The world we live in is full of experiences- some are happy while some are not so happy. But everyone wants to attain the state of being happy all the time. No human being wants misery and depression around, yet most of them are encroached by these negative feelings and emotions. What is it that makes a person happy and the other unhappy? If it is money then rich people should never be unhappy. If it is food, then farmers should never get depressed. If it is children, then parents should never be worried.
So the question arises that if happiness and peace are not related to riches, food, and other material things then what is it that leads to the idea of being happy and peaceful. This is a concept that requires a deep and detailed understanding of certain truths and realities. There is only one path that can lead to realisation of truth and reality - the path of Meditation.
Meditation is the conscious growth of the mental abilities. Meditation includes various techniques that allow the develpment of the mind. It imparts happiness, peace, calmness, concentration, love, kindness, purity, well being and truthfulness.
Meditation is a way of settling in oneself, at the innermost core of your being. Once you have found the center of your existence, you will have found the aim of your life and your existence.
Meditation makes you feel detached from the world and from situations. This leads to taking decisions without any tension, undue haste or pressure.
Meditation is the perfect cure for the constant intrusion of technology in our lives. In fact, recent research has shown that meditating twice per day for about 20 minutes can actually reduce blockages in your blood vessels, significantly lowering the risk of sudden death by heart attack or stroke.
Further, meditation brings about behavioral transformation without any therapy. The thoughts made in meditation work like mental surgery. Positive virtues are implanted in the mind in place of negative thoughts. The outlook changes and so, bad habits loosen their grip on the mind. The body`s energy is now used for constructive and useful purposes. This brings about an overall enhancement in the personality. One becomes confident and self-assured.
All of these go a long way in improving relationship with others. Meditation enables one to face all situations positively.
Meditation also enables a person to experience the heavenly love, which comes only from God. This love plays such a melody on the strings of the mind and makes one feel captivated. The benefits of meditation can be better experienced than said.
Meditation makes a person control his mind and to have an economy of thoughts so that there exist no purposeless and negative thoughts. In a word, it can be said that meditation brings about fulfillment in ones life.
You can say that with the practice of meditation, a person will be in harmony with nature, at peace with his own self, in concord with others and in unison with the Creator. His mind is not in conflict with his intellect nor his actions disturb nature nor contravene injunctions of God.
Meditation is practised in complete silence. The silence allows one to settle into the center of ones being. You are left alone with yourself and you begin to experience your self.
In today`s time every individual is burdened with millions of thoughts, tensions and worries. Meditation simply helps you to come out of that world of thoughts, tensions and worries into a state of silence and peace. It is a process of cleaning your mind completely, it is emptying all that has been forced and stuffed inside you.
The moment you become silent, aware, and clear and your inner self is full of delight, you experience the first taste of true and meaningful life. One can call it god, one can call it enlightenment, and one can call it liberation; different names but the phenomenon is the same.
1. The Meaning of Meditation
Meditation has all along been the essential part of the daily routine of a religious person. One of the meanings of the word mediation is to control of the activities of the mind, speech and body. Another meaning of meditation is steadying the mind on the subject of concentration. There can be regulation of time in this case as well.
The term meditation (dhyan) is derived etymologically from the dhyaim meaning reflect. The subject for reflection root can be the same and it can also change.
The history of meditation is as old as the history of religion. Both meditation and religion go hand in hand and complement each other. Meditation is fundamental to all religions.
2. Barrier in Meditation
Unsteadiness of the mind acts as the major barrier in the practise of Meditation. Some people say that they cannot meditate, because their mind is unsteady. Acharya Somaprabha has written thus to clarify this point:
"If any person wants to pursue religion by becoming cruel, wants to acquire fame
by vicious means, wants to acquire wealth nor remaining indolent,
Wants to write poetry without
having the genius for it, wants to
become an ascetic without controlling the senses and showing compassion, wants to seriously study the scriptures without the requisite intelligence, wants to see things without the eyes and wants to meditate on them when his mind is unsteady
cannot succeed. Similarly, the person who desires his beatitude
by giving up the contact with the virtuous
people can never succeed."
To think that the person whose mind is unsteady cannot meditate in spite of his ardent wish and for the person whose mind is steady, meditation is not necessary, is a one-sided view. Only the person, who takes on-sided view, would say that he would not meditate till his mind becomes steady.
Here is a story that will explain this point in a better way:
Two friends went to the river to bathe. Both of them slipped in the mud. He drifted with the flow of the river. His companion held him and pulled him out. Coming on the bank, he said, "I would not step in water till I learn swimming "But can anyone learn to swim without stepping in water? What a contradiction!
When people say that they would meditate only when their mind becomes steady, they are also talking in similar contradictory terms. It is necessary to practice meditation exactly because the mind is unsteady. Without that practice, the mind would not become steady. From this point of view, everything should be considered in relative terms. Only when this is realized it is possible to know the essential aspect of things.
3. Three Pillars of Meditation: Faith, Resolve and Endeavour
Meditation requires Faith, Resolve and Endeavour.
Some want to practise meditation, but they are not able to develop faith in it.
There were two children sitting next to the eggs of a peahen. They wanted to see how a peacock is born from the egg. One of the children went on turning the egg, wondering if the young one of the peacock would emerge from it. He could not get the young one of the peacock. But the other child, who waited without any doubt in his mind, got it.
If one develops deep faith in meditation and if it is combined with firm resolve then unsteadiness of the mind can be eliminated. The individual with firm resolve can turn what is impossible into possible. But if there is no endeavour along with the resolve, the resolve loses its value. The combination of faith, resolve and endeavour can turn even a desert into a blooming garden.
The method of meditation can be discovered, it can be carried forward, but it cannot be made widespread. The method, which is lofty, is also less widespread to that extent.The ideal position is not where everyone would be able to reach. Only the lucky ones, who have faith, who have firmly resolved and who are keen to endeavour would be able to reach the ideal position. In spite of all these, unless one finds a true guru, the path of meditation cannot be followed.
Some people take keen interest in meditation. They spend time in meditation. They are eager to go to every meditation camp. But they are not able to concentrate on one particular method. They do not know which method is appropriate and which is not. And the alternatives make them restless. Guidance from a guru is necessary to make the mind function uninterrupted.
4. Need for Meditation?
In today`s time, when man has almost achieved everything in terms of material things, there is still something that keeps him away from happiness and peace. The present time apart from witnessing the latest technological developments and inventions has witnessed destructions and massacres like the two world wars, terrorist attacks like the 9/11, earthquakes, tsunami, hurricanes and what not. On one hand the world is developing at a fast speed where everyday new inventions are being made. And on the other hand, the world is also witnessing some of the biggest disasters of nature. Man has explored the universe but has failed to understand what is happening on his own planet.
Today each one of us is in search of peace, truth and happiness. But we don`t realise that these qualities are not available in the outside materialistic world. But instead these are available inside us. These qualities were always present in us. But we have not realised this truth.
This world will be a beautiful, peaceful and pure place to live if man recognizes his true self that he is not the body but something else. Had there been no body, man would have never asked for a shelter, food, and political power and there would have never had any conflicts for land, food, power etc. Since, it is the body that requires all materialistic things.
Soul consciousness is the answer to all the miseries of man. All his miseries will come to an end if he realises that he is not the body that demands all the material pleasures of the world but is a point of light- the soul- that requires no food, shelter, clothes etc. He should realise that the body is just an instrument that the soul uses to carry out its functions. The soul is the driver and the body is the car. Without the driver, the car is a waste bulk of metal and without the soul, the body is a waste bulk of flesh.
Therefore, instead of decorating the body, man should emphasize on decorating the soul. The soul has many in-built qualities. Through meditation, man should try to improve and enhance these qualities and attain enlightenment.
By practicing soul-consciousness through meditation, man will understand that the root cause of all sufferings and troubles in the world is that man has gradually come to identify himself with the body. Man does not realise that in this body, which is made of inert matter, dwells an immortal entity, which is an eternal spark of life and light, called the soul.
The soul is like a micro-star. It abides in the body, midway between the eyebrows, where a devout in India apply Tilak - a sacred mark. Here, it is connected with the brain and the nervous system.
5. How Meditation Works
Studies have shown that meditation can bring about a healthy state of relaxation by causing a generalized reduction in multiple physiological and biochemical markers, such as decreased heart rate, decreased respiration rate, decreased plasma cortisol (a major stress hormone), decreased pulse rate, and increased EEG (electroencephalogram) alpha, a brain wave associated with relaxation.
Research conducted by R. Keith Wallace at U.C.L.A. on Transcendental Meditation, revealed that during meditation, the body gains a state of profound rest. At the same time, the brain and mind become more alert, indicating a state of restful alertness. A laboratory study of practitioners of Maharishi Mahesh Yogis transcendental meditation (TM), carried out by Benson and Wallace at Harvard Medical School towards the end of the 1960s, provided the first detailed knowledge of the many physiological changes that go with meditation.
- The fall in metabolic rate was the most striking discovery. This was indicated by a dramatic drop in oxygen consumption within a few minutes of starting meditation. Consumption fell by up to twenty per cent below the normal level (even below the one experienced in deep sleep). Meditators took on an average two breaths less and one litre less air per minute. The meditators heart rate was several beats less per minute.
- During meditation, blood pressure stayed at `low levels`, but fell markedly in persons starting meditation with abnormally high levels.
- The meditators` skin resistance to an electrical current was measured. A fall in skin resistance is characteristic of anxiety and tension states; a rise indicates increased muscle relaxation. The finding was that though meditation is primarily a mental technique, it soon brings significantly improved muscle relaxation.
- Meditation reduces activity in the nervous system. The parasympathetic branch of the autonomic or involuntary nervous system predominates. This is the branch responsible for calming us.
- During the state of anxiety and tension, there is a rise in the level of lactate in the blood. Lactate is a substance produced by metabolism in the skeletal muscles. During meditation blood lactate levels decreased at a rate four times faster than the rate of decrease in non-meditators resting lying on their backs or in the meditators themselves in pre-meditation resting.
- The likely reason for the dramatic reduction in lactate production by meditators was indicated when further studies of meditators showed an increased blood flow. Benson and Wallace found that there was a thirty-two per cent increase in forearm blood flow. Lactate production in the body is mainly in skeletal muscle tissue. During meditation the faster circulation brings a faster delivery of oxygen to the muscles and less lactate is produced.
The two investigators summed up that Meditation produces a complex of responses that marks a highly relaxed state. Moreover, the pattern of changes they observed in meditators suggested an integrated response, mediated by the central nervous system.
"Through meditation we can learn to access the relaxation response (the physiological response elicited by meditation) and to be aware of the mind and the way our attitudes produce stress," says Dr. Borysenko, author of Minding the Body, Mending the Mind". "In addition, by quieting the mind, meditation can also put one in touch with the inner physician, allowing the bodys own inner wisdom to be heard."
Taoists believe that the mind of emotions is governed by the Fire energy of the heart. When your emotions are not controlled, the fire energy of the heart flares upwards, wastefully burning up energy and clouding the mind. The mind of intent, or willpower, is controlled by the Water energy of the kidneys. When unattended, the water energy flows down and out through the sexual organs, depleting essence and energy and weakening the spirit. Taoists believe that when you are `sitting still, doing nothing`, as in meditation, the flow of Fire and Water are reversed: Water energy from the kidneys and sacrum is drawn up to the head via the Central and Governing channels, while emotional Fire energy from the heart is drawn down into the Lower Elixir Field in the abdomen, where it is refined and transformed and enters general circulation through the energy channels. On the spiritual/mental level, this internal energy alchemy enables the mind of intent (Water) to exert a calming, cooling, controlling influence over the mind of emotion (Fire).
6. Meditation as a clinical invention
Meditation is both an ancient spiritual practice and a contemporary mind-body technique for relaxing the body and calming the mind. Most meditative techniques have come to the West from Asian religious practices, particularly India, China, and Japan, but similar techniques can be found in many cultures around the world. Until recently, the primary purpose of meditation has been religious, although its health benefits have long been recognized in these cultures where these methods originated.
In the West, however, the first view was that meditation induced a type of dissociate state or a type of catatonia. Thirty years ago, before Hebert Benson, MD`s pioneering research, meditation was still considered a religious practice, not appropriate for healthcare settings. The first articles on the health benefits of meditation appeared in the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology in 1970. Meditation is the first mind-body intervention to be widely adopted in mainstream health care. Meditation is now widely taught at medical settings such as the VA clinics and Kaiser Permanente where it is prescribed as a technique for relaxing the body and calming the mind.