Scientific Study On Meditation from Time Magazine;
One recent study found evidence that the daily practice of meditation thickened the parts of the brain's cerebral cortex responsible for decision making, attention and memory. Sara Lazar, a research scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, presented preliminary results last November that showed that the gray matter of 20 men and women who meditated for just 40 minutes a day was thicker than that of people who did not. Unlike in previous studies focusing on Buddhist monks, the subjects were Boston-area workers practicing a Western-style of meditation called mindfulness or insight meditation. "We showed for the first time that you don't have to do it all day for similar results," says Lazar. What's more, her research suggests that meditation may slow the natural thinning of that section of the cortex that occurs with age.
The forms of meditation Lazar and other scientists are studying involve focusing on an image or sound or on one's breathing. Though deceptively simple, the practice seems to exercise the parts of the brain that help us pay attention. "Attention is the key to learning, and meditation helps you voluntarily regulate it," says Richard Davidson, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin. Since 1992, he has collaborated with the Dalai Lama to study the brains of Tibetan monks, whom he calls "the Olympic athletes of meditation." Using caps with electrical sensors placed on the monks' heads, Davidson has picked up unusually powerful gamma waves that are better synchronized in the Tibetans than they are in novice meditators. Studies have linked this gamma-wave synchrony to increased awareness.
Since the best way to understand what meditation is, is to experience it, lets begin;
Learning to pay attention to your breathing, taking slow deep inhales and exhales, is the first step to any meditation method.
The best way to breathe meditatively is the same way a baby breathes. A full breath in and full breath out with no pause. Doing this simple breathing pattern will re-energize your body.
To practice just put your hand on your belly and breathe in deeply then exhale fully and repeat.
Remember to breathe slow and deep. Fast breathing leads to hyperventilation. Slow, deep breathing is often the solution to hyperventilation as it slows down your body’s metabolism.
By following this you will fill your entire lungs. You don’t actually breath into your stomach but expanding your belly as you breath helps fill your lungs.
"Take a deep breath. Now exhale slowly. You're probably not aware of it, but your heart has just slowed down a bit. Not to worry; it will speed up again when you inhale. This regular-irregular beat is a sign of a healthy interaction between heart and head. Each time you exhale, your brain sends a signal down the vagus nerve to slow the cardiac muscle. With each inhale, the signal gets weaker and your heart revs up. Inhale, beat faster. Exhale, beat slower. It's an ancient rhythm that helps your heart last a lifetime. And it leads to lesson No. 1 in how to manage stress and avoid burnout." from Time Magazine's "The Brain: 6 Lessons for Handling Stress"
Progressive relaxation for relaxing your body
Most people who do not practice meditation or yoga don’t know how to properly relax their body.
The easiest way to relax your body quickly is to tense each muscle group (each part of your body) and then relax it. For example: tense your hand then relax, tense your arm then relax, tense your head then relax, same for your neck all the way down to your toes.
By consciously tensing your muscles and relaxing them you are helping your body relax deeper as you are defining tense and relaxation – and indicating to your body how you want to feel i.e. relaxed.
Do this while following the breathing pattern of deep inhales and exhales.
Creating a peaceful scene for mental relaxation
This is a simple visualization technique that is commonly used in meditation to enhance mental relaxation.
All you have to do is to imagine something that makes you feel calm and relaxed. I like to imagine myself at the beach, a lake or in a beautiful garden. The key to make this technique work for you is to imagine your chosen scene of relaxation in vivid detail. For example: if you choose the beach then imagine how the sun would feel, what the wind and sand would feel like, imagine the smell of the ocean and even the seagulls in the distance. Take your time and imagine that you are actually on the beach i.e. make yourself feel like you are on the beach and surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of the beach. You could also imagine a peaceful lake as in the picture above.
This technique will help you relax you mind and prepare you to meditate deeply.
Combining the techniques learned so far:
Breathe deep and slow (1 minute)
Relax your body while breathing deeply.(2 minutes) Continue the deep and slow breathing throughout your practice.
Imagine the peaceful scene.(2 minutes)
Deepening the Meditation With Sound Technology To Induce Mental & Physical Relaxation
Use this audio, with headphones, for practicing the above meditation. Its a 5 minute audio of binaural beats (see explanation below) which helps the mind relax and attain a lower frequency, making it more powerful. Sit with your spine straight and arms and legs uncrossed and feet firmly on the ground. Practice the breathing and relaxation exercise above while listening to the audio with headphones. Note: Since this audio is designed for relaxation please don't use it while driving or operating machinery as it can slow down your reflexes and even put you to sleep. Audio:
If this doesn't relax you enough then you can move on to level 2 meditation. If this audio does relax you, then after practicing it for a while (at least a few times), you can move on to level 1 meditation practice to really begin to experience meditation.
The above audio is set at hertz which is the beginning of "alpha" brainwave state (see full explanation below):
"The link between alpha and meditative states seems real enough. According to Psychologist Joe Kamiya of San Francisco's Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, an early pioneer in the field, Zen masters produce more alpha when they are meditating than when they are not, and they are quick to learn how to switch it on and off. Artists, musicians and athletes are also prolific alpha producers; so are many introspective and intuitive persons, and so was Albert Einstein. Alpha researchers report that subjects enjoy what Psychologist Lester Fehmi of the State University of New York at Stony Brook calls the "subtle and ineffable" alpha experience. Its pleasure, theorizes Kamiya, may come from the fact that alpha "represents something like letting go of anxieties." from Time Magazine's article "Behavior: Alpha Wave of The Future"
Binaural Beats for Relaxation
Binaural beats is the name of a sound technology that uses two different frequencies of sound (one in each ear) to ‘entrain’ the brain to the frequency desired. Using this technology it is possible to go into deep relaxed meditative states in minutes as opposed to months of practice.
To fully understand what binaural beats are and how you can use them, you need to first understand what ‘entrainment’ is and what we know about our brainwave states.
Entrainment simply means to follow along. When you are listening to a piece of music that you like and you tap or hum to the music you are entrainment to the beat of the music. It has been discovered that your brainwave frequency will imitate the beat or rhythm of the music precisely.
For example sitting on a beach hearing the soft splash of the waves will make you feel relaxed and maybe even sleepy. This is because the rhythm of the waves is low and your brain follows along with that rhythm so you slow down mentally.
In the same way if there is lots of construction going on – even if you are somewhat sheltered from the noise – it will be irritating and may even give you a headache. This is because of the irregular rhythms and variations in sound volume. Your brain follows along but it’s following an erratic sound pattern so the experience isn’t soothing.
The whole process of following along with external sound is called entrainment.
Basically, if we are in an environment with fast paced music then we will tend to get more active. While if we are surrounded by slow music there will be a corresponding slow down in our mental activity. Of course, this is assuming you are listening to the music or its so loud that you can’t ignore it and are going with the flow.
In other words, your brain responds to external stimuli by following along. So if you hear a regular beat then the brain will follow along after a short while i.e. it will entrain itself from it’s current frequency to the one in its environment. This is called the “frequency following response”.
The next thing you need to understand to know how binaural beats can help you concerns what we know about brainwave frequencies and how they affect your mind and body.
What scientists have discovered about brainwave frequencies using EEG measurements devices is that certain types of behaviors correspond to certain brainwave frequencies. For example; if you are asleep your brainwave frequency will be below 4 hertz. If you are exercising or playing a sport your brainwave frequency will be above 14 hertz. If you are relaxing then it will be between 10 and 14 hertz. Meditation states also occur around 7 hertz to 14 hertz.
Brain Frequency distribution:
40 hertz: Gamma Waves: Active mentally, intense emotions such as anger of joy, solving problems
13 - 40 hertz: Beta Waves - Active concentration, general active lifestyle
7 - 13 hertz: Alpha Waves - Relaxed state, light meditation level, perfect for stress relief
4 - 7 hertz: Theta Waves - Deep meditation, REM sleep, dreams
0 - 3 hertz: Delta Waves - Deep dreamless sleep
You can do this even more precisely using the sound technology of binaural beats.
You can experience and utilize binaural beats for yourself at anytime using a free software program called Brainwave Generator.
You can download it here: http://www.bwgen.com
Simply install the software and read the help menu after you have installed it to get an idea of how to use it.
Benefits of Alpha
Helps the body and mind relax very quickly.
It helps synchronize your left and right hemispheres bringing more of your brain ‘on-line’, making this very good for deep thinking.
With some practice you can enter and use Alpha whenever you like.
Alpha helps create an overall healthy state of mind and body.
Note: Signs of deep relaxation...When you are deeply relaxed your tear ducts may also relax. In fact, you you relax deeply enough your tear ducts WILL relax and a tear or two... or with some people even a stream of tears is common. As you become more alert after a session your tear ducts will stop naturally. (basically if you tear up while feeling all relaxed and good... that's normal!)
Note: Also, Sometimes when your muscles release tension it may jerk. I have seen some overly stressed out (or wound up) individuals literally jump with the force of the release of tension in a muscle. Generally, if you do have a a tension release where your muscles "jump" it's followed by even deeper relaxation than before.
The best way to learn meditation is to practice it regularly. You’ve probably heard that ‘practice makes perfect’ and meditation is no different. Once you have practiced it – regularly – for at least 2-3 weeks (for each level), then it becomes a part of you i.e. accessing the meditation becomes a habit.
If you follow a specific pattern, when you start and end a meditation or self-hypnosis session, then that little ritual you have created becomes an anchor to attain a deep meditative state fast.
This means that any time you want you can count down and go into a deep meditative state and count up to refresh yourself. It will be a skill that is a part of you like driving a car or riding a bicycle.
The format for a meditation practice
1. Follow the basic physical and mental relaxation technique as outlined above. When you have done this then do the following:
Say “ I will countdown from 10 down to 1 and with each descending number I will relax more and more”.
Then say “ 10, I am relaxing more and more, 9, I am relaxing more and more…” and so on all the way down to one.
This serves as a mental anchor associating a 10-1 count down with deep relaxation. You could also imagine standing at a staircase of 10 steps and each step down makes you more and more relaxed (in this method imagine taking each step down after you say the number). You could also imagine that you are writing each number on a blackboard and erasing it for the next one. Whatever works best for you.
2. When you have done your 10-1 countdown after your basic relaxation practice you are in a very relaxed state of mind and body. At this point you could set an anchor, such as by using three fingers of either hand (by pressing them together, lightly), or just the thumb and forefinger like a more traditional meditation posture.
You could also do one of the visualization techniques (see recommended list below) to create an even better inner state and anchor that state. You can set the anchor as many times as you like i.e. after each technique you do. This will make your anchor very strong. Later when you need to access calm, confident and happy states of mind all you will have to do is press your three fingers together (triggering your anchor), take a deep breath and imagine your chosen peaceful scene. That’s it. Instant stress relief.
3. When you are done relaxing, anchoring, affirmations and visualizations and are ready to end your meditation/self-hypnosis practice do a 1-5 ‘count up’ with the intent of becoming fully alert and re-energized when you are done. This counting also serves as an anchor for you as you get used to becoming fully alert and aware at the end of it.
Start by saying, “I am going to count from 1 to 5 and with each ascending number I will become more alert and aware ready and able to have a wonderful day/evening” . then start by saying “1 more alert and aware, 2 feeling refreshed and reenergized, 3, ….5, alert and feeling wonderfully refreshed”. Open your eyes when you say 5 then say the last affirmation are you’re done.
NOTE: For all meditation techniques, whether lying down or sitting (sitting in a firm chair is preferred when training to keep form falling asleep), keep your spine straight and arms and legs uncrossed. Easiest position is to sit in a chair with your back straight and your hands, palms down, on your knees or upper thighs.
9 More Meditations Worth Practicing
1 Breathing In Colors: Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight. Then choose a color. You can pick any color you like, from blue, to gold, to red. Breathe in each color till it feels like your body and mind are filled with the color. Continue to meditate on colors that make you feel wonderful or relaxed or peaceful.
2 Your Special Place: Pick a place you feel safe and comfortable. Visualize this place clearly and step in, following the steps in Exercise 10. Spend some time meditating as if you are actually there.
3 A Deep Pond: Imagine a deep blue pond. Notice some fish below the surface darting around. Take a silver coin from your pocket and toss it into the center of the pond. As the coin slowly drifts down allow yourself to relax.
4 Walking Meditation: While walking start becoming aware of your breath. Expand this awareness to include the feel of the clothes on your body and the feel of your feet on the ground. While continuing your awareness of your breath and body, become aware of the place you are walking and the scenery around you. Finally, being aware of breath, body and surroundings add the huge dome of the sky above you and the earth below you. Breathe deeply and relish this expanded sense of awareness.
5 Eating Meditation: It helps to be grateful before you eat as this prepares your mind to enjoy the meal. Take each bite consciously and enjoy the taste and texture. Chew slowly and take your time.
6 Candle Flame Meditation: Light a candle and sit comfortably in front of it. Focus only on the flame allowing any thoughts arising to just pass by. Watch how the candle dances. Then close your eyes and continue to focus on the flame in your minds eye. If you lose the image open your eyes and gaze at the candle again. If you like you can imagine any thought arising to go and burn up in the flame. This will help you attain a focused meditative state.
7 Breathing In A Smell: Smell is very important to us and easily alters our internal states. Pick a flower or food that smells extremely good to you. Breath in this smell deeply and slowly. Take your time enjoying the feeling of the smell "fill" your body.
8 Mirror Meditation: Get a mirror and sit comfortably in front of it. Look into your eyes and repeat any affirmation you would like to meditate on. For example, "I feel relaxed" or "I am confident" and so on.
9. Smile Meditation: Studies have shown that a genuine smile releases endorphins into your bloodstream, relieving stress and even rejuvenating your entire mind and body. The smile meditation is easy to do and very effective at feeling really good, quickly. . Think of something funny to start you smiling. It could be an event, a movie, a cute baby or even a puppy. Anything to bring a good smile on your face. . Imagine this smile spreading over face, down your neck and into your body. Meditate on the smile till your whole body begins to feel like a big smile.:-)
Once you become familiar with the meditation techniques on this page, and can do the relaxation techniques - easily - using the audio provided here, then you are ready to move on to level 1 meditation practice.
Quick & Easy Meditation Mastery
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