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Meditation is the act of focusing on a single target (such as the breath or a repeated sound) to increase awareness of the moment. While hypnosis is generally achieved through the interaction of a therapist and the person being treated, an individual can perform meditation alone. Often, however, people wishing to learn to meditate receive some training in techniques to achieve a meditative state.

Although there are a number of different techniques in use, the central feature of all meditation is clearing the mind in order to achieve a state of relaxed awareness and focus (Chen et al., 2013; Lang et al., 2012). Mindfulness meditation has recently become popular. In the variation of mindful meditation, the meditator’s attention is focused on some internal process or an external object (Zeidan, Grant, Brown, McHaffie, & Coghill, 2012).

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Meditative techniques have their roots in religious practices (Figure 4.21), but their use has grown in popularity among practitioners of alternative medicine. Research indicates that meditation may help reduce blood pressure, and the American Heart Association suggests that meditation might be used in conjunction with more traditional treatments as a way to manage hypertension, although there is not sufficient data for a recommendation to be made (Brook et al., 2013). Like hypnosis, meditation also shows promise in stress management, sleep quality (Caldwell, Harrison, Adams, Quin, & Greeson, 2010), treatment of mood and anxiety disorders (Chen et al., 2013; Freeman et al., 2010; Vøllestad, Nielsen, & Nielsen, 2012), and pain management (Reiner, Tibi, & Lipsitz, 2013).

Figure 4.21 (a) This is a statue of a meditating Buddha, representing one of the many religious traditions of which meditation plays a part. (b) People practicing meditation may experience an alternate state of consciousness. (credit a: modification of work by Jim Epler; credit b: modification of work by Caleb Roenigk)

Feeling stressed? Think meditation might help? Watch this instructional video about using Buddhist meditation techniques to alleviate stress (http://openstax.org/l/meditate) to learn more.


Chapter 4 | States of Consciousness 145



Watch this video about the results of a brain imaging study in individuals who underwent specific mindfulness meditative techniques (http://openstax.org/l/brainimaging) to learn more.


146 Chapter 4 | States of Consciousness

This OpenStax book is available for free at http://cnx.org/content/col31502/1.4



alpha wave

biological rhythm


central sleep apnea

circadian rhythm


cognitive-behavioral therapy

collective unconscious


continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)

delta wave


euphoric high

evolutionary psychology





jet lag


latent content

lucid dream

Key Terms

type of relatively low frequency, relatively high amplitude brain wave that becomes synchronized; characteristic of the beginning of stage 1 sleep

internal cycle of biological activity

lack of muscle tone or muscle weakness, and in some cases complete paralysis of the voluntary muscles

sleep disorder with periods of interrupted breathing due to a disruption in signals sent from the brain that regulate breathing

biological rhythm that occurs over approximately 24 hours

opiate with relatively low potency often prescribed for minor pain

psychotherapy that focuses on cognitive processes and problem behaviors that is sometimes used to treat sleep disorders such as insomnia

theoretical repository of information shared by all people across cultures, as described by Carl Jung

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