Understanding Meditation through science

August 1, 2016

While people have been practicing meditation for thousands of years, it has recently been gaining increasing popularity in the mainstream as science continues to shed light in its many health benefits. From decreasing stress and anxiety to rebuilding the brain, it truly is a panacea for mental and physical well being.

An eight week study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), for example, determined that meditation literally rebuilds the brain’s grey matter in just eight weeks. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces changes in grey matter over time.

In another study, researchers led by Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior, teamed up with a number of monks and volunteers. The Dalai Lama even dispatched eight of his most accomplished practitioners to Davidson’s lab to have them hooked up for EEG testing and brain scanning. These monks come from traditions of meditation for an estimated 10,000 to 50,000 hours, over time periods of 15 to 40 years. The monks were fitted with a net of 256 electrical sensors and asked to meditate for short periods. Davidson was particularly interested in measuring gamma waves, the highest frequency and most important known electrical brain impulses. The results showed that the electrodes picked up much greater activation of fast moving and unusually powerful gamma waves in the monks. The movement of the waves through the brain were far better organised and coordinated.

Researchers suggest that the very existence of this synchronized gamma indicates that a consciousness experience is occurring. The gamma wave state is the most sensitive than any other state of consciousness measurable. Gamma brainwaves are associated with intelligence, compassion, self control and feelings of natural joy.

One aspect of meditation that needs to be addressed more, however, is the fact that it’s a state of mind. There are those out there who can achieve similar brain wavelengths by putting themselves in the same ‘state of mind’ as a ‘master meditator.’ This proves that there is no one way to do it, and that it’s possible to achieve alternate states of consciousness as well as reap the other benefits associated with meditation without doing it a certain way or the ‘right’ way.

Similarly, it does not have to take hours and does not need to be done sitting alone in a quiet space. One can be engaged in meditation while walking, for example, or while preparing for sleep. Throughout the day, one can resist judging their thoughts, letting them flow until they are no more, or just be in a constant state of peace and self awareness, and this would still be meditation. Contrary to popular belief, there is more than one way to meditate.You will have to understand one of the most fundamental things about meditation: that no technique leads to meditation.

That being said, sitting down in a specific way for a specific period of time is also meditation, and a much deeper form of meditation, but not everybody is ready for that, and not everybody has to do that to experience the benefits that meditation offers.

The Intention behind meditation is very important as it can ultimately influence the way it is practised and how it is taught.

That being said embrace the beauty and simplicity of the mind through little meditations to begin with and let the mind and spirit guide you.

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  • A
    Reply Aria on August 1, 2016 says;

    Its an awesome post! Thanks so much for sharing this!

  • F
    Reply Fe van dam on August 1, 2016 says;

    Incredible post! 🙂

  • A
    Reply Agnus D on August 1, 2016 says;

    powerful lifestyle post!

  • K
    Reply Kasia on August 1, 2016 says;

    There is a lot you can do to make the world a better place.

  • P
    Reply Puja Santosh on August 1, 2016 says;

    Love your posts!

  • W
    Reply Wendy R. on August 1, 2016 says;

    Mediation actually changes the brain!

  • G
    Reply Greg on August 1, 2016 says;

    Just a Few Days of Training Improves Concentration and Attention

  • V
    Reply Vera Gottlieb on August 1, 2016 says;

    Meditation Helps Preserve the Aging Brain

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    Reply Fifine Dupuy on August 1, 2016 says;

    One of the most interesting studies in the last few years, carried out at Yale University, found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts – a.k.a., “monkey mind.” The DMN is “on” or active when we’re not thinking about anything in particular, when our minds are just wandering from thought to thought. Since mind-wandering is typically associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future, it’s the goal for many people to dial it down. Several studies have shown that meditation, though its quieting effect on the DMN, appears to do just this. And even when the mind does start to wander, because of the new connections that form, meditators are better at snapping back out of it.

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    Reply Vani Arun on August 1, 2016 says;

    Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team found that the effect size of meditation was moderate, at 0.3. If this sounds low, keep in mind that the effect size for antidepressants is also 0.3, which makes the effect of meditation sound pretty good. Meditation is, after all an active form of brain training.

  • S
    Reply Sanjeeta kk on August 1, 2016 says;

    Wow… excellent post!

  • D
    Reply Daniella S on August 1, 2016 says;

    It also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress

  • S
    Reply Savannah on August 1, 2016 says;

    When we meditate, we weaken this neural connection. This means that we don’t react as strongly to sensations that might have once lit up our Me Centers. As we weaken this connection, we simultaneously strengthen the connection between what’s known as our Assessment Center (the part of our brains known for reasoning) and our bodily sensation and fear centers. So when we experience scary or upsetting sensations, we can more easily look at them rationally.

    Love your post! Excellent one!

  • J
    Reply Jammie de la Cuesta on August 1, 2016 says;

    Its high time we all begin to meditate.

  • E
    Reply EcoNugenics on August 1, 2016 says;

    Better Memory, Less Stress, More Gray Matter 🙂

  • K
    Reply Kanimozhi Senthil on August 1, 2016 says;

    Just a Few Days of Training Improves Concentration and Attention. Brilliant Post!

  • M
    Reply Makayla on August 1, 2016 says;

    Indeed lots of benefit if you meditate!

  • J
    Reply Jasmine on August 1, 2016 says;

    The integrity of gray matter, which is a major player in the central nervous system, certainly appears to benefit. Meditation has been linked to larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter, resulting in more positive emotions, the retention of emotional stability, and more mindful behaviour 🙂

  • G
    Reply Gabriella on August 1, 2016 says;

    Start sitting, and transform your brain! 🙂 🙂

  • H
    Reply Harshiita Sharma on August 1, 2016 says;

    I’m actually planning on it.

  • C
    Reply Camila on August 1, 2016 says;

    Meditation works

  • O
    Reply Olivia on August 1, 2016 says;

    Love the picture 🙂

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