Meditation has been around for ever but in recent years it has started to gain a lot of main stream popularity. Everyone from the CEO of Google, Larry Page to Oprah Winfrey has embraced the practice with Mr. Page now making it the practice part of his staff’s daily routine. But what exactly is meditation and how could you ever use it in a schooling scenario?
What is Meditation?
Well firstly, there is no one correct way to meditate, granted some methods are more effective than others but ultimately the decision is personal and most people will find one technique that works well for them, not unlike picking a diet. With that said there are two methodologies commonly practiced: Focused Attention meditation (FAM) and Open Minded meditation, (OMO). The modus operandi of FAM is to focus on one thing and one thing only, be it your breathing, a bodily sensation or sound or object within your immediate vicinity. The object of meditation in this manner is bring your attention back to the what ever object you’ve chosen to focus on when your mind begins to wonder.
The other type of meditation, that’s often used in research scenarios, is open-monitoring meditation. Whilst partaking in this technique you simply pay attention to all that is happening around you, the tricky part is then allowing yourself NOT to react to any of it.
So what happens to your brain when you meditate.
I’m going to dive into some basic neurology here so put on your thinking caps.
Using modern technology like Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, (fMRI) scans, scientists have been able to develop a thorough understanding of what’s really happening in our heads when we meditate.
Frontal lobe: This is the most recently developed part of the human brain and is effectively where you live, (conscious awareness). It is also responsible for reasoning, planning, emotion, creativity etc. During meditation the Frontal Cortex, part of the Frontal Lobe, tends to go offline.
Parietal lobe:This part of the brain processes sensory information about the surrounding world, orienting you in time and space. During meditation, activity in the parietal lobe slows down.
Thalamus: A lot of research suggests that the Thalamus benefits most from meditation as it’s the part of the brain responsible for controlling your senses and sensory data. Meditation effectively allows your Thalamus to defragment, very much like a computer.
Reticular Formation:As the brain’s watchman, the Reticular Formation is a set of interconnected Nuclei found within the brainstem. It plays an important role in helping the Thalamus and Cerebral Cortex determine which sensory information moves into a conscious plane of attentions. Meditation helps slow down the associated Beta wave activity which is connected to an overactive Reticular Formation.
Next week we’ll be looking into how meditation actually benefits you and how we’ll be implementing it in our day to day routine in the coming months.