The Neurobiology of Meditation
Your subconscious mind represents about 90% of your ability to process information. It has recorded everything you have ever experienced. It uses this information constantly to optimize every second of your life with an eye to the future. It pays attention to every sense... constantly. It processes faster and has an infinitely greater ability to multitask than your conscious mind. When we struggle with 'multitasking', what we are really saying is that we are struggling to align our conscious mind with our subconscious mind on the task at hand. Your subconscious mind actually provides your conscious mind your next thought and the next word you speak. It pulls together the thousands of little inputs and decisions creating the flow of your life. Best of all, you can align with it and guide it's efforts.
The old adage, 'When you are in your head, you are dead' refers to inadequate grounding into all of the information your subconscious mind offers. In this state of confusion, you are stuck with limited data resources and limited processing abilities. This leads to potentially poorly integrated answers especially when you are "sure you are right!". Allowing yourself to be confused or feel uncertain is actually a step in the right direction. Holding the question for a few more seconds time when you feel this way gives you time to align with your subconscious resources for 'another take' on the issue.
The Buddhist teaching of "dependant origination" describes how your conscious thoughts can get lost by a lack of connection with your subconscious mind. Each mistaken thought is "dependant" the previous mistaken thoughts and leads to the next. As time goes by all of these thoughts lead to a false "sense of self" separated from who you really are and others. Meditation allows you time with your subconscious mind to "empty your mind" of these mistaken thoughts. The first three precepts are called your 'Root Relations' or 'the three poisons'. Christians spend time in meditation to center in their faith to find and root out sinful thoughts and align with the truth.
Meditation helps you align and integrate your subconscious and conscious thoughts. This integrates your spiritual truths with your day to day decision-making. Along with these corrections to your thought life it also helps your subconscious mind to optimize the function of every bodily process. You listen more carefully and process what you hear more deeply. Your responsive are more inclusive to what is being said... and not said. Meditating on a question often creates an "AHA!" moment. Given time, your spiritual beliefs guide your subconscious mind to seemingly simple, compassionate answers that align with your beliefs.
Your subconscious and conscious thoughts are produced by interactive centers throughout your body. Each has has many other smaller circuits responsible for integrating and differentiating specific aspects of relationship within ourselves and with others. There are circuits that integrate your conscious thoughts. These integrate with others that organize your feelings and movements. The flight/fight/freeze circuits protect you. Your drive circuits look for what interests you. Your 'tend and befriend' circuits help you find and engage with others you like... and love.
Each of these circuits, and many more, have conscious and subconscious aspects. With the organizing use of your faith your subconscious mind initiates, maintains, finesses, changes, and coordinates with everything in and around you for the greater good. It does this while maintaining the optimal health of every part of our body. These subsconscious circuits require ongoing optimization which allows you to "fight the good fight". Much like how you must practise any skill, aligning yourself with the fundamentals is crucial to living life well. The fundamentals are the precepts of your faith. Meditating around your spiritual beliefs allows your conscious and subconscious minds to integrate and differentiate around problematic habits or changes in your relationships. You will tend to see more, experience what you see more accurately and respond more compassionately than otherwise possible.
Reasons Why Meditation Works
In the business of day to day life you may not have the time, interest, focus, concentration, energy to integrate all that is coming at you. You feel strain of this lack of integration with your beliefs as the intensity and acuity in life rises. A daily meditation practise helps you align in the moment and throughout the day. This mind/body alignment grows your ability to direct focus, sustain concentration, maintain interest and optimize your energy reserves.
During meditation you stimulate neuronal circuits which produce nerve growth factors. Nerves are either growing or dying through a process called neuroplasticity. Meditation allows you to direct which nerves become larger and better connected with others. Meditation allows you to expand the connections between your prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, amygdala, hippocampus and insula. This increases the resilience and integration of each of these neuronal systems with each other and your life.
A faith guided meditation practice provides more accurate perceptions in each of your sense both consciously and subconsciously. These more accurate and expanded perceptions in the present, coordinate better with past memories and future possibilities emptying your mind in a way that allows you to fill your cup with the truth.
Why Meditation Works: Developing Wisdom
Walking with your faith through daily meditation optimizes your perceptions and integrates your life lessons in a process that proves wisdom to guide your strengths. Wisdom then guides future communication multiplying the effect of your efforts. Meditation increases your ability to 'remain in the moment' and "follow the eyes of Christ". This avoid judgmentalism and maximizes your empathic resonance with others.
Succumbing to daily life stresses leads to incorporating incompletely integrated interactions and falling into the three poisons. This leads to "sin and suffering". Without intervention this only leads to further distraction from your true life purpose. In Buddhist beliefs you are offered two paths. The first path is to very predictably fall further into the suffering along the lines of dependent origination. The path from suffering to transcendent wisdom is called 'The Noble Eight-Fold Path'.
For a Christian, turning from the world's view of suffering includes two processes. The path of Justification through acceptance of Christ and Sanctification by integrating His Will into your life. Prayer and Meditation can help you listen to that "still small voice" throughout your day and see the "eyes of Christ" in everyone you meet.