New research on the “meditating brain”

by Linda Mainquist on April 8, 2010

Brain and Meditation

Newly published research indicates that the Transcendental Meditation technique activates the brain’s natural “ground state.” A special issue of Cognitive Processing, which is dedicated to the “Neuroscience of Meditation and Consciousness,” featured the results of a randomized, controlled study conducted at American University in Washington, D.C.

The respected science publication, Science Codex, reported:

“The study found that practice of the TM technique produces a unique state of ‘restful alertness.’ This is characterized by higher alpha power in the frontal cortex and lower beta and gamma waves in the same frontal areas. In addition, the TM practice was found to create increased coherence in alpha activity between the hemispheres of the brain, as well as enhancing an individual’s sense of ‘self’ by activating what neuroscientists call the ‘default mode network’ in the brain.”

This month’s Psychology Today, featured a story in its “Wired for Success” blog that referred to this new research and its implications for professionals under increasing pressure. The story also highlighted previous research funded by the National Institutes of Health which has shown that TM practice improves cardiovascular health. The article concludes by saying, “So it seems that there is a cost-efficient, easy-to-learn strategy to enhance leaders’ and employees’ performance, that could make a significant difference.”

My experience as a teacher of the TM technique has consistently shown me that it has much broader implications than that. I think that people who practice the TM program directly experience what this ‘natural ground state’ is. The people I have taught to meditate often describe this unique state of ‘restful alertness’ as an experience of creative silence where the sense of Self is so free and expanded that it’s indescribably fulfilling.

A student told me that his experience during TM was of a silence that is not empty, but full of life. He thought it was one of the “coolest” experiences he’s ever had. “It was nothingness and ‘everything-ness’ at the same time!”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, a man known as an American “transcendentalist” wrote:

“Within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul.”

Looks like Emerson had a pretty clear experience of that natural “ground state” of the brain!

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Related posts:

  1. A Neurologist on the Origins of Creativity in the Brain
  2. New research looks at brain integration in top athletes and in long-time meditators
  3. ‘Brilliant minds’—New Research on the Brain State of Virtuoso Musicians and How it Relates to TM
  4. Stress, the Brain, and Student Life: 
A Researcher’s Reflections (Part 1)
  5. Wired for Success—Can TM improve performance?

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