Meditate: science or tradition?

Meditation has always been an area of ​​research in the spiritual realm, And until the 1990s, there was no comprehensive scientific research on the subject.

An important event occurred in 1991, when scientists Francisco Varela and Adam Engle, along with the Dalai Lama, established the Mind and Life Institute in the United States with the aim of exploring the interface between science and meditation. . Another relevant fact occurred in the late 90s, when neurologist Marcus Raichle incorporated techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging into the search for the default neural network.

From there there has been a gradual rapprochement between science and tradition. The scientific community has noticed the detailed analysis of the mind that meditative traditions have been doing for centuries and he put meditation at the center of his research.

Today, the scientific community in this field, led among others by Richard Davidson, finds enormous similarities in the practical results of meditation between its advances in neuroscience and what was written in ancient texts such as the Satipatthana Sutta.

    What is the process of meditation?

    The process of meditation is something that is easy to understand and more difficult to do.. It is like making a “hole in 1” in golf, the instruction is to insert the ball into the hole with one stroke. It’s easy to understand, isn’t it? But not so easy to do and even less to do at will at every turn.

    The first thing you learn when you start is the set of meditation techniques; perhaps the best known are those of focused attention, based on constantly attending to an object of that, and when the attention goes and you realize it, you come back.

    But if we progress correctly, we realize that meditation is more than just bringing the mind to the object whenever it is distracted. The practice of meditation allows you to be in this world with a greater sense of happiness, fluidity, presence and clarity.

    From my experience as a meditation teacher, I can say that learning progression is not linearThere are some weeks when a student is making a lot of progress and others that seem to be going backwards. This is normal as it is a very subjective experience and depends a lot on the emotional state of the student.

    What are the benefits of meditation?

    The benefits of meditation can be divided into four main areas, Positive aspects obtained thanks to cerebral neuroplasticity. They are as follows.

    1. The attentional process

    By increasing the capacity for sustained attention, meditation allows us improve focus and focus.

    2. Body awareness

    Decrease the tendency to judge from internal experience, it helps us to understand the external experience and gives us a greater capacity to make decisions.

    3. Emotional regulation

    By experiencing what is present in the field of consciousness, by observing these experiences without altering or reacting to them, allows us deal with unpleasant emotions or sensations from an attitude that generates habituation, acceptance and a greater ability to endure and regulate difficult emotions.

    4. Changes in the perspective of the Self

    Observe without judgment and be fair, it allows the disidentification of the content by the consciousness; it happens by experiencing the changing and inappropriate nature of reality. Living as something that is not separate from the rest changes the process of self-perception and facilitates change.

      How does neurotechnology help learn meditation?

      One option that I discovered some time ago that allows students to progress faster is the application of neurotechnology, which consists of the use of electronic equipment to analyze our meditation practice.

      With neurotechnology, something crucial is accomplished in the learning process: having objective data. Thus, we can compare the numerical data of the practice with the subjective experience and with the data of the past practices. Have accurate and real-time data on what is happening in the brain (neurofeedback) and in the heart, breathing (biofeedback) during meditation it allows the self-learning process to be smoother and faster.

      In my case, I use an electroencephalogram (EEG), which the student uses during meditations; in this way, on the four previous points, the first two and partly also the third can be extensively worked. The fourth, from my point of view, is exclusively part of the spiritual realm.

      With the EEG, we detect the different types of brain waves and work mainly the Alpha waves, related to the states of meditation, relaxation and calm, the Theta waves, which have to do with the deep states of meditation and the first ones. stages of sleep, and beta waves, related to alert states and active concentration.

      The debate that is generated between the student and the teacher is interesting when we observe the evolution of different brain waves with their state of attention, when it was more focused or more distracted, how often we are distracted, and so on. And it is also relevant to know the movement of the body during the practice, or how the heart rate changes in the practice.

      Meditation is all the rage, but … has it come to stay?

      Everything goes very fast, and it is that 10 years ago, when someone said that he was meditating, he was classified as someone strange or with too spiritual a life. Fifty years ago, those who played sports or brushed their teeth were considered rare or very refined people, and let’s take a look now: we all have clear benefits from sustained sports practice and good dental hygiene.

      Perception is changing, as is the case with sports or dental hygiene, and it is increasingly known that people who meditate benefit by improving their health, relationships and settling in. a more conscious life.

      The time comes when we are clear that there is attention for our mindAnd meditation is unstoppably associated with other activities essential to enjoying good physical and mental health.

      Science provides us with tools or vehicles that help us understand the way of life, which is what I call “technology in the service of consciousness”. And that adds to the important, to the transcendent, which is still living life at every moment.

      Author: Òscar Carrera, member of Mental Area.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Ceba and Martí, A .; Albear Morón, D. Positive contemplative psychology.
      • Goleman, D .; Davidson, RJ Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Mind, Brain, and Body.
      • Lazar, SW; Bush, G .; Gollub, RL; Fricchione, GL; Khalsa, G .; Benson, H .: Functional brain mapping of the response to relaxation and meditation [Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins].
      • Lazar, S .; Olendzki, A .; Meissner, T. Meditation Research. Beware of the Hype: A Critical Appraisal and Normative Agenda for Mindfulness Research and Meditation.

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