The technical stuff
The moon is now waxing towards becoming officially full on Feb. 19 at 15:53 GMT and 10:53 a.m. EST according to NASA's SkyCal. It will be at its fullest about 6 hours after reaching perigee, the nearest point from Earth in its orbit, making it the largest and brightest full Moon of the year and also creating a "Supermoon," a full moon that is slightly larger than average.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac website (www.almanac.com) is well worth a visit and has some fascinating articles. Under the “Astronomy” tab they have a moon guide; information about the equinox and solstice and if you’re into gardening, (they note “gardening by the Moon has always been our philosophy”) have a look in the “Gardening” tab to find such things as the best days for planting and for “setting eggs”. I had no idea what “setting eggs” meant, so having looked it up it means:
“Those born under a waxing Moon, in the fruitful signs of Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces, are healthier and mature faster. To ensure that chicks are born during these times, determine the best days to “set eggs” (to place eggs in an incubator or under a hen.)”… which for February apparently are 13th, 14th, 22nd and 23rd !
Harnessing the energy
Having previously raised awareness in respect of how the moon’s energy can affect us, there are a number of ways we can harness the increase of energy with a waxing moon in a positive way. Meditation is a wonderful tool and often when the moon is full, I’m moved to sit outside on the decking and to lose myself in its energies. Rather than go straight into the “How” to meditate, I’ve taken some time to back up my knowledge with research on the “What” does it do and “What” happens when you do it, to alleviate any concerns that anyone may have.
What does meditation do to the brain?
Alice G Walton, covering health, medicine, psychology & neuroscience for Pharma & Healthcare, a contributor to www.forbes.com reports that: “In 2011, Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain: Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing.
There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress – and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well. In fact, a follow-up study by Lazar’s team found that after meditation training, changes in brain areas linked to mood and arousal were also linked to improvements in how participants said they felt — i.e., their psychological well-being. So for anyone who says that activated blobs in the brain don’t necessarily mean anything, our subjective experience – improved mood and well-being – does indeed seem to be shifted through meditation as well.”
She also quotes studies that meditation preserves the ageing brain; reduces activity in the Brain’s “Me Centre”; its effects rival antidepressants for depression, anxiety and also reduces social anxiety and can help with addiction.
What happens to the brain when you meditate?
Long-time psychotherapist Dr. Ron Alexander, author of Wise Mind, Open Mind, speaks of MIND STRENGTH, or the resiliency, efficacy and emotional intelligence that arise as we begin the process of controlling the mind. Mind strength is one of the most empowering tools we can employ to impact and improve all aspects of life.
There are five major categories of brain waves, each corresponding to different activities. Meditation enables us to move from higher frequency brain waves to lower frequency, which activates different centres in the brain.
Slower wavelengths = more time between thoughts = more opportunity to skilfully choose which thoughts you invest in and what actions you take.
5 Categories of Brain Waves: Why Meditation Works
1. Gamma State: (30 - 100Hz) This is the state of hyperactivity and active learning. Gamma state is the most opportune time to retain information. This is why educators often have audiences jumping up and down or dancing around -- to increase the likelihood of permanent assimilation of information. If over stimulated, it can lead to anxiety.
2. Beta State: (13 - 30Hz) Where we function for most of the day, beta state is associated with the alert mind state of the prefrontal cortex. This is a state of the "working" or "thinking mind" -- analytical, planning, assessing and categorizing.
3. Alpha State: (9 - 13Hz) Brain waves start to slow down out of thinking mind. We feel more calm, peaceful and grounded. We often find ourselves in an "alpha state" after a yoga class, a walk in the woods, a pleasurable sexual encounter or during any activity that helps relax the body and mind. We are lucid, reflective, have a slightly diffused awareness. The hemispheres of the brain are more balanced (neural integration).
4. Theta State: (4 - 8Hz) We are able to begin meditation. This is the point where the verbal/thinking mind transitions to the meditative/visual mind. We begin to move from the planning mind to a deeper state of awareness (often felt as drowsy), with stronger intuition, more capacity for wholeness and complicated problem solving. The theta state is associated visualization.
5. Delta State: (1-3 Hz) Tibetan monks that have been meditating for decades can reach this in an alert, wakened phase, but most of us reach this final state during deep, dreamless sleep.
Once you’ve had chance to absorb the “What does it do” and “What happens”, I’ll write again to explain the How… Just one more quote from www.yogainternational.com which resonates with me from a “holistic” point of view in respect of the “What” are you looking to achieve from meditation?:
“The goal of meditation is to go beyond the mind and experience our essential nature—which is described as peace, happiness, and bliss. But as anyone who has tried to meditate knows, the mind itself is the biggest obstacle standing between ourselves and this awareness.”
More on this very soon….