I recently came across a paper by some researchers in Thailand who recorded Heart Rate Variability in experienced Buddhist monks as they practiced concentrative meditation. They found that the monks naturally developed a high level of Heart Rate Coherence (HRC). This was of great personal interest to me because for some years now I’ve been using HRC biofeedback in support of my meditation practice. In this blog post I explore the relationship between HRC and meditation and mindfulness. Continue reading
I recorded my brain activity during a HEG neurofeedback session. More specifically, that means I recorded changes in infra-red heat radiation coming from my forehead. This form of biofeedback is used to train “executive function”, which is the job of the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain behind the forehead). In this session I interspersed periods of intense focus with watching TV. You can see the results in the graph below. Continue reading
This week I did a small experiment with myself using infra-red temperature neurofeedback (commonly known as HEG or hemoencephalography neurofeedback). I’ve been using biofeedback in support of my personal meditation practice for quite some time. One evening this week I connected myself to the sensor as usual, then simply recorded over a short period of mindfulness of breathing practice but without any feedback turned on (and the software not visible). The next evening I meditated again with the IR sensor connected, but this time with feedback. Continue reading
This week I finished reading ‘The Happiness Hypothesis’ by Jonathan Haidt which I would rate as excellent. Though it can be positioned in the Positive Psychology genre, this book is much more than another rehash of happiness research. Haidt is a researcher in what you could summarise as the psychology of morality. I think his experience has given him some pretty unique insights that mean we can all draw some important learnings relating to a theme that is missing from the majority of self-help books and which the psychotherapy world has shied away from. That theme is the idea that “moral character” is core to our well-being. Continue reading
To recap: the problem with flow is it presents a paradox: we want to access flow states, yet to try is by definition not flow.
I think the key to the resolution, insofar as a resolution is possible, is Continue reading
Admittedly this title is somewhat provocative – a more important question is, should we even be trying to stop thinking in mindfulness meditation? And the answer to this question is no.
Recently I read Andy Puddicombe’s book, ‘Get Some Headspace’, and he points out, as lots of other writers do, that it’s a common misconception that meditation is about stopping thinking. People get frustrated because the more they try to silence the thinking mind, the more their thoughts come back at them – a classic example of the “quicksand” dynamic that I mentioned in an earlier post.
But it really begs the question, why should people think meditation is about silencing the thinking mind? After all, good mindfulness teachers make it clear that it isn’t. Perhaps it’s more that people naturally seem to want to shut off thoughts. Continue reading
The story starts when I was a student. I was studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge, and hoping to specialise in Physics. I was struggling with Physics, in part because my studies weren’t giving me the deep understanding of reality that I really wanted. Then I came across a book called ‘The Tao of Physics’, written by Frijof Capra back in 1973. It was about the parallels between some ideas in modern physics, and ancient traditions of the East, such as Buddhism and Taoism. It was my first real contact with the idea of meditation as a way of directly experiencing wisdom, the nature of reality, etc. I realised that was what I really wanted. I learned that in Buddhism, wisdom is not just a passive acquiring of knowledge but comes with complete personal transformation, which is what meditation (at least in the Buddhist context) is all about.
That was back in around 1988. I’m still working at meditation. It’s probably fair to say that mindfulness meditation has proven harder for me than I would have liked. Continue reading