A Wandering Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste
Relax and cheer up. Researchers in Norway scanned 14 meditators’ brains with an fMRI machine and discovered that a wandering mind boosts brain waves more than a brain at rest. By contrast, “concentrative”, directed mind in meditation showed less beneficial brain waves than a mind at rest. The non-directed, wandering mind in meditation activates the brain more than concentrated meditation.
The increased energy detected by fMRI in the non-directive, wandering mind meditators was primarily in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This activated prefrontal cortex, scientists understand, is the brain area that helps us to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different, future consequences of current activities, working toward a defined goal, prediction of outcomes, expectation based on actions, and the ability to suppress urges.
Agitating Meditators. Conflicts Of Interest?
Somewhat agitating, I suspect for old-school yogi’s, is this research seems to indicate that directive, “concentrated” meditation methods may not be as effective as a brain at rest. However, this study only had 14 participants, much too small of a sample population to make definitive conclusions, like most meditation studies. More meditation research is needed with larger populations of subjects who’s brains can be fMRI scanned in controlled, randomized studies.
Possible conflicts of interest? The “non-directive”, mind wandering meditation method used in this study is called Acem1. Of the 8 person research team behind the study three practice Acem, the others do not. The website, for Acem Meditation International, says it’s a non-profit organization working to help people develop existentially through mindful, reflective processes. Acem was founded in Norway in 1966 by Are Holen MD PhD. The method, they claim, is “you don’t try to relax”. In Acem Meditation, you repeat a meditation sound mentally without effort, while thoughts and impressions are allowed to come and go freely. There is no attempt, the Acem website asserts, at emptying the mind. [For full self-disclosure, I do not promote any organization or any particular meditation methods. I was trained in and practiced Kriya Yoga of Self-Realization Fellowship for 20 years. I’m skeptical of supernatural claims from yogis and meditators].
Now, onto the Science 2.0 post that includes a link to the original research article.
Concentrative Or Nondirective Meditation? Which Does Science Say Works Better?
Mindfulness. Zen. Meditation drumming. Chakra. Buddhist and transcendental meditation. It evokes eastern mystics and hip elites in California pretending to leave their corporeal forms behind and achieve some higher state of being.
But what about poor stressed-out wretches that can’t afford to fly in big-name Yogis? What does the research say? Not much.
But researchers would like to change that – fMRI imaging can tell us very little about what is really happening, but it’s a start. The authors of a new paper on meditation say that different meditation techniques can actually be divided into two main groups.
Read the full Science 2.0 article Concentrative Or Nondirective Meditation? Which Does Science Say Works Better?.
Subscribe now to Skeptic Meditations. Never miss our reviews and news that takes you into the borderlands of science and the supernatural. Like us on Facebook. Share with your friends. And, leave your reply to this article.
1 “ACEM is an offshoot of Transcendental Meditation, founded by an early student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who split with the TM organization in 1966: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acem_Meditation#History.”- a reader left a reply informing us of this.