April 18, 2011

Brain Waves and Meditation

ScienceDaily (Mar. 31, 2010) — Forget about crystals and candles, and about sitting and breathing in awkward ways. Meditation research explores how the brain works when we refrain from concentration, rumination and intentional thinking. Electrical brain waves suggest that mental activity during meditation is wakeful and relaxed.

“Given the popularity and effectiveness of meditation as a means of alleviating stress and maintaining good health, there is a pressing need for a rigorous investigation of how it affects brain function,” says Professor Jim Lagopoulos of Sydney University, Australia. Lagopoulos is the principal investigator of a joint study between his university and researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) on changes in electrical brain activity during nondirective meditation.

Constant brain waves

Whether we are mentally active, resting or asleep, the brain always has some level of electrical activity. The study monitored the frequency and location of electrical brain waves through the use of EEG (electroencephalography). EEG electrodes were placed in standard locations of the scalp using a custom-made hat

Participants were experienced practitioners of Acem Meditation, a nondirective method developed in Norway. They were asked to rest, eyes closed, for 20 minutes, and to meditate for another 20 minutes, in random order. The abundance and location of slow to fast electrical brain waves (delta, theta, alpha, beta) provide a good indication of brain activity.

Relaxed attention with theta

During meditation, theta waves were most abundant in the frontal and middle parts of the brain.

“These types of waves likely originate from a relaxed attention that monitors our inner experiences. Here lies a significant difference between meditation and relaxing without any specific technique,” emphasizes Lagopoulos.

“Previous studies have shown that theta waves indicate deep relaxation and occur more frequently in highly experienced meditation practitioners. The source is probably frontal parts of the brain, which are associated with monitoring of other mental processes.”

“When we measure mental calm, these regions signal to lower parts of the brain, inducing the physical relaxation response that occurs during meditation.”

Read more

April 16, 2011

Using Hypnosis to Gain More Control Over Your Illness

KIRSTEN RITCHIE, 44, is no stranger to surgery — nearly 20 years ago, doctors removed four tumors from her brain. She remembers the operation and its aftermath as “horrific.”

So the news that she needed brain surgery again was hardly welcome. Determined to make her second operation a better — or at least less traumatic — experience, Ms. Ritchie, an insurance marketing representative in Cleveland, turned to an unusual treatment.

At the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, she had four hypnosis sessions in the month before her procedure, during which she addressed her fear of the coming surgery. She also practiced self-hypnosis every day.

Eventually, she said, “I got to a place where I felt a sense of trust instead of fear.”

In February, doctors removed a plum-sized tumor from her brain. But there the similarity to her previous experience ended. Ms. Ritchie woke up from the procedure, she said, feeling “alert and awesome.” She ate a full dinner that night and went home in two days.

“My neurosurgeon was stunned at how little medication I required before and after surgery, and how quickly I bounced back,” she said.

Ms. Ritchie attributes her speedy recovery and calm state to her hypnosis sessions. Used for more than two centuries to treat a host of medical problems, particularly pain management and anxiety, hypnosis is now available to patients at some of the most respected medical institutions in the country, including Stanford Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, Mount Sinai Medical Center and Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

[…]

During a session, the practitioner guides the subject into a relaxed state and then makes specific suggestions to help change a behavior, a perception or a physiological condition. Someone who is trying to quit smoking, for instance, might be told under hypnosis that cigarettes are poisons and that it’s important to care for and respect his body.

Some patients find that hypnosis is a helpful adjunct to traditional psychotherapy.

[…]

Specific conditions — like smoking, a fear of dogs or flying or temporary insomnia — may require just one session. In 2008, the personal health columnist Jane E. Brody recalled in this newspaper that her husband was able to stop smoking after just one session of hypnosis.

“For very circumscribed disorders, hypnosis works very quickly or not at all,” said Dr. Frischholz.

If your problem is more complex, like post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, it may require multiple sessions. “I might spend the first two sessions taking a history and learning about someone’s background,” said Carol Ginandes, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School who uses hypnosis in her private practice. “Then I would work with the patient in a very individualized way.”

Read more…

April 15, 2011

Mindfulness meditation practice changes the brain

Mindfulness meditation alters regions of the brain associated with memory, awareness of self, and compassion, according to a brain imaging study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. Other studies have found differences in the brains of experienced meditators compared with non-meditators, but this is the first investigation to document brain changes occurring over time in people learning how to meditate mindfully. Results were published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging (Jan. 30, 2011).

Mindfulness meditation is the practice of paying attention to what you’re experiencing from moment to moment without drifting into thoughts about the past or concerns about the future and without analyzing (or making judgments about) what is going on around you. It’s not a new idea. Religious texts have extolled mindfulness for centuries, and it’s central to Buddhism and other contemplative traditions.

Since the early 1980s, mindfulness meditation has increasingly found a place in mainstream health care and medicine because of evidence that it’s good for emotional and physical health — for example, helping to reduce anxiety, stress, depression, chronic pain, psoriasis, headache, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Some studies suggest that it can improve immune function. And research has found an association between mindfulness meditation–induced improvements in psychological well-being and increased activity of telomerase, an enzyme important to the long-term health of cells. With advances in neuroimaging, scientists have begun to explore the brain mechanisms that may underlie these benefits.

Read more…

April 15, 2011

Being ‘Mindful’ Can Neutralize Fears of Death and Dying

ScienceDaily (Feb. 28, 2011) — Death can be terrifying. Recognizing that death is inescapable and unpredictable makes us incredibly vulnerable, and can invoke feelings of anxiety, hatred and fear. But new research by George Mason University psychology professor Todd Kashdan shows that being a mindful person not only makes you generally more tolerant and less defensive, but it can also actually neutralize fears of dying and death.

“Mindfulness is being open, receptive, and attentive to whatever is unfolding in the present moment,” says Kashdan. In his latest research, Kashdan and his colleagues wanted to find out if mindful people had different attitudes about death and dying.

“Generally, when reminded of our mortality, we are extremely defensive. Like little kids who nearly suffocate under blanket protection to fend off the monster in the closet, the first thing we try to do is purge any death-related thoughts or feelings from our mind,” says Kashdan.

“On the fringes of this conscious awareness, we try another attempt to ward off death anxiety. We violently defend beliefs and practices that provide a sense of stability and meaning in our lives.”

Read more…

April 14, 2011

Vipassana Meditation Courses In Prisons

Vipassana courses have been held in three U.S. correctional facilities: the W.E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, a level 6 maximum-security state prison in Bessemer, Alabama, near Birmingham; the San Francisco Jail; and the North Rehabilitation Facility (N.R.F.), which was minimum-security facility of the King County jail system in Seattle, Washington. Lucia Meijer, the administrator of N.R.F., has played a key role in introducing the courses into North America prisons. After Ms. Meijer attended one of the 10 day courses herself at the Northwest Vipassana Center, she and her staff overcame the many administrative, security, and facilities hurdles to arrange the first course for men in November 1997. Since that time additional courses for both men and women have been conducted at N.R.F. with very positive results. These courses were described in articles by the Associated Press (AP) and by articles published by numerous major American newspapers, covered in an 8 minute Real Media radio interview and Windows Media radio interview on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and described in a program presented on National Public Radio (NPR). In addition, Ms. Meijer is the author of an article entitled “Vipassana Meditation at the North Rehabilitation Facility” in the July/August 1999 issue of American Jails Magazine.

Source

Tags:
April 13, 2011

The Shape of Suffering: A Study of Dependent Co-arising, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Free e-book)

The Shape of Suffering: A Study of Dependent Co-arising, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. In this book the author examines the nature of dependent co-arising (paticca samuppada) — the complex causal structure by which dukkha arises and ceases. It also shows how the factors of the path address the causes of suffering in a way that leads to its cessation. (PDF)

April 13, 2011

E. Gene Smith, Tibetan archivist and scholar, dies in Manhattan

E. Gene Smith, a Utah native who through persistence, ardor and benevolent guile amassed the largest collection of Tibetan books outside Tibet, saving them from isolation and destruction and making them accessible to scholars and Tibetan exiles around the world, died Dec. 16 at his home in Manhattan. He was 74.

The cause was not known, but Smith had had diabetes and heart trouble in recent years, said Jeff Wallman, executive director of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, which was founded by Smith and a small group of friends in 1999.

Now at 17 West 17th Street in Manhattan, the center houses nearly 25,000 books dating from the 12th century. Besides containing many of the seminal texts of Tibetan Buddhism, the collection comprises secular works on a range of topics.

Smith, a scholar who became so enamored of Tibetan culture that he converted to Buddhism as a young man, was renowned for his seemingly limitless knowledge of Tibetan literature and his equally limitless fervor for saving it.

The center has begun to digitize its collection, making the texts accessible (in the Tibetan language and script) to anyone with Internet access. Almost 14,000 volumes — more than 7 million pages — are available on its website, tbrc.org, which receives more than 3,000 visitors daily.

”The idea is to deliver the tradition back to the owners of the traditions,” Smith told the Buddhist magazine Mandala in 2001.

Read more…

Tags:
April 13, 2011

Hatha Yoga Video

April 12, 2011

Meditation a powerful tool against pain

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Meditation can deliver powerful pain-relieving effects to the brain with even just 80 minutes’ training for a beginner in an exercise called focused attention, a study released Tuesday found.

“This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation,” said Fadel Zeidan, lead author of the study and a post-doctoral research fellow at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina.

The findings appear in the April 6 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

“We found a big effect — about a 40-percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57-percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain ratings by about 25 percent,” he added.

[…]

“One of the reasons that meditation may have been so effective in blocking pain was that it did not work at just one place in the brain, but instead reduced pain at multiple levels of processing,” Zeidan added.

Read more…

April 11, 2011

Meditation as Medicine: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction