Monday 5 November 2012

Automating along the road to mindfulness

If you want to develop mindfulness meditation skills, you should first consider going the low tech way.  My book, The Attentive Mind Workbook:  Self-healing through meditation ( a comprehensive introduction to meditation in the Burmese Mahasi Sayadaw tradition.  You can also access my blog,, which has instructions for mindfulness meditation.

As for the high tech approach, at this stage it is all very experimental.  It is best if you already know the technique of noting that is associated with Mahasi Sayadaw and are introspectively aware enough to distinguish various psycho-physical processes.  I have implemented a simple version of "automated noting" using  BioExplorer and compatible neurofeedback trainers (J&J, Alpha400).  So far, I have used just one electrode site (Cz).  I experimented with my eyes closed and used prerecorded auditory stimuli (initially just naming the frequency).  I set thresholds for each frequency of interest based on my resting state.  When the amplitude of the given frequency passed the established threshold, I introspected to see if I could identify the activity going on at that moment.  I noticed that I could fairly readily differentiate two types of activity (thinking and drifting) associated with frequencies within the beta range.  I then recorded the names for those activities ("thinking" and "drifting") and used them as auditory feedback, again when the amplitudes of the associated frequencies passed the threshold.  (I did not see the need to name the movements of the abdomen associated with breathing ("rising" and "falling") since, presumably, I would be on track with them and using silent noting.)   In this way, the auditory feedback alerted me to the presence of these activities, which I could continue to note until they passed away or I had satisfied myself that I had "seen" them clearly.

I suspect that the specific frequencies that correspond with specific processes may vary from one individual to the next so it may be necessary for each person to follow the same procedure as I used to individualize their auditory feedback.  Ideally, an application should be sufficiently flexible to allow for this.  

In the future, I hope to expand on this simple idea.  I welcome collaborators and any feedback you are willing to provide.

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