People are increasingly turning to meditation for stress-relief, and scientists are gaining a better understanding of how different techniques from Buddhist, Chinese, and Vedic traditions produce different results.
A paper recently published in Consciousness and Cognition discusses three categories to organize and better understand meditation:
- Focused attention – concentrating on an object or emotion
- Open monitoring – being mindful of one’s breath or thoughts
- Automatic self-transcending meditations – the practitioner transcends their own activity, usually with a mantra
“Meditations differ in both their ingredients and their effects, just as medicines do. Lumping them all together as “essentially the same” is simply a mistake,” said Jonathan Shear, Ph.D. “The idea is that meditation is, in a sense, a ‘cognitive task,’ and EEG frequencies are known for different tasks,” said Fred Travis, Ph.D.
Focused attention, enhancing beta/gamma activity, includes meditations from Tibetan Buddhist (loving kindness and compassion), and Buddhist (Zen and Diamond Way) traditions. In Beta, you are wide-awake and alert. Beta waves range between 13-40 HZ. Neurons fire abundantly, in rapid succession. Your mind is sharp, focused. You make connections quickly, easily, and you’re primed to do work that requires your full attention. Beta brainwaves help you prepare for an exam, give a presentation, analyze and organize information and other activities where mental alertness and high levels of concentration are key to your success. Gamma waves work like the glue of the mind, holding and connecting all your senses and thought processes together in a unified whole. Higher Gamma activity also works as a natural anti-depressant, boosting your mood, empathy, and compassion. Boosting Gamma activity will increase energy and alertness making it ideal for any kind of high intensity workout.
Open monitoring, characterized by theta activity, includes meditations from Buddhist (Mindfulness), Chinese (Qigong), and Vedic (Sahaja Yoga) traditions. Theta is one of the more elusive and extraordinary brain states you can explore. It is also known as the twilight state which you normally only experience fleetingly upon waking, or drifting off to sleep. In theta, you are in a waking dream, receptivity is heightened and you are able to access knowledge and information that normally lies beyond your conscious awareness. Theta helps you access those higher levels of creativity that are essential to finding the answers you long for. These are answers you can’t find in books or from other people. They are the true answers that reside within your own subconscious mind.
Automatic self-transcending increases alpha 1 activity, included meditations from Vedic (Transcendental Meditation) and Chinese (Qigong) traditions. The Alpha state is an intensely pleasurable and relaxed state of consciousness essential to stress reduction and high levels of creativity. Artists, musicians and athletes are prolific alpha producers; so are intuitive persons. Alpha waves reduce Cortisol levels, strengthen your immune system and counteract the negative effects of stress. Alpha waves also increase the production of Melatonin to greatly improve the quality of your sleep. In Alpha, you can access the wealth of creativity that lies just below your conscious awareness – it is the gateway that leads into deeper states of consciousness. Alpha is also the home of the window frequency known as the Schumann Resonance 7.83 Hz, the resonant frequency of the earth’s electromagnetic field.
Developing a range of meditation skills can help you chose wisely for the results you are looking for. No style is “better” than the others, but it can be better for your purposes.
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