“The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self.
Our task must be to free ourselves; by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Albert Einstein, 1954
Most of us begin to misplace our keys, forget people’s names, or solve math problems less readily as we approach middle age. This is often referred to as age-related cognitive decline. Years ago, scientists believed that this decline was inevitable, but extraordinary research in the past two decades has shown that the adult brain changes with experience and training throughout the lifespan—a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity isn’t a given. Epidemiological research finds that how a brain ages depends on a number of factors including diet, physical exercise, lifestyle choices, and education. The healthier and more active one’s lifestyle, the more likely he or she will maintain cognitive performance over time. And meditation may be a key ingredient for ensuring brain health and maintaining good mental performance. Here’s what recent research suggests about how mindfulness meditation practice may help keep aging brains fit and functional.
How Meditation Encourages Neuroplasticity
To maintain mental acuity, it’s important to keep what researchers call your neural reservein good working order. This “reserve” refers to your brain’s mental efficiency, capacity, or flexibility. Emerging evidence suggests that the consistent mental training that occurs in mindfulness meditation may help to keep that “reserve” intact. For example, one review of the evidence linked regular meditation with positive improvements in brain function such as heightened attention, awareness, working memory, and greater mental efficiency.
Studies are showing that daily meditation impacts both brain “states” and brain “networks.” Brain state training involves activating large-scale networks within the brain that affect a broad range of emotional and mental processes. A clever example of this can be found in a recent study published by a group of researchers at UCLA, who reported that experienced meditators have higher concentrations of tissue in brain regions most depleted by aging, suggesting that meditation practice may help to minimize brain age and protect against age-related decline.
Brain network training, on the other hand, is more focal in that it improves specific cognitive abilities by repeatedly activating a network associated with one function, like paying attention. This is equivalent to repetitive mental bicep curls. Both state and network training are believed to be important ingredients for keeping the brain sharp.
The Agile Aging Brain
Meditation may provide another added benefit—increased mental flexibility. For some, age can come with a rigidity of thoughts, feelings and opinions, and the inability to flow with the challenges and obstacles that are part of the tide of life. That can be a source of stress, and potentially even illness. Because most meditation practices emphasize developing an awareness of thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations without creating a narrative or judgment about the experience, mindfulness mediation may help to lessen a person’s attachment to fixed outcomes, increase mental flexibility, and add to one’s neural reserve.
Although encouraging, it’s important to note that this research is in its infancy and results are mixed. For example, a number of studies have reported that older meditators outperform age-matched non-meditators, or function comparably to younger participants on a number of attention tasks. Others have shown little or no change in cognitive function following a mindfulness intervention for older adults, or report that improvements are not maintained over time.
What we do know is that long-term engagement in mindfulness meditation may enhance cognitive performance in older adults, and that with persistent practice, these benefits may be sustained. That’s great news for the millions of aging adults working to combat the negative effects of aging on the brain.
“Meditation is a simple and effective tool to keep your mind and body in tune with each other, and the world around them” – JBC
By definition, meditation can overwhelm and confuse and may seem heavy and unapproachable, though given enough information, it becomes very clear. Meditation happens when you renounce all of your expectations and realize that whatever happens in meditation is the best thing that can ever happen. Meditation is, in a simplistic kind of sense, a form of waking up; of renouncing all dreams and projections and realizing the purity and beauty of the moment in which you are constantly living. Meditation is the gateway into the self.
By allowing the mind to rest, or rather, be still, we become aware of ourselves in a way that ordinary consciousness cannot tap into. By witnessing ourselves in a state of deep meditation, we look deeper inside, and cease the need to search. All of our potential and purity is inside, and meditation helps unlock our true enlightened being.
When we give ourselves the chance to meditate we release the mind from the tricks and games developed by thought and turn it over to its most basic function, triggering frequencies within the brain that allow us to tap into other conscious plains. Here we engage with the organic, naturally instinctive sides of our beings. We can also re-engage our mind/body connection, and directly ask the body to heal a particular injury, ailment and full organs. Meditation also gives us a chance to connect with the inner wisdom of our subconscious mind. In deep meditative or brainwave states, internal, external and universal wisdom’s become more accessible; they harness the information that guides you.
The breath is one of the key functions of meditation. When practicing didgeridoo meditation, it is important to become aware of the state of your breath. By focusing your mind on the breath, and synchronizing it with the frequency and movement of the didgeridoo, you will enter a state of trance, or deep meditation. That is what we are trying to achieve.
One of the key elements of didgeridoo meditation is the overtone frequency. This is better described as the resonating pulse that is heard when one or several didge’s are played together. This ‘overtone’ is what creates the trance like state.
Didgeridoo meditation comes in many different forms and varies from practitioner to practitioner. Individual sound meditation, sleep improvement and relaxation practices are the biggest areas of work for me and my didgeridoo. While being still and focused, you are opening the doors of your conscious and body to every vibration. It helps heal, calm, regenerate and relax the body in ways that no other instrument or music can. It is the rooting sound which stems from the earth and through that grounding sound one is able to experience a state above normal reality and consciousness.
Below is a detailed chart showing how different overtone frequencies resonate with different parts of the brain.
Ranging from deep sleep to intense mental activity, various states of consciousness are experienced by humans everyday. This continuum of consciousness correlates with electrical activity in the brain; the frequency of brainwaves can be measured in cycles per second (Hz) with an electroencephalogram (EEG). These brainwave states are categorized as the following:
Beta: 12-30 Hz. Normal waking state in adults. Active thinking and planning. This is where the ego resides.
Alpha: 7-12 Hz. Reflective, relaxed state usually with closed eyes. A day dream state.
Theta: 4-7 Hz. Deep meditative state. A place of creativity and envelopment in the present. A dream state associated with REM sleep.
Delta: 0.5-4 Hz. Deep sleep. A place of regeneration and healing.
By simultaneously combining the sounds of two didgeridoos, a desired state of consciousness can be induced in the listener. For example, when one didgeridoo is played in the key of Bb (fundamental frequency of 58 Hz) and a second didgeridoo is played in the key of C (65 Hz), the difference between the frequencies is manifested as a subtle pulsing (in this case 7 Hz). The listener’s dominant brainwave state will sync with this pulsation in a frequency-following response known as brainwave entrainment.
(frequency information courtesy of Didge Project)
Chakras & Sound
Chakra is a Sanskrit word, meaning, “wheel.” The chakras are “wheel-like” vortices that exist within the centralized body radiating outward. There are seven primary chakras that flow through a human body. These energy centers, from top to bottom are:
7 the crown chakra
6 the third eye chakra
5 the throat chakra
4 the heart chakra
3 the solar plexus chakra
2 the sacral chakra
1 the root chakra
Sound and the Chakras a linked through many different equations. Listed below is a basic chart showing how we balance the chakras through the different key notes of the didgeridoo, in order to achieve the maximum potential in your meditation.
CLICK TO ENLARGE!
The energy centers in our body are like pools of water allowing energy to flow from one to the next as if they were connected by a small stream. Blockages in the flow of the pools can cause distribution in the natural flow of this energy preventing our vital organs the opportunity to have access to vital life energy. Over time this energetic blockages can begin to create a disconnect between the physical and energetic body leading to the occurrence of illness or disease in organs surrounding the blockage. By removing blockages within our chakras we are able to remove blockages we maintain our optimum connection to vital life force throughout our entire physical and energetic body. This healthy connection to vital life force allows us to maintain optimum physical health and mental balance keeping us open to universal health and wisdom.