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The Science of Meditation
by Rajgopal Nidamboor Bookmark and Share
 

Mindfulness meditation, in its essentiality, is being one with the universe; which is also a definitive keynote of philosopher par excellence, J Krishnamurti. It's a basis that appeals not merely to folks who are committed to the practice, but to those who do not even have a smattering of the idea, aside from those that may have just gotten into it as well.

From a scientific standpoint, however, it would be interesting to note that the relationship between brain activity and meditation has been extensively investigated during the last three decades. The popular view today is that meditation produces a type of relaxation - not sleep. Which is one reason why the classy method has become one of the many ways to teach people/patients how to relax.

It, therefore, comes as no surprise that EEG [electroencephalograph, an instrument which records small electrical impulses produced by the brain] studies have shown that meditation may not just be a novel state of consciousness, but also multi-faceted. That's not all. Researchers like Daniel - Emotional Intelligence - Goleman argue that behaviours typically called concentration and mindfulness could be best described as strategies used to change one's awareness of internal, or external, stimuli.

Mindfulness meditation is a reference to non-habitual division of attentional resources among all sources of stimulation. Its practice, therefore, would call for open receptivity and awareness of all stimulation. In his work, Psychology of Consciousness, G W Farthing suggests that mindfulness is a deatomisation of perception. An individual practicing mindfulness experiences all objects that arise in consciousness as if it were his/her first tryst with it. Mindfulness, like concentration, can be developed in any situation - albeit different schools of meditation encourage different pathways. Which is quite right, because meditation encompasses maximisation of both the expanse and lucidity of attentiveness.

Most authorities contend that meditation is a relaxation response; others think of it as a unique state. And, although it is traditionally accepted that meditation entails the cultivation of concentration and/or mindfulness, not all studies have compared the two processes with thoroughness. However, modern studies have used high-technological tools to explore results of several scalp recordings, including novel EEG signature patterns of mindfulness, concentration, and relaxation - for identification.

New studies that have been endorsed to determine if EEGs differed during meditation and relaxation have found that concentration and mindfulness meditation are quite distinct from relaxation. EEG frequency data have also confirmed participants' subjective judgments. At lower frequency EEG bands, relaxation produced greater mean amplitude than meditation over large areas of the brain's cerebral cortex, which is associated with higher functions of our nervous system. Mindfulness also produced greater alpha band amplitude than relaxation, with differences occurring in larger portions of the central cortex. In addition, beta band data showed concentration keynotes, or amplitude, being greater vis-a-vis relaxation.

The results are not conclusive, all the same. More so, because slow and fast activity occur simultaneously during mindfulness. A like facet also emerges electro-physiologically, because the brain is calm and relaxed. In such a situation there are more theta and delta - or, fourth - waves. Deduction: mindfulness meditation, according to researchers, could be qualitatively different from concentration meditation. In addition, it could also suggest that the brain's psycho-functional elements often coincide with subjectivity pattern/s - no more, no less.

2-Feb-2003
More by :  Rajgopal Nidamboor
 
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