B2 High-Intermediate UK 1834 Folder Collection
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Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I’m Neil.
And I’m Sam.
Neil: How do you relax, Sam?
Sam: Well, I love watching movies and I go swimming.
Neil : One thing that millions of people around the
world do is meditate to relax and that’s
the subject of our programme. We’ll be
looking at experiments by scientists in
the US into the Buddhist practice of meditation.
We’ll find out how Tibetan monks use meditation
techniques to focus better and manage
their emotions.
Sam: But what exactly is meditation? People just
sitting cross-legged on the floor, thinking
of nothing?!
Neil: Well, I think there’s a bit more to it than that. After
all, Buddhist meditation is an ancient practice
– even science, according to some. Tibetan
Buddhism, as embodied by the Dalai Lama, is
what many people think of when you mention
meditation. Which brings me to my quiz question.
Sam: Which is..?
Neil : What is the meaning of the Tibetan word for
‘meditation’? Is it…
a) to relax, b) to feel blissful, or
c) to become familiar.
Sam: I think it must be either a) to relax, or
b) to feel blissful because they sound like
positive states of mind. But I’m not sure
about calling meditation a ‘science’, Neil.
Isn’t it more like a philosophy or
a lifestyle?
Neil: Not according to Professor Richard Davidson
of the Center for Healthy Minds. He spoke
to Alejandra Martins of BBC World Service
programme 'Witness History' about his remarkable
scientific experiment which proved for the
first time that meditation can actually change
the brain.
Richard Davidson: When I first met His Holiness the Dalai Lama
it was 1972. He challenged me, he said, ‘I
understand that you’ve been using tools
of modern neuroscience to study anxiety
and depression. Why can’t you use those same
tools to study kindness and to study compassion?’
Neil: Neuroscience is the scientific study of the
workings of the human brain and nervous system.
Professor Davidson measured negative mental
states like depression, in contrast to positive
attitudes such as compassion – that’s
the wish for everyone to be free from suffering.
Sam: Right. In his test, Buddhist monks sent out
loving thoughts to everyone equally – to
friends, enemies and strangers as well as
to themselves.
Neil: Compassionate thoughts such as ‘May you
be happy and peaceful’, ‘May you not suffer’.
And the results were astonishing!
Sam: What did they show, Neil?
Neil: Very high levels of gamma oscillations – now
that’s brain waves showing increased connections
between different parts of the brain. This
is what you or I might experience as a flash
of insight – a moment of sudden understanding
and clarity. For us, it might last less than
a second.
But for these experienced Buddhist
monks, the gamma waves lasted minutes!
Furthermore, as Richard Davidson explains,
brain changes as a result of meditation
can be long lasting.
Richard Davidson: There is no question at this point in time
based upon the current
science that has been conducted over the last
10 years, that meditation can change the brain
in enduring ways; and the circuits that are
involved are multiple, but they include circuits
that are important for regulating attention
and regulating emotion.
Neil: So, this was proof of neuroplasticity – our
brain’s ability to change in response to
conscious effort. In other words, the meditating
monks were intentionally reshaping their minds.
Sam: And this was possible because the brain circuits
– different parts of the brain responsible
for different functions – start talking
to each other in new ways that created enduring
– meaning long-lasting - changes.
Neil: The meditators gained insight into how their
minds work. They were more focused and emotionally
balanced and less likely to get upset. How
cool is that?
Sam: Pretty cool! But these Tibetan monks sound
like Buddhas! They spend thousands of hours
sitting in meditation. I’ve got to go to
work, Neil! What good is meditation to me?
Neil : Well, Sam, in fact the experiment showed that
30 minutes of meditation a day significantly
increased feelings of loving kindness in new
meditators too!
Sam: OK, maybe I’ll give meditation a go after
all. But not before I find out the answer
to today’s quiz please.
Neil: Yes, I asked you what the Tibetan word for
‘meditation’ meant.
Sam: And I said either a) to relax, or b) to feel
blissful. And I’m feeling pretty confident
of getting it right this time, Neil.
Neil: Well, Sam, if the answer came to you in a
flash of insight then I’m afraid you need
more practice because the correct answer is
c) to become familiar, in this case with more
positive thoughts and emotions.
Sam: You mean emotions like kindness and compassion
– the thought wishing everyone to be free
from their problems. What other
vocabulary did we learn today, Neil?
Neil: Well, it turns out meditation is actually
a science. Neuroscience in fact, which is
the study of the human brain and nervous system.
Meditation experiments proved neuroplasticity
- the brain’s ability to restructure.
Sam: By generating and sending out the compassionate
wish, ‘May all beings be happy’, Buddhist
meditators change their brain circuits – different
parts of the brain responsible for different
functions. And this is an enduring change,
meaning it lasts and increases over a long
period of time.
Neil: I must say, Sam, you took it pretty well when
you guessed the wrong answer just then.
Sam: Thanks, Neil. I don’t like getting upset,
so I’m trying out some breathing meditation!
Breathing in the positive, breathing out the negative…
Neil: Join us again soon for another interesting
discussion on 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. Bye for now! Bye Bye. 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English.
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Meditation and your brain: 6 Minute English

1834 Folder Collection
Annie Huang published on March 20, 2020
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