Last week some news reports came out (see earthsky.org for one) about recent research on meditation from some good folks in Scandinavia. They looked at EEG patterns in two types of meditative activity.
In one type the person clears their mind, focuses on breathing, and lets the conscious flow come and go, not hindering it and not holding it. The EEG in this case showed more widespread activation front and back of alpha and theta waves. In the other type the person focuses on a mental image, be it Buddha, a nature scene, or some other distinct image to hold onto mindfully. The EEG here showed specific frontal activation of alpha and theta waves. A quick search showed that the more one practices meditation the more pronounced the ability to induce such rhythms, alpha relating to a relaxed conscious state and theta to alert arousal. These are reminiscent of the infant’s quiet alert state seen right after feeding, when content, secure, and watching the world perhaps with a bit of infant wonder.
I have written before of the MEMBRAIN, our brain as the membrane surrounding our mind. To do this it must perform the 4 basic membrane functions, keeping energy (information) in and out, passing energy in and out.
I wrote then about certain signals, e.g., language, art, facial expression, tone of voice, having a privileged pass into and out of the mind through the MEMBRAIN’s channels. Now I want to use the four functions to differentiate the two modes of meditation. In the first mode with the diffuse focus, the MEMBRAIN passes little information out but lets it in, not working to keep any out, and also not keeping any in. Information comes and goes, not held onto nor acted upon. In the second mode with a specific focus, the MEMBRAIN again passes little information out, but now it passes some in and works to keep out what is not the image, then to keep the image in mind. Information is gathered and held, little else is let in and again it is not acted on. In both modes the MEMBRAIN performs its functions through control of arousal and attention seen in the alpha and theta waves, so the areas most involved are medial (down the center), not lateral (across the sides).
Here’s recent haiku that’s half-way relevant:
Now bask in the wild fresh breeze
bringing today’s warm sunlight.