenaline levels of the kind you’d expect in a raving lunatic. And this means we can expect a renewed interest from the military to invest in the Mindful Sniper™ Program, which in turn will guarantee continued funding for our lab here.”