What is Meditation?
There are a variety of meditation techniques, however, generally speaking, meditation involves sitting quietly, eyes closed for about 20 minutes while focusing one’s attention – whether it is on the breath (Mindfulness), a soothing sound/word (Mantra), posture (Zen), an image (Buddhist), an idea or concept (e.g. forgiveness or loving kindness: Christian/Buddhist).
What are the Benefits of Meditation?
- Improved cognitive abilities: attention, memory and creativity.
- Greater focus in the moment.
- Lower fight or flight response, e.g. less stress and anxiety.
- More positive mood, less depression.
- Decreased feeling of loneliness.
- Lowers use of addictive substances.
- Increased immune system function.
- Decreased pain and inflammation.
- Improvement in overall mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
What Type of Meditation is Most Effective?
A study by Dr. Fred Travis, Consciousness Researcher used neural imaging and EEG data to compare Tibetan meditation, mindfulness meditation and mantra meditation. EEG readings showed Tibetan meditation had more gamma waves meaning that it was more strenuous as well as neural imaging showing that the brain was more active. In mindfulness there was an imbalance with considerable activity in the part of the brain associated with evaluating. In contrast, EEG patterns during mantra meditation showed global coherent alpha waves indicative of pure awareness and in neural imaging the front and back of the brain, the attention systems were more awake and active while the thalamus, which is the gateway of experience, is less active. This indicates a state of restful alertness in mantra meditation not present in the other methods. Dr. Travis explains that mantra meditation can seem effortless because it is based the natural tendency of the mind to go in a direction of greater calm.
What is Mindfulness?
Meditation is considered the essential base of cultivating mindfulness. In between meditations, mindfulness is the act of bringing focused awareness into every day activity. Mindfulness practices are intended to help quiet a busy mind and become more aware of the present moment. The ultimate goal is simply to give your attention fully to what you are doing in the moment.
What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
Focusing one’s mind in the present moment is very simple but yet can have profound benefit. The present moment is the only time we have the ability and power to choose what to think or what action to take. In cognitive therapy automatic negative or fearful thoughts about the future or past are the source of stress, anxiety and depression. By being more able to stay focused on the present moment we can choose to interact with our internal experience of thoughts, feelings and physical sensations in a more positive and healthy way. In general, life seems easier and more enjoyable when more fully experiencing each moment.
How can I Learn Meditation and Mindfulness?
Dr. Dufford first learned to meditate in 1975 using a mantra based technique. Since then he has studied, practiced and taught a variety of meditation and mindfulness methods. He incorporates teaching these practices in individual therapy sessions. Meditation and mindfulness techniques are very helpful for most presenting problems and mental health diagnoses.