Brain Files: Why Meditation Feels Sooo Good
July 26, 2013 2 Comments
The brain is a magical tool that enables us to access different parts of our psyche, different states of consciousness, and experience the world around us. In any given moment (waking) our brains are processing thousands and thousands of elements in our environment. This constant processing lends our brains to an immense amount of stress. But through meditation we can resolve this stress allowing for this processing to increase agility.
Your brain functions on four different wave frequencies, they are:
This means that we have several levels of functioning outside of the normal Beta state, which is how most people think of our brain as a whole. Furthermore, we can be conscious during each stage of these brain wave changes. This is done through meditational practice and sleep studies.
Buddhist monks have meditated for thousands of years, exploring these subtle realms of the brain. They’re extremely familiar with positive effect of meditation, including the way it works to instill the inner strength and insight needed for spiritual practices; meditation, or “sitting,” is to a Buddhist monk as to what prayer is to Christians, or even pre-game is to a football player. But instead of trying to self talk your way into a peaceful state of being, monks know the value of just letting things be as they are. This is the first key in achieving conscious awareness during one of these states. You must let your ego (sense of self) and other thoughts fade into silence. What happens next might surprise you.
Neuroscientists observing MRI scans have learned that with a meditation practice strength in the brain is achieved by reinforcing the connections between brain cells. In a recent 2012 study showed that people who meditate exhibit higher levels of gyrification — the “folding” of the cerebral cortex as a result of growth. The scientists suspect that gyrification is responsible for making the brain better at processing information, making decisions, forming memories, and improving attention. What this also does is confirm the argument regarding that meditation aids in the individuals ability to cope with stressors. Excitingly, science has now proven the validity of mediation in neuroplasticity.
When relating to the actual activity of brain wave function during meditation, study results have been linked to dramatic and positive changes in electrical brain activity, namely increased Theta and Alpha EEG activity, which is associated with wakeful and relaxed attention. These two states are most desired but the hardest to achieve due to our over-chattering of internal mental noise. In order to achieve levels of conscious Theta waves we must first learn how to navigate in silence. This doesn’t mean in the absence of noise, but rather that there is internal mental stillness. Once we have mastered in entry point and technique that helps us to achieve stillness, we can then venture in deeper to deeper Theta and Delta waves.
A very interesting study from earlier this year showcased that meditators have a different expression of brain metabolites than healthy non-meditators, specifically those metabolites linked to anxiety and depression. This is very interesting considering how often we actually take time to sit in silence. The drug industry would be in trouble if we all starting sitting in silence for 30 minutes every morning – is it that simple? Yes, it is that simple. As you sit in silence, your brain activity will start to calm. As it calms your level of operating brain wave will shift lower and lower, depending on your level of skill. And your level of shill is based on your ability to descend into stillness itself.
When you lower your brain waves via meditation you feel more relaxed and centered. This keeps us on track and refreshed. In fact, many have said that after a meditation session they feel as though they have slept for 8 hours. This is why meditation feels SOOO good! It’s because have let ourselves go into the vastness of stillness, allowing our brain to function on lower fluctuating wave frequencies, i.e. your brain relaxes.
Take time each day to try to reach the state of Alpha brain wave. You will know you have reached it when the wondering of your mind has ceased. Don’t try to force it, just let your thought be as they are. For the more you try to push them away the more they will solidify. Allow your thoughts to come and go, establishing a firm root in stillness. Look and “Listen” for silence. That will help your mind quiet. As they say, “seek and you will find…”