Is your meditation practice helping you or worsening your negative patterns?

Each kind of meditation has a different effect on the brain. Research studies on the effect of meditation on brain is proving that just “meditating” is not the solution to all our problems. In fact certain meditation practices can actually be worsening our harmful psychological  tendencies even though they may feel good (Not all that glitters is gold) Thus finding the right form of meditation for our present condition and purpose, is the key.

In ancient times, the right meditation teacher or Guru was attuned to the students’ state of mind and needs. In modern times however, finding a Guru who is really committed to leading you toward unconditional freedom is a rarity. Enter the world of softwares and gadgets that converge tracking signals from body and brain into customized systems.

Recently, I have been involved with Med Lab at Pyramid Valley, Bangalore, a retreat and meditation center. Based on my previous involvement at Universities in Boston where tests were conducted on my brain, in meditation and non- meditation modes, I am in awe of these approaches. Furthermore, as a Mindfulness Instructor and Coach, I see the value of harnessing technology in helping people find the right forms of practices that bring about change and personal transformation.

In one of the demos that I was asked to participate in, I started the test of my pulse right after a talk and registered a Heart Rate Variability (HRV ) of low coherence, indicating an excited state of mind. But as I began to meditate, HRV changed significantly toward High level coherence just within 2 mins, thus indicating a sharp decrease in stress (as can be seen in this video).

Not every kind of meditation however has the same effect. Infact there are some forms of concentration and focus practices where the brain waves register a stressful and tensed state of mind because the meditator is seeking to control the mind into quietude. Similarly, if there is decreased activity in Thalamus region, it has been pointed out that transcendental forms of meditation could potentially worsen that condition in the brain and nervous system.

So how exactly can we use technology to find the right meditation? And can it replace the effectiveness of personal guidance which is subject to the factor of human error.

While its true that technology can help reveal inside our brain in a graphical form than can be understood viscerally, it is also obvious that software alone is not the answer. Interpreting the data from researches, not just scientifically, but also from the perspective of meditation is very important. For example, one of the applications I tried with the sensors in my head pointed out that I was in a meditative state when all I was doing was to rest consciously. It registered the same effect when I lied down with the sensors wrapped around my head.

In summary, I think there is a great potential for use of technology in finding the right meditative methods. However, there need to be more domain experts behind such technology who can interpret the raw data intelligently. Just like how you need a doctor to prescribe the right medication, technology has to work hand in hand with experts for designing and guiding this process for individuals.

Our next step in this research process is to incorporate these tests before, during and after a Mindfulness session spanning few weeks. Comments, suggestions, questions?

Mindful Way to Overcome Depression

At a recent talk given for the WHO Mental Health Day, I gave a talk on rise of Depression in urban cities and how to deal with Depression using Mindfulness (talk given at Ashmayu Yoga, Bengaluru.) It is estimated that about 6 crore of Indian population are suffering from depression. Then there are those who have to live or associate with those who are struggling with depression and who are themselves affected by it.