Always Under Construction
Last modified:  Feb 18, 2017
Copyright 2010, 2017 by Douglas Dailey - All Rights Reserved.

Meditation, Mindfulness & the Medicine Buddha

A common Buddhist view is that there are 9 systems each with its own organizing principle. They can be divided into sutrayana, tantrayana and vajrayana. [also somewhat separated into body, energies and mind]. They may also be separated into 1) soothing attachment through renunciation; 2) soothing aversion through purification by compassion; 3) blending wisdom and emptiness (free from conceptual elaboration) through transformation; or, 4) Dzogchen, the ‘great perfection’ manifested when one recognizes the lack of need for renunciation, purification and/or transformation in the liberation of pure non-symbolic awareness. This is a state of total relaxation. This requires first pacification then harmonization of acts of body, energy cycles and mind. Where I have used the words ‘energy cycles’ most texts use the word speech or voice. For example, it is said ‘If one wants to become fully awake in this very lifetime then right now why not start engaging in the acts of body, voice and mind of the awakened ones’. I believe the Sanskrit root ‘buddh’ means awakened. The self that needs to practice renunciation, purification and transformation is the unnatural narrative self. It is an habitual elaboration of the mind (marigpa) but is not the radiant and aware natural mind (rigpa). In Dzogchen, sometimes, when the student is ready, the experience of the natural mind, rigpa, can be pointed out during training. In Dzogchen training there may be an emphasis on 1) being aware of one’s own fundamental state, and 2) relaxing all unnecessary and contrived acts of body, energy and mind. The evolutionary need for these two conditions can be predicted by the constructal law of physics. They also are very suited for technology-assisted self-regulation / self- realization (TASR) as can be seen by the popularity of bio and neurofeedback. Many approaches to meditation and mindfulness describe two aspects of training - tranquility and insight. These are named shamatha and vipassana. My model suggests technical and training considerations for each.

TASR for Tranquility

The tranquility here comes from profound relaxation of body, energy and mind that comes from deep awareness of flow. During such periods accompanied by highly efficient and synchronized EEG there can be a genome wide upregulation away from sickness behavior [1]. In my section on sickness behavior [SBeh] I more fully discuss the illustration on the left that was adapted from Schulman, Llinas, et al 2011[2]. In the healthy control EEG (CON green) there is no inefficient increase in either slow or fast activity. This satisfies the Constructal Law of Physics analysis (CLaw). There is also a narrow control frequency at 10 Hz. The other lines show depressive disorder (DD), schizophrenia spectrum disorder (SSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). All 3 of these types of sickness behavior show inefficient increases in low and high frequency activity, plus loss of a well-defined control frequency that we discuss elsewhere. Standard quantitative EEG instruments such as the cascading spectral display used during routine neurofeedback offer the trainee the ability to guide the brain and EEG toward this “norm” of efficient and effective processing. This is usually best obtained as the trainee learns to quiet narrative processing of past and future and attend to naked awareness free from conceptual elaboration. It is common to see sudden elevations in beta power with a return to habitual rumination. This can be a first step in EEG biofeedback to assist in training tranquility. It is often combined with heart rate variability (HRV) training featuring the spectral display. Similar to the curves shown above, the HRV power spectrum should show a single peak at 0.1 Hz (=6/min) reflecting the Meyer-Traube-Herring wave. Failure to regulate very low and high frequencies in the HRV spectrum can lead to dysregulation of theta and alpha in the EEG. Theta and alpha EEG synchrony is a characteristic of a number of common meditative states. TAG Sync training encourages regulation reduced power consumption, dependable control frequency (10 Hz), synchrony, as well as the cross-frequency coupling (CFC) between theta, alpha and gamma that is the hallmark of consciousness [3], intelligence [4], and insight [5]. Such improvements in efficiency are also seen in consumption of psychedelics [6] and in some professional healers enter a healing mode [7].

TASR for Insight

Buddha taught that one of the first skills obtained as a result of successful meditation is the ability to know what others need in order to avoid suffering. However, this knowledge is non-discursive, free from conceptual elaboration. The figure to the right shows how the amplitudes of theta (4-8 Hz) and gamma (around 40 Hz and above) change over a period of 6 seconds. Note that at some places, such as that at 5 seconds, there is a simultaneous (synchronous) burst in amplitude of both theta and gamma during problem solving. The ability to increase the synchronous movement of these amplitude envelopes is related to the level of intelligence [4]. What we are seeing here is the process of problem solving. The creation of a solution - an ‘aha’ moment of synchrony - increases the possibilities and thus the complexity of the situation. What we see here is synchrony in the very act of harnessing complexity. The Constructal Law of Physics predicts evolutionary increase in complexity. In fact the normal EEG increase in complexity during maturation. Maturation without such evolution in complexity is merely aging. The ability to gracefully increase synchronous behavior of body, energy and mind can sometimes be upregulated as easily by environmental enrichment as it can be down regulated by chronic social defeat, chronic predator stress, inflammation and degradation. The ability to harness complexity through synchronization requires the freeing of the inefficient energy habitually dissipated by the EEG (as seen in sickness behavior in the section above on tranquililty). You can read more about the envelopes instrument shown above in the section on cross-frequency coupling [CFC].

The Awake Nature of the mind and the EEG

It is useful to remember the root word ‘buddh’ in Sanskrit refers to the awakened state. An important discussion in European clinical electroencephalography has been carefully described by Ulrich [8]. Many types of inefficiency and sickness behavior are accompanied by intrusions of sleep-like states in the EEG. They have observed for decades that the EEG (even just 4 channels) is a very sensitive indicator of global cerebral functioning. Like the pulse in medicine it can reliably demonstrate a reversal of sickness behavior, even though differential diagnosis might be incomplete. Using EEG biofeedback the meditator can recognize excursions into the inefficient EEG patterns that accompany intrusions of sleep or sickness behavior. It is often easy to detect the moment in which the radiant mind is lost in the narrative fiction of the wandering mind. Neurofeedback practitioners are in a perfect position to see such state changes. The appearance of sudden beta on the QEEG spectral display is often associated with rumination, catastrophization, etc.

Eyes closed versus eyes open in meditation and neurofeedback

Amihai et al 2014 studied the changes in cognitive functions following eyes closed Theravadin meditation and eyes opened Vajrayana meditation. They state, “The results of Study 1 show that both focused (Shamatha) and distributed (Vipassana) attention meditations of the Theravada tradition produced enhanced parasympathetic activation indicative of a relaxation response. In contrast, both focused (Deity) and distributed (Rig-pa) meditations of the Vajrayana tradition produced sympathetic activation, indicative of arousal.” There was “an immediate dramatic increase in performance on cognitive tasks following only Vajrayana styles of meditation, indicating enhanced phasic alertness due to arousal.”  “...Theravada and Vajrayana meditations are based on different neurophysiological mechanisms, which give rise to either a relaxation or arousal response.” [10] TAG Sync can be done eyes closed and reclined with the goal to increase levels of relaxation. TAG Sync and live complexity training were specifically developed to been done eyes open with goal of experiencing embodied awareness efficiently free from conceptual elaboration. The original TAG Sync for Nexus software since 2010 has had heart rate variability on screen with EEG. In other systems it is convenient to have EmWave Pro running in a separate window. In the beginning attention is directed toward posture, balance and breathing. TAG Sync can be used during meditation as a reminder of relaxation of body (EMG), energy (HRV), and mind (EEG). During live complexity training (LCT) the state accompanying the EEG may become the object of meditation itself. This is made possible largely by the use of the “Quiet Reward” - the salience of silence. This is also the basis of its efficiency in couples and group TASR sessions. [under construction] References [1] Ravnik-Glavac M, et al (2012) - Genome-wide expression changes in a higher state of consciousness.  Consciousness and Cognition 21 (2012) 1322–1344. [Abstract] [2] Schulman JJ, et al (2011) - Imaging of thalamocortical dysrhythmia in neuropsychiatry. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 29 July. [Free Full Text] [3] Pockett S, et al (2009) - EEG synchrony during a perceptual-cognitive task - Widespread phase synchrony at all frequencies. Clinical Neurophysiology 120, 695-708. [Abstract] [4] Pahor A, et al (2014) - Theta–gamma cross-frequency coupling relates to the level of human intelligence. Intelligence 46 (2014) 283-290. [Abstract] [5] Borjigin J, et al (2013) - Surge of neurophysiological coherence and connectivity in the dying brain. Proc Nat Acad Sci, Aug 14, 2013. [Free Full Text] [6] Carhart-Harris RL, et al (2014) - The entropic brain - A theory of conscious states informed by neuroimaging research with psychedelic drugs. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 03 February 2014. [Free Full Text] [7] Faber PL, et al (2015) - EEG of two persons during their roles as spiritual trance healer and as client - a pilot study. Kognitive Neurophysiologie des Menschen, 8(1), 23-29. [8] Ulrich G (2013) – The Theoretical Interpretation of Electroencephalography. BMed. [9] Engel AK, et al (2010) - Beta-band oscillations — signaling the status quo. Current Opinions in Neuobiology. 20:156-165. [Abstract] [10] Amihai I, et al (2014) - Arousal vs relaxation - A comparison of the neurophysiological and cognitive correlates of Vajrayana and Theravada meditative practices. PLoS ONE, Vol 9, Issue 7. [Free Full Text]
Always Under Construction
Last modified:  Feb 18, 2017
Copyright 2010, 2017 by Douglas Dailey - All Rights Reserved.

Meditation, Mindfulness & the Medicine Buddha

A common Buddhist view is that there are 9 systems each with its own organizing principle. They can be divided into sutrayana, tantrayana and vajrayana. [also somewhat separated into body, energies and mind]. They may also be separated into 1) soothing attachment through renunciation; 2) soothing aversion through purification by compassion; 3) blending wisdom and emptiness (free from conceptual elaboration) through transformation; or, 4) Dzogchen, the ‘great perfection’ manifested when one recognizes the lack of need for renunciation, purification and/or transformation in the liberation of pure non-symbolic awareness. This is a state of total relaxation. This requires first pacification then harmonization of acts of body, energy cycles and mind. Where I have used the words ‘energy cycles’ most texts use the word speech or voice. For example, it is said ‘If one wants to become fully awake in this very lifetime then right now why not start engaging in the acts of body, voice and mind of the awakened ones’. I believe the Sanskrit root ‘buddh’ means awakened. The self that needs to practice renunciation, purification and transformation is the unnatural narrative self. It is an habitual elaboration of the mind (marigpa) but is not the radiant and aware natural mind (rigpa). In Dzogchen, sometimes, when the student is ready, the experience of the natural mind, rigpa, can be pointed out during training. In Dzogchen training there may be an emphasis on 1) being aware of one’s own fundamental state, and 2) relaxing all unnecessary and contrived acts of body, energy and mind. The evolutionary need for these two conditions can be predicted by the constructal law of physics. They also are very suited for technology-assisted self-regulation / self- realization (TASR) as can be seen by the popularity of bio and neurofeedback. Many approaches to meditation and mindfulness describe two aspects of training - tranquility and insight. These are named shamatha and vipassana. My model suggests technical and training considerations for each.

TASR for Tranquility

The tranquility here comes from profound relaxation of body, energy and mind that comes from deep awareness of flow. During such periods accompanied by highly efficient and synchronized EEG there can be a genome wide upregulation away from sickness behavior [1]. In my section on sickness behavior [SBeh] I more fully discuss the illustration on the left that was adapted from Schulman, Llinas, et al 2011[2]. In the healthy control EEG (CON green) there is no inefficient increase in either slow or fast activity. This satisfies the Constructal Law of Physics analysis (CLaw). There is also a narrow control frequency at 10 Hz. The other lines show depressive disorder (DD), schizophrenia spectrum disorder (SSD) and obsessive- compulsive disorder (OCD). All 3 of these types of sickness behavior show inefficient increases in low and high frequency activity, plus loss of a well- defined control frequency that we discuss elsewhere. Standard quantitative EEG instruments such as the cascading spectral display used during routine neurofeedback offer the trainee the ability to guide the brain and EEG toward this “norm” of efficient and effective processing. This is usually best obtained as the trainee learns to quiet narrative processing of past and future and attend to naked awareness free from conceptual elaboration. It is common to see sudden elevations in beta power with a return to habitual rumination. This can be a first step in EEG biofeedback to assist in training tranquility. It is often combined with heart rate variability (HRV) training featuring the spectral display. Similar to the curves shown above, the HRV power spectrum should show a single peak at 0.1 Hz (=6/min) reflecting the Meyer-Traube-Herring wave. Failure to regulate very low and high frequencies in the HRV spectrum can lead to dysregulation of theta and alpha in the EEG. Theta and alpha EEG synchrony is a characteristic of a number of common meditative states. TAG Sync training encourages regulation reduced power consumption, dependable control frequency (10 Hz), synchrony, as well as the cross-frequency coupling (CFC) between theta, alpha and gamma that is the hallmark of consciousness [3], intelligence [4], and insight [5]. Such improvements in efficiency are also seen in consumption of psychedelics [6] and in some professional healers enter a healing mode [7].

TASR for Insight

Buddha taught that one of the first skills obtained as a result of successful meditation is the ability to know what others need in order to avoid suffering. However, this knowledge is non-discursive, free from conceptual elaboration. The figure to the below shows how the amplitudes of theta (4-8 Hz) and gamma (around 40 Hz and above) change over a period of 6 seconds. Note that at some places, such as that at 5 seconds, there is a simultaneous (synchronous) burst in amplitude of both theta and gamma during problem solving. The ability to increase the synchronous movement of these amplitude envelopes is related to the level of intelligence [4]. What we are seeing here is the process of problem solving. The creation of a solution - an ‘aha’ moment of synchrony - increases the possibilities and thus the complexity of the situation. What we see here is synchrony in the very act of harnessing complexity. The Constructal Law of Physics predicts evolutionary increase in complexity. In fact the normal EEG increase in complexity during maturation. Maturation without such evolution in complexity is merely aging. The ability to gracefully increase synchronous behavior of body, energy and mind can sometimes be upregulated as easily by environmental enrichment as it can be down regulated by chronic social defeat, chronic predator stress, inflammation and degradation. The ability to harness complexity through synchronization requires the freeing of the inefficient energy habitually dissipated by the EEG (as seen in sickness behavior in the section above on tranquililty). You can read more about the envelopes instrument shown above in the section on cross-frequency coupling [CFC].

The Awake Nature of the mind and the EEG

It is useful to remember the root word ‘buddh’ in Sanskrit refers to the awakened state. An important discussion in European clinical electroencephalography has been carefully described by Ulrich [8]. Many types of inefficiency and sickness behavior are accompanied by intrusions of sleep-like states in the EEG. They have observed for decades that the EEG (even just 4 channels) is a very sensitive indicator of global cerebral functioning. Like the pulse in medicine it can reliably demonstrate a reversal of sickness behavior, even though differential diagnosis might be incomplete. Using EEG biofeedback the meditator can recognize excursions into the inefficient EEG patterns that accompany intrusions of sleep or sickness behavior. It is often easy to detect the moment in which the radiant mind is lost in the narrative fiction of the wandering mind. Neurofeedback practitioners are in a perfect position to see such state changes. The appearance of sudden beta on the QEEG spectral display is often associated with rumination, catastrophization, etc.

Eyes closed versus eyes open in meditation and

neurofeedback

Amihai et al 2014 studied the changes in cognitive functions following eyes closed Theravadin meditation and eyes opened Vajrayana meditation. They state, “The results of Study 1 show that both focused (Shamatha) and distributed (Vipassana) attention meditations of the Theravada tradition produced enhanced parasympathetic activation indicative of a relaxation response. In contrast, both focused (Deity) and distributed (Rig-pa) meditations of the Vajrayana tradition produced sympathetic activation, indicative of arousal.” There was “an immediate dramatic increase in performance on cognitive tasks following only Vajrayana styles of meditation, indicating enhanced phasic alertness due to arousal.”  “...Theravada and Vajrayana meditations are based on different neurophysiological mechanisms, which give rise to either a relaxation or arousal response.” [10] TAG Sync can be done eyes closed and reclined with the goal to increase levels of relaxation. TAG Sync and live complexity training were specifically developed to been done eyes open with goal of experiencing embodied awareness efficiently free from conceptual elaboration. The original TAG Sync for Nexus software since 2010 has had heart rate variability on screen with EEG. In other systems it is convenient to have EmWave Pro running in a separate window. In the beginning attention is directed toward posture, balance and breathing. TAG Sync can be used during meditation as a reminder of relaxation of body (EMG), energy (HRV), and mind (EEG). During live complexity training (LCT) the state accompanying the EEG may become the object of meditation itself. This is made possible largely by the use of the “Quiet Reward” - the salience of silence. This is also the basis of its efficiency in couples and group TASR sessions. [under construction] References [1] Ravnik-Glavac M, et al (2012) - Genome-wide expression changes in a higher state of consciousness. Consciousness and Cognition 21 (2012) 1322–1344. [Abstract] [2] Schulman JJ, et al (2011) - Imaging of thalamocortical dysrhythmia in neuropsychiatry. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 29 July. [Free Full Text] [3] Pockett S, et al (2009) - EEG synchrony during a perceptual- cognitive task - Widespread phase synchrony at all frequencies.  Clinical Neurophysiology 120, 695-708. [Abstract] [4] Pahor A, et al (2014) - Theta–gamma cross-frequency coupling relates to the level of human intelligence. Intelligence 46 (2014) 283- 290. [Abstract] [5] Borjigin J, et al (2013) - Surge of neurophysiological coherence and connectivity in the dying brain. Proc Nat Acad Sci, Aug 14, 2013. [Free Full Text] [6] Carhart-Harris RL, et al (2014) - The entropic brain - A theory of conscious states informed by neuroimaging research with psychedelic drugs. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 03 February 2014. [Free Full Text] [7] Faber PL, et al (2015) - EEG of two persons during their roles as spiritual trance healer and as client - a pilot study. Kognitive Neurophysiologie des Menschen, 8(1), 23-29. [8] Ulrich G (2013) – The Theoretical Interpretation of Electroencephalography. BMed. [9] Engel AK, et al (2010) - Beta-band oscillations — signaling the status quo. Current Opinions in Neuobiology. 20:156-165. [Abstract] [10] Amihai I, et al (2014) - Arousal vs relaxation - A comparison of the neurophysiological and cognitive correlates of Vajrayana and Theravada meditative practices. PLoS ONE, Vol 9, Issue 7. [Free Full Text]