Practical analysis for investment professionals
27 April 2017

Meditation Tips for Investment Professionals: Focused Awareness

Meditation provides investors with many benefits. Below are meditation tips from the newly released Meditation Guide for Investment Professionals, the full version of which is available online for CFA Institute members.

In focused awareness meditation, also known as Zen, practitioners concentrate on one object. The object can be the breath, a candle flame, a white wall, the repetition of a word, a series of words — or mantra — etc. When awareness inevitably strays, meditators return their focus to that object.

In previous articles in this series, I shared general meditation tips and described the open-monitoring form of meditation, which hones our natural state of consciousness known as metacognition, or the awareness of awareness itself.

Focused awareness has much in common with open-monitoring, so some confusion is understandable. But these two forms of meditation are really two sides of the same coin. Open-monitoring practitioners notice the thoughts that come into awareness. They do not scrutinize them but let them pass out of awareness. They then return to being open, aware, and non-attached.

Focused awareness meditators have a singular point of attention. They ignore distractions when they arise and refocus back on the object at the center of the meditation.

Focused Awareness Meditation

What It Is: Focused awareness meditation trains a natural capability of mental functioning: top-down control. What is top-down control? It’s our capacity to choose what to think and when to think it. For many of us, top-down control is far removed from our normal, waking state of consciousness wherein random thoughts enter and exit our minds. Some of these thoughts come fully formed, but most are bits and pieces of other thoughts. Focused-awareness seeks to eradicate this noise. In a world that demands intense mental concentration and clarity from investment professionals, focused awareness is critical.

Science has identified four or five major forms of meditation. The fifth form is known as “automatic self-transcending” among its adherents and some researchers. Transcendental meditation is one variety of this form. Like focused awareness, automatic self-transcending requires practitioners to focus on a single thing, in this instance, a word or series of words — a mantra.

Some emerging neuroscientific research demonstrates that automatic self-transcending has distinct effects on practitioners. Specifically, it engages the parts of the brain associated with verbal and motor skills. For our purposes, however, in keeping with other researchers’ work, we classify automatic self-transcending as a sub-form of focused awareness.

Benefits

Focused awareness meditation relieves stress and improves thinking. Experienced focused awareness meditators have better control over their attention: Their minds wander less, and they can choose when and how to think.

Steps

Focused awareness requires the most mental discipline of all the meditation styles. Its practitioners emphasize how critical technique is to achieving the intended goal of disciplined focus.

Below are steps for a generalized focused awareness meditation using breath as the singular object. For convenience, read the steps into your smartphone’s Voice Notes function so you can control the pacing and duration of your meditation.

  • Posture is important — keep your back straight.
  • Beginners: Sit on a cushion or in a chair.
  • If you are sitting on a cushion, use a regular cross-legged position.
  • Your knees should be lower than your seat and point slightly downward.
  • If you are in a chair, keep your feet flat on the ground and your back off of the chair so that it remains straight.
  • Plant your tailbone firmly into the cushion or the chair.
  • Stack all of your vertebrae, one on top of the next, working all the way up from your tailbone.
  • Tuck your chin in slightly.
  • You should be sitting erect as though the crown of your head is pushing upward.
  • Close your mouth and touch your tongue to your palate. As you gain experience, you may place your tongue further back, ideally touching your soft palate. But do not strain the tongue.
  • Place your hands in your lap, with your left hand in your right hand. Make sure that the thumbs are touching, with your hands forming a circle.
  • Relax your shoulder muscles.
  • Keep your eyes slightly open and focused on a point roughly three feet in front of you at about a 45-degree angle.
  • Do not concentrate your eyes on anything in particular. Instead, relax them into a soft focus.
  • To ensure you have the correct posture, move your body from side to side and find the spot where your back feels comfortable.
  • Relax and ease into the posture.
  • Begin to breathe through your nose.
  • Relax your chest so that your abdomen moves as you breathe.
  • As you meditate, target your focus point on a spot about two finger widths below your navel. Sometimes this is known as your center of gravity or your core.
  • Your breath should be nice and easy.
  • Gently exhale all of the air in your lungs.
  • As you breathe, imagine your core drawing the breath into itself, as if it is doing all of the work.
  • Continue breathing this way.
  • Thoughts, emotions, and sensations may interrupt your focus on the breath and your core. Don’t follow them. Let them go. Be objective. Do not let them distract you. Let them pass like a breeze on your face. Return the focus to your breathing.
  • Continue for at least 10 minutes.
  • When you are ready, come back by fully opening your eyes.
  • Practice this routinely.

Can focus on any activity lead to a meditative state? Yes, it can. Many experienced meditators find that certain pursuits that concentrate their attention on something simple — household chores, exercise, or creating art, for example — can also result in meditative states. What distinguishes meditation is that the meditative state is an outgrowth of the accompanying activity. In meditation, the activity is designed specifically to develop awareness and mental focus.

If you have experiences with focused awareness meditation, share them in the comments section below.

If you are a CFA Institute member and would like more information or support about meditation, then join our LinkedIn CFA Institute Members Meditation Group.

If you liked this post, don’t forget to subscribe to the Enterprising Investor.


All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Image credit: ©Getty Images/Kaligraf

About the Author(s)
Jason Voss, CFA

Jason Voss, CFA, is a content director at CFA Institute, where he tirelessly focuses on improving the ability of investors to better serve end clients. He is the author of the Foreword Reviews Business Book of the Year Finalist, The Intuitive Investor. Jason also ran a successful blog titled What My Intuition Tells Me Now. Previously, Voss was a portfolio manager at Davis Selected Advisers, L.P., where he co-managed the Davis Appreciation and Income Fund. He holds a BA in economics and an MBA in finance and accounting from the University of Colorado.

Ethics Statement

My statement of ethics is very simple, really: I treat others as I would like to be treated. In my opinion, all systems of ethics distill to this simple statement. If you believe I have deviated from this standard, I would love to hear from you: jason.voss@cfainstitute.org

25 thoughts on “Meditation Tips for Investment Professionals: Focused Awareness”

  1. Jim Karpen says:

    Note that in Transcendental Meditation one uses a mantra, but it’s not correct to say that one focuses on the mantra. In fact, one doesn’t focus on anything. Instead, the practice takes advantage of the natural tendency of the mind to settle down to quieter states, and ultimately transcend thought altogether. Correct use of the mantra facilitates this. As is sometimes said, one uses the mantra in order to lose it.

    1. Hi Jim,

      Thanks for your comment. In the case of TM, it is normally categorized in the scientific literature as a focused awareness meditation. Some are beginning to carve out a separate space for it as there is emerging neuroscientific evidence that, not surprisingly, those repeating a mantra or thinking of a mantra repeatedly are also activating the part of the brain associated with motor function (i.e. the lips are moving, or one is thinking about moving one’s lips). Yes, it is true you do not ‘focus’ on the meditation, but the point is that if you deviate from the mantra you return your attention to it, hence the word ‘focus.’

      Yours, in service,

      Jason

      1. Jim Karpen says:

        Thanks, Jason. Would be great if you could point me to research that shows that Transcendental Meditation activates the part of the brain associated with motor function.

        1. Hi Jim,

          I am referring to: Fox, et. al.“Functional Neuroanatomy of Meditation: A Review and Meta Analysis of 78 Functional Neuroimaging Investigations.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 2016

          Note, they refer to TM as “automatic self-transcending” as do a limited number of other researchers.

          Yours, in service,

          Jason

          1. Jim Karpen says:

            Thanks so much, Jason. I see they don’t include any studies on TM. Probably because there’s almost no neuroimaging research on TM. It’s all been EEG research. I’m pleased they reference Travis and Shear 2010 and put mantra meditation in a separate category. I like their overall aim and rationale.

          2. Thanks, Jim, for your comments.

      2. saijanai says:

        When one is doing anything, the activity of teh brain’s default mode network reduces.

        However, when one “does” TM, this is not the case. Note the quotation marks around “does.”

        TM isn’t focused attention. Despite your claim about returning attention to it. In fact, attempting to put into words what happens during TM is detrimental to the process.

        What makes TM special is that it isn’t special. It is merely normal thinking that somehow, kinda sorta involves something that kinda sorta can be called a mantra (if you squint your eyes really hard)… kinda sorta.

        As Maharishi Mahesh Yogi explained to someone: I have taught you nothing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9L_L5dIwc00

  2. Suly says:

    Thanks for the article Jason. I didn’t expect to find this type of content here! Do you have a background in the subject matter or your own personal practice? Thanks again.

    1. Hi, and thank you for your comment. I have been meditating for about 40 years and have also taught meditation. In addition to authoring CFA Institute’s Meditation Guide for Investment Professionals, I also served on the Advisory Board for the Mindful Business Conference in 2016; an honor I shared with the former CEO of Starbucks, folks for Google’s SIYLI, the chief operating officer of the U.S. Army, and the retired CEO of the American Psychological Association. Yours, in service,

      Jason

  3. saijanai says:

    Mindfulness and focused awareness meditation disrupt the brain’s ability to completely rest. This is measured by activation of the “default mode network,” which are the regions of hte brain that become most active when you’re not trying to do anything.

    While it may *seem* like long term practice of these techniques becomes effortless, in fact, the DMN is STILL disrupted by their practice, and the situation only gets more accute, the longer you have been practicing. This is perceived as “getting better” by people who do these kinds of practices.

    TM, on the other hand, doesn’t disrupt the activity of the DMN, either in short-term or long-term TMers.

    With all three kinds of meditation, your brain’s activity outside of meditation starts to resemble the activity found during meditation. This means, that with the first two types, you have less and less ability for the brain to truly relax and wander when it needs to. The quietude is that of someone who is always paying attention but never fully relaxed. Studies have shown that “aha!” moments of creativity become less and less likely with such practices, and to compensate, practitioners get better and paying attention to the details of what they already know.

    With TM, on the other hand, the quietude found during TM is that of someone who is fully relaxed. As above, the situation starts to be found outside of meditation. Mind-wandering is always available, as is the ability to pay attention, but mind-wandering creativity is ALSO still available. The result is *balance*, which is not found with the first two practices.

    Research on athletes show that they become extremely good at paying attention. However, what sets world champions apart from the also-rans is the ability to let their brains fully relax. The brain-wave patterns of world-champions are naturally very much like those found in long-term TM meditators while the brain-wave patterns of also-rans are far less-so.

    For maximum success, it seems obvious that one kind of meditation stands out: the kind that induces changes in the brain similar to what is found naturally in champions, not what is found in the also-rans.

    1. Hello Saijanai,

      Actually, what you are claiming is directly contradicted by the scientific literature. The literature has found that the major types of meditation, of which there are 4, maybe 5 have some overlapping effects, but mostly differentiated effects. In each of these forms there are physical effects on the brain, with some regions being reduced in size, and others increasing in size. In some regions the interconnectivity is increased, and in others, it is decreased. Generally, the activities of amygdala are reduced, with other regions, such as the pre-frontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, left anterior insula, and others all increased.

      However, I am not aware of any literature that discusses the effects you are describing for the default mode network. Additionally, I am not aware of any papers that describe the chain of events you describe. In fact, it is almost impossible at this time to get the level of resolution in real time that is required to track brain activity in the way that you describe. There is emerging research, and I do mean emerging as it just appeared within the last two weeks, that claims to be able to track the firing of neurons with a much higher degree of magnification.

      Additionally, I think you may be mixing your scientific evidences. When you describe the effects on brain regions that is different data and different techniques than brain waves which you quote later.

      Last, the scientific evidence actually does not support your conclusion that one kind of meditation stands out. Instead it supports a practice that incorporates different techniques if you want to develop the power of your mind more fully.

      Yours, in service,

      Jason

      1. Jim Karpen says:

        In case it’s of interest or helpful in some way:

        This study suggests that TM activates the DMN:

        http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10339-009-0343-2

        This is a recent study that shows deactivation of the DMN in mindfulness meditation:

        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811917300502

        1. Hi Jim,

          Thank you for your references, I appreciate it, and am an avid follower of the literature.

          Yours, in gratitude,

          Jason

          1. saijanai says:

            You said that you aren’t aware of any research on DMN activity and meditation. In addition to the research showing that activity in the DMN increases during TM, this research review suggests that ALL meditation deactivates the DMN:

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4054695/

            “The default mode is a network of midline brain structures, including the medial PFC and posterior cingulate, that is active during rest or when the brain is not otherwise engaged, and is thought to be involved in stimulus-independent, self-referential thought and mind wandering.96 Converging evidence suggests that meditation training may be associated with decreased DMN activity,67, 70, 87, 94, 97–99 Because increased DMN activity is associated with negative mental health outcomes,100, 101 it has been posited that “one mechanism through which meditation may be efficacious is by repeated disengagement or reduction of DMN activity.”65”

            Ironically, citation #98 is one of the studies that Jim Karpen linked to that shows that TM *increases* activation of the DMN. The researchers mis-cited it to support their claim (the author of the study rolled his eyes via email when I pointed that out to him).

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19862565

            “eLORETA analysis identified sources of alpha1 activity in midline cortical regions that overlapped with the DMN. Greater activation in areas that overlap the DMN during TM practice suggests that meditation practice may lead to a foundational or ‘ground’ state of cerebral functioning that may underlie eyes-closed rest and more focused cognitive processes.”

      2. saijanai says:

        You said:

        > In fact, it is almost impossible at this time to get the level of resolution in real time that is required to track brain activity in the way that you describe.

        eLORETA is an EEG analysis practice based on how sonar-location is done. It looks at multiple sources of EEG simultaneously and basically “triangulates” the source of a given signal. While not perfect you can make a few assumptions (like signals aren’t coming from outside the brain and by using a sphere to estimate electrode placement) to make things more accurate.

        The analysis done to produce this spectacular video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Sz-l6RDrvU is done using actual fMRI of a specific person to specify the exact location of the electrodes for the EEG analysis. The mathematical analysis and the number of electrodes used are different than the eLORETA analysis used in the TM studies, but the basic process is the same.

        The downside is that spatial resolution is far less than with fMRI, but the sampling rate is correspondingly greater (there’s a tradeoff between spatial and temporal resolution when you use fMRI vs EEG -they used both for that video, as they explain):

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Sz-l6RDrvU

        [TM researchers someday hope to get similar videos done to illustrate the “pure consciousness” state during TM -see below for more details concerning that state]

        You said:

        >However, I am not aware of any literature that discusses the effects you are describing for the default mode network. Additionally, I am not aware of any papers that describe the chain of events you describe.

        The two studies mentioned by Jim Karpen explicitly mention the DMN in some way. The first says “Greater activation in areas that overlap the DMN during TM practice suggests that…” which is more than a “suggestion.”

        The second paper was performed and specifically titled the way it is *because* mindfulness and concentration readers actually read the first paper and mis-cited it, claiming that it supports *their* claim that all meditation practices reduce the activity of the DMN. That mindfulness review paper is: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4054695/

        Citation #98 is the first paper that Jim mentioned. Obviously “greater activation” is not “reduced activation,” but that is how the paper is cited. When I pointed this situation out to the lead author of that TM study, he gave the email equivalent of an eye-roll.

        Later, he and a student did the second study Jim mentioned and titled it the way that he did to try to make sure that his work isn’t mis-cited (its hard to say that the title is misleading, even if you can somehow justify confusing “greater” and “reduced” in the abstract).

        There are quite a few studies on TM and EEG. The most common finding is that EEG coherence in the alpha frequencies in the frontal lobes is enhanced during TM. Note that this is the same EEG signature where eLORETA analysis found “Greater activation in areas that overlap the DMN during TM practice,” so it isn’t that big a stretch to assume that the other studies also support “greater activation” of the DMN, even if only indirectly.

        Meanwhile, research finds that EEG coherence, in general, between most areas of the brain (not just the frontal lobes) is reduced during most other meditation practices besides TM:

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22266174

        “The globally reduced functional interdependence between brain regions in meditation suggests that interaction between the self process functions is minimized, and that constraints on the self process by other processes are minimized, thereby leading to the subjective experience of non-involvement, detachment and letting go, as well as of all-oneness and dissolution of ego borders during meditation.”

        Note that this is the exact *opposite* of what is found during and outside of TM: not only is EEG coherence enhanced in the frontal lobes during TM, but consistently outside of TM, with the most-consistent and greatest EEG coherence being found in the frontal lobes of the “enlightened” subjects -see figure 1:

        http://www.totalbrain.ch/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/brain-integration-progress-report.pdf

        I used the word “enlightenment” above. In the TM lexicon, the first stage of enlightenment is when a “pure” (not associated with specific things) sense-of-self starts to emerge, and eventually become permanent, present whether one is awake, dreaming, or in deep sleep. The subjects in the following paper (and in the one above) were chosen specifically because they reported this “permanent sense-of-self” being present (even during deep sleep) continuously for at last a year:

        http://www.totalbrain.ch/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/eeg-of-enlightenment.pdf

        Unlike other forms of meditation, TM practice does NOT reduce the activity of the DMN, nor does it reduce EEG coherence during practice, but rather enhances it, at least in the frontal lobes. This goes directly to “sense of self” issues, as it is the activity of the brain’s default mode network that is thought to give rise to sense of self. In most people, sense-of-self is associated with what might be called a “noisy” DMN. In long-term meditators of other practices, sense-of-self is *reduced*. That was the desired outcome in the spiritual traditions where these practices originated. With TM, the activity of the DMN is NOT reduced, but the signature “coherent alpha-1 activity” suggests that simple connectivity between the parts of the DMN is being enhanced. This would explain the internal perception that sense-of-self is NOT associated with “things” or mental activities, but merely is:

        “When I say ‘I’ that’s the Self. There’s a quality that is so pervasive about the Self that I’m quite sure that the ‘I’ is the same ‘I’ as everyone else’s ‘I.’ Not in terms of what follows right after. I am tall, I am short, I am fat, I am this, I am that. But the ‘I’ part. The ‘I am’ part is the same ‘I am’ for you and me” [see Table 3 in paper directly above].

        The discussion of those papers and the theory that explains them is found in this review paper:

        https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Frederick_Travis/publication/261181813_Transcendental_experiences_during_meditation_practice/links/5487b1a00cf2ef34478ecd44.pdf

        The assumption is that all of TM can be understood as a cycle of reducing mental activity in the direction of complete cessation of all perception, both internal and external, followed by a period of increased activity. The period of complete cessation of all perception, both internal and external, is called _samadhi_ in Sanskrit, or “pure consciousness” in TM-speak. These papers are studying specifically those periods, if/when they occur during TM. The subjects were selected *specifically* because they reported that they had regular episodes of this _samadhi_ state, so these aren’t random controlled studies, but rather careful analysis of specific case subjects (You will need to provide a CAPTCHA word in English—just ignore the Russian—to read these full text pdf files):

        http://cyber.sci-hub.bz/MTAuMTA5Ny8wMDAwNjg0Mi0xOTgyMDUwMDAtMDAwMDE=/10.1097%4000006842-198205000-00001.pdf
        http://www.sante-conscience.fr/medias/Badawi_etal_1984.pdf
        http://moscow.sci-hub.bz/c2e2fb65ea1b248b35027494ddc4053c/10.1097%4000006842-198405000-00008.pdf
        http://moscow.sci-hub.bz/7e79cb20aa45e1cf35d4b37885e8d68f/10.1111%40j.1469-8986.1997.tb02414.x.pdf

        The most consistent EEG finding is: increased alpha-1 coherence in the frontal lobes during compared to outside of the _samadhi_ state during TM.

        The most *dramatic* finding, and one that has been noted in spiritual and mystical literature for thousands of years, is the apparent cessation of breathing. Note that this has NEVER been observed in mindfulness or concentration subjects. Before Maharishi brought meditation out of the monastery in 1957, the tradition was that only an enlightened guru/teacher could properly teach meditation. The carefully choreographed, carefully rehearsed teaching play that TM teachers perform over four days was Maharishi’s answer: in that carefully contrived context, he attempted to train people to literally “play the part” of an enlightened guru.

        The difference, some people consistently showing _samadhi_ when they learn TM vs no-one in 5,000 studies on other forms of meditation ever showing the breath suspension state, suggests that the teaching play makes all the difference:

        it isn’t just “what” is taught, but *how* it is taught, that is important.

        Consider these two pilot studies on TM taught to war refugees living in tent cities or even under bushes:

        http://www.ptsdreliefnow.org/the-research.html

        Compare those findings with the typical findings for mindfulness practice. There’s a reason why the United Nations is doing its own research to see if they want their own disaster relief workers trained *as* TM teachers.

        Similar studies are being conducted around the world after the David Lynch Foundation taught literally hundreds of thousands of school kids for free and invited the nations of the world to evaluate the results.

        .

        TM is a simple, easy-to-learn, literally effortless practice. We can prove that it is effortless on a physiological level, because the activity of the brain’s DMN is not reduced during practice, unlike virtually every other meditaiton practice that has been studied. Further, since the long-term finding is that the EEG activity of any form of meditation starts to become a trait found outside of meditation, the implication is that TM does NOT interfere with the activity of the DMN, while other practices do.

        This might suggest that any benefit from meditation that is due to resting will tend to disappear over time in other practices as they become progressively less restful as people get “better” at them.

        In 2013, the American Heart Association reviewed all available research and found explicitly that only TM had robust enough research with consistent enough effects that they could say to doctors that they might recommend TM to their patients as an adjunct (secondary) therapy for the treatment of hypertension, while all other meditation practices did NOT receive that recommendation (see page 6 for TM vs mindfulness and page 8 for relaxation techniques including the Relaxation response):

        http://hyper.ahajournals.org/content/hypertensionaha/early/2013/04/22/HYP.0b013e318293645f.full.pdf

        The only head-to-head study of TM, some kind of mindfulness and the Relaxation Response, that I am aware of is this paper:

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2693686

        Note that this is NOT MBSR. However, the “low mindfulness relaxation” was basically the Relaxation Response.

        The only longitudinal study on mindfulness (MBSR) that I am aware of is: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24798861

        “Parallel to the reduction of stress levels after 1 year, the intervention-group additionally showed reduced catecholamine levels (p < 0.05), improved 24 h-mean arterial (p < 0.05) and maximum systolic blood pressure (p < 0.01), as well as a reduction in IMT (p < 0.01). However, these effects were lost after 2 and 3 years of follow-up."

        Note that this supports my assertion that practices that reduce the activity of the DMN will NOT show long-term benefits due to rest -in a very real sense, these practices train the brain to NEVER rest.

        The only long-term study on the Relaxation Response (see head-to-head study) found that there was no real effect on blood pressure from that practice.

        .

        Trying to say that all meditation practices are the same is NOT supported.

        Incidentally, the only way to fully resolve this issue is, as the American Heart Association points out, to do head-to-head studies. For the past few years, the TM resaerchers I know have been trying to get mindfulness researchers to collaborate in a head-to-head study similar to that study that was done almost 30 years ago. No-one is willing to collaborate to do such a study. People accuse TMers of being religious, but look at the title of that research review on other forms of meditation, written by the most prominent meditation researchers (other than TM). Most mindfulness researchers are Buddhists, and many BUddhists sincerely believe that the sense-of-self-enhancing effects of TM are anti-Buddhist and so won't participate in any study thta might show TM in a good light.

        1. Hi Saijanai,

          I am not going to take the time to respond to your extended comment. But thank you for your passion for the subject of TM.

          I did not say that all meditation practices were the same. I said that each of the 4-5 major practices have some overlapping benefit, but that mostly they have differing benefit, and that a good meditation practice is to engage in many types of practice to get the benefits from each.

          Separately, causality is a very strong burden of proof when looking at very small structures in the brain, here I am referring to neurons. Even the sonar study you discuss has researchers subjectively choosing sizes of areas in which to examine effect. You claimed causality at the neuronal level. We just don’t have the ability to see that happening across the entirety of the brain at this time. It was to that I objected.

          I also object to the idea that the thing you are attempting to maximize in meditation – “as close to nature as possible” – should be the mental model or goal for everyone. In consider meditation to be too good a tool to so narrowly define its benefits. Different meditation types have differing benefits. Period.

          Might I suggest that you spend some time with other traditions before so starkly drawing lines around the subject?

          Yours, in gratitude,

          Jason

          1. saijanai says:

            I believe you misunderstand how LORETA (and sLORETA an eLORETA) work.

            With such analyses, you can generate “voxels” (much larger than the voxels generated using fMRI) from the raw EEG data that can then be analyzed further and compared with their neighbors in the 3D space of such voxels, so yes, we CAN look at “the entirety of the brain,” both in a reasonably precise way time-wise with LORETA-type analysis, and in a reasonably precise way space-wise with fMRI. There is a tradeoff between spacial accuracy and temporal accuracy, depending on which instruments you use to measure. You can’t get both with any existing technology.

            Now, as I said, TM is a resting practice. ALL benefits from TM appear to come from enhancing the activity of the DMN and eventually that becomes the new normal mode of DMN activity outside of TM practie.

            Focused attention and mindfulness are NOT resting practices. Whatever benefits found in beginning meditators due to any restful effects tend to fade over time, as shown in the only longitudinal study on mindfulness that I am aware of (happy to learn of another multi-year study, if you have a reference).

            Other benefits, including some not found from TM, persist in those types of practices.

            Where TM most notably shines is in the treatment of PTSD. Since it turns out that children in poverty are often suffering from PTSD, when such children are taught TM, their academic performance suddenly improves dramatically.

            These are important considerations when a school or government is trying to decide what single mental program they might easily incorporate into a school day.

        2. Jim Karpen says:

          Thanks, Sajani. I really learned a lot from your essay, and am going to save it for future reference. I appreciate your taking the time to write it. I don’t mean to clutter Jason’s blog with more TM comments (sorry Jason), but I do have a couple minor points to share. From what I understand (and certainly I’m not as knowledgeable as you), the research on breath suspension wasn’t able to be replicated. I think it was Kesterson’s PhD dissertation. Also, Fred Travis, whose TM research you cite, has been collaborating with other top meditation researchers ever since his presentation at the New York Academy of Sciences (in 2013?) and their goal is to show the differences among meditation practices. He tries to avoid claiming one meditation is better than another, but rather has adopted the attitude that each has its unique effects.

          1. saijanai says:

            i believe thta you misunderstood the issue with replication.

            Fred Travis and Keith Wallace published their paper:
            “Autonomic patterns during respiratory suspensions, Possible markers of Transcendental Consciousness”
            http://moscow.sci-hub.bz/7e79cb20aa45e1cf35d4b37885e8d68f/10.1111%40j.1469-8986.1997.tb02414.x.pdf (CAPTCHA input required for access)
            in 1997.
            Kesterson and Clinch published their paper,
            “Metabolic rate, respiratory exchange ratio, and apneas during meditation”
            http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.971.6317&rep=rep1&type=pdf (CAPTCHA required)
            in 1989.

            The replication issue refer to is that Fred Travis has asked researchers into other meditation traditions if they have ever seen this in other traditions, and the answer has always been “no.” A couple of years ago, I ran across a single case study of a single ch’an adept who apparently was showing the same kind of respiratory suspension during meditation, but that’s a single case study of a single person. Other than that, there has STILL been no replications of those findings in studies of *other* meditation practices.

            .

            And my point was that if you only have time to do a single practice (and many people find it hard to fit in 20 minutes x 2 on a daily basis), it would be good to understand what benefits are short-term and what benefits are long-term.

            Since mindfulness and concentration practices are not “resting practices,” one would expect that any benefits from rest found in beginning meditators would tend to fade as they became more adept at not-resting, and indeed, that is what the only long-term, longitudinal study on mindfulness shows. Other benefits persist, including some that are not found, as far as I know, from TM practice.

  4. Kuriakose athappilly says:

    what is the cost each meditation stage? It is vital for me to decide to join the meditation.

  5. Lynn says:

    As always, your thinking is spot-on.

    Keep promoting what you know to be valuable and true.

    1. Hi Lynn,

      Thank you for your comment and for taking the time to share your thoughts. Truly appreciated!

      With smiles,

      Jason

  6. Dr. Carl Erikson says:

    After 40 years of meditating and 30 years of teaching all my psychotherapy clients meditation and many years of being involved in meditation research I have seen a great many programs come and go. The ones that most people end up using are the ones that really work. There are a number of good meditation and mindfulness programs out there. It is a good idea to try a few and see what works for you. Everyone is unique. I always recommend to my clients and students that they work with a guided meditation program, especially when they first get started. The ones I suggest to everyone are the downloadable audio programs at http://www.lightunlimitedpublishing.com. These have been on the market and very popular for over 30 years for many good reasons. No matter what method one chooses for mindfulness and meditation it takes consistent practice for it to become effective. It is worth the small effort involved.

    1. Hello Carl,

      Thank you for contributing to the conversation and sharing your experiences.

      For what it is worth, I agree that it is important to practice consistently.

      With smiles,

      Jason

    2. saijanai says:

      Soon-to-be-published research on PTSD in veterans found that in nearly 40% of the subjects, the abnormally high activity of the amygdala returned towards normal levels after only one session of TM. Most of the remaining subjects showed a more gradual return to normalcy over a period of months.

      As long as the subjects were regular in their practice, this change persisted throughout the 4 years of hte study.

      So no, and yes: in some people, the benefits from TM practice can be immediate (from the very first 20 minute session), but regularity of practice is required for those benefits to persist.

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