Meditation in the Mind
More and more these days we see countless recommendations to practice the age old art and science of meditation. Most, if not all, extol its seemingly magical power on the human psyche through its purported benefits. These recommendations and claims have stood the test of time- they are universally accepted and well justified. For eons past those who came before us have spoken volumes regarding this great gift we all posses but today sometimes, we neglect to use. Why now are we again reminded of this?
All of us are participating either aware or unaware. in a quantum shift bringing at times, tumultuous changes in all areas of our society and world structures. No one is exempt from the effects these rapid changes bring. While universally experienced, these trans-formative energies are individually unique and processed differently depending on a person’s outlook. With a little discipline and practice we can apply this gift of meditation to help balance stress levels, reduce mind-movies which seem to play nonstop to bring increasing levels of joy, clarity and purpose into life.
While it’s true that meditative practices are known by many names in virtually all cultures each with various forms of practice, finding one that will work for you is quite easy. Best of all, this gently leads us ultimately to a special place we often desire and want- greater understanding and acceptance to life’s mysteries.
So, let’s briefly explore the subject for the sole purpose of learning how to reap many beneficial rewards available through meditation. Besides, it is true, the best things in life are free. So let us begin to clear our minds of useless, wayward abstract thoughts having no justification to control or dictate our life’s direction. We will find meditation allows you in the purest sense, to create your own life’s experiences. (More discussion about that possibility a bit later). For now, consider that during meditation you can replace, and clear out unwanted thoughts with life affirming versions gaining- a true, lasting peace of mind, body and soul. Meditation is your gateway offering all that and more…you can even create some magic in your life through this simple process!
As you may have heard or if you are already a dedicated practitioner, individuals report profound psychological, physical and spiritual well-being as they practice meditation daily. What then is meditation really all about? For beginners, how can one start? And how far can I go with sincere dedication? In this article are going to examine a few areas- some historical background, benefits, science of the mind and advanced possibilities.
History to Date
According to many archeologists, meditation pre dates written records. It could be easily envisioned a person entering an altered state of consciousness by simply gazing in the mind-stilling flicker of fire while taking no thought. The earliest documented record of meditation comes from India in their Hindu scriptures called tantras. These records date back over 5,000 years coming from the Indus valley and were combined with what is referred to today as yoga. Along with expanding trade, cultural exchange was also carried westward and meditation practice was soon embedded in eastern thought and spiritual practices.
With the advent of Buddha around 500 AD, many diverse cultures began to develop their own interpretations and specialized meditative techniques. Some techniques still in use to this day are said to deliver incredible mind-over-matter powers and supernormal skills that transformed the practitioner. Today, these are devout individuals and are not necessarily monks living in some remote mountain monastery. They are everyday people like you and I. Of course advancing through time, the long history of meditation is no longer only attributed to the Hindus and Buddhists. Not to be left out, Christianity, Islam and Judaism also participate in the perpetuation of meditation each with its own take on the practice.
However, historically these religious faiths do not dominate in their teachings and practices a culture of meditation when compared to the Asian traditions. Meditation finds its place here in our Western culture in the early 1960′s into the ’70′s. This was a time when much of our culture was being tested, demanding to be redefined. Meditation found fertile ground in which to flourish and expand. Some could say it was the “hippie” revolution which inspired to embrace acceptance of foreign ideas but only ones that possessed real substantive value. It was not long after that when the Western medical and scientific community began to conduct research and studies on meditation. And what did most studies if not all, to varying degrees find?
You guessed it- significant health benefits. One of the most important aspects of meditation is how it releases stress from our bodies. This is achieved by bridging the gap between our conscious and un-conscious selves, situations or non-justified thoughts that ferment stress become less significant and actually lose their power. Through meditation, it does not take long before you feel more peaceful and relaxed about everything. What happened to cause this nearly miraculous change? Studies have proven that meditation raises serotonin levels which directly affect our behavior and emotional temperament. Conversely, low levels of serotonin lead to depression, headaches even insomnia. All symptoms associated with stress.
Today, our western civilization with all our “advanced” knowledge has re-affirmed the ancient knowledge and understanding of meditation’s therapeutic power to help alleviate mental and physical ailments. And this was just the infancy of discovery or shall we say re-discovery of unlimited powers available inside each of us. Today, mediation without question is a universally medically accepted form of holistic healing used worldwide. Meditation could be summed up as a natural mechanism within each of us that enables the spirit within, the higher, true self to bridge the communication gap into our physical aspects grounding us in unconditional love.
Rebirth through Breath
Beyond all the medical community assertions lies a vast segment of the population seeking additional benefits when practicing meditation. How can what appears initially only to be a physical act, effect our true inner being so profoundly by simply clearing our conscious thoughts and focusing on our breath? Well the secret really is in our breath. When you first start a meditative practice at face value, it appears really easy. Yet, early on many are easily frustrated because they have really never truly attempted to quiet their thoughts while awake. Successfully navigating the mental mind field of what apparently appears to be non-stop streams of thoughts popping up can at first be a daunting task. Be forewarned this is a common occurrence and quite normal and there is a solution. It’s funny actually once realization sets in that you really are like two individuals within a single physical body. And that is not far from the truth.
I, like many who meditate found out early on one key to successfully get beyond this mental speed bump is to acknowledge the thought. Proceed to then dismiss it entirely or agree to revisit the thought after the meditation session and return the mind’s focus to your breathing. I have used this method to great success getting past the egos gate keeper role which it often plays.
You may find this method helpful as well if not, find what brings your focus back without distracting thoughts. Again, breathing’s role is of utmost importance in this whole process because it is the gateway bridging the physical body with the spiritual body. The goal here is what I refer to as the death of thoughts through focusing on your breath. Becoming more sensitive of taking no thought along with staying present in the moment by the simple act being consciously aware of your breathing, an amazing inner rebirth begins. Next, we define some good basic steps for all meditation practices.
Chances are in your life you have unknowingly experienced moments in a purely meditative state. The odds are that when this occurred, you found yourself outside in nature. In nature we more easily find resonance with a deeper more real aspect of ourselves which often comes alive in the natural environment.
Perhaps it occurred while relaxing on a beach watching the hypnotic like waves repetitively washing ashore or possibly noticing the invisible wind rustle leaves on a tree as warming sunlight bathed your face. If you recall during these moments, you found a completely relaxed feeling immerse your entire being because you were free of distracting thoughts. This is what being in “the moment” is all about. It is as if your mind tunes into the higher natural frequencies of life which for the most part, are virtually non-existent inside buildings and such. Yet, with focus, proper intentions and processes we can escape these limitations imposed in man-made environments. Of course meditation can be greatly enhanced when it is practical in natural surroundings.
The whole concept of meditation takes on various identities depending what an individual’s intention is while performing a chosen meditation. Some may want physical or mental relief, others, answers or directions for a better life. Either way, choices are clearly individualized. Find yours since this goes a long way in helping you along the path aided with a unique, personalized purpose. Define it for you! To begin a meditation, a few simple rules are universally accepted. These generally are-
1) Break away from distractions. Turn off the outside electrical/technological intrusions like phones, computers, TV’s etc. A quiet, calm peaceful place is preferred. At first, commit 10 minutes or more with no interruption.
2) Posture is important in that you must be comfortable. Preferably this is with your back upright and your spine to you head straight. Normally a seated position on the ground is preferred with hands in your lap; it can also be done in a chair. Lying down initially is not suggested as you body can assume a sleep mode.
3) Close your eyes gently, relax your jaw and facial muscles. Do a “body scan” looking for any muscle tension that may exist releasing any found. Continue relaxing now for a few moments allowing your body to become comfortable. Be observant of bodily tension arising. The key is to physically relax.
4) Slowly evacuate your lungs completely. Gently inhale and exhale through your nostrils with a deep (from the belly) rhythmic cycle filling your lungs to capacity and expelling the air completely. Slow, long in and out breaths are ideal. Pausing momentarily at the end of each in and out breath. Focus on the feeling and sounds during the entire cycle.
5) Activate the heart-mind connection which provides an initial thought-clearing mode. Do not attempt to suppress these thoughts. Acknowledge them. Briefly as thoughts arise, dismiss them by surrounding any with the six heart virtues of: appreciation, compassion, forgiveness, humility, valor, and understanding. Another very powerful technique is to apply unconditional love (without a judgment position) to any thoughts that may arise, release them and return focus to your breathing.
6) Steadily and incrementally increase the time duration spent in your practice. As the moments of time lengthen between arising thoughts, you are now well on the way to higher levels of meditation. Remind yourself to notice and appreciate the beneficial by-products you have regained.
Eleven Benefits of Meditating Daily
Here’s a short list (certainly not all inclusive) of the benefits that come from a daily meditation practice-
1. Your life becomes significantly clearer and calm
The hustle and bustle of everyday life is choking our minds of the peace we deserve! Our technology advancements shouldn’t suffocate our minds; it should allow us to achieve more peace. Meditation helps put those events in perspective for our daily tasks.
2. Your blood pressure is lowered
Science has proven it, meditation lowers the blood pressure, which in return is related to your stress levels and stress management. Much better than taking pills to lower your blood pressure!
3. People around you enjoy your company
Regular meditation leads to higher/positive energy that you are consistently tapping into. This effectively makes you very pleasant to be around, and people like that! People naturally gravitate to the people who make them feel good.
4. Your connection with God is strengthened
Spiritual awareness is strengthened with a daily meditation practice. You naturally become more aware of your surroundings, and higher awareness always leads to a deeper connection with God. The trees begin showing personalities, and the landscape takes on different meanings… all through a deeper awareness.
5. You achieve several hours of sleep in one 20 minute meditation session
Another scientific fact is that meditation is known to put you into a deeper state of rest than deep sleep. Deep sleep is associated with a delta brainwave. Deep meditation can drop you into that delta brainwave rapidly, achieving the effects in a shorter amount of time.
6. Problems that seemed very difficult suddenly have clear solutions
For every problem a solution exists. When your mind is clear and you’re in a state of peace, solutions appear. Being in a state of peace just naturally attracts solutions and pathways into your field of view.
7. Your productivity sky rockets because of your ability to have clear focus
If solutions to problems appear more frequently when meditating daily, then imagine what happens to your everyday tasks. Solutions to everyday life become more and more obvious. And you begin to take note of these subtle changes as your spiritual vision grows clearer and wider.
8. Your life expectancy increases
Science has shown that regular meditation will increase your life expectancy. It’s pretty obvious to see… less stress and more peace promotes healthy cells and healthy cells regenerate healthier cells. And likewise, stressed cells regenerate more stressed cells. So live longer by choosing more peace in your life.
9. You effectively reduce stress in your life
Speaking of stress, meditation has a profound effect on reducing stress in your body. Because meditation promotes peace and inner calm, stress dissolves dramatically from this meditative process. Again, science has proven it.
10. You can visualize powerfully when combined with positive affirmations and meditation
Meditation is powerful at clearing the mind and focusing on simple things… like breathing… or a flower. But, it can be used for so much more! To powerfully manifest your desires, you must get into a clear connection with the source of manifesting (God/Universe/Ethers). If your spirits are on high while you visualize then the communication channel for manifesting positive events in your life is strengthened.
While meditating I like to repeat affirmations, otherwise known as mantras, to help focus my energy into the positive. These statements can be as simple as “love” or “I am love, I am joy, I am peace”.
11. You feel fantastic throughout your day!
And finally, when you meditate on a regular basis, you just feel fantastic. Plain and simple. You feel good. Everything else is details.
Science of Meditation’s Magic
Today there is a great deal of scientific studies validating in a laboratory setting, that while in a meditative state, significant changes occur with our brain activity. Just as to why brain frequencies are altered is not yet fully understood. Neuroscientists hypothesize that our brain is actually rewiring connections sculpting new avenues of brain circuitry seen during magnetic resonance imaging.
Could we simply be accessing the higher mind which subdues the thinking, egoic-centric mind where boundaries of self-consciousness disappear? Seems very plausible. Regardless of the exact reason for this profound change, some other “super consciousness” force appears to be altering the way our brain functions while in a meditative state.
Dr. Gregg Jacobs who was the assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a senior research scientist at Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute now practicing at UMass Memorial Medical Center, published a book in 1993: The Ancestral Mind: Reclaim the Power. This book was the subject of a Time Magazine article back in August 2003 offering insight into the science behind meditation. Based on his research he made some interesting observations and statements referring to what he labeled: the Ancestral Mind and the Thinking Mind.
Dr. Jacobs argues, the scientific research implies our emotional well-being is being greatly hampered by the over-reliance on our dominant Thinking Mind- the verbal, rational, analytical and problem-solving part of ourselves. Over vast ages of time we have severed communication with an equally important part of our makeup- the Ancestral Mind. To me, this speaks of becoming a more fully balanced human being, maximizing the potential of consciousness. While that statement may not be in scientific jargon, the implication is the same.
The Ancestral Mind: Reclaim the Power Book blurb-
Dr. Jacobs offers a practical program for re-engaging with this indelible part of our being, explaining how to access life-enhancing positive emotions while minimizing negative ones; connect with a more intuitive intelligence and foster a deeper, expanded sense of daily awareness; and achieve a more integrated concept of self through a closer harmony of intellect and emotion.
What is Happening In your Brain During Meditation?
Scientists have only recently developed tools sophisticated enough to see what goes on in your brain when you meditate. Below are a series of three interactive graphics from the 2003 Time “The Science of Meditation” article showing brain activity changes that occur during meditation. Clearly some profound changes occur within the brain. Our brain appears to interact and be directly influenced by our higher-minds and consciousness itself.
Frontal cortex – is the most highly evolved part of the brain, responsible for reasoning, planning, emotions and self- conscious awareness. During meditation it tends to go offline.
Parietal lobe – processes sensory information about the surrounding world, orienting you in time and space. During meditation, activity in the parietal lobe slows down.
Thalamus – is the gatekeeper for the senses. It focuses your attention by funneling some sensory data deeper into the brain and stops other signals in their tracks. Meditation reduces the flow of incoming information to a trickle.
Reticular Formation – receives incoming stimulus and puts the brain on alert, ready to respond. Meditation dials back the arousal signal.
After training in meditation for eight weeks, subjects show a pronounced change in brain-wave patterns, shifting from the alpha waves of aroused, conscious thought to the theta waves that dominate the brain during periods of deep relaxation. Even people meditating for the first time will register a decrease in beta waves, a sign that the cortex is not processing information as actively as usual. After their first 20-minute session, patients show a marked decrease in beta-wave activity.
Consciousness Directs Matter
Are you ready to dive into infinite possibilities of the more unique, inherent benefits of meditation? How far can one go into the universal domain to retrieve enhanced power to intentionally co-create in this world? And no, you don’t have to become a Zen Buddhist monk. Rather than go off into the quantum realm too far, allot is becoming understood within the research community about the creation power of our thoughts.
This knowledge is equally important to understand and apply its power when practicing meditation. Deliberate thought combined with meditation is an extremely powerful combination. By now everyone has got a little taste of the premise in the movie “Secret” regarding the subject of manifestation or as I like to label it- “deliberate intentions of thought”. While this subject matter may seem new and novel to a whole segment of the population, like meditation, it has existed for a very long time. Ever heard the famous quote from Napoleon Hill in his 1937 book titled- Think and Grow Rich? It sure sounds like it could be in the Secret:
“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve”
Interestingly enough in the book, Mr. Hill did not expressly reveal the step-by-step process to create circumstances which aligned with ones invocation of a positive mental attitude. He left that for the reader to discover. However, he did provide clues and examples which he documented through interviewing over 500 successful people while researching his first course study titled: The Law of Success. He went on to describe this idea as a “Definite Major Purpose” in order for the reader to be challenged and ask the question- In what do I truly believe? His philosophical perspective was that 98% of people had no firm beliefs leading them to be handicapped in achieving what they want in life. So yes, change your thoughts, change your world.
I mention Mr. Hill because he clearly proved the absolute power of deliberate thought to create your desired life. And this approach succinctly aligns with the infinite possibilities afforded in meditation. Just as a professional stage hypnotist can temporarily manipulate someone’s actions by accessing and placing suggestions in a special place within their psyche, similar gateways or altered states of consciousness are possible during meditation. Our subconscious minds cannot distinguish between the physical “reality” we are witnessing and merely vivid thought projections. It is here that during certain meditative states one can interject desired images powered by emotions, or predefined affirmations by purposely focusing intent, expediting their arrival in the physical.
I personally believe the reason time appears to collapse between the desire (intention) and actual delivery is directly related to the reduced level of mental (Thinking Mind) resistance we hold while in certain meditative states. We receive sooner that which is wanted in our life because of the drastically reduced counterproductive, opposing beliefs or thoughts. During meditation these contrary brain wave thought forms are minimized thereby allowing quantum mechanisms to more fully dominate.
Call it magic or a miracle or quantum physics in action, but despite of the term used, it is real. This premise is exactly the conclusion Mr. Hill wanted his readers to arrive at. Of course, meditation is not directly mentioned, only alluded to, but clearly meditation accelerates this entire creative process by reducing resistant thoughts which hinder progress. Regardless if while meditating you receive an urge to take a specific action which leads to a solution or chance meeting bringing you closer or delivering entirely a previously specified outcome, the objective is manifested.
The only prerequisite is that you must clearly define exactly what you want. Remember- “Definite Major Purpose”. Begin to let yourself feel (believe) what you will experience when the object desired has arrived and let the universal powers do their part. You will quickly find this power is quite useful in improving your well-being when practiced routinely with meditation.
A New Direction Awaits
In closing, meditation is a wonderful gift that is available to all who seek. But, one must seek that which is worthy of attention. As we have learned there are many beneficial reasons to practice this lost but reemerging art. And apparently, the distraction and conveniences of this post-industrial age have dulled a part of us that has never forsaken us and remains vigil in wanting to empower us to our full potential. Just think, this is only breaths away!
As our socioeconomic landscape is now being radically redefined as we step further away from a primarily consumerism driven lifestyle, meditation can play a significant role in this era helping us to become more balanced and grounded. Many are awakening to the fact that a life based solely material gain to achieve a state of happiness is fraught with dangers and distorts real, lasting values. Material affluence is not a problem, but trying to live a life where that is the primary focus distances us further from our higher nature. We have many choices demanding our time and attention today, to sacrifice a critical activity like meditation which could alter and improve your life beyond where you find yourself now, would be a tragedy.
If you do not currently meditate on a regular basis, please consider doing so as this is a proven way for greater well-being, enhanced health and vitality in addition to becoming more at peace with the world surrounding you. Start today and thank yourself for directing you here- all is purposely directed!
Tim’s writing expertise and intuition for understanding arcane, non-mainstream subject matter including esoteric topics begun at the age of 14. It is through his expansive career in finance which affords Tim a unique ability to apply a professional, down-to-earth approach when writing about the science of spirituality.