Meditation had always been a research area in the spiritual realm , and until the 1990s there was no comprehensive scientific research on this topic. A relevant event occurred in 1991, when scientists Francisco Varela and Adam Engle, together with the Dalai Lama, created the Mind and Life Institute in the United States with the aim of exploring the interface between science and meditation. Another relevant fact was in the late 90s, when the neurologist Marcus Raichle incorporated techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging to the investigation of the default neural network. What is meditation definition?
From there there has been a progressive rapprochement between science and tradition. The scientific community has become aware of the detailed analysis of the mind that the meditative traditions have been doing for centuries and has placed meditation as one more focus of their research .
Currently, the scientific community in this field, led among others by Richard Davidson, is finding enormous similarities about the practical results of meditation between his advances in neuroscience and what was written in ancient texts such as the Satipatthana Sutta.
What is the meditation process?
The meditation process is something simple to understand and, on the other hand, more difficult to do . It is like making a “hole in 1” in golf, the instruction is to get the ball into the hole with a single stroke. It’s easy to understand right? But not so easy to do and even less to do at will with each stroke.
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 attending to an object of the present constantly and, when the attention leaves and you realize it, you come back again.
But if one progresses properly, one realizes that meditation is more than bringing the mind to the object each time it is distracted . Meditation practice allows you to be in this world with a greater feeling of happiness, fluidity, presence, and clarity.
In my experience as a meditation teacher I can say that the progression in learning is not linear , there are weeks in which a student progresses a lot and others that seem to be going backwards. This is normal, since it is a very subjective experience and depends a lot on the emotional state of the student. What is meditation definition?
What are the benefits of meditation?
The benefit of meditation can be divided into four main areas , positive aspects that are obtained thanks to brain neuroplasticity . They are as follows.
1. The attentional process
By increasing the capacity for sustained attention, meditation allows us to improve focus and concentration .
2. Body awareness
Decreasing the tendency to judge internal experience helps us understand external experience and gives us a greater capacity to make decisions .
3. Emotional regulation
Experiencing what is present in the field of consciousness, observing these experiences without altering or reacting to them, allows us to attend to unpleasant emotions or sensations from an attitude that generates habituation, acceptance and greater ability to sustain difficult emotions and regulate them.
4. Changes in the perspective of the Self
Observing without judgment and being equanimous, it allows the disidentification of the contents by the conscience ; this fact happens when experiencing the changing and improper nature of reality. The fact of experiencing oneself as something not separate from the rest changes the process of self-perception and facilitates change.
How does neurotechnology help in learning meditation?
An option that I discovered a while ago and that allows students to progress more quickly is the application of neurotechnology, which consists of the use of electronic equipment to analyze our meditation practice . What is meditation definition?
With neurotechnology, something crucial is achieved in the learning process: having objective data. Thus, we can compare the numerical data of the practice with the subjective experience and with data from previous practices. Having accurate and real-time data on what happens in the brain (neurofeedback), and in the heart, in the breath (biofeedback) while you meditate allows the self-learning process to be smoother and faster .
In my case, I use an electroencephalograph (EEG), which the student uses during meditations; In this way, of the four previous points, the first two can be worked extensively and in part also the third. 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 we work mainly on Alpha waves, related to states of meditation, relaxation and calm, Theta waves, which have to do with deep states of meditation and the first phases of sleep, and waves Beta, related to alertness and active concentration.
The debate that is generated between student and teacher is interesting when observing the evolution of the different brain waves with their attentional state, in which moments they have been more concentrated or more distracted, how many times one is distracted, etc. And it is also relevant to know the body movement during practice, or how the heart rate changes in practice.
Meditation is in fashion, but … is it here to stay?
Everything is progressing very quickly, and it is that 10 years ago, when someone said that they meditated, they were classified as someone strange or with a too spiritual life. 50 years ago, those who played sports or brushed their teeth were considered rare or very refined people, and let’s look now: we are all clear about the benefits of sustained sports practice and good dental hygiene.
Perception is changing, as has happened with sports or dental hygiene, and it is increasingly known that people who meditate obtain benefits by improving their health, their relationships and establishing themselves in their lives in a more conscious way. What is meditation definition?
The time is coming when we are clear that we must take care of our mind , and meditation is joining unstoppably with other essential activities to enjoy good physical and mental health.
Science provides us with tools or vehicles that help us understand the path of life, it is what I call “technology at the service of consciousness.” And this adds to the important, the transcendental, which continues to be living life at every moment. What is meditation definition?