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Fall 2009...

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47 www.hplusmagazine.com ResouRces Andrew Newberg Homepage http: //www.andrewnewberg.com Andrew Newberg Books http: //www.amazon.com /s /ref= nb_ss_ gw_1_10?url = search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords = andre w+newberg+m.d&sprefix= Andrew+New AN: It seems like forgiveness comes into play in the context of self and how the self relates to the world. We make the argument that in order to forgive someone else you first have to retool your notion of self to one that starts to see the damage done (by whatever action caused this need for forgiveness) as part of a new self. Essentially you need to reinvent yourself whenever you forgive, to create a new version that can transcend the older, now damaged, one. h+: What has all this work taught you about human consciousness? AN: It's taught me that our normal sense of consciousness is a limitation. And if we want to truly understand consciousness we're going to need to somehow get outside of it to answer any of the real big questions. How to do this is the question, but I definitely believe we're going to have to find a way if we really want these answers. Steven Kotler is the author of West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief, The Angle Quickest for Flight and the forthcoming A Small, Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue, Animal Altruism and the Meaning of Life. The images were obtained during an ongoing study of the neurophysiologic correlates of meditation. Briefly, we have been studying highly-experienced Tibetan Buddhist meditators using a brain imaging technology called single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). SPECT imaging allows us to image the brain and determine which areas are active by measuring blood flow. The more blood flow an area has, the more active it is. The images show the results from a baseline scan (i.e. at rest) on the left and during a "peak" of meditation on the right. Two sets of images were taken, showing slightly different parts of the brain. The first image shows decreased activity in the parietal lobe (lower right shows up as yellow rather than the red on the left image) during meditation. This area of the brain is responsible for giving us a sense of our orientation in space and time. We hypothesized that blocking all sensory and cognitive input into this area during meditation is associated with the sense of no space and no time that is so often described in meditation. The second image shows that the front part of the brain, which is usually involved in focusing attention and concentration, is more active during meditation (increased red activity). This makes sense since meditation requires a high degree of concentration. We also found that the more activity increased in the frontal lobe, the more activity decreased in the parietal lobe. The first set of images (Prayer1) demonstrates increased activity in the frontal lobes (same as Buddhists) but increased activity in the inferior parietal lobe (the language area). This latter finding makes sense because the nuns are doing a verbally-based practice (prayer) rather than visualization (Buddhists). The second set of images (Prayer2) shows that the nuns, like the Buddhists, also decreased the activity in the orientation area (superior parietal lobes). A more thorough description of the results from this study can be found in the books by Andrew Newberg entitled, How God Changes Your Brain (Ballantine, 2009); Why We Believe What We Believe (Free Press, 2006); and Why God Won't Go Away (Ballantine, 2001). Orientation Area Language Center Orientation Area Language Center

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