We are living in an age of narcissism where everyone is desperate to be admired and people try to grab attention for some reason or other. When anyone suffering from this `look at me’ attitude manages to be in the limelight they appear happy , but is this for real? If they are genuinely happy , why are they intent on seeking approval?
A recent study published in the Journal of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience tries to find an answer to this perplexing question by looking at two brain regionsmedial prefrontal cortex and ventral striatum. While the medical prefrontal cortex is associated with self-referential thinking, the ventral striatum region is associated with feeling good. It was found that people who are in love with themselves have poor connectivity between both regions which means that although they are obsessed with themselves, internally they don’t feel good and that is why they seek external admiration.
Till a certain point, most of us are convinced that the `ego’ is our true Self.But meditation encourages us to go deeper within ourselves and one day we realise that the ego is nothing but an illusion. We are a small portion of the universal consciousness bound in a body . Due to our identification with the body we forget our true nature and develop an ego which is limited, fearful, greedy and narcissistic. All our emotional and psychological problems emanate from this ego and erroneously we try to solve all these difficulties by trying to strengthen our ego. To be happy we must dissolve our ego and meditation is a perfect method to do this. After a rigorous practice of meditation f rigorous practice of meditation for years, the veil of ignorance lifts and we get in touch with universal consciousness which is our true essence. Satchitananda is all bliss.
Once again, research in neuroscience has confirmed that the positive effects of meditation reported across ages by different spiritual schools are not simply in the mind’s eye; there are specific brain changes that accompany meditation. A paper in the Journal of Social Neuroscience revealed that after practice of meditation there is a significant decrease in signals in areas of the brain close to the midline. These areas include the anterior insular, the left ventral and the anterior cingulate cortex, the right medial pre-frontal cortex, and the bilateral precuneus.
In psychological functioning, all these areas show great activity when someone experiences self-referential thought and narcissism. The decrease in signals in these areas indicates that as someone progresses in meditation, their preoccupation with ego and its concerns lessens significantly . It means that meditation perhaps downregulates areas of the brain associated with the ego and helps in taking us closer to the absolute consciousness.
Bliss comes in abundance when we are able to dismantle our ego. But our identification with the ego is so strong that despite seeking bliss we keep away from it because we fear that we will lose ourselves. But do we really lose ourselves or do we find ourselves? The words of mystic Kabir highlight that in this state, there is neither loss nor gain but only absolute consciousness. He writes, “Herat herat he sakhi, rahya Kabir herai, bund samana samund mein so kat hero jai. Herat herat he sakhi, rahya Kabir herai, samund samana bund mein so kat hero jai.“ In the blissful state of evolved consciousness, the dewdrop (individual consciousness) falls into the ocean (absolute consciousness) and the ocean falls into the dewdrop.