A Meditative Self Experiment

As part of my Yoga Teacher Training, I was recently tasked with an assignment on Mindfulness.  The assignment was to write a short journal on the effects of two weeks of mindfulness meditation practice.  I do have a fairly regular meditation practice - most days, if not every day, as well as a regular yoga practice.

I feel that meditation has helped me in my personal life immensely.  I find that I am usually calmer, and I'm usually able to make more sensible decisions in what I say and do.  In the past I have had problems with anger.  I would bottle up emotions until they eventually came out in a less than constructive manner - usually towards the ones that were closest to me.  I was not always a nice person to be around!  

I notice if I have not meditated enough my mood is a bit more irregular, and often I'm more affected by events that normally would not bother me.

I also believe meditation has helped me immensely while I went through the treatment and recovery of stomach cancer and having my stomach removed.  It helped to give me the tools I needed.  I've been able to investigate myself, and get a sense of my emotional state.  I was able to keep (relatively) calm, even after a terminal (mis)diagnosis.

I happen to be a bit of a computer geek, so I could not let this chance to use some gadgets go by.

I have a muse headband, which can record EEG readings while you meditate.  I recorded the output of my meditations using the muse monitor app, which was output as a csv file and saved by dropbox onto my laptop.  I was then able to write a small program in the python programming language to convert the output into graphs using plotly.

I thought it may be an interesting exercise to record a series of 10 minute meditations over a few days, using various meditation techniques.  I timed and/or was guided in these meditations using the Insight timer app.  This is by no means a scientific study, but I thought it might be interesting to compare the output of these recordings with a brief description of my qualitative experience of the meditations.

It is believed that in meditation or a light relaxed mental state your alpha wave readings should be higher in comparison to beta, gamma, delta and theta, so lets see how we go!

Meditation 13 07 2017

My first mediation as part of this test was after an hour long exercise session.  I journaled that I was feeling a little scattered, and my body felt tingly and energised throughout the session.  This made it difficult to concentrate, and it does appear that the graph reflects this.

Meditation 15 07 2017

This meditation was recorded while listening to a binaural beats track on insight timer called "Winter binaural beats".  I felt like no time had passed before it had finished, and the graph appears to demonstrate this quite dramatically.  Alpha waves remain relatively high while beta, gamma, theta and delta remain very low.

Meditation 17 07 2017 Movie

It was around this time that I thought some type of control could be useful, so I recorded 10 minutes while watching a terrible Korean thriller called "Lucid Dreaming" on Netflix.  As you can see, the results are all over the place, but quite interesting that Delta waves were quite active.

Meditation 17 07 2017 Watching LInes

At this stage, I abandoned watching the film and thought it might be an interesting exercise to use some sort of makeshift neurofeedback.  I observed the output of the muse monitor app and attempted to keep the lines as low as possible.  I had some but limited success, and it looks like my concentration wavered around two thirds of the way through!

Meditation 19 07 2017

This was recorded while listening to a guided meditation by Tara Brach.  I normally love her meditations, but I found my mind quite active during this session.  It does appear that alpha waves were relatively high in comparison to the others, especially after the halfway mark, and most of the results were fairly low.

Meditation 21 07 2017

I love the binaural beats and this session did not disappoint.  Again I got a brief sense of timelessness.  This session was not as effective as the first, but as you can see we have high alpha waves, and the others are generally quite low.

Meditation 23 07 2017

For this meditation I attempted a technique of just observing the sensations in my two index fingers.  I did have a bit of trouble concentrating, and it felt as if my mind was quite active.  Still, the results seem to be generally in line with what you would expect - relatively high alpha in comparison to the others.

Meditation 26 07 2017

Back to the old favorites!  This was a simple unguided breath based meditation.  Apart from a couple of brief episodes where I may have become distracted, it seems that this may have been an effective meditation.

Meditation 28 07 2017

This meditation was also performed while listening to binaural beats, but I may have been mentally quite active due to having a coffee shortly before the session.  The output seems fairly high.

I hope you found this post as interesting as I found the process of doing it!  It appears that for me binaural beats or simple breath meditations are the most effective, though it could be argued that I was just doing breath based meditations while listening to binaural beats.  There are more directions and meditations I would like to explore on how to use and/or record this data, so stay tuned!