The Power of Love: 3 Studies that Prove Altruism Is the Real DealBy Matt Alesevich
At the beginning of Eckhart Tolle’s international bestseller, The Power of Now, a layman’s guide to spiritual enlightenment of sorts, he shares the tale of a beggar who’s been sitting on an old box panhandling for 30 years. A stranger stops one day and asks the man if he’s ever looked inside the box beneath him. Unamused, he assures the stranger it’s just an old box. The stranger persists, and the beggar reluctantly pries the old box open to discover a pile of gold.
Of course, Tolle’s story is one about discovering that life’s true treasure—happiness—is something ever elusive so long as we look for it outside ourselves. But popcorn spirituality aside, how does one make a meaningful withdrawal from this supposed goldmine we have within?
According to a growing number of scientific studies, altruism, the concern for others and their happiness, might be part of the answer. While seemingly paradoxical, here are three studies that show how compassion and concern come full circle.
Scanning the Happiest Man on Earth’s Brain
In June 2008, University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor Richard J. Davidson scanned the brain of Matthieu Ricard, a cellular geneticist turned Buddhist monk dubbed “the happiest man in the world.” Davidson’s team outfitted Richard’s head with over 100 EEG sensors and monitored his brain waves as he meditated on compassion. The results showed Ricard, whose new book, Altruism, was released this June, had an “abnormally larg