Tag Archives: Meditation

Your Brain on Meditation – Technology Review

Ommmm Meditators have more control over how they respond to stimuli such as pain. Credit: AISPIX/shutterstock

Studies have shown that ­meditating regularly can help relieve chronic pain, but the neural mechanisms ­underlying the relief were unclear. Now, ­researchers from MIT, Harvard, and Massachusetts General ­Hospital have found a possible explanation.

In a recent study published in the journal Brain Research Bulletin, the researchers found that people trained to meditate over an eight-week period were better able to control a specific type of brain waves, called alpha rhythms.

“These activity patterns are thought to minimize distractions, to diminish the likelihood stimuli will grab your attention,” says Christopher Moore, PhD ’98, an investigator at the ­McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT and senior author of the paper. “Our data indicate that meditation ­training makes you better at focusing, in part by allowing you to better regulate how things that arise will impact you.”

Several different types of brain waves help regulate the flow of information between brain cells. Alpha waves, the focus of this study, flow through cells in the brain’s cortex, where sensory information is processed. The alpha waves help suppress irrelevant or distracting sensory information.

A 1966 study showed that a group of Buddhist monks who meditated regularly had elevated alpha rhythms across their brains. In the new study, the researchers followed 12 subjects who had never meditated before and looked at the waves’ role in a specific part of the brain—cells of the sensory cortex that process tactile information from the hands and feet. Half the participants were told not to meditate, while the other half were trained in a technique called mindfulness-based stress reduction. The first two weeks of training were devoted to learning to pay close attention to body sensations.

After eight weeks, the subjects who had been trained in meditation showed larger changes in the size (amplitude) of their alpha waves when asked to pay attention to a certain body part—for example, the left foot. In addition, these changes in wave size occurred more rapidly in the meditators.

Subjects in this study did not suffer from chronic pain, but the findings suggest that in pain sufferers who meditate, the beneficial effects may come from an ability to essentially turn down the volume on pain signals. “They learn to be aware of where their attention is focused and not get stuck on the painful area,” says ­Catherine Kerr, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and a lead author of the paper.

The subjects trained in meditation also reported that they felt less stress than the nonmeditators. The researchers are considering follow-up studies in patients who suffer from chronic pain as well as in cancer patients, who have also been shown to benefit from meditation.

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Three Ways to Bring Meditation into the Chaos of Daily Life – by Dumb Little Man



By now, almost everyone is aware of the powerful benefits of meditation. When we become conscious of our breathing and direct our awareness inward, our body relaxes, our blood pressure and heart rate drop, and our brain state shifts from anxiety producing beta waves to the smoother experience of alpha waves.

Modern neuroscience now confirms what yogis, monks, and saints have known for years – meditation is good for the mind, body, and soul.

But here’s the problem – who has the time? It would be great to spend two hours each day at an ashram or a retreat center, sitting on a meditation pillow in serene silence. But most of us have jobs to go to, families to care for, and errands to run. In the midst of the chaos of daily life, we simply don’t have the luxury of meditating all day like monks in a monastery.

There is, however, a simple solution to this problem. It requires that we rethink the very nature of meditation. It requires a shift from “monk-style meditation” – where meditation occurs in isolation from the rest of our day – to “anywhere meditation” – where it occurs in the midst of life’s chaos.

We don’t need more time to meditate. We just need to learn to meditate in any situation – not just at a yoga studio or on a mountain retreat but in a traffic jam or an airport security line.

This is the kind of practice that Ralph Waldo Emerson describes in “Self-Reliance.” As he says, “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

How do you bring meditation into the chaos of daily life?

It’s All About the Breath

You can get lost in the details of meditation. You can become obsessed with posture, mantras (repeated phrases), and mudras (finger locks). But reduced to its essence, meditation is all about the breath. We always breathe, but, when we meditate, we breathe consciously. We bring our awareness to each inhale and exhale. So while you may not be able to sit in lotus pose during a board meeting, that doesn’t mean that you can’t meditate.

No matter what the situation, you can always bring attention to your breath and work toward lengthening each inhale and exhale. No one else even needs to know you’re doing it.

Finding the Gaps

All of us, no matter how busy, have small gaps in our day that are perfect for meditation. It might be the five-minute wait in line at the grocery store, the 10-minutes you spend stuck in traffic, or the two minutes you spend waiting for your computer to start up. In these moments, try shifting from frustration to meditation. Try bringing your attention to the breath and using these gaps as unexpected opportunities for calming the mind and body.

Meditative Multitasking

Finding gaps in the day gives you a time to go fully into meditation. But you can also bring meditation into almost any workday task.

Take meetings. In my experience, most meetings only require about 50% of our attention. You need to keep tabs on the flow of the conversation and offer your input when needed. But this leaves about 50% of your attention open for meditation. So rather than getting bored, try meditating. Experiment with bringing your attention to the breath as you follow the flow of the meeting. With practice, you can learn to meditate while doing just about any task – while checking emails, talking on the phone, or commuting to work.

You may never have a two-hour chunk of each day to devote to meditating. You may never have the time to sit cross-legged on the banks of a river or on the beach for hours each morning.

But if you master the art of “anywhere meditation,” that shouldn’t stop you from spending hours each day deep in meditation. The key is to shift from meditation as a separate activity performed in serene settings to meditation as a moment-to-moment way of being.

What do you think? Have you experimented with this shift from “monk-style meditation” to “anywhere meditation”? It’s super simple so why not give it a shot?

Written on 4/28/2011 by Nate Klemp. Nate earned his PhD at Princeton and is a professor at Pepperdine University. He founded LifeBeyondLogic.com, a website dedicated to exploring philosophy as an art of living. You can follow him on Twitter @LifeBeyondLogic and on Facebook. Download a free copy of his new ebook, Finding Reality: Thoreau’s Lessons for Life in the Digital Age. Photo Credit: follow instructions

Transcendental Meditation Improves Brain Functioning In Students With ADHD

students in the study

Students with ADHD practiced Transcendental Meditation 10 minutes twice a day at school during a study to measure brain functioning and cognitive development. Credit: Maharishi University of Management

A random-assignment controlled study published today in Mind & Brain, The Journal of Psychiatry found improved brain functioning and decreased symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, in students practicing the Transcendental Meditation® (TM) technique. The paper, “ADHD, Brain Functioning, and Transcendental Meditation Practice,” is the second published study demonstrating Transcendental Meditation’s ability to help students with attention-related difficulties. Included in this report is a link to a free digital version of this journal that includes the referenced study.

The first exploratory study, published in Current Issues in Education, followed a group of middle school students diagnosed with ADHD who meditated twice a day in school. After 3 months, researchers found over 50% reductions in stress, anxiety, and ADHD symptoms. During the study, a video was made of some students discussing what it felt like to have ADHD, and how those experiences changed after 3 months of regular Transcendental Meditation practice.

In this second study, lead author, neuroscientist Fred Travis, PhD, director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition, joined principal investigator Sarina J. Grosswald, EdD, a George Washington University-trained cognitive learning specialist, and co-researcher William Stixrud, PhD, a prominent Silver Spring, Maryland, clinical neuropsychologist, to investigate the effects of Transcendental Meditation practice on task performance and brain functioning in 18 ADHD students, ages 11-14 years.

The study was conducted over a period of 6 months in an independent school for children with language-based learning disabilities in Washington, DC. The study showed improved brain functioning, increased brain processing, and improved language-based skills among ADHD students practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique.

A local TV news station reported on the study in-progress during the first 3 months.

Futurity.org – Should Marines be trained to meditate?

Silhouette of a soldier

Mindfulness training—the technique of bringing full attention to present experience and holding it without judgment or emotional engagement, and returning to the present each time the mind wanders—could offer soldiers protection from post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders. It might provide clarity of thinking needed for soldiers fighting in challenging and ambiguous counterinsurgency zones. (Credit: iStockphoto)

U. PENN (US)—Just as physical conditioning, weapons training, and fighting skills prepare soldiers for the rigors of combat, meditation practice may give them the mental capacity to withstand the trauma of war.

Amishi Jha, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, is investigating how brain functions can be improved with exercises like stress reduction, mindfulness training, and long-term meditation practices.

Mindfulness training is the technique of deliberately bringing full attention to present experience and holding it there moment to moment, without judgment or emotional engagement, and returning to the present each time the mind wanders.

The clinical value of meditation practice for treating physical and psychological disorders is widely recognized, Jha says. There are more than 250 U.S. medical centers offering mindfulness-based stress-reduction programs.

To investigate the protective effects of mindfulness practices on soldiers, Jha and Elizabeth Stanley, assistant professor of security studies at Georgetown University, provided mindfulness training to Marines preparing for deployment in Iraq. Their findings were published in the journal Emotion and featured in Joint Force Quarterly, the advisory journal of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The training was given to one group of 31 soldiers but not to a control group of 17. In the months prior to deployment, soldiers undergo intense training for physical endurance and mission-critical operational skills, as well as “stress-inoculation” training, which helps habituate them to the extreme mental rigors of combat.

During this period, Jha and Stanley provided the Marines with mindfulness-based mind fitness training, which helped them cope with the pre-deployment training and the stresses of leaving family to face the uncertainties of war.

The eight-week program used mindfulness exercises like focused attention on the breath and mindful movement. Participants kept track of the time they practiced the formal meditation exercises outside the classroom.

Jha evaluated the protective influence of the mindfulness training on working memory and the ability of Marines to regulate emotion. “Our findings suggest that, just as daily physical exercise leads to physical fitness, engaging in mindfulness exercises on a regular basis may improve mind-fitness,” she says.

“Working memory is an important feature of mind-fitness. Not only does it safeguard against distraction and emotional reactivity, but it also provides a mental workspace to ensure quick and considered decisions and action plans.”

Mindfulness training, the researchers suggest, could offer some protection to combatants from post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders, and it might provide the clarity of thinking needed for soldiers fighting in challenging and ambiguous counterinsurgency zones.

“Building mind-fitness with mindfulness training may help anyone who must maintain peak performance in the face of extremely stressful circumstances,” Jha contends, “from first responders, relief workers and trauma surgeons, to professional and Olympic athletes.”

More University of Pennsylvania health news: www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/

Futurity.org – Should Marines be trained to meditate?

Silhouette of a soldier

Mindfulness training—the technique of bringing full attention to present experience and holding it without judgment or emotional engagement, and returning to the present each time the mind wanders—could offer soldiers protection from post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders. It might provide clarity of thinking needed for soldiers fighting in challenging and ambiguous counterinsurgency zones. (Credit: iStockphoto)

U. PENN (US)—Just as physical conditioning, weapons training, and fighting skills prepare soldiers for the rigors of combat, meditation practice may give them the mental capacity to withstand the trauma of war.

Amishi Jha, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, is investigating how brain functions can be improved with exercises like stress reduction, mindfulness training, and long-term meditation practices.

Mindfulness training is the technique of deliberately bringing full attention to present experience and holding it there moment to moment, without judgment or emotional engagement, and returning to the present each time the mind wanders.

The clinical value of meditation practice for treating physical and psychological disorders is widely recognized, Jha says. There are more than 250 U.S. medical centers offering mindfulness-based stress-reduction programs.

To investigate the protective effects of mindfulness practices on soldiers, Jha and Elizabeth Stanley, assistant professor of security studies at Georgetown University, provided mindfulness training to Marines preparing for deployment in Iraq. Their findings were published in the journal Emotion and featured in Joint Force Quarterly, the advisory journal of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The training was given to one group of 31 soldiers but not to a control group of 17. In the months prior to deployment, soldiers undergo intense training for physical endurance and mission-critical operational skills, as well as “stress-inoculation” training, which helps habituate them to the extreme mental rigors of combat.

During this period, Jha and Stanley provided the Marines with mindfulness-based mind fitness training, which helped them cope with the pre-deployment training and the stresses of leaving family to face the uncertainties of war.

The eight-week program used mindfulness exercises like focused attention on the breath and mindful movement. Participants kept track of the time they practiced the formal meditation exercises outside the classroom.

Jha evaluated the protective influence of the mindfulness training on working memory and the ability of Marines to regulate emotion. “Our findings suggest that, just as daily physical exercise leads to physical fitness, engaging in mindfulness exercises on a regular basis may improve mind-fitness,” she says.

“Working memory is an important feature of mind-fitness. Not only does it safeguard against distraction and emotional reactivity, but it also provides a mental workspace to ensure quick and considered decisions and action plans.”

Mindfulness training, the researchers suggest, could offer some protection to combatants from post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders, and it might provide the clarity of thinking needed for soldiers fighting in challenging and ambiguous counterinsurgency zones.

“Building mind-fitness with mindfulness training may help anyone who must maintain peak performance in the face of extremely stressful circumstances,” Jha contends, “from first responders, relief workers and trauma surgeons, to professional and Olympic athletes.”

More University of Pennsylvania health news: www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/

Meditation: There’s an App for That #wisdom2conf #in

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My iPhone is telling me to take a deep breath. Thanks to a new application called The Mindfulness App, those of us who remember to check our email 87 times a day but forget to take a moment to center ourselves can be prompted to enjoy a peaceful moment.

Continues at utne.com