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brain science

 

Today, find a point of stillness:

brief, but precious slight, but full small, but luminously real. 

Find a point stillness in the balance of all things

between the breathing out and breathing in.

Na'ama Yehuda

 

the relaxation response

click on this image to experience the relaxation response

Recent research has shown a chain of processes within the human brain that mediate our access to higher states of consciousness.

 

The sequence is as follows: the pre-frontal cortex in our brain is involved with thoughts, images and daydreams, as well as attention. By focusing our mind in one-pointed attention, for instance on a mantra, we encourage increased activity in these attention cells.

 

As our focus deepens, the activity in the cells involved in thoughts and images on the contrary decreases considerably; this is reflected in a LESSENING OF BETA WAVES, our thinking waves - the ‘ego’ part of our consciousness.

 

Prolonged one-pointed attention also activates cells in the temporal lobe and increased activity there triggers in turn changes in the limbic system, the region dealing with emotional response, allowing A SWITCH FROM THE SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM (FLIGHT OR FIGHT) TO THE PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM  (REST AND RELAX),  THE 'RELAXATION RESPONSE'. The emotion of fear expressed in the strong survival ‘flight or fight’ response changes to one of acceptance, relaxation and tranquillity, the ‘relaxation response’; these changes are reflected in the INCREASE IN ALPHA AND THETA WAVES.

 

‘The Blissful Brain’ – Neuroscience and proof of the power of meditation’ Dr Shanida Nataraja. 


brain waves and meditation

'To pay attention is our endless and proper work.' Mary Oliver

The measurement of brain waves in meditation is a relatively recent development, as scientists strive to discover how this ancient practice of meditation can reduce stress, increase feelings of well being, and benefit overall health, among other advantages. It is of specific use to help one increase alertness, relaxation and reflection even in “waking” states.  Brain waves in meditation are predominantly those discussed below, while those in normal consciousness are of the Beta type 

 

 

Each type, as discussed below, has specific benefits. Brain waves in meditation shift through various stages.

 

The most common brain waves in meditation are Alpha waves.

These alpha brain waves in meditation basically promote changes in the autonomic nervous system that calm it. Regular contemplative practice of this type reverses the roles of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems so that the normally dominant sympathetic nervous system takes a back seat to the normally secondary parasympathetic nervous system. This lowers blood pressure and heart rate and lowers the amount of stress hormones in the body, as well as calming the mind. One of these stress hormones is cortisol, incidentally, which has been shown to encourage weight gain when it is elevated over the long term

 

Gamma brain waves in meditation also greatly increase.

Gamma waves denote intense focus and are usually weak and transient in normal brain activity.  In experienced meditation practitioners, it was particularly noted that gamma brain waves in meditation were especially high in the left prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is an exciting finding, since this area is often associated with decreased anxiety and fear, positive emotions, and a decrease in depressive feelings or symptoms.


Theta brain waves in meditation are said to help open the “third eye” for practitioners.

[...] In practical terms, theta brainwaves in meditation also invoke a deep sense of relaxation and also encourage creativity and make problem solving and memorization easier. Most people have also experienced a theta state, for example, in the condition known as “highway hypnosis,” wherein drivers can perform driving tasks so automatically that they don’t remember making the drive home from their office. Theta waves also present themselves for most people when they do any task that is automatic or nearly so, such as folding clothes, washing hair, etc.

 

Finally, Delta brain waves in meditation are the slowest of all. Everyone experiences delta waves in deep sleep, but delta brain waves in meditation are said to help experienced practitioners access the unconscious mind. Their existence may also be part of the reason that newly learned skills may be best integrated if one “sleeps on them," since they are associated with people's ability to integrate newly learned tasks.

 

by Amy barnfeld, projectmeditation.org


mindfulness and meditation rewires our brains

 

scans show mindfulness meditation brain-boost

A short BBC report with Dr Elena Antonova, neuroscientist at King's College

click here

 

meditation encourages neuroplasticity

Below is also a wonderful and short talk about neuroplasticity occuring after meditation training by Sara W. Lazar, PhD is an Associate Researcher in the Psychiatry Department at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School.

 

 

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The first thing you discover is

a kind of emptiness,

a silence,

a presence which doesn't seem to have content to it,

like looking up

at a limitless sky. 



 

That boundary-less place

inside you

is your own consciousness,

your awareness. 



 

When you relax into it,

you realize that it's also full -

it is everything. 



 

You realize this presence is

what you really are: Love.


 

Arjuna Ardagh

 

 

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