Harunobu Suzuki, A Girl Collecting Chrysanthemum Dew by the Stream
Meditation is often credited with helping people feel more focused and energetic, but are the benefits measurable?
A new study suggests that they are. When researchers tested the alertness of volunteers, they found that the practice proved more effective than naps, exercise or caffeine. The results were presented at a recent conference of the Society for Neuroscience.
The researchers, led by Prashant Kaul of the University of Kentucky, took 12 students who did not meditate and taught them the basics in two short sessions.
Then, over a series of weeks, the students were asked to come in and take a test devised to measure skills like reaction time. The tests involved a series of visual cues on a display screen that the volunteers had to react to by pushing the correct button.
The students were asked to take the tests in mid- to late afternoon, when people tend to be sleepiest. They did so before and after 40 minutes of meditating, napping or exercising, or after taking caffeine. Napping produced poor results, presumably because of “sleep inertia,” the researchers said.
Caffeine helped, and exercise was unpredictable.
Earlier studies have found that people are awake while meditating but that their brains undergo changes similar to patterns found in sleep. Some studies have found that people who meditate a lot report sleeping less, so the researchers were curious to see if meditation could serve the same function as sleep. The results support the idea that it can.
In fact, when some of the students were asked to skip a night’s sleep and then take the test, the researchers said, meditation was even more helpful.
Although meditation can be done in almost any context, practitioners usually employ a quiet, tranquil space, a meditation cushion or bench, and some kind of timing device to time the meditation session. Ideally, the more these accoutrements can be integrated the better. Thus, it is conducive to a satisfying meditation practice to have a timer or clock that is tranquil and beautiful. Using a kitchen timer or beeper watch is less than ideal. And it was with these considerations in mind that we designed our digital Zen Alarm Clock and practice timer. This unique “Zen Clock” features a long-resonating acoustic chime that brings the meditation session to a gradual close, preserving the environment of stillness while also acting as an effective time signal.
adapted from The New York Times, October 2006 by Eric Nagourney
Digital Zen Alarm Clocks, meditation timers and alarm clocks with chimes
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Boulder, CO 80302
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