Saturday, May 17, 2014

Nondirective meditation is most effective according to neuroscientists | CTV News

(Photo: Michelangelo Gratton /

 Not All Meditation Methods 
Are Equal, 
According to a New Study

Published Friday, May 16, 2014 
10:25AM EDT 

Instead of imagining yourself on a hot, sunny beach, the more effective meditative method is to let the mind wander aimlessly, says a team of researchers from Norway and Australia.

Because during MRI tests, subjects who practiced “nondirective” meditation — the kind that encourages the mind to wander at will — were found to have higher activity in the part of the brain dedicated to processing thoughts and feelings, compared to those who were instructed to focus on a specific idea.

For their research, scientists from the University of Oslo and the University of Sydney examined the brain activity of 14 subjects in an MRI machine while they practiced two forms of meditation.

In nondirective meditation, subjects focused on breathing or a meditative sound, but beyond that were allowed to let their mind wander at will.

In concentrative meditation, subjects were instructed to focus their attention on their breathing and on a specific image or thought. The aim? To suppress other thoughts and distractions.
Mindfulness meditation is a form of Buddhist self-awareness designed to focus attention to the moment at hand. ― AFP pic - See more at:
Mindfulness meditation is a form of Buddhist self-awareness designed to focus attention to the moment at hand. ― AFP pic - See more at:
 The Buddha is said to have identified
two paramount mental qualities that arise
from wholesome meditative practice:

"I N S I G H T" 
(Pali: vipassana)
Nondirective or Mindfulness Meditation
which enables one to see, explore and
discern "formations" (conditioned phenomena
based on the five aggregates);

"S E R E N I T Y"  or
"T R A N Q U I L L I T Y" 
(Pali: samatha)
Concentrative Meditation
which steadies, composes, unifies and
concentrates the mind.  

[American Buddhist monk meditating
with electrodes attached in PBS's the New Medicine
(Photo courtesy of Middlemarch Films/TPT)]
[Stanford doctoral researchers Matthew Sacchet (left) and
Alex Genevsky (right) prepare a Tibetan monk for a brain scan,
as part of a study of the biology of compassion.
(Photo: Bryce Johnson, Science For Monks)]

In addition to MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans, subjects also underwent different meditation activities and tasks.

"The study indicates that
Nondirective Meditation
allows for more room
to process memories and
emotions than during
Concentrated Meditation,"
said neuroscientist and study 
co-author Svend Davanger
from the University of Oslo.

"This area of the brain has its highest activity when we rest. It represents a kind of basic operating system, a resting network that takes over when external tasks do not require our attention. It is remarkable that a mental task like nondirective meditation results in even higher activity in this network than regular rest.”

On the other hand, when subjects underwent thought-specific meditation, neural activity levels were similar to the brain at rest.

The latest research, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, builds on a series of interesting studies that shed light on how meditation can optimize the brain and help with overall well-being.

A 2012 study published in Frontiers in Cognition found that different meditation techniques can help spur creativity, while researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that it can likewise help ease anxiety and depression.

Adapted from: