Techniques Are Not the Same
doctors increasingly prescribe meditation to patients for stress-related disorders,
scientists are gaining a better understanding of how different techniques from
Buddhist, Chinese, and Vedic traditions produce different results.
different meditation practices often produce different results.
published in the July 2010 issue of Consciousness and Cognition
discusses three categories to organize and better understand meditation:
Focused attentionconcentrating on an object or emotion;
monitoringbeing mindful of one's breath or thoughts;
self-transcendingmeditations that transcend their own activitya new
category introduced by the authors.
category was assigned EEG bands, based on reported brain patterns during mental
tasks, and meditations were categorized based on their reported EEG.
idea is that meditation is, in a sense, a 'cognitive task,' and EEG frequencies
are known for different tasks," said Fred Travis, Ph.D., co-author, and Director
of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University
attention, characterized by beta/gamma activity, included meditations from
Tibetan Buddhist (loving kindness and compassion), Buddhist (Zen and Diamond Way),
and Chinese (Qigong) traditions.
monitoring, characterized by theta activity, included meditations from Buddhist
(Mindfulness, and ZaZen), Chinese (Qigong), and Vedic (Sahaja Yoga) traditions.
self-transcending, characterized by alpha1 activity, included meditations
from Vedic (Transcendental Meditation) and Chinese (Qigong) traditions.
categories, the included meditations differed in focus, subject/object relation,
and procedures. These findings shed light on the common mistake of averaging meditations
together to determine mechanisms or clinical effects.
differ in both their ingredients and their effects, just as medicines do. Lumping
them all together as "essentially the same" is simply a mistake,"
said Jonathan Shear, Ph.D., co-author, professor of philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth
University in Richmond, and the author of several books and publications on meditation.
differences between meditation techniques need to be respected when researching
physiological patterns or clinical outcomes of meditation practices," said
Dr. Travis. "If they are averaged together, then the resulting phenomenological,
physiological, and clinical profiles cannot be meaningfully interpreted."
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