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Author Topic: Meditation Techniques VS Triggering Parasympathetic Nervous System  (Read 526 times)

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Offline scb07d

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I wanted to make this post just to see what people thought. (Sorry it's so long).

So there are all these techniques that people come up with to deal with anxiety. There's Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Transcendental Meditation, Mindfulness Meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, and on and on.

Could it be that all these techniques essentially do the same thing? That being, they trigger an inherent relaxation response through the Parasympathetic Nervous System. People with anxiety are tempted to believe that there's something they can do about how they feel because our brain naturally attempts solve problems and reach a state of equilibrium.

Could it be that all this stuff is the same though? After examining a lot of it, that's the conclusion I've come to.

If you lie down and attend to your breathing, slowing it down in order to trigger the Parasympathetic Nervous System, can you really say that the results are significantly different than what's produced with any of these techniques? I don't think so.

As an aside, I'm aware that "flooding" produces different results and is used in some techniques. You can try this to see how it works if you don't know what it is... it's where you basically just flood your brain with verbal information (like repeating words continually in your head for a significant period of time). You can also get similar results from "concentrating" (or what seems more like tensing) on something as hard as possible. I don't think this behavior is very helpful. I'm not sure what the point of it is honestly.

Anyway, there's no doubt that humans have the ability to intentionally relax themselves... but in my experience, a lot of the other stuff that these techniques add on is just fluff. It's not actually real. You get the same results from 30 min of intentionally slowing/attending to your breathing as you get from all these other ideas that don't seem to actually work.

The most important part is that you can't trigger this relaxation response continually. Once you do it, you have to wait like 12-24 hours to do it again. Someone with chronic anxiety can't sit in a room and do like 4 hours of TM and completely rid themselves of anxiety. It just comes down to the relaxation response I think.

I do think Mindfulness itself is legitimate as it basically just describes Acceptance. But "Mindfulness Meditation" is just the triggering of the Parasympathetic Nervous System. Mindfulness isn't something you "practice" like practicing the piano, it's a psychological perspective where you accept painful experiences with openness instead of trying to constantly alter or control them.

It's so easy to sell people the idea that there's a technique that will give them total control over the difficult experiences inside their skin, but from what I've seen, most of it isn't legitimate.

Try to trigger the relaxation response multiple times in a short period... I don't think it's possible. The whole idea of "attending to the moment" or "living in the now" is basically just a description of the relaxation response. When your Parasympathetic Nervous System is active you automatically develop a lot of the characteristics describe in these techniques.

Anyway, I'm interested to see if anyone else thinks this is reasonable. This is the conclusion I've come to in examining anxiety.
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Offline doogle2

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Re: Meditation Techniques VS Triggering Parasympathetic Nervous System
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2014, 06:18:18 AM »
Well for me it's not about control or techniques - it's about returning to a state of being that we have drifted away from, become separated from, forgotten all about. It's about a return home to what is our natural state of being, as opposed to where we are currently living - which is our unnatural state of being.

The natural state of being IS the relaxed response and somehow we have become disconnected from that - the key is to work out what has made us dis-connect, and work on that. Correcting where we are going wrong is the answer to our anxieties - the difficult part of that is WHERE ARE WE GOING WRONG?

For me this is where Meditation, Mindfulness IE: AWARENESS comes to the fore.

When I use a technique to return to the relaxation response - our natural state, and I think you're right it really doesn't matter which, I use AWARENESS to see what has taken me away from that natural state of being. OR alternatively AFTER I have returned to my natural state of being I use AWARENESS to see what takes me away again. This provides useful information about WHERE I AM GOING WRONG and over time, and it is over time (quite a lot of time in fact), I have begun to learn how to correct that.

So I think on one level you are absolutely correct - any technique that triggers a relaxation response through the Parasympathetic Nervous System is good for a bit of respite from our ills, but if the minute we come out of those techniques we just return to our unnatural state of being again, without doing anything about it, then we are simply just returning back to our "troubles" - and so the misery continues.

But on another level I think you are perhaps missing the point. The relaxation response is our home and to be happy again we have to learn how to get back there (and not just visit it for 30 mins each day, etc.)
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The human mind is inspired enough when it comes to inventing horrors; it is when it tries to invent a Heaven that it shows itself cloddish ~ Evelyn Waugh

Offline tinam7

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Re: Meditation Techniques VS Triggering Parasympathetic Nervous System
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2014, 08:33:19 AM »
The insistence on scientific proof, or complete understanding is admirable, to be sure. Is this possible concerning our complex, mysterious brain, psyche, body, spirit, etc? That may be an individual judgment. Meditation has existed for thousands of years. Why?

Might add that I have been into all of it including Yoga, Tai Chi, QiGong. Why? Because I can't believe what it has done for me (along with CBT) and traditional exercise. Will I have setbacks? No doubt. Do I get discouraged? No. Do I expect perfection? No.
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