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LORD KRISHNA is the supreme guru of meditation (Yogeswaran). In the famous Time magazine the importance meditation and yoga, an ancient Indian system, is high-lighted that the ancient mind- and spirit-enhancing art is becoming increasingly popular and gaining medical legitimacy.

By simple definition, meditation is engagement in contemplation, especially of a spiritual or devotional nature. To elaborate further, meditation is an attempt to concentrate mind on a single form or an idea or an aspect of divinity at the exclusion of all other forms, thoughts, and ideas. The mind is focused inwards, and this effort of concentration acts as a stimulus to gain access to knowledge of 'object of meditation'. The aspirant makes an attempt to minimize perceptions through senses - inputs through special senses like touch, sight, hearing, etc. - by detaching mind from sense organs in the brain. This helps in controlling restlessness of mind, in favour of inner contemplation. The mind, as if, is made still. Meditation may be, therefore, taken as a 'passive' activity! But is it really so?

By practising transcendental meditation, or TM, many people have got relief from back pain, neck pain, depression. The mind calms and quiets, . What thoughts you have during meditation become clearer, more focused. Anger, anxiety and worries give way to a peace that -- as the name implies -- transcends thought.

"It simplifies things. There's less anger. Better relationships,Because meditation centers helps to focus more intensely and intently on the moment rather than outside distractions, "it has made me very, very driven in the areas that I want to be driven in.By most accounts, meditation is booming in America, with about 15 million die-hard practitioners, double the number from a decade ago.

Medical studies continue to show regular meditation working magic in reducing blood pressure and stress-related illnesses, including heart disease. Brain images show that regular meditation helps calm the most active sensory-assaulted parts of the brain.

Some studies show it may even help students achieve better grades.

Because of such benefits, meditation is being used more regularly in schools, in offices, hospitals, even prisons. At least one study has shown that prisoners who meditate, once released, return to prison less frequently.

Tremendous changes observed in the human brain and nervous system during mediation run contrary to this belief of 'passivity' attached to meditation. Unprecedented progress and research in neurobiology, investigative neurology, and study of neurotransmitters in the last two decades has given a great fillip to the study of neuro-physiology of Meditation and Yoga. Altered State of Consciousness can be brought about by hypnosis, drugs (e. g. LSD), sleep, etc., but here we are trying to study a state specific science of altered consciousness brought about by meditation alone.

We shall attempt to review the progress in neurobiology in the recent years. An attempt is made to throw light on this new and fascinating subject. The terms used are technical, but, as far as possible, an attempt is made to simplify the description.

This attempt to explain the neurophysiology of meditation is purely hypothetical.

Meditation and Changes in Neurophysiology:

One of the ways to control physiological reactions to psychological stimuli is meditation, Yoga, Zen Buddhism etc. The scientists take Transcendental Meditation (TM) as the uniform technique, and base their observations on the study of the subjects engaged in this form of meditation. In summing up the results the scientists have come to conclusion that the effect of meditation is a "wakeful, hypo-metabolic state".

They have found that:

1) Yogis could slow both heart rate and rate of respiration,

2) Yogis could slow the rate of metabolism as confirmed by decreased oxygen consumption and carbon-di-oxide output.

3) Electro-Encephalo-Gram (EEG - recording of brain activity) in Yogis showed changes of calmness in the form of "alpha rhythm" during both eyes closed and eyes open recordings.

4) Their skin resistance to electric stimulation was increased (indicating increased tolerance to external stimuli).

Our usual 'defence-alarm' reaction to emotional and physical stress is in the form of "fright, flight, and fight" mediated through over-secretion of certain neuro-transmitters and neuro-modulators, namely adrenaline and dopamine by way of stimulation of sympathetic nervous system. Under the influence of these chemicals and hormones, we reflexively become panicky or aggressive, our blood pressure rises. Thus stress and anxiety is the end result if we allow our natural age-old sympathetic reactions to act and to come to surface. We try to run away, become fearful, or fight the situation. But today these 'defence-alarm' reactions have no place in our lives. Rather, they should be replaced by more calm and serene reactions of equanimity and fearlessness. The need is to just 'face the brute, and it will go away'. Such desirable reactions of non-aggression and peaceful attitude are generated by Yoga and meditation.

EEG Studies on Yogis and The Zen Meditations:

Yogis practising Raja-Yoga claim that during the state of samadhi they are oblivious to the internal and external stimuli, and they enjoy a calm ecstasy during that state. A study was undertaken to record the electrical activity of their brain during this state by means of a regular and useful test known as electroencephalography EEG. Physiological and experimental studies have demonstrated that the basis of conscious state of brain, among other things, is due to activation of "reticular system" in the brain-stem in response to internal and external stimuli. These stimuli bring about various changes during sleeping and wakeful states of the organism and these can be studied by EEG.

The study was carried out on four subjects during the state of concentration and meditation. Effects of external stimuli, like a loud gong, strong light, thermal simulation, and vibrations were studied. The results were compiled and analyzed. It was observed that two Yogis could keep their hands immersed in extremely cold water for about 50 minutes (raised pain threshold). During state of meditation, all of them showed persistent "alpha activity" in their EEG with increased amplitude wave pattern, both during 'eyes closed' and 'eyes open' recording. It was observed that these alpha activities could not be blocked by various sensory stimuli during meditation. It was also observed that those, who had well-marked "alpha activity" in their resting EEG showed greater aptitude and zeal for maintaining the practice of Yoga. Similar observations and results were obtained when EEGs were recorded in persons adept in Zen Meditative technique. Can we say that only those persons who exhibit such recording of "alpha wave rhythm" in their EEG are fit for Yoga? and be designated as right candidates for meditation and Yoga practices? (Such experiments are indeed very few and the number of yogis examined is also very small. Therefore, scientifically and statistically these observations have only a tentative importance. Further research is definitely called for, albeit it will have its own limitations.)

Discussion and Conclusion

Neurotransmitters and Neuro-modulators: These are chemical substances released at the Neuronal Synapses (nerve junctions). They act by altering electrical membrane potential by opening up channels that permit diffusion of Sodium, Potassium, and Calcium ions in and out of the nerve cell. They not only transmit the message from one cell to another, but also selectively facilitate some information while inhibiting the other. Moreover, the action of Calcium ions permits transfer of electrical events into molecular changes that can alter functions of the nerve cells permanently, i.e. change cellular function to subserve a memory or learning response.

Neuro-modulators affect the neuro-transmitters by influencing neuronal plasticity, growth, or differentiation. Different types of receptors, as present in different regions of brain, can account for the complex and multiple effects of medication, meditation, concentration, and contemplation. This may be effected through actions of specific type of neuro-transmitter and neuro-receptor.

For example, a sub-type of glutamate receptor appears to mediate the function of brain plasticity, a process considered important in learning and memory.

Acetylcholine helps in memory, motivation, perception and cognition. It is also involved in attention and arousal functions of ascending reticular system. Decrease in the levels of this neuro-modulator leads to loss of memory, senile dementia - Alzheimer's disease.

Excess of serotonin, another important neuro-modulator, leads to hallucinations, as seen in LSD consumption, which causes increase in serotonin level. This discovery called attention to the correlation between behavior and variation in brain serotonin content. Selective depletion of serotonin, in animals, causes prolonged wakefulness. It also plays important role in circadian rhythm and sleep cycle.

Other neurotransmitters and modulators like nor-epinephrine cause changes in mood - excess leading to elation, and deficiency causing nervous depression. It also controls food intake, regulates temperature, and hormonal secretions.

Excess of dopamine level is responsible for schizophrenia and psychosis.

Nerve growth factor is a hormone like peptide that is responsible for the growth and maintenance of various brain structures.

The plausible hypothesis to explain the altered state of consciousness brought about by intense and prolonged mediation may be constructed as follows:

The evolutionary process adds higher centres to the primitive nervous system. These higher centres have inhibitory influence, in other words they suppress the functions of lower centres. Thus, the brain stem is controlled by the higher limbic system, and the limbic system in turn is controlled by still higher neo-cortex. The neuro-modulators with their influence on various neuro-transmitters effectively bring about this inhibitory modifications and inter-relations among various brain centres (hierarchy).

For instance, involuntary movements like tremors and chorea are suppressed by basal ganglia through the action of dopamine and acetylcholine synergy. Any imbalance in these neuro-modulators causes involuntary movements like chorea, tremors (Parkinson's Disease etc.). Similarly, loss of cortical control over the motor neurons of spinal cord leads to exaggerated muscle and tendon jerks due loss of inhibitory control of the higher motor cortex.

Neo-cortex keeps all the involuntary movements, hyper-reflexivity, rage, aggression, and similar animal tendencies under check so that it can effectively pursue its own highly developed activities of logic, memory, reason, language, calculations, judgement, and concepts, etc. Conscious, willful, imaginative functions are therefore, normal state of awareness of the human beings.

When meditation acts as a constant repetitive stimulus, certain qualitative and quantitative permanent changes develop in the nervous system. The neuro-transmitters and neuro-modulators may stimulate growth of dormant or latent neurons to develop a centre (or centres) which on the evolutionary ladder is/are still higher than the present day cerebral cortex. The brain may develop new connections and plasticity resulting in the capacity to think, to rationalize, and react in a different way to the sensory input than what is expected by present day physiologists. For want of name, we may label such higher center as 'God Module'. This higher centre will exert inhibitory control over the present day neo-cortex, and thereby, over the mind as a whole (consciousness, reasoning, conceptual thinking, willing, feeling, and doing, etc.)! The consciousness and all mental activities will hence be suppressed. The person will reach a state beyond mind itself - transcendental awareness!

"The spiritual ascent is from the least evolved state of consciousness to near perfect state, after which the mind itself will cease to be, and there will remain only non-dual experience."

Meditating together, just as praying in a group of hundreds seems more powerful, so does meditating together.

"It's the power of silence, like in worshipful places.

Meditation can cure terrible ulcerative colitis, depression and anxiety. "It is much more than just sitting,. "Thoughts may come up, but you're not focusing or concentrating. but goal really would be not to think rather than to think.

The ancient Hindu sage Patanjali who had mastered the secrets of the human mind has written a book "Yogasutra".In this book we can see how super powers can be achieved by meditation. It has both cosmic relevance and cosmic resonance. In spite of its universal appeal, for most people total control of mind remains an elusive goal and daunting task. From time immemorial, there have been many attempts throughout the world to unlock the mysteries of the mind and to achieve total control over it through a variety of techniques. One of the most powerful of these techniques is meditation. Many spiritual leaders, sages, saints, and holy people such asSri. Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna, Madam Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda have practised this.

It is said that in the unknown period of Jesus Christ , He was under meditation.

EMAIL: bhattathiry@yahoo.com

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384 of 774 people found the following review helpful:

   , Mar 28 2005
Reviewer: suchitra

good artical

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385 of 809 people found the following review helpful:

   , Mar 20 2005
Reviewer: veena shenoy

Wonderful article. Totally agree with you. I am posting this brain research report on 28 yr old Nithyananda swamiji. He is visiting USA conducting various free discourses and meditation workshops. Swamiji's mission is two-fold: to heal the sick, and guide seekers to experience Ananda or Bliss through meditation. For his USA tour info please visit www.dhyanapeetam.org
This year again top brain researchers are showing great interest in conducting research on swamiji.
please check 2004 research report:

A Mind Matters Column™
The Mind of a Mystic

By R. Murali Krishna, M.D.

President, James L. Hall, Jr. Center for Mind, Body & Spirit

President, INTEGRIS Mental Health

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Presidend COO, INTEGRIS Mental Health and James L. Hall, Jr. Center for Mind, Body and Spirit

Sri. Nithyananda Swami is a trim, healthy looking young man with dark, shoulder-length hair. Handsome and polite, possessing an open manner and a wealth of curiosity, he could be any ordinary American college student.

The difference is that ordinary American college students do not wear orange robes and turbans, have not experienced spiritual enlightenment and are not regarded as a teacher, healer and mystic by millions of people in all corners of the world.

A mystic? The term is not a bad fit for “Swami,” as he is known. Mystics, popular culture tells us, have direct communion with God. Through means not understood or measurable, mystics are thought to have access to ultimate realities or truths. Picture a mystic and you’ll probably picture someone full of bliss, someone gifted with lofty thoughts and insights the rest of us do not possess. The very presence of a mystic is thought to bring peace and healing to others.

That’s an apt description of Swami, a 27-year-old from South India. He is approached by thousands of people a year seeking relief from diseases and ailments that conventional medical approaches have not cured. Swami’s background lends him the air of a mystic, too. He left his home as a teen, visited ashrams across India, immersed himself in philosophy, read extensively and mastered the art of meditation.

When Swami passed through Oklahoma City recently as one stop in his world travels, I asked him if he would let me use some of modern medicine’s newest technology to peer into his brain while he meditated. My goal: to understand, measure and demystify what happens during the mystic phenomena. Swami, who believes that meditation has a scientific basis, happily agreed.

The procedures Swami went through were administered by some of Oklahoma City’s finest and most experienced physicians, neuropsychologists and researchers: Drs. Fordyce, Ruwe and Higgins of the Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center Neuropsychology Department and Dr. Chacko of the PET Center of Oklahoma. These doctors were using technology they use with patients on a routine basis. When they look at images obtained by their technology, they know what’s normal and what’s not.

The results from testing Swami? Decidedly not normal.

Imaging Brain Activity

Our first look into Swami’s brain was achieved with the help of a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) device. Unlike traditional diagnostic techniques that produce images of the body’s structure or anatomy, such as X-rays, CT scans or MRI, PET produces images of the function of the brain through the metabolic activity of cells. An analog of glucose is attached to a radioactive PET tracer. The PET scanner then images the metabolically active brain areas at any given time.

In the case of Swami, the drug was intended to identify highly active areas of the brain in an alert and conscious state, in the early stages of meditation and during deep meditation.

The results of the PET scan tests were stunning. To begin with, the activity in the frontal lobes of Swami’s brain were significantly heightened, even in early meditation stages. The level of activity was higher than would be seen in the average human brain under any conditions. The frontal lobes are associated with the functions of intelligence, attention, wisdom and judgement.

When we then asked Swami to go into the deepest meditation state, there were two more remarkable findings.

First, the dominant hemisphere of Swami’s brain was more than 90 percent shut down. It was as if Swami’s brain had packed up and gone on vacation. It was quiet and still, completely at peace … and Swami had made it so at will.

A second amazing aspect of Swami’s deep meditation was that the lower portion of his mesial frontal areas lighted up in a very significant way. This area roughly corresponds to the reputed location of the mystical “Third Eye.”

When we later asked Swami what he was doing when the mesial frontal areas lighted up, he said he was opening his third eye.

Associated with both cosmic and inner knowledge and thought to be a place of clarity and peace, the Third Eye is considered by many to be the seat of the soul. Were we seeing an indication that deep meditation can open an area of the brain responsible for communicating with the divine, looking deep into the mysteries of self or creation? I believe the PET scan revealed what I call the brain’s “D-spot.” Whether you consider the “D” in D-spot to stand for delight, the divine or even dopamine, the chemical through which our bodies experience pleasure, initial indications are that meditation can stimulate it.

Measuring Brainwaves
The second procedure we used to look into Swami’s brain is known as Quantitative Electroencephalography, or QEEG. QEEG measures electrical patterns in the brain, patterns commonly referred to as brainwaves.

There are four bandwidths of brainwaves, each different in speed and each associated with a different state of mind. For instance, beta brainwaves are small and fast and linked with an awake, alert state of mind. Alpha brainwaves are slower and larger and are connected to feelings of well-being. Theta waves represent a state of consciousness between that is close to sleep, a stage in which there is a sense of calmness and serenity without active thought.

In a day’s time, most people will experience all four types of brainwaves. The progression from one bandwidth to another, though, is not so easily in their control.

From Swami’s QEEG, though, we can see that he has complete control over his brainwaves. When in deep meditation, his brain smoothly shifted from one state to another, like a talented pianist playing the scales. There was no hesitation and no retreating, just continuous, fluid shifts from one type of brainwave to the next. Because the QEEG represents the five brainwave bandwidths as colors, it was as we were watching Swami float from color to color within a rainbow.

The brain is the body’s most complex organ, containing more than 100 billion neurons, each of them in chemical and electrical conversation with up to 10,000 other neurons. Its sheer capacity to process information is astonishing.

Remarkably, that complexity presents little difficulty for Swami in managing his brain activity. Swami’s mind – his thoughts, emotions and intellect – control his brain. He can, in a very fluid, easy way, shift his brain function and alter his brainwaves.

More than answering questions, the voyage we took into the mind of a mystic brings intriguing questions for study.

Are there techniques we can learn and teach that will bring balance and peace into people’s lives?

Can we invoke a healing response or accelerate healing through specific training? Can we learn techniques that will allow us to control pain or alter the course of a disease?

Can we learn to activate what I call our D-spot, thus putting us in instant connection to delight or the divine?

The results from our study of Swami are new pages in our world’s growing book of research on the brain. There continue to be indications that the human mind may be able to choose to heal the body. We’re now looking at the possibility of people learning and acquiring these healing capabilities, an event of immense benefit for humankind. The potential for altering the rates and progression of many diseases – heart disease, cancer, arthritis, alcoholism and many others – is beginning to look achievable.

Swami is a bridge between the invisible, ancient world of mysticism and the modern, visible world of science and discovery. As brain research continues on a widespread basis, and as we appropriately bring the phenomena of mysticism into the realm of science for further study, we are taking strides on a path of hope and health.

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