Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Marsha Lucas - Fire that Judge: Moving Your Brain Towards Love

Very useful article for anyone wanting to be in a healthy relationship.If we can become mindful of those times we are tempted to be judgmental, we can begin to stop judging and be more accepting and compassionate - a sure way to improve our relationships.

Rewire Your Brain For Love

How to change your brain in ways which support healthier, more satisfying relationships.
Marsha Lucas, Ph.D., a psychologist and neuropsychologist, is the author of an upcoming book about mindfulness meditation. See full bio

Fire That Judge: Moving Your Brain Towards Love

Can firing the judge in your brain improve your chances at love?

We all know that being judgmental isn't a relationship-enhancer. And still, most of us step into that trap, doing damage to our relationships and friendships on a stubbornly regular basis. How about knocking that judge out with a one-two punch -- taking the latest neuroscientific findings about the brain and judgments, and then bringing in a Buddhist nun to finish things off?

Take a look at this new research study in the November 2009 issue of Brain Topography. The title is "Meditators and Non-Meditators: EEG Source Imaging During Resting." The researchers looked at the patterns of brain activity in people who meditate (that is, who practice noticing what their busy, defensive brains are up to and not getting carried away by it), and compared them to non-meditators. You'd expect that meditators would have different patterns of brain activity while meditating than non-meditators do.

What was different in this study? Even when they were at rest, when they were not meditating, the brains of the meditators behaved differently than the control subject. In the brains of the meditators, "appraisal systems were inhibited, while brain areas involved in the detection and integration of internal and external sensory information showed increased activation."

Judge's gavel and sounding block

In other words, the meditators' brains weren't judging. They were tuned in to, and integrating, what they were actually experiencing, inside and out -- what could be described as being "in the moment."

Even when they weren't meditating, the brains of the meditators were not getting hooked into patterns of judgment, and the activity recorded on the EEGs suggested that they were more aware of what was really happening in the moment, more present -- even during plain old rest.

This is another piece of evidence which supports that meditation is not just some state you get into for twenty minutes, but that you are changing the way your brain is wired -- so that even when you aren't meditating, you're more mindful and present, and less "stuck" in judging.

I liked that finding, but I liked it even more when, later in the same day, I came across the following "non-scientific" quote, from Pema Chödrön, an American ordained Buddhist nun in the Tibetan Vajrayana tradition:

"Love and compassion are like the weak spots in the walls of ego."

Old stone wall falling down

What I take this to mean: The defensive walls that stand between you and deeper, more loving connections with yourself and others will tumble if you let go of judgments and see the humanity of yourself and the person you're with.

Pema Chödrön managed to say in one simple sentence what the neuroscience researchers found: Practicing love and compassion, as we do in meditation, allows you to find the weak spot in the wall. When you meditate regularly, your ego (the wall) isn't as caught up in judging -- which makes room for something more real. Your brain becomes wired differently: It becomes less likely to get into a pattern of judging and being somewhere other than the present moment.

Fire the judge -- and your brain's capacity to be in the moment with your partner goes up.

Down comes the wall.

And that means there's less standing between you and a healthy relationship.

If you'd like a funny and meaningful glimpse of Pema Chödrön, here's a great short video of her, titled "This Lousy World".

And if you'd like to try a simple mindfulness meditation, I invite you to download a free one at

1 comment:

Marsha Lucas, PhD said...

I'm glad you found this helpful -- and to find your blog. Somehow I hadn't found it previously, even though I follow you on Twitter. (Maybe my next post should be about paying mindful attention...)

Thanks again.