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Thread: Passive meditation and amygdalae

  1. Default Passive meditation and amygdalae

    Dear Procyon-users and other people reading this post,

    I have bought a Procyon two months ago. My goal is to reduce the size of my amygdala's, or, better said, my goal is to become more in control of my emotional reactions. I think that this is a long-term project and I am not expecting changes overnight. The reason that I made a link between the mind machine and the amygdalae is because a New Age guru by the name of David Ji I believe made a correlation between the shrinking of the amygdala (and hence being less prone to negative excitement caused by stress) and meditation. I find meditation very hard to do by myself, so when I learned that there was a 'passive' way to reach the same kind of state (theta-waves I believe), I became intruiged. But then I read on this site http://www.infonosity.be/mentaal/bra...d-machine.html the following:

    It should be made clear that binaural beats are not magic: just passively listening to binaural beats does not necessarily alter your state of consciousness. An active mental participation by the subject is needed to produce the synchronization.

    It made me wonder: when I do a program on the Procyon, and my thoughts sometimes drift of to wherever, am I still getting the same benefits as I would from active meditation? And another question: can I actually influence my amygdalae with the Procyon and are Theta or Alpha waves more fit for that purpose? Is there also a way to enhance the functioning of the neofrontal cortex?

    I hope someone can help me.

    Kindly,

    Linda

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    Default Re: Passive meditation and amygdalae

    Hello,
    Thanks for you questions.

    It is a worthy goal that you are seeking. People can often feel that they are not well representing their highest aspirations and best self when their emotions lead them astray. That is, into thoughts and actions that, upon sober reflection, they wish had taken a different path. There is little doubt that impulsive, often negating, reactions occur at a deeper, more primitive, level of our instinctual consciousness.

    I am aware of the fairly recent trend to point toward a method of self governance of emotion through focusing upon the amygdala. (stimulating/de-stimulating) Shrinking is a new idea to me, but ok, research does suggest size differences. The thing is that this research suggests that men may have larger amygdala bodies than women. Draw your own conclusions from that. There are also reported differences between stimulation of the amyg.. on each side of the brain. Right, negative emotions, left positive and maybe negative emotions... BTW, I am referring to Wikipedia articles here as a refresher (caveat emptor). Stimulating one side or the other seems to me a much more doable proposition.

    In fact there is a very fun and whimsical site that has been devoted to this for years, by a prolific writer, Neil Slade. http://www.neilslade.com/TickleYourAmygdalabook.html

    People tend to grab onto ideas gleaned from serious research endeavors and really simplify or amplify them to the point of distortion. I have a sneaking feeling that this is one of those cases. I mean, I would imagine that attempting to shrink brain regions at a physical level has very little basis in actual practice and result. That's the common sense me saying that. I would change on a dime if proven wrong.

    However, as a conceptual tool, say on the level of NLP or hypnotic suggestion, I could go along with that. The visualization of shrinking is a very powerful associative concept. So, that's me on that...

    You probably have formed your own thoughts and reasoning so I will carry on with your other questions.

    I do agree almost entirely with the quote that you posted. Of course, that is without knowing what the writer is defining 'active mental participation' to be. Otherwise, good information on that page. Personally, concerning entrainment, I define active participation as flowing with the rhythm of the pulses. Feeling them penetrate to the deepest parts of your being. Riding that wave like an engine so to speak. Often this is not involving thinking at all, quite the contrary, it is a feeling and an absorption process. So, active and mental, don't fit together for me in that sentence. Now if it means 'intention', then ok I see that.

    I think the Procyon can be well suited for your purpose if internally visualizing activation of the amydala region is what you are going for. Again imagine the pulses as a gently tapping finger or small burst of air on the region. I am kind of working with some of Neil Slade's concepts here. It is good to have an intention for your meditation and at times something that helps you to focus on, rather than unstructured thought. It doesn't have to be with great effort though and certainly not self condemnation if you wander. That is why I really like the playfulness which Slade presents his material. Reminds me of the way Timothy Leary approached otherwise heady concepts.

    I think generally AVS does enhance functioning as it overlays ordered patterns on chaos. And provides energy for coherent brain wave shapes.

    Hope this helps and please share your thoughts,
    Scott
    If you know something I don't, speak up! If maybe I know something you don't, ask away!

  3. Default Re: Passive meditation and amygdalae

    Dear Scott,

    thank you for your elaborate answer. I am really confused by the following though, and I quote:

    "The thing is that this research suggests that men may have larger amygdala bodies than women."


    for I thought that the bigger the amygdalae, the more prone you are to experience stress. And I always thought of men being better at handling stress than women (this is totally generally speaking, and there are many many exceptions of course).

    I was actually reffering to a research that is done on people with Emotional Regulation Disorder and 'normal' people and it shows that in the first category the amygdalae are larger, thus consolidating the idea thAt there is a neurological basis for these people to act more intensely to a stressor and why it takes longer to calm down (also because the frontal neocortex is less active apparently).

    As you might have guessed, I have ERS (or Borderline as they used to call it) and I am looking for complementary methods for 'healing'. Please do not think that I want to substitute normal therapy with merely AVS: I am in normal therapy as well and I do many other things to become more in control over my mercurial moods. I also have been in therapy for quite a long time, so I have a strong sense of self-reflection, and I am not as impulsive or selfdestructive as I once was.

    I had already heard of Neil Slade and also his tickling-theory, but never gotten into it because I don't understand. You have to tickle your amygdaelae with your imagination: HOW?!?!?! does one do that?

    You also say:

    "People tend to grab onto ideas gleaned from serious research endeavors and really simplify or amplify them to the point of distortion. I have a sneaking feeling that this is one of those cases. I mean, I would imagine that attempting to shrink brain regions at a physical level has very little basis in actual practice and result. That's the common sense me saying that. I would change on a dime if proven wrong."


    I agree with that totally, but was slightly naive in both my understanding and my formulation of the question. Perhaps it is a good thing to remind myself of in the future: to never trust hippies! Here is David Ji in action about the amygdalae:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sidpwb-V_LM

    If I understand correctly, you suggest that visualization of shrinking the amygdalae could be a useful tool. But what if shrunken amygdalae not necessarily correlate to the intensity of emotional responses?

    Then you say the following:

    "Often this is not involving thinking at all, quite the contrary, it is a feeling and an absorption process."

    (relating to the usage of the Procyon)

    However, I just wander. When I use it, and I have been using it for two months approximately, I put a program on (usually a relaxing program) and I let my mind wander. I don't get the feeling of being sucked into the pulses or the colours... So for me, it involves a lot of thinking. Does this mean I do not get any benefit from it? When I spoke to the person who sold me the machine (a Dutch vendor) he told me that I did not have to actively do anything and maybe this 'lazy' approach is what lured me into buying one.

    What I also sometimes do is I put on a cheesy selfhelp guru in the background, like Wayne Dyer or Louise Hay, and while I am doing a program, I listen to that as well. I thought that if I would do a program with theta waves, this would make me absorb the positive affirmations better. What are your thoughts on this?

    Anyways, my ultimate purpose is to feel less stress and react less intensely to triggers and be more in control over feelings like anger and sadness. I know that this requires an interdisciplinary approach and I am only using the Procyon as a complementary means to that goal. I would like to know how I can benefit from it the best.

    Thank you for your interest and help so far!

    Kindly,

    Linda

    P.s. Since I have been using the Procyon, I am taking less sleep medication (I was taking antipsychotics in order to be able to sleep, for it takes away mental chatter). I don't know if is due to a placebo effect or not. I was first taking 75 mg and now 12,5 mg.

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    Default Re: Passive meditation and amygdalae

    I'll answer you in more detail but first here is some good information on the sex differences of the amygdala. http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/myl...Hamann2005.pdf
    If you know something I don't, speak up! If maybe I know something you don't, ask away!

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    Default Re: Passive meditation and amygdalae

    It is a fascinating subject really.. This caught my eye: "In humans, it is the most sexually-dimorphic brain structure, and shrinks by more than 30% in males upon castration." http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/a/amygdala.htm There are some other good articles there I will read. But, if nothing else it appears that shrinking does occur under certain conditions. Interesting. I'll look at the video later and see what this guy is saying.
    If you know something I don't, speak up! If maybe I know something you don't, ask away!

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    Default Re: Passive meditation and amygdalae

    Let me now address your Procyon questions as that is more in my area of expertise.

    An AVS machine can be utilized in differing ways according to goal of the user.

    At one level it is a totally automatic system, that is, press play and go. How does this session make me feel? How about this one? and so on... I don't mean that it is haphazard as there is serious design intent behind each session, but each person brings a mindset and series of mental associations to the table, so there will always be preferences.

    Frankly, people are also somewhat pre-programmed by the session description. We don't just pull these descriptions out of the air but it is the nature of how we process information and our presumptions. The Kasina, our newer system, takes away a bit of this with more abstract descriptions, which don't 'tip the hand' so to speak. People like simple 'it will do this' descriptions I know, but anyway that was a conscious and considered decision to let some things stand alone.

    Our brains are always measuring, comparing and calculating. Most of this occurs at a deep subconscious level. Even when lying down, we are calculating our position in space, the pressure on body regions, cues from the environment.. etc. AVS is automatic in this sense too. It presents a stimulus that has a regulated pattern and the brain calculates and tracks this. In the same manner it does the tracking on a mainly subconscious level. However, you are also presented visual and audio cues which represent the stimuli (actually they are the stimuli) So you can also engage higher level thought processes and participate. Or not. Whichever.

    Let's take a simple example. A song is playing. It colors your environment. You may not even be paying attention, but you notice that you are tapping your foot to the beat. This is entrainment. It is common knowledge that most slow songs are sad,meditative, relaxing.. etc. Most fast songs are stimulating, exciting, motivating... etc. Brainwave rhythms are quite fast compared to music, but the analogy still stands. Again in this instance you are not actually doing anything. The natural inclination and inherent understanding of what to do is already built in.

    So, that is correct, you don't have to do anything. Taking time for yourself, relaxing, being introspective, slowing time.. etc. All very beneficial things, even if you took away all the ordered patterns that an AVS machine produces.

    More in a bit.
    Last edited by neuroasis; 07-21-2014 at 01:53 PM.
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    Default Re: Passive meditation and amygdalae

    Alright, so what if you did want to actively engage during the session?

    Back to the music analogy... You could certainly passively listen to a music track and it would as I said color the atmosphere. Yet, what if you focus your entire attention on the music track. What Pauline Oliveros calls 'Deep Listening'. What if you drank in every nuance, was swept along the spatialization, tuned into the timbre, heard every hit, noticed every note? You will have acquired a ticket to a realm of evocative escape.

    I ask that you go to our review page on Amazon for the MindPlace Kasina and read the review from USMC Combat Vet to really get an impression of the potentials of this experience.

    I will grant you that with the beeping tones of the Procyon this enveloping experience is a bit more difficult. However, you can easily pipe in music. Music is emotion. At a primal, universal level. Grasped yet not fully understood.

    You want to control emotion. Choose music for your moods. Find sounds that inspire, that awe and transport. You indicate that you have been listening to voice tapes. Well, they themselves insist upon thought. By necessity you must process the language to understand the message. It requires a conscious act on your part. Music is more abstracted. Especially instrumental music. You can listen passively or you can engage at a deeper level.

    More to say but in bites...
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    Default Re: Passive meditation and amygdalae

    On a quick sidebar as I read from various parts of your questions. It is good to have some tangible structure, image or symbol that we can use to achieve a goal. The amgydala regions of the brain are well established in their relationship to emotion. And there are strong indicators that many problems can ensue from malfunction or over-activity (or under.. whatever abnormality)

    That is tangible and holds up to both symbolic abstraction and intellectual rigor. Also, the locations and almond shape are pretty easy to imagine.

    This makes it a suitable candidate to perform active imagination exercises with. But maybe you would like to start with something easier. Like consciously slowing your breathing and heart rate. Relaxing selective areas of your body.

    Then start to play with imagining and then manifesting sensations. Warmth, cold, wind, petting, patting... etc. This is active imagination. What Neil Slade is talking about with tickling is just a variation on this but with focus upon a brain region.

    As an exercise, after a period of relaxed breathing and muscle release, imagine that you are stroking the palm of your left hand with your right. Do it first and really feel it. Feel the after effects after having done it. Then move you hand away a few inches, do it again, then several inches, then purely by imagination.

    Once you have achieved this skill, then you can transfer that to any area you wish, even a brain region. Can you activate that region? Who can say? It is not that far fetched though.
    If you know something I don't, speak up! If maybe I know something you don't, ask away!

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    Default Re: Passive meditation and amygdalae

    It is on my mind and keeping me awake so I will continue. Don't feel you have to read or respond to everything. (of course if you are reading this then too late) Your topic intrigues me.

    Let's look ahead. After you have gone a ways down a path and done some work. There are some very excellent concepts in NLP. Anchors is one of them. In this case, I am referring to physical anchors.

    Let's say that you have made associations to states of emotion and activation levels of the amgydala. You have some sense after practice of activating/deactivating through intention. You build up a clear mental picture of certain emotions emanating from this region. Actually, it doesn't matter if they do or not. It just makes a lot more sense than emotions emanating from your left big toe.

    As with everyone, in pursuing your goal, in this case controlling emotional states, you have times of success and moments of failure. This is where the NLP anchoring concept can come into play. The amygdala region can be visualized at the place of intersection at the point where a line through your eye and another through your ear meet, internally in the temporal lobe, on each side.

    So a good physical anchor would be to touch your ear and close your eye at the same time and imagine a line from each shoots out and effects the amygdala. Are you following the concept? You want to associate a physical action, something unique and unusual with a desired result.

    Then you 'anchor' this and record the state and the physical action is the trigger. When you are having success with controlling your emotions, anchor the left side for instance. When not so successful anchor the right side. Lots of people think this is ridiculous but don't knock it till you've tried it.

    The idea is to take some small subtle action when you wish to excerpt influence. Build in a switch, turn on, turn off, or a knob, turn up, turn down... maybe it will help. These simple visualization tools are more common than they seem. We all have little rituals to soothe us or make us feel certain ways or prepare for things. This is simply an exaggeration of that.

    Alright, for god's sake, that is soooo much writing. You didn't ask for a book but you caught me on some concepts I find fascinating.
    If you know something I don't, speak up! If maybe I know something you don't, ask away!

  10. Default Re: Passive meditation and amygdalae

    Dear Scott,

    this is sooooooooo much information , thank you so much and sorry for my late reply, I was in the analogous world for a while with no access to the interweb (translation: I left my computer at work and didn't know what to do with myself at home, so I actually read.. a book! Quite refreshing after so many years of daily webdoings.)

    You write:

    "So a good physical anchor would be to touch your ear and close your eye at the same time and imagine a line from each shoots out and effects the amygdala. Are you following the concept? You want to associate a physical action, something unique and unusual with a desired result."


    Is the physical action the touching of the ear and closing the eye? And is the desired result stress relief or just getting a sense of where the amygdala is?

    Then you say:

    "Then you 'anchor' this and record the state and the physical action is the trigger. When you are having success with controlling your emotions, anchor the left side for instance. When not so successful anchor the right side. Lots of people think this is ridiculous but don't knock it till you've tried it."


    What do you mean with recording the state? A mental record? And which state? You mean an emotional state? I have just closed my eye and touched my ear, first right, then left, and apart from a little physical sensation inside my head ( I think), there is no fluctuation in my emotional state. I think what you mean though, that I have to keep repeating such a subtle action, until I can really feel something change within me, is that correct? And then, after a while, use it in daily life, when I get triggered and I feel stressed. That I think of the sensation evoked by the ear/eye-thing. Am I getting it, or not?

    Or should I first practice with controlling my emotions before I start doing this? Maybe you have written this in your previous note. The actual control of my emotions seems such a far away goal. Babysteps... I understand. But then what should be the first step?

    The other things that you have written, I have yet to read, so I will come back to that.

    But could you do me one more favour and give me some reassurance about the following:

    When I use a program on the Procyon, be it an Alpha program, or a Theta program, and I wander with my thoughts... does the machine still have an effect on my brain? Will I feel calmer with daily use?

    I come from a family where stress was the status quo and tiny triggers could cause major drama. So from an early age I have been entrained to react "out of proportion" and negative feelings like anger and sadness "linger". I cannot change my parents (unfortunately) but I do know that I don't want to stay like this for the rest of my life. These negative emotions... I could battle them with SSRI's, but I don't want to do that, therefore I chose the Procyon. And although I am intruiged by the visualization exercises that you have mention with relation to the amygdala, I would also just like to... learn how to relax. And to think LESS instead of more. Can the programs actually do that, or is that only reality in fairieland?

    Kindly,

    Linda

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