Are all meditation techniques the same?

Are all meditation techniques the same?

Reproduced from the Transcendental Meditation Blog

by Ken Chawkin on September 22, 2010

As doctors increasingly prescribe meditations to patients for stress-related disorders, scientists are gaining a better understanding of how different techniques from a wide of traditions, both modern and ancient, produce different results.

A new paper published this past summer in Consciousness and Cognition discusses three categories to organize and better understand meditation:

1. Focused attention—concentrating on an object, idea, or emotion;

2. Open monitoring—being mindful of one’s breath, thoughts or feelings;

3. Automatic self-transcending—meditations that transcend their own activity

Each category was assigned EEG bands, based on reported brain patterns during mental tasks, and meditations were categorized based on their reported EEG.

”The idea is that meditation is, in a sense, a ‘cognitive task,’ and EEG frequencies are known for different tasks,” said Fred Travis, Ph.D., co-author, and Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management.

Focused attention, characterized by beta/gamma activity, included meditations from Tibetan Buddhist (loving kindness and compassion), Buddhist (Zen and Diamond Way), and Chinese (Qigong) traditions.

Open monitoring, characterized by theta activity, included meditations from Buddhist (Mindfulness, and ZaZen), Chinese (Qigong), and Vedic (Sahaja Yoga) traditions.

Automatic self-transcending, characterized by alpha1 activity, included meditations from Vedic (Transcendental Meditation) and Chinese (Qigong) traditions.

Between categories, the included meditations differed in focus, subject/object relation, and procedures. These findings shed light on the common mistake of averaging meditations together to determine mechanisms or clinical effects.

”Meditations differ in both their ingredients and their effects, just as medicines do. Lumping them all together as ‘essentially the same’ is simply a mistake,” said Jonathan Shear, Ph.D., co-author, professor of philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Dr. Shear is also the author of several books on meditation, including the well-known book, The Experience of Meditation which presents an introduction to the major meditation traditions of the world.

”Explicit differences between meditation techniques need to be respected when researching physiological patterns or clinical outcomes of meditation practices,” said Dr. Travis. ”If they are averaged together, then the resulting phenomenological, physiological, and clinical profiles cannot be meaningfully interpreted.”

Web references:
Talk by Dr. Travis, “Are all meditations the same?”
Transcendental Meditation Brain Research

Read more, including Comments

Related posts: Tagged as: Research

New studies show reduced depression with Transcendental Meditation

Also see: and THP: How Meditation Techniques Compare and Are all meditation techniques the same?

See infographic and video on three categories of meditation.

6 Responses to “Are all meditation techniques the same?”

  1. Are all meditation techniques the same? « The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] see Meditation Techniques Have Different Effects | THP: How Meditation Techniques Compare | Are all meditation techniques the same?. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailMoreStumbleUponDiggRedditPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]


  2. A Wake-Up Haiku « The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] posts: Words—a poem on the nature of words and mind | Are all meditation techniques the same? | John Hagelin — “Only Higher Consciousness Can Transform Our World” — Beyond […]


  3. Norman Rosenthal spoke in Chicago on Light and Transcendence—alternative modalities to reduce stress, optimize health « The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] former NIMH researcher explained three different categories of meditation and how they effect the brain. He said having the right instruction in meditation can make a world […]


  4. The Age features Transcendental Meditation and the Maharishi School in national education article « The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] Meditation differs from some other forms of meditation in that it allows the mind to effortlessly “transcend […]


  5. Ken Wilber said meditation can change the world. Jaochim Chissano showed it could – Steve Taylor. « The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] One last point, and that is comparing different meditation practices and assigning their results to each other can be a bit misleading. With the aid of fMRI, EEG, and other methods we can now see that different parts of the brain are effected by different practices. To better understand these differences scientists have created categories of meditation and fit different approaches into these categories according to their scientific measurements. See Are all meditation techniques the same?. […]


  6. Article reports meditation studies done on stressed students with beneficial outcomes | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] A recent paper published in Consciousness and Cognition gives a scientific explanation of different categories of meditation from major traditions, their practices, brainwave signatures and outcomes. See Are all meditation techniques the same? […]


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