Just Sit StillGlad.is Blog, Julianna Raye
Last year, I got an email about a unique study being conducted at UCLA. Researchers were looking for volunteers with extensive meditation experience. They were conducting MRIs to compare meditators' brains to non-meditators. This intrigued me. Would they find something significant about my brain? How significant? I'm competitive by nature, so I found the notion that my brain could somehow reflect the extent of my practice both satisfying and unnerving. Satisfying, because it might hold evidence validating my inner experience to the outside world. Unnerving, because compared to other meditators of equal experience, I wondered whether I'd stack up? Yes, I had brain performance anxiety! What if they took one look at my brain and said: "You've been practicing for 17 years? Oh honey, find some other hobby!" I contacted Eileen Luders, who headed the study, and offered to participate. After filling out a questionnaire, I was accepted and assigned a date and time to arrive. I've had MRIs before and I've never had a problem with the process. I don't mind tight spaces as long as I'm not being poked at! The actual event was completely painless, lasting about 30 minutes or so. Since I couldn't move my arms, it helped to know that if my nose began to itch I could just use it as a window of opportunity to practice my mindfulness skills. In my opinion, that's one of the great powers of mindfulness practice: You can do it any time, anywhere. At one point the chamber rattled vigorously, which was a new experience for me. I enjoyed the vibrations and let myself feel completely disoriented and jostled. I even dozed off. Usually, we associate putting ourselves in equipment like that with having a problem. It was heartening, even exciting to think I was participating in a study to further our understanding of the human mind and of meditation's effect on it.