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Brain Waves in Meditation

The measurement of brain waves in meditation is a relatively recent development, as scientists strive to discover how this ancient practice of meditation can reduce stress, increase feelings of well being, and benefit overall health, among other advantages. It is of specific use to help one increase alertness, relaxation and reflection even in “waking” states.  Brain waves in meditation are predominantly those discussed below, while those in normal consciousness are of the beta type. Each type, as discussed below, has specific benefits.

Brain waves in meditation shift through various stages. The most common brain waves in meditation are alpha waves. These alpha brain waves in meditation basically promote changes in the autonomic nervous system that calm it. Regular contemplative practice of this type reverses the roles of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems so that the normally dominant sympathetic nervous system takes a back seat to the normally secondary parasympathetic nervous system. This lowers blood pressure and heart rate and lowers the amount of stress hormones in the body, as well as calming the mind. One of these stress hormones is cortisol, incidentally, which has been shown to encourage weight gain when it is elevated over the long term.

Gamma brain waves in meditation also greatly increase. Gamma waves denote intense focus and are usually weak and transient in normal brain activity.  In experienced meditation practitioners, it was particularly noted that gamma brain waves in meditation were especially high in the left prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is an exciting finding, since this area is often associated with decreased anxiety and fear, positive emotions, and a decrease in depressive feelings or symptoms.

Theta brain waves in meditation are said to help open the “third eye” for practitioners. This “etheric eye” is said to be the channel through which practitioners gain illumination wisdom via vibrations received through the third eye. In practical terms, theta brainwaves in meditation also invoke a deep sense of relaxation and also encourage creativity and make problem solving and memorization easier. Most people have also experienced a theta state, for example, in the condition known as “highway hypnosis,” wherein drivers can perform driving tasks so automatically that they don’t remember making the drive home from their office. Theta waves also present themselves for most people when they do any task that is automatic or nearly so, such as folding clothes, washing hair, etc.

Finally, delta brain waves in meditation are the slowest of all. Everyone experiences delta waves in deep sleep, but delta brain waves in meditation are said to help experienced practitioners access the unconscious mind. Their existence may also be part of the reason that newly learned skills may be best integrated if one “sleeps on them," since they are associated with people's ability to integrate newly learned tasks.

By Amy Barnfeld

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