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The Science Of Meditation?

  1. Dec 11, 2008 #1
    The "Science" Of Meditation?

    Hello all,

    I've been hearing lately from holistic practitioners that science has (allegedly) confirmed meditation is healthy. While relaxing might be, what supposedly goes on in meditation doesn't seem realistic.

    What I'm talking about is, swamis and bhuddists talk about how they are conscious while their brainwaves are at about 7,6,5 or even 4hz per second. How would it be possible for someone to be conscious while their brainwaves are that low and be fully cogniscent of what they're doing?

    Sorry, some people here might believe in meditation doing all of those things, but I have my reservations. I tell you what, if anyone here doesn't like my skeptical argument, then perhaps they might explain to us how this would be done if it can be done... because I just don't see how it's feasible.

    Thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2008 #2
    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    I'll add reduced heart beats and body temperature control to the list.
     
  4. Dec 11, 2008 #3
    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    Thank you, Greg. That too.

    One more thing, by the way... if anyone asks, "Have you ever even TRIED to meditate and do everything those CDs, tapes, mps, etc. said?" then the answer is yes. Needless to say, there's a reason why I started this thread if you know what I mean.
     
  5. Dec 11, 2008 #4

    FredGarvin

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    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    I had a teacher that studied in Japan and China for quite a few years. Along with teaching Aikido, he liked to teach separate classes for meditation. I tried it for a while and did bring some very practical aspects from it. Granted, they are nowhere near lowering brain activity or anything like that.

    I can tell you that you do not really want any kind of music in the background.

    There was a pretty good book written, if you are interested in looking for it, called "In Search of the Warrior Spirit" by Rick Heckler (another Aikido practitioner). It is about him being asked to teach meditation techniques to Green Beret units. It's an interesting read. It helps to understand ome of the practical aspects I was refering to.
     
  6. Dec 11, 2008 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Clinical_Neurosciences/louis/eegcrs.html

    http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Clinical_Neurosciences/louis/eegfreq.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroencephalography
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2008
  7. Dec 11, 2008 #6
    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    Hello Ivan Seeking, thanks for the data.

    Om, I guess I should have been more specific. I wasn't denying that theta and delta waves exist - I know that when you sleep at night that's what the brainwaves are. And I know young children's brainwaves are at that frequency.

    What I was getting at was, how is it possible to be AWAKE and enable your brainwaves to go as high or low as you want them to while staying conscious? This is what these zen masters have been reported to be able to do, but I don't see how this is remotely possible.
     
  8. Dec 11, 2008 #7
    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    I've heard about meditation being shown to do "positive" things such as calm people down and relieve stress. That is reasonable.

    But controlling the brain's core functions would be a pretty big stretch.

    PJ2001, what is "awake"? If they are meditating at the time, they can't tell you a joke or shake your hand, they are concentrating on their meditation. Maybe that blurs the line between lucid dreaming and consciousness?
     
  9. Dec 11, 2008 #8

    f95toli

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    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    They are not awake, mediation is -quite literally- a very special state of mind. There is plenty of evidence from EEG and more recently functional MRI that there really is something quite unusual going on in the brain when a trained practitioner is meditating (and zen masters do qualify as well trained in this case), they are not simply "relaxing".
    I don't think anyone knows if the there is a good biological "reason" why the brain can do this, I guess it is possible that people who meditate are simply using systems that originally evolved for some other purpose in a creative way.

    Some "extraordinary" techniques -e.g.decreasing your heart beat- are quite easy to learn as long as we are talking about moderate effects (not stopping your heart on anything like that). I was taught the basics of it when I was a kid by a physiotherapist in order to be able to better cope with my asthma (you don't want your heart to race when you are having trouble breathing, but that is the bodys natural response so the "trick" is to learn to override it), i.e. there was no "mumbo jumbo" involved.
     
  10. Dec 11, 2008 #9
    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    Ok, this is one of the things I'm referring to. You can meditate and slow down your heart? I don't understand how that's possible... but, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong of course.

    I guess an obvious question would be this: How exactly do you do such a thing?

    Another way of putting it, what were the steps involved in getting yourself to have that ability? I'm just offering healthy skepticism simply because so many (if not practically all) of these meditation audios that I have heard over the years tell you to "relax even more", "visualize...", "go deeper..." - and what they sometimes do is refer to the zen bhuddists and all of the amazing things these guys can allegedly do from meditation. You know which people I'm talking about when it comes to the "we are one" clan.
     
  11. Dec 11, 2008 #10
    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    I think I know a bit about what f95toli is talking about. Whenever I try to measure my heartbeat I get slight anxiety because even the thought of blood in my veins makes me queezy. So my heart-rate increases. If I want it to go slower, I have to relax myself and control my breathing very precisely.

    I assume that if you are having an asthma attack, you are freaking out and your heart is racing like mad. But it would be safer to have a lower heart-rate, so you have to force yourself to calm down.

    If you do any kind of grappling you'll learn something similar. When you have someone on top of you and can't breathe very well, the natural instinct is to freak out and push as hard as you can. But that won't help. You need to learn to relax and focus on whatever moves you are doing so you don't waste any energy.

    Beyond that, though, I don't know.
     
  12. Dec 11, 2008 #11

    dlgoff

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    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    I have had experiences using bio-feedback and it is indeed possible to control your heart rate, temperature of your fingers, and EEG waves.

    And it wasn't really that hard.
     
  13. Dec 11, 2008 #12

    Evo

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    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    It's very easy, all you need to do is think about it, you don't need to meditate. I do this all of the time at work. I deal with clients and my frustration level can go through the roof if I don't keep it in check. I just slow down my breathing and relax, and this decreases my heart rate. It's not instantaneous, if that is what you are thinking.

    Meditation is just a way of saying that you can control certain body functions, within limitations, if you focus on it. Of course the more you practice, the better you get, there is nothing mysterious about it. I notice no one has furnished any links to anything scientific and I don't have the time to look anything up. I'm sure that you could find anything I could simply by googling it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2008
  14. Dec 11, 2008 #13
  15. Dec 12, 2008 #14
    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    Quick google turns up:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/167/3926/1751
    http://www.neuroreport.com/pt/re/ne...nyN3yy0rTxYGlGDH!-595418120!181195629!8091!-1


    More than a few studies have been done on the physiological effects of transcendental meditation. Its pretty well documented stuff. There were a few studies done with tibetan monks that were much more astounding, particularly the ability to increase basal metabolic rate.
     
  16. Dec 12, 2008 #15
    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    I certainly do thank everyone for their quick responses and valuable data. But this still isn't making sense - we just think about it and it happens?? I certainly can't control my heartbeat and brainwave frequencies by doing just that! Is there some scientific explanation for how this is possible to do? If there is, I've never heard of it.
     
  17. Dec 12, 2008 #16

    Evo

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    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    Franz posted two links that discuss the subject. I will try to find some studies this weekend.
     
  18. Dec 12, 2008 #17
    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    Actually you can. Biofeedback mechanisms are a method of training yourself to do so (using an EEG to detect what works and what doesn't). It's all just neurons, that are all ultimately interconnected. How do you move your hands? Learning to intentionally activate other neural pathways is possible.

    As always, google is your friend:
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/scienc...serid=10&md5=2b95d89f1bc907e2320e0217b3226f19

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/scienc...serid=10&md5=88432bfc5391457e7e35ee3fbfee4f49
     
  19. Dec 13, 2008 #18
    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    I dont really doubt that biofeedback is possible or that meditators are conscious while having low frequency brainwaves. The whole reason meditators in such states got their brains scanned was because they reported having very profound experiences. Maybe they could blink their eyes while in that state to prove they are conscious. Thats how it went with lucid dreams.

    These tricks are a bit harder for me to imagine:
    I cant focus on an object for hours (havent really tried it), i cant switch my attention 17 times a second and i cant visualise an image for hours. About that visualising: i have 'seen' things with my eyes closed and it almost appeared like normal vision, but that lasts only a few seconds at most. Its always random shapes though, so i do not get to choose what i see.

    Its hard to tell from above source if those claims belong in the category of "levitating monks" or if they really are serious about it.
     
  20. Dec 13, 2008 #19

    Evo

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    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    I believe that the "levitating monks' have been soundly debunked. The ones I've seen were sitting on stands hidden by their robes.
     
  21. Dec 15, 2008 #20
    Re: The "Science" Of Meditation?

    Having grown up with OCD, I've gone hours without being able to get an image out of my head. It has lessened as I've aged, fortunately.
     
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