Meditation – a lot more than meets the eye by Elizabeth Denley in LivingNow. Photo by Jonathan Davis Photography.

Meditation – a lot more than meets the eye

In Meditation and Mindfulness by Elizabeth Denley0 Comments

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Celebrate the inner beauty that awaits you through meditation.

 

During the last 50 years there have been many scientific and medical studies on the effects of meditation on human beings. For example, the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), USA, cites that meditation reduces blood pressure, depression, and anxiety, and positively affects heart rate, oxygen consumption, immunity, sleep patterns and the natural functioning of the brain (1). Current research (2) goes even further, showing how meditation affects genes and brain activity in chronically stressed people, switching genes that are linked to stress and immunity on and off..

Scientists are discovering what yogis have known for thousands of years: meditation can bring about stillness and balance in the heart and mind that rejuvenates the whole human system.

Harvard’s medical research team at the Massachusetts General Hospital have projected that relaxation, yoga, meditation, and prayer could reduce the need for health care services by up to 43% in modern urban environments (3). This field of mind-body medicine is receiving critical attention in today’s world, where stress is commonplace. For example, the World Health Organization has projected that stress costs US businesses at least $300 billion a year. I wonder what it is in Australia.

The profound effect of meditation on the mind and body has long been known. Carl Jung recognised the benefits through his own practice based on Buddhism, and many other great philosophers and scientists over the centuries meditated, e.g. Leonardo da Vinci and Sir Isaac Newton. Yet it is when we go back to those ancient sages who were scientists par excellence of the inner universe that we understand that modern science is only scratching the surface of the human potential that is realised through meditation.

Why do we meditate?

Each of us may have a different reason. For one it will be peace of mind, for another to remove stress and lower blood pressure. Yet another wants to develop concentration, and another to evolve spiritually. One thing is for sure, when we meditate properly our consciousness expands, and this leads to many other things.

What exactly is meditation?

It is one of the most natural and simple things, and most of us do it all the time without even knowing it! Even small children know how to meditate: when a small child wants a toy, she will go to sleep talking about that toy, and wake remembering it. She is meditating on the toy. Similarly, throughout the day, you may be meditating on your girlfriend, or someone who has hurt you, or the car you want to buy, etc. The most common definition is that meditation is thinking about one thing continuously.

How to start

We start by learning to think about one thing, gather ourselves at one point, regulate the mind and leave behind the habit of letting it wander all over the place. All the chatter and complexities dissolve into the background. We develop the capacity to concentrate without trying. Already one layer of stress disappears, as the mind does not constantly dart from one thing to an-other. Already it is easier to sleep, as the mind is calm and balanced, and we synchronise our daily activities with the cyclical rhythms of day and night. This leads to brain rejuvenation and detoxification.

Now, what do we meditate upon?

There are many different types of meditation to choose from. The practice I do involves meditating on the source of light that exists within my heart. There is a very profound science in having the heart as the object of meditation. The heart is a pumping station, sending oxygenated blood to all the cells of the body. As we meditate on the heart, the blood that runs throughout our system is affected and the solidity due to our own thoughts and actions begins to melt away. The heart is the seat of the soul, the cause of our existence. When we meditate on the heart we are bringing about change at the deepest level of being.

That takes us to first base. Like any other activity meditation becomes more refined as we master the art. As we dive deeper into the heart in meditation, we go beyond thinking into the realm of feeling, and our consciousness starts to expand into those vast oceans of superconsciousness and subconsciousness that make up the spectrum of consciousness. We uncover more and more of our human potential. The various functions of the mind – intellect, ability to reflect and contemplate, willpower, creativity, awareness, and observational skills – all become more and more refined. We find it easier to discriminate and make choices. Wisdom, intuition and emotional intelligence all develop.

The heart is vast in its field of action – this has been acknowledged in scientific studies, eg, HeartMath and The Heart’s Code (6). There is still much more to this journey. Our consciousness continues to expand beyond the level of feeling to the state of ‘being’ that is extraordinarily beautiful: stillness, inner joy, peace, lightness and balance. And on it goes…

Meditation gives us the means to observe and experience all these inner states, and the tools and methods are so simple. The instrument of observation is your mind itself, your heart is your laboratory, and the particular practices you follow are your methods. That is all it takes to explore the magnificent inner universe that awaits. Try it!

 

References

1. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm
2. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-11-22/harvard-yoga-scientists-find-proof-of-meditation-benefit
3. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/10/relaxation-response-proves-positive/
4. http://www.tedmed.com/talks/show?id=293015
5. Ken Wilbur, Carl Jung, Swami Vivekananda and Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur give descriptions of the spectrum of consciousness.
6. https://www.heartmath.org/research/; The Heart’s Code by Paul Pearsall, 1998, Penguin Random House, USA.

About the Author

Elizabeth Denley

Elizabeth Denley has been practising Heartfulness Yoga for 27 years, and a trainer for 25 years. She lives between Australia and India, and researches the writings of great yogis of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. She is the editor of Heartfulness Magazine.

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