The Amazing Brain Waves of High Level Meditators

Daniel Goleman is a psychologist, lecturer, and science journalist who has reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books) was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year and a half.

Goleman is also the author of Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything. The book argues that new information technologies will create “radical transparency,” allowing us to know the environmental, health, and social consequences of what we buy.

As shoppers use point-of-purchase ecological comparisons to guide their purchases, market share will shift to support steady, incremental upgrades in how products are made – changing every thing for the better.

His latest book is Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body, which he has co-authored with Richard Davidson reveals the science of what meditation can really do for us, as well as exactly how to get the most out of it.

Daniel Goleman's co-author of the guide "Transformed Attributes" is a neuroscientist named Richard Davidson. He has a laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, which is a huge lab. He has committed scanners and around 100 people working there. He had the ability to do some amazing research where he flew Olympic-level meditators, who usually stay in Nepal, India, or some in France, over to the lab. He put them with a method in his mind scanners and conducted modern tests, and the results were simply astounding.

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For instance, we located, or he located, that their brain waves are truly different. Possibly the most remarkable findings in the Olympic-level meditators concern what's called a gamma wave. All of us get gamma for an extremely brief duration when we solve a problem we have been grappling with, even if it's something that has irritated us for months. We obtain about half a second of gamma; it's the strongest wave in the EEG range. We get it when we bite into an apple or imagine biting into an apple, and for a short period, an instant, inputs from taste, sound, smell, vision, all of that combined in that envisioned bite into the apple.

Yet, that lasts a very brief period in a regular EEG. What was spectacular was that the Olympic-level meditators, these are people who have done up to 62,000 lifetime hours of meditation, their brainwave shows gamma very strong constantly as a lasting quality, no matter what they're doing. It's not a state effect, it's not only during their meditation, but it's just their everyday frame of mind. We really have no idea what that means experientially. Science has never seen it before.

We also find that in these Olympic-level meditators, when we asked them, for example, to do a reflection on empathy, their level of gamma jumps 700 to 800 percent in a few seconds. This has also never been seen by science. So we need to assume that the unique state of consciousness that you see in the highest level meditators is a lot like something described in the classical reflection literature centuries ago, which is that there is a state of being that is not like our common state. Sometimes it's called liberation, wisdom, awake, or whatever the word may be. We suspect there's truly no vocabulary that captures what that could be.

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The individuals that we have talked to in this Olympic-level group claim it's really spacious and you're wide open, you're prepared for whatever may come, we just don't understand. But we do know it's quite exceptional.

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