What are we really doing here?
I don't mean this in some sort of etherial, why are we on this planet? who am I? what is this? type of way (not yet anyways). I just mean, what are we really doing when we meditate? What are we gaining from this? And what is actually happening to our brain during meditation?
When we sit in meditation we give our brains the chance to move out of our higher frequency brain waves, called Beta waves. We spend most of our waking state in this state of Beta brain-wave activity. Just by closing our eyes, which is where we derive 80% of our sensory information, our brain waves naturally slow down into the Alpha state. In Alpha, the brain is in a light meditative state. When we sit in meditation we keep the brain in the Alpha state, and sometimes in deeper meditation, we even move into Theta (lower) brain waves.
There are three different levels of Beta-waves, low-range (paying attention to something without any vigilance), mid-range (focused attention on external stimuli, analytical thinking), and high-range (stressful situations, over stimulated situations).
What does that mean? When we spend too much time in the High-Beta brain waves, we begin to feel as if everything is an emergency. The brain moves into a constant vicious cycle, which taxes our entire system. This can create too much stress in the body resulting in anger, fear, anxiety, depression, and can completely stress out our entire system (which can lead to high blood pressure, indigestion, immune system weakness and more).
All of this to say, if we can shift gears during our day, move out of these high frequency states, our brain is able to function much better, and the effects on our body are countless. When we look at it like this, giving our brains a moment to stop and relax becomes a necessity instead of just something we might do for a few minutes each day.
How has the timing of your meditation been? I feel like the days I do less than twenty minutes, I wish that I had done more. If you have been doing less than twenty minutes, I encourage you to add in at least five more minutes to your sits this week.
Here is a deep relaxation body scan for you to try this week. This is more of a guided relaxation, but will be a nice chance to try something a little different.