Brain Wave States
There have been many scientific studies conducted on brain wave states in relation to those that meditate and the effects of meditation on these states.
To go into a bit of science on this there are four categories of brain wave are: Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta.
- Beta is 15 – 30 Hertz, and the awake, normal alert state of consciousness.
- Alpha is 9- 14 Hertz, and is the relaxed, calm, meditation, creative visualisation state of consciousness.
- Theta is 4 – 8 Hertz, and is the deep relaxation and meditation, problem solving state of consciousness.
- Delta – is 1 – 3 Hertz, experienced during deep, dreamless sleep.
The brainwave frequency that meditators go into during a deep state is known as the Theta state. This is the experience as described by meditators as complete silence and oneness with the present moment.
Psychosomatic effects on overall health
The “general adaption syndrome” is a mechanism to explain the way in which psychological stress translates into causing physical disease. It implies that stress creating situations induce psychophysical changes. Even though there is no absolute concrete evidence to support this theory, it is widely accepted and recognised amongst the majority of medical professionals, that stress is a major contributor to disease and healing, and meditation, used as a simple stress management technique is of beneficial and curative value.
Starting a Meditation Practice
Speaking from my own experience I started by learning a technique known as Transcendental Meditation (TM), around 10 years ago, and had a meditation teacher that not only taught me the technique but guided me through the weeks and months ahead. I attended group meditation sessions and was able to ask questions and contact my teacher with any concerns or things I needed clarifying. I cannot stress enough how valuable this is if you are new to meditation, as going into such a state can bring things that were buried in the unconscious mind to the surface for healing. Having the support of a guide/mentor that understands and to confide in, as well as give advice and reassurance is invaluable.
Transcendental Meditation uses mantra as a technique or tool for meditation. In this case a simple “beej” or seed mantra – a sound. Mantra meditation is focussing on a mantra – which can be as simple as this – a word/sound and focussing solely on it – repeating it, over and over, during the meditation – either internally in your head or out loud.
In the case of TM we chant internally – never aloud. It can be a simple phrase, a word or a sound. It can be very effective in concentrating the mind and is one of the best foundations for meditation. Particularly those with very active minds and in my opinion a great way to start for beginners.
Mantra meditation is usually practised by the repetition of a mantra (sound, single syllable, word or longer Vedic mantras) repeated over and over internally within the mind (as opposed to aloud) without moving the mouth, or lips. Simple beej mantras of a single syllable (as mentioned is the case in TM) can be most helpful. Using a japa mala can also be helpful in this practice as another tool for concentration and creating a certain vibration of energy as the chant is repeated 108 times – though this is not necessary and beginners may just want to start with chanting the beej mantra alone first for a fixed period of time.
Your focus is on the mantra, so therefore it should be easier for the mind to stop wandering. If you notice your mind starting to wander, just bring it gently back to your mantra, without force or any judgement. Your mind will naturally want to start wandering after some time and this is a normal part of the process, whenever you notice it, simply acknowledge it and gently bring it back.
Important Points to Remember for Beginners
If you are to derive the benefit from the art of meditation it is crucial to understand the following key points:
- Meditation is not meditation unless you make it a daily habit/practice. You need to practice daily. This is essential to gain the full benefits, instil the habit as a practice and keep a healthy balanced mind. Over time you will notice the benefits impacting on your life on all levels.
When one does not meditate daily our attention and vitality get lost in the outside world and therefore we also lose our ability to relate to all of life in a meaningful way, or to our true nature as a soul.
Meditating twice a day–once in the early morning before the day starts and in the evening time, before dinner are ideal. But any time is better than none!
- Not “forcing” or becoming frustrated when the mind wanders. Gently observing with awareness and bringing yourself back to the meditation. You have to “spin the string of the mind”–that is not too tight or too loose. Too tight–too hard and it will break. Too loose-it will be too soft and it will also break. When you find the balance of mental tension it becomes meditation.
- If you do not stir water it settles and remains clear. If you do not disturb the mind it will settle and become peaceful and free. When you achieve this state, this is meditation.
A final point to note is that meditation is a trance state, somewhat similar to the state of mild hypnosis, and similarly with hypnosis, it can be deepened to a state where much repressed, and sometimes unwanted/or unexpected information can be brought into the conscious mind from the unconscious. This is part of the deep healing process of meditation and can help the seeker to see the innermost self more clearly through doing the “shadow work”. However one must be ready for and have adequate support as necessary for this. It will vary greatly from person to person dependent on many factors that have influenced their lives and soul journey.
This is why it is not advisable that anyone who is suffering from any form of psychological disorder, or who is in receipt of drugs for a psychological condition, should practice meditation except under the direction, and guidance of a qualified medical practitioner, psychologist or psychotherapist.
For these reasons it is also necessary and advisable to take responsibility for and manage your own meditation. This allows you to control the meditation activity by clearly stating an intention to yourself that this is your meditation, and that you are consciously controlling the act of meditation. To do this it is advisable to create some form of ritual, in order to signal yourself (both consciously and unconsciously) that you are going to commence meditation, and that you are going to end meditation.
It can be as simple as a mental note to oneself, washing hands before and after practice, setting up the space or setting a timer.
Coming out of meditation after a set period of time is good practice. Do not try to go beyond limits as the mind will tend to revolt and kick back. Better to leave some interest in the mind and start over again with renewed enthusiasm in the next session. Continue to purify the mind in daily life. The more the mind is pure, the more the process of meditation is easier and faster.
As a beginner it can be helpful to have a guide/meditation teacher to support you through the process until you become accustomed and confident in your own practice, know what to expect and have support as and when things come up.
I am a qualified meditation teacher and Yoga teacher (RYT 500 – Yoga Alliance), I offer one to one classes tailored to the individual as well as free group meditation classes. Feel free to contact me for more information.
Please note that the information contained within this article is based upon my learning and experiences of yogic and meditation practices. It is information intended to share on the potential benefits of such practices.
The information, techniques and recommendations mentioned herein are not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of a qualified healthcare physician, doctor or psychiatrist. If in doubt, or if you may require diagnosis or medical attention, consult your healthcare provider, doctor or psychiatrist before implementing or adopting any practices or changes in your routine.