How Meditation Helps Our Brain Calm Down (& mindfulness vs mantra)

June 9, 2015

Brain will get overheated unless you give it a break. Meditation is a way to dip into the calm state. More people that meditate, more peaceful the world.

What is meditation?
A way to calm the chatter of the mind

Why should we calm the chatter?
Because there are many benefits.

It reduces stress. Helps us feel better. We make better decisions. Increases insight & creativity. We become less aggressive and more calm. Increases our energy. More willpower. We can reduce depression (thinking about past) & anxiety (thinking about future). Increases happiness & joy. Our relationships improve. Overall it makes our lives much better. Plus all the top excellent people are doing it and we don’t want to be left behind!

What’s the science?
I’m a novice but it has to do with brainwaves.

Our brain operates at many levels, which can be measured with an eeg machine.

Gamma waves (30-70hz): sudden bursts of insight, peak state
Beta waves (13-30hz): normal daily state (chatter, thought, alertness)
Alpha waves (7-13hz): relaxed, creativity, mental stillness, meditation
Theta waves (4-7hz): deep meditation, dreams, hypnosis, sleep
Delta waves (1-4hz): deep sleep

Our brain is like a computer.
You know how your laptop gets superhot when playing a high graphics video game. The fan turns on full blast. Computer starts to slow down or glitch. At worst, it will overheat & crash.

Same thing with our brains.
During the day, we are overheating our brains with rush hour traffic, taking phone calls, emailing people, multitasking, working, sensory inputs of sights & sounds, etc.

Then there’s the nonstop mindless chatter that’s going on in our brains, narrating what is happening around us.

All of this is exhausting.
Meditation is a way to dip back into the relaxing alpha state and take a break from the frantic beta. Like a calming hot bath.

Also, the more we practice being in a meditate state, our prefrontal cortex becomes stronger. That’s the executive part of our brain.

Imagine the prefrontal cortex as the small rider, and rest of the brain as a big lumbering elephant.

By meditating, the rider becomes stronger.

Mindfulness vs Mantra Meditation:
There is no right or wrong way to meditate.
It depends on personal preference.

Buddhists are into mindfulness meditation.
Also known as zazen practice.
Paying attention to the breath.
Paying attention to our thoughts come and go as clouds.
If you get lost in a thought, come right back to being the watcher.
Our whole life could be a mindfulness practice, pay attention to how the steering wheel feels and how the car moves.
When washing dishes, pay attention to how the water feels on our skin.
Being in the Now, being present, as Eckhart Tolle says

Mantra Meditation is where you chant something
You can chant OM, or some other sound
Transcendental Meditation is a type of mantra meditation
There are also free mantras you can find online or in books
Chanting stops the inner chatter to the point where our brain naturally relaxes and reaches the alpha state.

Which is easier?

Mantra meditation, according to Dr. Norman Rosenthal (a TM guy).
I also have found this to be true. I can reach the peaceful state every time with TM while mindfulness meditation is hard and distracting.

Other ways to get into state:
That’s why people recommend naps.
Because our brain gets a rest and we naturally enter the peaceful alpha state.

I heard on a podcast that a famous hedge fund guy takes naps right before a big contract negotiation. Because he will be much calmer and in control than the other party.

I think psychedelics also change our brain waves to the calmer states. That’s why mushrooms, marijuana, and the rest help us see, hear & feel things differently than in normal life.

Same goes for float tanks and music.

Resources:
Functions of Brainwave Frequencies

Healing Mantras (book)

Brain scans of people who meditate (video) – Kelly McGonigal

TM (mantra) is easier than Mindfulness (video) – Dr Norman Rosenthal

Seinfeld Talks TM (video) – More than money, love, and anything, Jerry loves energy. And TM is like an unlimited bank account of energy