Normally, I prefer to write about just one or two recent scientific studies and their meaning and implications. Recently, however, there's been a flood of interesting studies published, too many to cover on an individual basis. Instead, here's 5 brand-new scientific research that either demonstrates the truth of universal spiritual principals or offers an interesting insight the can be applied to the spiritual path.
1. Meditation Strengthens the Brain. Though there have already been scores of studies published about the positive effects of meditation on the brain (read the bibliography for Chapters 23-24), this latest one explores new territory. In addition to all the other brain benefits previously discovered, it turns out that long-term meditators also have increased gyrification (which can be thought of as "folding") that directly translates to increased processing power. Meditation is an essential practice for finding bliss, as well as dozens of health benefits. If you're not already meditating, now is the time to start. I explain how to get going in a simple, fast, and effective manner in my book, The Bliss Experiment.
2. Everything Is Connected, Our Universe Is a Holistic System. All of the unpleasant noise --vehicle traffic, machinery, and so on--that we humans often pollute our environment with not only effects us but also the animal and even plant kingdoms. Human created noise impacts the choices that animals (in the case of this study, in particular, birds) make. It attracts some and repels others. In turn, because birds are key for pollinating trees and plants, this effects the growth patterns and locations of the entire plant kingdom. The point isn't whether cars and machines are "good" or "bad" in and of themselves. Rather, their mere existence creates ripples through our world in ways that we often don't understand or anticipate. There is a very tight interconnection between humans and our environment. This connection plays out at every level of existence. No one is a closed, isolated system. We are all profoundly connected and influenced by each other and our environment in myriad ways. The more we can sensitively tune into this, the greater our understanding of our Universe and our place within the great symphony of life.
3. Watching Nasty Stuff Makes us Aggressive. It's been well-documented that watching physically violent media--whether real-life news or fictional TV, films, or video games--makes us feel and behave more aggressively and violently. But this new study comes with a significant twist. Watching non-physical, interpersonal, relational aggression--things like gossiping, back-biting, social exclusion, angry confrontations, emotional bullying--as opposed to standard physical aggression, also makes us more aggressive. It's not just typically male-oriented action films or thrillers about serial killers. Watching supposedly "non-violent" things like soap operas and conflict-oriented reality television makes us just as negative and aggressive as watching violence. The more we absorb other people behaving nastily towards each other, the more it negatively impacts our own thinking. And changes in thinking, of course, directly affect our behaviors. So it's important to be very vigilant about the kind of media we absorb into our consciousness. If we want to find inner peace and lasting joy, we can't immerse ourselves in negative media, even if we think it's just "entertainment."
4. Winning Makes People More Aggressive Towards the Defeated. Speaking of aggression, a separate study just published shows that there is a strong link between winning and increased aggressiveness. When humans defeat someone at something--whether in a game or real-life situation--we tend to lose empathy for the "losers" (those whom we vanquished) and in turn become even more aggressive in our attitudes and actions. This is an important finding because not only do we live in a highly competitive society but there are many people who strongly embrace and encourage these attitudes, perhaps without realizing the full ramifications. Whether couched in terms of business competitiveness, social darwinism (survival of the fittest), or just plain machismo, there's a tendency to look at everything as if it's a competition. The truth is the opposite. Living a good life isn't a zero-sum game. That is, life doesn't require a small group of winners and a large group of losers. This kind of either/or, winner-take-all thinking is dangerous. The truth is that a healthy society should be structured in a compassionate, win-win way. We are deeply interconnected and interdependent on one another for not only basic survival but to flourish. An overly competitive mentality is not only inaccurate to how the world really works but it can create severely negative mental and emotional consequences for ourselves. Healthy people and societies should de-emphasize competition while