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The frontal lobe plays a prime role in our ability to make decisions, plan our actions, and coordinate our movements. In connection with this, the rear of the frontal lobe contains the primary motor cortex, one of the central brain areas involved in movement.
Directly behind the lower part of the frontal lobe is a cortical area that will be relevant to our discussion of certain forms of meditation. This area, which has a shape similar to that of a crescent moon, is known as the anterior cingulate cortex. In addition to being involved in some forms of attention and complex thought processing, some research suggests the anterior cingulate cortex is also involved in regulating some features of the autonomic nervous system, including heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure Devinsky et al.
The parietal lobe appears to play a role in both sense and spatial perception. Toward its front is the somatosensory cortex, which receives and analyzes information relating to pain, pressure, touch, and temperature from all parts of the body.
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When it is electrically stimulated, a person may feel a tingling sensation in their skin, or they may suddenly have the feeling of being lightly touched. Toward the back of the parietal lobe is a small sub-region called the superior parietal lobule, which becomes active when people try to visually determine the location, depth, and trajectory of objects in physical space Cohen et al. It can also be activated when people shift their attention toward a particular point in space Corbetta et al.
This area may also be relevant in our discussion of certain forms of meditation. The inner reaches of the temporal lobe are the domain of the hippocampus and the amygdala, the two structures at the heart of memory and emotion, respectively.
The temporal lobe is also involved in hearing, as it contains the auditory cortex, the chief brain area for sound and speech processing. In the back of the brain is the occipital lobe, which contains the primary visual cortex, where signals from the eyes are processed.
Upon receiving electrical stimulation of their visual cortex, people have reported seeing a bright flash of light or even swirls of color. Imaging the Brain Our ability to learn about the specialized abilities of the four lobes has greatly improved over the past few decades through advances in brain imaging technology.
These advances have been immensely valuable for medicine and neuroscience because they allow us to electronically peer through the skull and glimpse the brain as it partakes of behavior. So far, three kinds of advanced technologies have been used to study the meditating brain: Unlike the purely static image of the standard MRI, fMRI provides ongoing impressions of working brain function in relation to behavior.
As implied by its big name, BOLD measures the amount of oxygen in the brain as a result of cerebral blood flow. Based on the idea that the brain regions which have the most oxygen-rich blood are the ones that are the most neurally active at the moment, BOLD measurements allow us to estimate the level of neural activity in a particular brain region during a specific behavior. This in turn allows us to infer which regions may be functionally associated with that behavior Buxton,Ch.
In a PET scan, a person is intravenously injected with a liquid called a tracer that contains a weak radioactive isotope. As its name implies, the tracer traces a path through the brain as it courses through the bloodstream, gradually emitting positrons as the isotope decays.
When they interact with other subatomic particles, these positrons produce X-rays that can be detected, counted, and mapped using a digital scanner.
A SPECT scan proceeds in nearly the same way as a PET scan, except that instead of X-rays, the scanner detects the individual photons that are gradually emitted by different kind of tracer. Brain Waves In addition to imaging techniques, it is possible to study the meditating brain by monitoring its electrical activity. The electrochemical activity of the billions of neurons found in the brain produces a continuous stream of electric waves that are emitted from the surface of the cerebral cortex.
These brain waves, as they are called, can be observed and recorded using a device called an electroencephalograph EEG. Brain waves are quite weak, registering only about a thousandth of a volt, so they must be amplified by the EEG before being recorded as a series of jagged lines on a moving paper chart.
There are five types of brain waves that are distinguished by their frequency, measured in cycles per second, or Hertz Hz: Delta waves 1 — 3 Hz have the slowest wave cycles, and commonly appear when we are in a deep sleep. Theta waves 4 — 7 Hz can also be present during sleep, usually when we start to feel drowsy and fall into a light sleep Carlson,pp. Alpha waves 8 — 12 Hz are typically present during a state of relaxed awareness, when our minds are not actively engaged in deep thought.
Studies of the Meditating Brain With our survey of its territory complete, we shall now look at what goes on inside the brain during various forms of meditation, based on experimental findings.
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It should be kept in mind that, unless noted, the experiments described in this section were done with novice and intermediate meditators who only have practiced for a relatively short time anywhere from six months to four years. Advanced meditators with longer training histories seem to constitute a special case in terms of their physiology and depth of meditation, so we shall look take a closer look at them in Section 4.
Transcendental Meditation As we saw in Section 1, several research findings suggest that people who practice TM can physiologically experience a calming effect in their body while meditating. But what is happening in their brain during that time? Various EEG studies indicate that as they sit quietly with their eyes closed and focus on their mantra, many TM meditators show a steady pattern of alpha waves.
This suggests that, as they meditate, the brain waves of TM practitioners tend to gradually slow down and approach frequencies that are typically associated with low mental arousal, which would be consistent with a calming effect. In addition, some TM practitioners may show patterns of synchronized brain waves, a phenomenon often known as EEG coherence Ferguson,pp. In order to better grasp the concept underlying this phenomenon, we might consider the following illustrative example: Most of the time, during our ordinary conscious state, we would find that these two EEGs are a mixed-up bunch of waves scattered across several different frequencies, with little to no similarity at all.
However, if we repeated the process with a TM practitioner while he or she was in a deep state of meditation, we might find that their two EEGs show a fair degree of similarity, with the two wave patterns appearing to be in close alignment with each other Figure 2.
As we shall see in Section 4, this phenomenon tends to be more common among advanced meditators. While the brain waves of the non-meditator are largely scattered across different frequencies during the ordinary waking state, those of the meditator show a consistent pattern of synchronization around 20 Hz during a deep meditative state Ferguson, At least one imaging study has been done to further explore the areas of the brain that may be active during TM Jevning et al.
Changes in cerebral blood flow were monitored in 34 meditators as they focused on their mantra. Compared to control volunteers who merely sat and relaxed, the meditators showed increased flow in their frontal lobes, a finding consistent with the EEG patterns recorded in that same region Wallace et al.
The meditators also showed increased flow in their occipital lobes, which would be in line with the act of visualizing their mantra. Tantric, Kundalini, Sahaja, Nidra, and Iyengar. Similar to TM, Tantric Yoga is marked by the attentional focus on a specific mantra, with the goal of attaining unity with it. In two studies Corby et al. Compared to relaxing control volunteers, meditators with an average of 1.
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In one imaging study Lazar et al. During a control period, the meditators did not observe their breaths and turned their attention away from the mantra by silently thinking up a list of animal names. Compared to this control period, more neural activity was seen during the meditation in the anterior cingulate cortex. In the late stages of the meditation, the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes became active.
This suggests that brain regions associated with attention and control of autonomic nervous system are involved in this Yoga type. Compared to the novices, the advanced meditators showed much more theta activity over their frontal lobes and the midline of their brains, and they reported more intense feelings of bliss.
In contrast, the novices showed more alpha waves over their occipital lobes and the rear part of their parietal lobes Figure 3. This suggests that the achievement of slower brain waves may partly be a function of meditation training history, a possibility we shall examine further in Section 4. A comparison of the brain wave activity of novice STM, left column and advanced LTM, right column Sahaja Yoga meditators, looking down from the top of the head.
In two imaging studies Kjaer et al. Then, when guided to visualize a serene rural landscape in summer, visual regions in the occipital lobe became active. Finally, as they attempted to generate a mental representation of their self, areas surrounding the superior parietal lobule lit up with activity.
Compared to before their training, the four individuals showed higher blood flow changes in their frontal lobes after the 12 weeks of training. As we shall see in Section 4, a change in the brain as a result of meditation training is one of the things that may distinguish advanced meditators from novices.
Meditative Prayer Various forms of meditative prayer can be seen across several different religions, although it is the Christian-based form that has been the focus of two recent imaging studies. In the first study Azari et al. Compared to 6 non-religious control volunteers, the teachers showed higher activation in two areas of the frontal lobe associated with attention and the reflexive evaluation of thought Figure 4.
Averaged PET scan results from 6 Evangelist teachers engaged in meditative prayer, indicating increased cerebral blood flow in the forward and central regions of the frontal lobe Azari et al.
In the second study Newberg et al. In addition, an inverse relationship was observed between the blood flow in the frontal lobe and the blood flow in the superior parietal lobule, such that as the flow in one increased, the flow in the other decreased and vice-versa.
Zen Meditation Zazen To explore the brain physiology of mindfulness meditation, several studies have directly focused on one of its sub-forms: Zazen, the sitting meditation of Zen Buddhism. During the practice of Zazen, the meditator sits cross-legged on a round cushion with their hands enclosed.
Keeping their eyes open, the meditator casts their gaze downward to look about one meter ahead as they centrally ponder a koan. Occasionally, a meditator may go through an intensive training period known as Sesshin, in which they practice Zazen 8 to 10 times a day for approximately one week. While meditating, novice disciples with 1 to 5 years of Zazen training were found to produce a steady pattern of alpha waves, even with their eyes open.
He claimed that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and the Buddha and could tell people's fortunes by reading the soles of their feet.
Eventually though, Fukunaga was charged with fraud and came under debt for millions of yen. And guess what, there's a religion for that too. Happy Science claims that El Cantare is the true hidden name of the Heavenly Father in the Old Testament and that Jesus is the incarnation of the supreme spiritual being called El Cantare. So, whatever happens in the physical world is a manifestation of what's happening in the spirit world.
Boys are initiated into this society on reaching puberty, by being taken behind the bushes and undergoing some rituals that are kept secret. He started his own cult and called himself "Black Jesus. At some point the Black Jesus cult grew so popular that it has 6, members. Although Tari was charged for rape and managed to escape from a prison, he was eventually hacked to death and buried in a pit by the villagers of Gal.
Bikerni is a group of all women bikers that started in Pune to "encourage women to go on adventures they would've never thought to go on before. Her fans pray to large cut-out posters of her, pen and sing songs in her praise and think of this female mouse as a divine being.
While 4chan isn't quite a grouping or even an association of like-minded individuals, we felt it qualifies to be a cult of all-things-Internet. This seemingly-simple, image-based bulletin board has single-handedly spawned some of the best creations in the digital world. Think Lolcats, memes and hold your breath hacktivist group, Anonymous. Applewhite and 39 members, wearing armbands and Nike sneakers, poisoned themselves in shifts in a California mansion.
Wikipedia says that the Church of Euthanasia was inspired by a dream, in which Rev. Chris Korda confronted an alien known as The Being who speaks for the inhabitants of Earth in other dimensions. The Being warned that our planet's ecosystem is failing, and that our leaders deny this. The Being asked why our leaders lie to us, and why so many of us believe these lies.
Thou shalt not procreate. And understandably, its four pillars are suicide, abortion, cannibalism and sodomy!
Perhaps you want to stop and breathe. And live on that — on fresh air that is if you are lucky enough to be in Switzerland.
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Breatharianism is the belief that we humans don't need to eat for our nutrition, that is possible to live on fresh air alone. Before you roll your eyes, do note that quite a few people are already living the Breatharian life: A personification of death, the skeletal, female folk saint is venerated primarily in Mexico and as far as in Australia tooand is associated with healing, protection and safe delivery to the afterlife.