Sit in a room with minutes to spare and task yourself this: to get to the market and back from your house. Maybe you shop for some fruits or something.
Step into your mental realm imagining every step you have to do in this task. Changing your clothes, tying your shoe lace, locking your door...everything. Not in frames but in a continuous motion as in a movie. It could be boring and I have felt the strong need to snap out of it. It still is difficult to power through, imagining every step and "looking" at the trees and shrubs along the way, picking up and inspecting an apple and putting it in the basket, paying for the goods, etc.
The whole thing is much more difficult than it sounds if you are the kind of person who gets restless easily. With practice, it gets better. Hopefully this helps you get in the productive zone. Good luck!
It's a bit more engaging to figure out the aerial view of a place you normally navigate only by road. It's very hard to sustain this practice for even a minute or two initially.
I wonder how many people use flight for this kind of thing.
edit: it's interesting that we both mention "not like Superman". For me it's about going as slow as possible.
With flight, I just imagine that I'm flying relatively low above the tree line (Iron Man style with my hands at my side, rather than Superman style with arms outstretched ... not sure why, but this matters to my brain :P ). Also, I start somewhere that I'm really familiar with such as my house or office and then I make sure to not follow the roads ... the thought of flying across blocks and lakes really makes me happy.
With snowboarding, I just imagine myself at the peak of a gigantic mountain. The terrain oscillates somewhere between greens and blues and is a chill winding experience.
Sit down in comfortable position, close your eyes, try to concentrate on your breathing in and out (your mind will start to wander - keep coming back to the breathing). Repeat everyday.
You'll have the chance to "optimize" and "improve" your meditation experience later on. First, build the habit.
Having something so easy and menial, yet requiring constant attention helps immensely to keep the mind from wandering.
The technique you describe (which I also use) is explained more fully by Roger Wells in "Happy to Burn" which I found out about from the "Mind Perfomance Hacks" book originally.
I agree wholeheartedly with the rest of your post.
This is unfortunate because it tends to make practice feel difficult, as our minds naturally wander, and then come back, etc. People connect their perceived success at this with their experience of practice, and quit or go off on very strange and contrived tangents. The notion of success/failure is typically irrelevant in many traditional meditation practices.
Joining a community of practitioner is also very beneficial - this is how in the Buddhist traditions meditation is taught and discussed - however it's not always possible depending where you are.
Meditation though is not a silver bullet. If it works for you great, if it doesn't benefit you, move on.
I'm going to upvote dodyg cause he's so fucking awesome!
However, I find this article to be very Cargo Cult and am disturbed that nowhere in this entire thread has it been called out as such.
"Look! Meditation must do things because we can make these colored charts telling you about beta waves. What are beta waves? Well, it doesn't really matter, just think of them as bad, because look, meditation does things to your brain, okay??"
The benefits of meditation to mood, creativity, etc are pretty easy to verify for yourself, subjectively. It disturbs me that we feel that adding scientismic mumbo-jumbo gives it credibility somehow. What is presented in this article is not actual science.
There is actual science involving meditation and the brain, but it is in extremely early stages and is hard to draw conclusions from. Our understanding of the brain, in general, is very early! Please be suspicious of pretty colored charts showing brain activity.
IMHO the best place for information on the science of meditation is the Buddhist Geeks podcast. There are talks on YouTube from their annual conference, which is are also great. The talk this year from Willoughby Britton does a pretty good job outlining the current state of contemplative science:
Morning at sunrise - Praatah Sandhya - 108 times
Midday - Maadhyanika - 32 times
During evening twilight - Saayum Sandhya - 64 times
The Vedic definition of mantra is "mantaaram traayate iti mantrah". In English this translates to "That which protects the mind is called mantra".
When I was young, I used to perform this ritual regularly. Though I performed the ritual regularly, I used to wonder about the requirement of such a ritual. Over the past few years I have come to know some fascinating things about the ritual and also the Vedas. After gaining the insights, it is ironic that nowadays I do not perform the ritual regularly at all. This article has come at the right time for me to get back into the meditation routine.
 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandhyavandanam
Your list is sometimes in internal conflict with itself. I have excellent conscious concentration ability and food memory leading to sometimes getting stuck in local maxima for a given situation. Clear the working memory, remove the "stuck" and suddenly free to snap onto the global maxima for a given situation. Or sometimes not. Complex tools are not like screwdriver; sometimes you can't even tell what the right tool for the job is, much less expect it to work. Often enough, using a different tool works better than trying harder with one thats already not working.
Perhaps (and again speculating) it allows currently active pathways to cool down, allowing different ones to activate. This is especially useful if you're trying to solve a difficult problem and seem to be going in circles along the same line of thought. Your inability to break out of the line of thought might at times be more neurological than cognitive.
Well as study shows  meditation not only thickens cortex in some parts of the brain but also makes it thinner in other parts. Just saying.
As a side note, I was raised Roman Catholic. Although I have not gone to church since college I hear interesting sciency things now and then. One, which I don't have a citation for, is that nuns who are experienced at prayer exhibit similar fMRI results when they pray.
I think lose is an ok word but not quite right for what's really going on.
Do you mean ROI?
Other than the obvious muscle workout aspect, I found weightlifting to be highly meditative. Highly structured repeated form every other day, breath control, counting reps/sets, stare at the wall, repeat.
I do a fair amount of hiking / snowshoeing and that can be somewhat meditative. If you relax as you stroll down the trail and let your mind wander intentionally into pure nothingness rather than getting stuck on something specific...
My wife does Tai Chi and from what I see from the outside and from occasionally playing long, its basically slowly moving meditation.
Obviously if you define exercise as "soccer" or "bouldering" then this analogy is not going to work terribly well.
I also rock climb, and I have found that it is possible to achieve the same state while bouldering or rope climbing, as long as the route is below skill level by a decent margin. I'll run the same bouldering route 4x and not even think about it, I just kind of "zone out" and let my body do the work.
Much like exercise, if it came in pill form, everybody would take it.
He may have (recently?) written a book more specifically on topic than the one abov,e that I'm not aware of.
The thalamus does function as a 'gatekeeper', although that's a bad term, the level to which the thalamus processes sensory input isn't fully understood / agreed upon. It's more like a transit hub connecting all the various parts of the brain and sensory tracts. It receives a lot of sensory fibers from the eyes, nose, ears, tongue.
For the parietal lobe, 'orienting you in time and space' just means that the parietal lobe creates a 3D grid system that helps in coordinating muscle movements. This system is supported by sensory input (auditory and visual). The parietal lobe will receive input from other lobes as well as the thalamus.
The frontal lobe is fairly well described, it basically handles higher level thinking, moral decisions, etc. It receives input from other lobes, the thalamus, and the brain stem.
An important take away is that these are really non-specific anatomical regions, the thalamus has ~30 distinct regions all handling different things. The frontal lobe has numerous gyri (regions) with different functions ranging from executive to motor skills.
What he's saying is pretty bs too. The logical conclusion is not that meditation specifically reduces brain activity, it's more that any lack of sensory stimulation will cause brain activity to slow down because less neurons are firing, this can be achieved with other techniques as well, simply staring at a wall will do the same thing.
I can post sources if you'd like but this information (about the compartments of the brain) is very well accepted by those in the medical sciences.
seems to debunk
"The logical conclusion is not that meditation specifically reduces brain activity, it's more that any lack of sensory stimulation will cause brain activity to slow down because less neurons are firing"
Perhaps the authour isn't really that familiar with the material?
Btw beta waves can also be recorded using a single electrode: normally these get used to record spikes from a single neuron, but they also pick up the lower frequency bands of all surrounding neurons. The nice thing is this provides a more local view (iirc everything that is closer than a couple of mm around the electrode), whereas an EEG gets you 'everything' so it's more an indication about general brain state without giving information about which part is active.
This is gross misunderstanding of what happens when people meditate. Of course, the whole word meditation is very generic term. Saying that you meditate is like saying that you do sports.
Most traditional meditation techniques the meditation is exercise in concentration and awareness. You are active and constantly doing something with your mind even if you are relaxed.
So the aim is to stop thinking random thoughts not for the sake of "no brain activity" but for a SPECIAL form of brain activity, which some traditions call "revelations"
In my experience, I have seen a sea change in people who have started meditating. They are much more calmer and happy. There is a flip side as well. Many people get into a happy mode and start giving up in life.
It's free to learn.
The studies about meditation are mostly of dubious quality and origin, and people draw unwarranted conclusions from them.
I think you have to pause and reflect for a minute when you say things like: "I can't believe so many intelligent people are fooled by it". Maybe they aren't the ones being foolish... ?
A link to skeptics dictionary:
TM recruiting literature is full of charts and graphs demonstrating the wonders of TM. Things like metabolic rate, oxygen consumption rate, bodily production of carbon dioxide, hormone production, brain waves, etc. are measured and charted and graphically presented to suggest that TM really takes a person to a new state of consciousness. Some of the studies done by TM scientists simply show that some of the same physiological results you can achieve by relaxing completely are achievable by TM. Nevertheless, according to TM advocates, tests have shown that TM produces "neurophysiological signatures that are distinctly different from relaxation and rest "[Judy Stein, personal correspondence]. Critics disagree.* The particular value of these physiological changes one can achieve by meditation have not been shown to be unique to transcendental meditation.
Another interesting read:
"The Transcendental Meditation movement publishes scores of "peer-reviewed" articles in minor journals attempting to prove the medical benefits of their seated chanting. Reputable studies show that there are, however , no benefits beyond standard relaxation techniques."
So it just makes sense to talk about that one. The others ones aren't really researched that well. Which variation would you prefer?
These anti-quackery people aren't really operating in full scientific rigor mode.
There are dubious claims about the benefits of meditation floating around though. I've seen a business peddling a "meditation-based program" which claims to cure cancer. Made me sick to the stomach.
That's more than shocking and depressing -- i's often illegal. If a person makes such a claim within the covers of a book, it's legal, but if he makes the claim as part of an advertisement, promotion or speech, he can be prosecuted for (among other things) practicing medicine without a license.
Life Pro Tip: If a bunch of people smarter than you believe in something, maybe it is time to stop and critically think.