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Teaching Meditation to College Students James L Spira, Ph.D., MPH, ABPP
Outline • Principles of Meditation • Types of Meditation • Simple/Effective Techniques • Adapting to different problems • Adapting to different settings
Principals of Meditation: • Reducing attention to cognitions and reactions to cognitions and emotions • Reducing focus on and reaction to self and others and the world • Allowing fuller perception of what presents itself, more as it is, with less biased distortion • Being fully and comfortably in the moment • Calming the mind • Comforting the body
Types of Meditation Eastern Experiential vs Western Conceptual • Yogic Origin • Pranayama • Hatha Yoga • Taoist • Tai Chi • Chi Kung • Buddhist • Vipassana • Zen
Simple Effective Techniques • Absorptive Approaches • Yoga • Tai Chi • Zen • Observational/Non-reactive Approaches • Vipassana / Mindfulness • Combination Approaches • Zen/Mindfulness
Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia(Specific Frequencies of HRV) RSA During Worry RSA During Zazen
EEG Aspects of Meditation Hz ~ attentional focus ~ processing effort/style • Delta (0-4Hz) • Sleep • Effortless, recuperative • Theta (4-8Hz) • Daydreaming, background noise • Minimal effort, parallel processing • Alpha (8-12Hz) • Calm, clear open attention to sensation • Low effort, Bottom-up, sensory processing • Beta (12-16; 16+) • Focused attention to problem-solving task • Effortful, conceptually-driven processing
EEG States of Mind Snapshots of a normal subject undergoing different activities (1 lead)
Functional Model of Attentional Processing Elite Athlete thoughts associations Average Person feelings ADHD Attention to environment Attention/access to internal experiences Meditator
Attention is enhanced processing: • 1) We enhance what we attend to • Pay attention to worry and we will enhance the worry • Pay attention to sensation and we will enhance sensation (+ or -) • 2) We become what we attend to • If we attend to pain or worry, our nervous systems gear up for that • If we attend to the softness of the breath or the simplicity of sensory input, our nervous systems reflect that processing
Attentional Retraining • 3) Pay attention to something if you can act on it to improve the situation. • Otherwise, switch your attention to: • Some other “beta” activity you can act on productively • Rest in “alpha” receptive meditative state
Attentional Retraining • Two ways to improve attention (i.e. enhance S/N ratio for what one processes) • 1) Reduce Theta (background noise) • through Vipassana style meditation (low alpha) • (one typically drifts into theta, learns to recognize it and let it go, to be replaced by alpha activity) • this is typically practiced in a meditation session • CBT may first need to be employed to support belief in the benefit of suspending self-image, especially among those who lack confidence in themselves (NPD, GAD, BN, etc.)*
Attentional Retraining • 2) Enhance Alpha (attended signal) through Zen absorption techniques • A) high alpha • this can be practiced either in a meditation practice (eyes open) • or in receptive activities of daily life, such as driving, walking, eating, listening to a conversation, etc. (examples?) • B) low beta • can be enhanced through training in sustained attention in active involvement • for anxious or ADHD types, being motorically involved is useful (chi kung, tai chi, Yoga, doing massage, Karate, etc.)
Attentional Retraining • Those who ignore internal activity need to emphasize • recognition of internal ‘noise’ and be less unconsciously driven by it (Vipassana) • Impulsivity/OCD/Conversion D/O • Those who are "stuck" in their thoughts need to emphasize • enhancement of signal (Zen) • ADHD/GAD/PTSD/Psychosis • But all need to practice both approaches • typically practicing both each day
Practice Active Absorptive Still Permissive