Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meditation Links 3

I've been listening sporadically to Buddhist Geeks for a while, and as I go back and start to fill in the gaps it's interesting how many really good episodes I missed along the way.

For example, I missed the posts that talked about Dharma Overground, a site I mentioned before that has been very helpful.

And the posts about Kenneth Folk, who related the stories of the Burmese/Mayasian Theravada culture, where enlightenment is seen as very real and very possible, as opposed to American Zen practice, where such attainments are never talked about and their likelihood is characterized as pretty much nil.

And here is one map of the territory, the Progress of Insight by Mahasi Sayadaw.

Stephen Snyder and Tina Rasmussen have a site called Jhanas Advice, which has links to a number of their talks.  They also have a book, Practicing the Jhanas, based on their experience and with the endorsement of Pa Auk Sayadaw.

Stephen and Tina also have some stuff at Dharma Seed, which has a lot of Vipassana talks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Meditation Links 2

Bhante Vimalaramsi - breath meditation (anapanasati), with a big emphasis on relaxation and no particular point of focus (like the upper lip area, which I now favor), based on the original sutras.

Open Enlightenment - some enlightened guy.  The free ebook  has a fair overview and history of spirituality which might be eye opening for anyone who hasn't thought about such things.

On Dharma Overground, the Mahasi style of vipassana insight meditation is pretty popular, this Satipanya Buddhist retreat site has some audio instruction I plan to check out.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Goenka Meditation activates Occipital Gamma

In Occipital gamma activation during Vipassana meditation, 16 subjects with 2.5-40 years of meditation in the Goenka style of vipassana showed significant decreases in frontal delta (1st image) and significant increases in occipital gamma (2nd image).  These images represent change from control periods to meditation periods.

It is interesting that the Goenka method involves scanning the body sensations from head to toe and back, and thus there might be a proprioceptive visual component that generates the gamma increase in the visual cortex.  It is also interesting that the gamma effects are so different from the areas reported in Davidson's study, with no frontal effects.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Meditation Links 1

The Dharma Overground provides a forum for hardcore meditators, and has refreshingly less dogma than most Buddhist sites I've run across. I liked Dan Ingram's view of things once he had begun looking for a path, where after a lot of searching, he realized "those darn Buddhists have come up with very simple techniques that lead directly to remarkable results if you follow instructions and get the dose high enough." He has a fairly no-bullshit guide to Buddhism, the MCTB, Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha.  Dan also has a site, Interactive Buddha.

Also by way of the Dharma Overground, I found the brief but informative A Reformed Slacker's Guide to Stream-Entry by Tarin Greco.

Also came across Shinzen Young, who provides some dogma-free stuff, with his Basic Mindfulness Home Practice Program. Kind of like Kabat-Zinn for hardcore practitioners that want to go beyond simple MBSR. I was a bit put off at first by the new jargon he introduces, but ultimately I like what he's doing.  It seems to be a noting practice, rather than a concentration practice.

EEG of Jhanas

EEG Power and Coherence Analysis of an Expert Meditator in the Eight Jhanas is a working paper that describes the EEG differences between resting state and Jhana for a single subject, Leigh Brasington (Leigh discusses the study on Youtube). Jhanas are altered states of consciousness that meditators go into typically as a result of a concentration style practice. The Jhanas are described as some of the most pleasurable experiences that a human can have, and Leigh has the envious ability to reliably go in and out of these states.

I was mainly interested in the maps of various power bands while in Jhana compared to the resting state. These provide some information on the EEG changes, but of course these are relative to Leigh's resting state, not a normative sample. Which may be a good thing, in terms of what we're looking for, but one thing I'd also like to see is how Leigh's resting state compares to a normative database.

The maps are based on a 256-channel Geodesic Sensor Net and I had to dig up some information to get an idea of how to think of the sites in a 10-20 or 10-10 kind of way. Black boxes represent higher amplitudes, white boxes represent lower amplitudes.  I found myself struck by the beauty and symmetry of the patterns.

A lot of the effects are concentrated in the prefrontal area, roughly in triangles formed by Fp1-F3-F7 and Fp2-F4-F8, or to put it more simply, the median of these areas might fall a bit below F3 & F4.   There were a couple of areas around FC3 & FC4 where gamma was decreased, this would be in contrast to Davidson's research that found gamma increases in those areas in his study of Tibetan monks practicing loving kindness meditation. In the aforementioned areas during Jhana,

  • Theta 4-6Hz was lower
  • Alpha 8-10Hz was higher
  • Alpha 10-12Hz was much higher
  • Beta 12.5-25Hz was much higher
  • Gamma 25-42Hz was much higher, probably overall the biggest effects

Theta 4-6Hz and Alpha 6-8Hz were higher in the Cz-Pz area, radiating out towards F3 and F4. Alpha 10-12Hz was slightly lower around Pz, which is somewhat at odds with Newberg's research showing less activation (i.e. presumably more alpha) in that area for contemplatives experiencing oneness.

All in all, very interesting stuff, this is the exact kind of thing I've been searching for, and I look forward to seeing the final paper, which looks like it will have a section on coherence, as well as more research along these lines.

What this blog is about

Having recently gotten back into meditation, I have found a bewildering number of sources of information and possible techniques and would like to explore them here. I also have a fair amount of experience with EEG biofeedback, and wanted to use this blog to similarly document relevant research and approaches, pose questions, and discuss BioExplorer software.

Of particular interest, does EEG biofeedback constitute an "expedient means" (see the Lotus sutra) of achieving enlightenment?