In today’s episode of 30 DAYS OF INTENT, the spiritual makeover series on The Chopra Well channel, comedian Rainn Wilson (Dwight in NBC’s “The Office”) and Deepak Chopra join regulars Iman and Natalie for a brain scan and guided meditation. Using an EEG (Electroencephalography) machine, neuroscientist Mark Cohen measures everyone’s brain activity while Deepak guides them in meditation. Wires, nets and tiny saltwater-filled sponges aside, Rainn settles into his meditation with palms faced up and eyes closed. Deepak invites him to focus on his breath and repeat the mantra “so hum” with each inhale and exhale. The usually playful, boisterous Rainn emerges from his meditation utterly serene. And on the other side of the wall, Dr. Cohen has the charts to explain what just happened.
So what exactly DOES happen to our brain when we meditate? We slow our breath, loosen tense muscles and quiet our minds, but beyond that we actually accomplish far more. After thousands of years in practice in human history, meditation has just recently become the subject of scientific research. Many people report increased clarity and productivity after meditating, and research is starting to support the anecdotal evidence that people have experience for many years.
During meditation, different brain waves come into play and affect certain results. One of the most predominant, which Dr. Cohen highlights, are alpha waves. These waves indicate a relaxed, lucid state and are helpful in lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones. (One of those stress hormones, cortisol, is known to promote weight gain. So you might want to add meditation to your fitness plan if you’re trying to shed a few pounds.)
Seek out theta waves if you need a big boost of creativity and inspiration. Go for delta waves if you want to completely veg out and get a good night’s sleep. Alpha waves, on the other hand, don’t signal high levels of innovation, nor deep states of relaxation. You can neither be overly alert nor overly drowsy to kick your alpha waves into high gear. These waves thrive when we are awake, but relaxed, and alert, but with a clear mind. Alpha waves will help you remain present and focused, but distanced from judgment, emotion, and analysis. Clear mind. No attachment. Nothing but the present moment. So if you would like to feel grounded, move quickly from task to task, and approach situations with a calm and composed mind, a boost in alpha waves may be the ticket. And meditating will help get you there.
Dr. Cohen doesn’t re-program anyone’s brain, as Rainn feared, but the guided meditation does. In a matter of minutes, we can take our brains to new levels of awareness and ease our bodies into healthier states of relaxation. So if you have five minutes to spare, why not start now?
Subscribe to The Chopra Well and don’t miss Thursday’s episode of 30 DAYS OF INTENT – Natalie and Iman are getting their first taste of “laughing meditation”!
More meditation resources:
Click here for guided meditations with Deepak Chopra
Learn about meditation, cells, and aging with Dr. Elissa Epel
The Chopra Center’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge