‘Meditation’ is the new buzz word among the cool kids! But with everyone suddenly being an expert, how do you know which techniques have integrity and what style of practice works for you?

As a meditation teacher, I believe most people wouldn’t need persuading on the physical benefits of a consistent meditation practice but it saddens me that despite a world of information and knowledge at our fingertips every minute of the day, there is still an assumption that all meditation techniques are the same and are designed to make you ‘relax’.

No, No, No!

The mind is complex. Modern science is just waking up to what yogis have known all along, that different meditation practices activate cognitive processes in different ways, producing different results. Indeed, several studies based on EEG measurements have now proved the distinctions.

I am no brain doctor (in fact I have no medical training at all) but here is an oversimplistic guide to brainwaves and the type of state they induce:

GAMMA – active thought (cognitive function, learning, memory, information processing)
BETA – awakened state (used in conscious thought and logical thinking)
ALPHA – calm, increase creativity and ability to absorb new information.
THETA – meditative (strongest during internal focus and relates to the subconscious mind)
DELTA – relaxation, restorative, healing (most prevalent during sleep)

Briefly, there are three types of meditation:

Focus based: This is where your attention is focused on an object of meditation. For example, a candle flame, your breath, or an object. Meditation traditions such as Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, and some styles of yoga, are designed to improve controlled focus. According to science, this uses Gamma brainwaves as you are working on cognitive processing.

Open Monitoring or Mindfulness Meditation: Here you actively pay attention to experiences without judging, without holding on and without reacting. Meditation traditions such a Vipassana and Zazen would be considered mindful meditation. This is Theta brainwaves as you are focused on reflecting.

Transcendence This practice goes beyond one’s own mental activity facilitating an automatic self-transcendence into meditation itself. Contrary to the other two categories above which require effort for sustained focus, this practice is ‘effortless’
because there is no requirement to direct attention. Transcendental Meditation is a good example of this (and my personal practice. This technique is backed my science – over 500 studies to date!). It works on frontal alpha brainwaves, to evoke a state of ‘relaxed, inner wakefulness’.

So what does this mean? First this blog post isn’t long enough for a deep discussion. Second, science doesn’t know the complete workings of the mind and as every human is different no sample pool in any scientific or non-scientific will be reliable. Therefore, meditation is a subjective practice. In other words, experiment and find a Practice that works for you!

Mindfulness Meditation that focuses on ‘loving kindness and compassion’ might be good to bring balance into your life as it may evoke more of these types of feelings.

A Focus based meditation will help you do just that – improve focus.

And if you want less stress in your life – transcendental is the way to go.

Whether you are a high performing CEO or PhD student needing to expand your consciousness, a busy mum needing to bring more self compassion to her life, or an athlete needing more focus, there’s a practice for you. Make meditation your friend!

With love, light and a little Ayama Magic xxx