Evolution from four mental states to the highest state of consciousness: A neurophysiological basis of meditation as defined in yoga texts.

Author: Deepeshwar S1, Nagendra HR2, Rana BB2
Author Information:
1Department of Yoga and Life Sciences, Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, Swami Vivekananda Yoga University (S-VYASA), Bengaluru, India. Electronic address: deepeshwar.singh@svyasa.org.
2Department of Yoga and Life Sciences, Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, Swami Vivekananda Yoga University (S-VYASA), Bengaluru, India.
Conference/Journal: Prog Brain Res.
Date published: 2019
Other: Volume ID: 244 , Pages: 31-83 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2018.10.029. Epub 2019 Jan 3. , Word Count: 203

This chapter provides a theoretical introduction to states of consciousness and reviews neuroscientific investigations of meditation. The different states of consciousness consist of four mental states, i.e., cancalata (random thinking), ekagrata (non-meditative focusing), dharna (focused meditation), and dhyana (meditation) as defined in yoga texts. Meditation is a self-regulated mental process associated with deep relaxation and increased internalized attention. Scientific investigations on meditation reported changes in electrophysiological signals and neuroimaging measures. But most outcomes of meditation studies showed inconsistent results, this may be due to heterogeneity in meditation methods and techniques evolved in the last 200 years. Traditionally, the features of meditation include the capacity to sustain a heightened awareness of thoughts, behaviors, emotions, and perceptions. Generally, meditation involves non-reactive effortless monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment. Focused meditation practice involves awareness on a single object and open monitoring meditation is a non-directive meditation involved attention in breathing, mantra, or sound. Therefore, results of few empirical studies of advanced meditators or beginners remain tentative. This is an attempt to compile the meditation-related changes in electrophysiological and neuroimaging processes among experienced and novice practitioners.

© 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

KEYWORDS: Electrophysiology; Meditation; Neuroimaging; States of consciousness

PMID: 30732843 DOI: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2018.10.029