Touch the invisible dimension. – Meditation - Part II16, Feb, 2016, by Seema Bhatnagar
Meditation has a wide acceptance across the world, however, its fundamentals are still not well understood by large part of population. So, before learning more about meditation, it is important to understand some basics of meditation. First and foremost, meditation and yoga are not two different systems; meditation is just one part of yoga. If one is pursuing meditation then one is pursuing yoga as well.
According to a common myth, yoga means only the asanans or the physical aspect of yoga; No, yoga means, a wide expanse of different philosophies, methods and techniques, developed over a period of more than 10000 years in Indian culture and meditation is just one of its many methods.
Most importantly, meditation does not represent any particular religion or a group. Though its origin has been traced back to Indian culture, but over the period of time it got evolved and practised across all the cultures of the world using different methods and techniques.
Historically, meditation or dhyāna (in Sanskrit language) is an integral part of ashtang yoga, as described by father of Yoga, Maharishi Patanjali. For introduction of Ashtang Yoga, read Self-Discipline - 24 hours Meditation.
To put it more succinctly, meditation is one of the steps of a ladder that takes individual to the peak of yoga.
Experientially, one feels fresh and productive in the morning after a good night sleep, which means, sound and uninterrupted sleep for 5-6 hours. This is so because our conscious mind takes rest from reacting to external stimuli and the subconscious mind takes over to get rid of all nonsense collected over the day. So, freshness from sleep means a deep rest to physical body and conscious part of a brain when the subconscious part is still active.
"Before embarking on important undertakings, sit quietly, calm your senses and thoughts, and meditate deeply. You will then be guided by the great creative power of Spirit." ~ Paramahansa Yogananda
Meditation essentially is a simulation of that deep rest which comes through deep sleep. It is a technique of bringing required restfulness to body and conscious part of mind without invoking the subconscious part of brain, which means an individual who is meditating, is in complete awareness of what is happening to mind and body.
For beginners in meditation, it is quite normal to fall asleep during meditation, it is simply because, the moment body and mind get needful rest, the conscious brain gets a temporary relief from responding to external stimuli and the subconscious brain tries to come into action. This whole process triggers the sleeping mechanism and one feels refreshed and energetic in few minutes.
In ancient Indian culture, mediation was devised and practised to experience an absolute silence in order to understand the true nature of self, but in modern age it is used more of as a remedy to encounter the uncontrolled flux of thoughts and emotions which is making people go berserk with fits of rage and mental illnesses.
Scientific experiments on neuro hormonal secretion indicate that the practice of meditation result in secretion of hormones like Dopamine, Acetylcholine, Endorphins, GABA (gamma amino butyric acid), which increases internal happiness, concentration and memory.
Additionally, it alters the brain waves (alpha, beta and theta ) pattern and brings more restfulness in mind and body. Here, theta waves indicate the deep restfulness state, alpha waves for wakeful rest and beta waves are generated when mind is thinking about goals and other activities.
The study revealed that during meditation, there were more of theta waves in the frontal and middle parts of the brain which means an individual is experiencing relaxed state of mind.
This was studied through EEG (electroencephalography) performed on an individual. Read full story here: Brain waves and meditation
With certain methods of meditation, there are proofs of neural regeneration by more than 200 percent which means generation of new neurons which are primary cells of brain responsible for inter-cellular communication.
Please check following links to get more insight about research on meditation:Research on meditation Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain
With millions of people practising it across the world, it is indeed something absolutely life transforming. If you are willing to invest time and efforts, then with regular practice of meditation you can literally change the quality of your life by 360 degree. A daily practice for 15 -20 mins can go a long way in enhancing the quality of life.
Following are some of the benefits which have been tried and tested scientifically and experienced by millions across the world and that includes me as well:-
- An individual feels more energetic throughout the day.
- Better control over thoughts and emotions, with lesser fits of rage or mood swings.
- Body gets enough rest, so it quickly heels itself of any internal or external wound.
- Metabolism remains in control so one feels less hungry. This is especially a boon for people who are emotional eaters.
- Improved concentration levels, which means more attentive to task in hand rather than getting distracted easily.
- More joyful and easy disposition.
- Chronic ailments like blood pressure, thyroid imbalance, diabetes can be controlled, and in some cases it can be completely cured.
- Less sleep required.
- More clarity in thinking.
- It becomes easier to leave addictions of tea, coffee, alcohol or drugs.
Aren’t these benefits miraculous enough to enhance the quality of life manifold? By the way, these benefits can be easily experienced just in the beginning stage of meditation. As one goes further with meditation, more and more changes can be experienced.
Techniques and methods of Meditation.
“In deep meditation the flow of concentration is continuous like the flow of oil.” ~ Maharishi Patanjali
Over the period of time, different schools of thoughts emerged and they have devised their own methods and techniques regarding meditation. Some suggest focusing mind on exhalation and inhalation of breath, some suggest focusing on a space between eyebrows, some suggest chanting mantra silently, some suggest being meditative while doing each and every activity undertaken in daily life, be it eating, walking or talking etc.
In addition to above, there are also many online meditational musical tracks available, which might be helpful in experiencing mindful rest, but it is effective only for the duration for which the music is played on.
When it comes to authenticity, the ancient Hindu practices were purely based on Ashtang Yoga or Patanjali Yoga. But over the time new techniques and methods got evolved.
Following are some of the very popular and contemporary types of meditation:
#1 - Transcendental Meditation– Involves chanting of Sanskrit mantra for a specific duration. This mantra is especially created for a disciple by a Guru and should not be shared with anyone.
#2 - Vipasana Meditation– Also known as Mindfulness meditation, involves paying full attention and concentration on the activity one is performing. It is a Buddhist way of practicing meditation.
#3 - Chakra Meditation– Involves moving the concentration to all seven chakras of body right from the base of the spine to the top of a head.
I would refrain from suggesting, recommending any particular method because I am not the authority on this and secondly, I do not have in depth experience of this domain.
Bursting the myths.
Because of the proven benefits of meditation, it is getting worldwide acceptance but still there is a large part of population staying with certain myths about it, due to which they feel reluctant to include it in life. May be, if they meet the right person or community who can clarify their myths it can be a life transforming experience for them. Following are certain myths which repel people from adopting it in life. I am trying to clarify these myths with the best of my knowledge and experience.
- It is only for people who are spiritual. It is a method of bringing calmness to mind and body and can be practised by anybody of any age.
- It is only for increasing concentration. Enhanced concentration is one of its many benefits. It has a power to change the way you think and respond to the world.
- It needs lot of discipline of diet. There is no restriction of food. One can have any type of food and can practice it; but yes, non-greasy and easy to digest food gives quick results.
- It must be practised only in the morning. It can be practised at any time of the day but the best time is when there is a silence in the environment because silence helps you to sit for longer duration without any distraction.
- It needs long training. It can be learned in a day or two.
- It needs an hour or so for daily practice. Usually, a daily 15 mins practise is good enough to get wonderful results, but the more you practice the better would be the results.
- It can have some dire effects on health. If practised under the right guidance it does wonder to you but if you learn it from quack or any untrained person it will not give you any result and can also potentially harm your mental health.
- It makes you gullible and you are at a risk of being cheated by some Guru. You should choose the one who has been practising for long years and has some personal method and techniques to offer.
Further, if you have any other myth then you may ask somebody who is already practising for years or you may contact a community or a group involved in teaching meditation online or locally. Bursting your myths about meditation could be a new awakening holding a whole new possibility of a transformed life.
By now, if you are feeling motivated enough and planning to choose one for yourself to get started, then my honest advice would be - rather than experimenting yourself, the best way is to choose an enlightened Guru who would recommend you a suitable technique or a method according to your personality type. Unfortunately, many people spend long years in practising meditation without getting much benefit simply because they don’t get the right method which can work for them.
If you are initiated by a Guru, you would get complete guidance and instruction of when to practice, how to practice and for how long to practice what. It is very important to understand that yoga is a science and to get right benefits it must be practiced under an expert scientist or a Yogi (an expert in Yogic sciences). There are some basic practices and some are advanced practices, which one to start when, only an established Guru can figure it out for you.
Since yoga is a perfect science so it must be dealt carefully. This is a fundamental reason which makes teacher and disciple relationship so important when it comes to Yoga. Well, not just yoga, if any particular domain has to be learnt then this goes true for that as well, isn’t it?
Stay tuned for part III.
Touch the invisible dimension. – Meditation - Part I
Ego - The tameable enemy.
You are your Habits.