Re-Factor Your Brain: Meditation For Geeks


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Meditation is the ultimate open source tool. You can do it anywhere and it’s free. It requires only your brain and your body. It’s positive effects are numerous, including increased productivity, better problem-solving and a reduction in overall stress. Learn about long-term effects of mediation on the brain, some meditation techniques and how mediation can help you do your job better.

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Re-Factor Your Brain: Meditation For Geeks

  1. 1. Re-factor Your Brain: Meditation for Geeks Christie Koehler Open Source Bridge June 2009Friday, June 19, 2009
  2. 2. Part 1: How I Started MeditatingFriday, June 19, 2009
  3. 3. Mindball in Vancouver Meditator Non-Meditator (my partner) (Me) Lower alpha & theta waves = better (more focused, more relaxed). I lossed twice!Friday, June 19, 2009
  4. 4. My Conclusions Huh, maybe there is something to this mediation thing...Friday, June 19, 2009
  5. 5. So I Started Meditating • Calmer • Clearer thinking, better able to concentrate • Less reactive • Better able to integrateFriday, June 19, 2009
  6. 6. Part 2: What is Meditation?Friday, June 19, 2009
  7. 7. Meditation... • is the settling and focusing of the mind • has been practiced for thousands of years • spans many traditions (religious and secular) • has many forms (insight, transcendental, mindfulness, etc.) • has many goals (enlightenment, union with god, stress reduction, pain management, etc.)Friday, June 19, 2009
  8. 8. Ultimate Goal to transform the baseline state of experience such that there is no distinction between meditative and non-meditative stateFriday, June 19, 2009
  9. 9. How? through sustained, dedicated practice over a significant length of timeFriday, June 19, 2009
  10. 10. Part 3: What Does Science Say About Meditation and the Brain?Friday, June 19, 2009
  11. 11. Briefly, it says: “different types of meditation and training duration lead to distinguishable short- and long-term changes at the neural level”Friday, June 19, 2009
  12. 12. 2 Categories of Meditators • Focused Attention (FA) and Open Mind (OM) • Many traditions utilize both styles, at once or over timeFriday, June 19, 2009
  13. 13. Focused Attention (FA) • Maintain attention on a single object (e.g. the breath sensation) • Detect thoughts and other distractors through non-judgmental cognitive appraisal (e.g. “I’m writing code”) • Disengage from distractors and re-orient focus to original object (return to sensation of the breath)Friday, June 19, 2009
  14. 14. Open Mind (OM) • No explicit focus on objects (listening to the room) • Non-reactive/Non-judging monitoring of experience (not judging the noise, letting it arise) • Non-reactive awareness of automatic cognitive and emotional interpretations stimuli (take note of any judgements)Friday, June 19, 2009
  15. 15. How Neuroscientists Study Meditators • Subjective tests (perception) • EEG (electrical activity) • fMRI (blood flow/area of activity) • MRI (structural changes)Friday, June 19, 2009
  16. 16. Subjective Tests • Our brains constantly have to make sense of incomplete stimuli. • The way in which we perceive this stimuli says a lot about how are brain works. • Long-term meditators are better at perceptual challenges than non-meditators.Friday, June 19, 2009
  17. 17. Subjective Tests • Attentional blink • Binocular Rivalry • Motion induced blindnessFriday, June 19, 2009
  18. 18. EEG: Gamma-Synchrony • Gamma rhythms: binding of different populations of neurons together into a network for the purpose of carrying out a certain cognitive or motor function • Gamma function related to neuro-plasticity (the ability of the brain to change itself) • Long-term meditators had greater gamma- synchrony during meditation and at restFriday, June 19, 2009
  19. 19. fMRI (FA) • less emotionally responsive when presented with conflicting stimuli • suggests a partial de-coupling mental processes interpret and respond to perceptual stimuliFriday, June 19, 2009
  20. 20. fMRI (OM) • Long-term OM practitioners are more adept at detecting and feeling human emotion (greater empathy) • OM meditators showed superior performance on a sustained attention task in comparison with FA meditators when the stimulus was unexpected (more distributed attentional focus)Friday, June 19, 2009
  21. 21. MRI • Cortical region of the brain thicker in meditators than in non-mediators. • Difference was greatest in older meditators (offsets thinning due to aging).Friday, June 19, 2009
  22. 22. Part 3: How to MeditateFriday, June 19, 2009
  23. 23. How to Meditate • Many different forms • Try a few, pick one that resonates • Stick with it for a while • Try a little bit each day • It’s work, exercise for the mindFriday, June 19, 2009
  24. 24. More Resources • Attend a local meditation group • Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki • Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon-Kabat Zinn • Mindfulness in Plain English, by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana • Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Thich Nhat Hanh • Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness by Antoine Lutz, John D. Dunne, Richard J. Davidson (in the Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness) • Train your Mind, Change your Brain by Sharon BegleyFriday, June 19, 2009