The Science behind Meditation

Meditation has surged in popularity in recent years and is now championed by therapists, scientists, celebrities and high -performing athletes. As the practice becomes more widely acknowledged as an indispensible tool for life improvement, it can be helpful to understand scientifically why it actually works! Cultivating a better understanding of meditation will enhance our experience and better equip us to communicate the benefits of the practice to others.

 

                                                                                       

 

Inspired by leading scientists and latest research in the field, below is a compiled summary of the cutting-edge science behind meditation:

Physical Health:

  • Science has proven that your mind can heal your body. Because all health conditions have some stress component, it is no overstatement to say that virtually every single health problem and disease can be improved with a mind-body approach – Relaxation Revolution’ by Herbert Benson and William Proctor.
  • Meditators experience a 30% decrease in death due to cardiovascular problems and a significant decrease in cancer mortality. Meditation increases levels of antibodies to the flu vaccine, and the practice was also found to decrease the severity and length of colds –  Mark Williams and Danny Penman, National Institute of Health.

  ‘It’s not about just distracting us from pain and stress;

it literally changes us at the genetic level.’

 

  • Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that the state of calm produced by meditation, yoga and breathing exercises – actually switches on genes that are related to augmenting our immune system, reducing inflammation and fighting a range of conditions from arthritis to high blood pressure to diabetes.
  • At Wake Forest University, researchers found that meditation lowers pain intensity.

          So with all of these results, it’s no surprise that meditation correlates to reduced yearly medical costs.

 

Physical changes the brain:

  • One study found that meditation can actually increase the thickness of the prefrontal cortex region of the brain and slow the thinning that occurs there as we age, impacting cognitive functions such as sensory and emotional processing.
  • A well as improving your ability to concentrate and decision making,  growing number of studies has shown that, given its effects on the self-control regions of the brain, meditation can be very effective in helping people recover from addictions.
  • When practicing Kundalini Yoga and meditation, your glandular and nervous systems are stimulated, and your capacity for creative potential is heightened. You gain inner vitality to compensate for the adverse effects of stress so you can excel in life.
  • Research by at the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine in 2010 compared brain function in long-term meditators and non-meditators using SPECT imaging. Twelve long-term meditators who participated had more than fifteen years of practice and meditated for 30-60 minutes daily. In experiments where participants meditated in the scanner itself, researchers found that experienced meditators had significantly higher CBF (Cerebral Blood Flow) levels in the prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex and caudate. The frontal lobe in particular is associated with the ability to self-regulate and underlies attention and sustained concentration. These differences in brain function are congruent with the well-documented phenomenon that long-term meditators can better self-regulate, focus and sustain their awareness.

 

‘The many benefits of meditation, in other words,

are thoroughly backed by science

and can be seen plain as day on a brain scan’

 

                                                                                       

 

Psychological conditions:

  • Researchers at UCLA found that mindfulness and meditation helped lower feelings of loneliness in elderly, reduced levels of post-traumatic stress disorder among military veterans and reduced depression among teens. And it’s not just about reducing negative emotions; it’s also about boosting positive ones such as love, joy, gratitude and amusement.
  • Another study led by University of North Carolina found that meditation induced increases in a variety of personal resources, including mindful attention, self acceptance and positive relations with others.

 

No longer is meditation seen as some sort of new age escape from the world. It’s increasingly seen for what it is: a practice that helps us be in the world in a way that is more engaged, healthier and less stressful. If you are interested in finding out more about meditation, feel free to explore my previous articles, ‘How to Meditate’ or ‘When to meditate‘.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your practice,

Amrit

 

References 

  • ”Long-term effects of stress reduction on mortality in persons > or = 55 years of Age with Systemic Hypertension,” American Journal of Cardiology 95 (2005): 1060 – 64.
  • Mindfulness”, 51 Williams and Penman.
  • ”Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation,” Psychosomatic medicine: journal of behavioural medicine 65 (2003): 564 – 70.
  • ”Meditation or excercise for preventing acute respiratory infection: A randomized trial,” Annals of family medicine 10 (2012); 337 – 46.
  • ”Brain mechanisms supporting the modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation,” The journal of neuroscience 31 (2011): 5540 – 48.
  • Relaxation responses induces temporal transcriptome changes in energy metabolism, insulin secretion and inflammatory pathways,” PLoS ONE 8 (2013): e62817.
  • ”Changes in physician costs among high-cost transcendental meditation practitioners compared with high-cost nonpracticitioners over 5 years,”. American journal of health promotion 26 (2011); 56 – 60
  • ”Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness,” Neuro- report 16 (2005): 1893 – 97.
  • ”Yoga Research,” Kundalini research institute (2018): https://kundaliniresearchinstitute.org/?page_id=602
  • ”The Neuroimaging of Long-term Changes in Brain Function with Yoga and Meditation,” https://kundaliniresearchinstitute.org/?page_id=710

If you don’t go within you go without

It has been said that It doesn’t matter what your external life is like if you don’t have access to the soul you are poor

The teachings encourage us to; turn our attention inward by closing down the nine holes (sensory orifices) so that our inner light can shine. Our self-illumination can then shine a light for others.

Meditation is very helpful for this.

Keeping the body as healthy as possible for as long as possible means that it’s aches and pains don’t become a burden that distract us from achieving our destiny. Yoga is very helpful for this.

It is essential that we direct the mind by tuning into the destiny of our soul. Chanting is very helpful for this.

Kundalini Yoga brings together yoga, meditation and chanting. Add to this healthy eating, herbal medicine, and interventions such as acupuncture and we have a formidable package for total health and healing.

How To Meditate (5)

HOW to Meditate (last in this series).

 

So we have seen that meditation is a cleansing of the subconscious. A way of observing the social and intellectual programming you have received. Seeing how the inner most complexity of your feelings project out into your life. A way to eliminate negative self-talk, boredom, frustration etc.

 

Meditation in life not then becomes not a question of what you are doing but how are you doing it. It relates to focus & intention. Equally when we go to meditate we go through a process to bring us present;

 

Preparation of our environment; are we sitting comfortably

tuning in, doing a few warm ups if we are not doing a full kriya.

Straightening and scanning the posture and maintaining our alignment during the meditation. Slowing the breath.

 

How long should we meditate for, 3, 11, 31, 62 mins, up to 2 ½ hrs

40, 90, 120, 1000 days

What is the difference in these times;

 

3 mins = blood and circulation stabilized, electromagnetic field changes (it only takes 3 mins to get x rated thoughts (YB)

11 mins = pituitary starts to secrete, adjustment of glands and nerves. You can direct your mind.

22 mins = Negative, positive and neutral minds balance and they begin to work together.

31 mins = Allows the glands, breath, and concentration to affect all the cells of the body. It lets the psyche of the meditation affect the three gunas and all 5 tattvas   Affects whole brain and aura.

62 mins = changes the grey matter in the brain.  The subconscious (shadow mind) and positive outer projection are integrated (6 + 2 = 8 – cycle of 8 relates to Pranic body)

2 and a half hrs = changes the psyche in it’s co-relation with the surrounding magnetic field so that the subconscious mind is held firmly in the new pattern by the surrounding universal mind.  Change in subconscious mind stays throughout the day. Complete cycle of prana and apana.

 

40 days = change a habit, 90 days = confirm/establish habit, 120 days = integrate habit/you become it, 1000 days = mastery of habit/state.

 

As to the meditations given by the Mahan Tantric, Yogi Bhajan there are too many to go through here but it is important to remember though that our practice is enhanced many times over by being in sangat (when there is a group of us). As individuals we go through the group to access the universal.

 

When To Meditate (4)

4 WHEN to meditate (and WHO is meditating)

“You are the creative source and nucleus of the whole vibratory pattern in which you liveYB (TT Manual p28)

 

It maybe clear by now Who is the meditator is the you that is meditating to get to your real identity. To eliminate, to witness, to be present takes quite some processing, whether or not we are in meditation that’s why the teachings encourage us to always keep a mantra on our breath. The sound current is the integrator, the stabilising force, the one to quieten down the fearful voices in our heads. Use bij (seed mantras) especially sa ta na ma, (infinite, life, death, rebirth – we don’t get stuck, we can keep flowing through) and sat nam

 

Actually God in you is always in meditation, but often in sleep mode – not conscious.

 

WHEN

 

“When you prefer the word of truth to your own intellect” (YB)

 

When mind ends (true) meditation begins

When I am real, this is meditation. It is awareness itself. Nothing has to be achieved. It is not doing. A remembrance (not learning).  A platform to break through to new understandings and insights. There are 3 types of knowledge – the known, the unknown but knowable and the unknowable. Med works on the unknown but knowable – the intuitive self.

Stopping the Mind; 9 things to stop; thinking, reasoning, logic, argument, fantasies, planning, scheming, knowing, worrying. Mind needs to be directed, soul just needs to be uncovered. Stay in touch with the soul to give the mind mental infinity, through the will to be infinite.

 

During the day

 

Before and after sunrise (after sunrise the mind is less controllable as the energy of the sun is more scattered. The angle of the sun at 60 degrees is ideal) Metabolism is slower (body temp is coolest at 4 am), atmosphere is cooler, therefore less heat and less agitation in the body and mind. The collective ego mind of the world is mostly asleep so there is less psychic interference.

 

Twilight times (how you face death)  Read Rehras (evening prayer of Sikhs found in Nitnem)

Before eating – relax and prepare to digest your food – Bhoj Kriya by Yogi Bhajan (a most amazing meditating to practice when your eating)

Before sleeping – drop everything

Anytime – in action, breath by breath, step by step. Kundalini Yoga is the science of perpetual consciousness.

 

We could therefore say all the time.

What Is Happening During Meditation (3)

What’s happening during meditation

“Don’t try to solve your problems – take them to the highest part in you and drop them”.

With the world and with others give your strength. All your pain and nonsense give to god.”(Yogi Bhajan)

 How is the progression described – Upper Four Stages of Patanjali

 

5th limb -Pratyahara: stop, remember & synchronise, gather in (withdrawl of senses which paradoxically makes our senses more alive)

6th -Dharana: focus on the object of your contemplation

7th -Dhayana: contemplate – energetic flow, entanglement with

8th -Samadhi: at one with…..

What do we experience and what does it mean

1st  – Thoughts emotions arise and distract you.

Cleaning out stage. (look at thoughts rather than think about. You cannot think about and witness simultaneously). 2nd  – Darkness / Chaos – as all sorts of fears, attachments, distractions & confusions. Peeling off the layers, the masks then we… touch a deeper place in ourselves beyond the fears. This is when we start to access the Universal Mind  and find an inner silence.

3rd  – Emptiness that is full / Light in darkness / merging / inner sound

 

Many of our thoughts create subtle clouds – a mist, and clarity is lost.  During meditation there is no stickiness of the thoughts to the mind. Thoughts / images / impressions can come and go without latching onto them.

 

By stopping time and mind (both horizontal). You gain more height and more depth. A vertical axis. Altitude and attitude takes you beyond longitude and latitude (time and space). A+A brings an instant awareness of what’s possible with the reality of what’s going on.

 

Meditation starts to give you gaps between your thoughts and you start to live in the gaps. Mental activity creates a lot of dust. Hence by stopping all activity you can settle. When thoughts stop you realize that the body and you are separate – because thoughts are the bridge. Through thoughts you are joined with the body. When the link disappears there is an infinite gap between the two. Then you know that the body will die but you cannot, nobody can destroy you, at your most fundamental level you are indestructible.

 

Your soul is beyond time and space and since you are a spiritual being you realize that you are timeless and formless.

 

What is Meditation (2)

What is Meditation, what is happening when we meditate?

I would like to share this part in 2 stages. This first part is an introduction to the soul nature and the relationship between mind and soul. In the second part I would like to talk more about the actually process; what is happening when we meditate.

Meditation is seen as illogical and irrational to many. To discuss it’s value we have to establish a founding principle, once and for all (though we will need frequent reminding). ‘WE ARE SPIRITUAL BEINGS HAVING A HUMAN EXPERIENCE’ In this we are all equal (I hear comments like this person or that person is ‘not very spiritual’ which has no meaning).

Our soul is the bedrock of our existence, the atma, the god in us. Our essential nature. And if we assume we are not often touching base, meditation is an invitation to do just that. It’s a very effective way to recycle our constructed self. Take the hidden treasures that lie there waiting for us and line up our projection of who we think we are with who we actually are.

The Mind and Soul need to speak to each other to ‘Bring your projection to be concurrent with your soul’s latent potentiality’ (Shiv Charan Singh).

The first level of healing is healing the split between mind and soul. It is the ability we have to plug our mind into the universal mind, to become one with it. That is what God is waiting for us to do. Your pleasure is his. Why? Because that which is all there is (GOD or whatever you would like to call it) cannot know it’s magnificence except conceptually because it is one. So it dived itself so it could know that which it is not experientially. That’s what we’re doing – finding out who we’re not so that we can declare who we are, which in terms of the mantra given by Yogi Bhajan is ‘God and Me, Me and God are one’.

You cannot create yourself until you uncreate yourself. Essentially we have forgotten ourselves as children of God made in his image. This forgetfulness means that in ,most cases we have to travel back through the shadow that we constructed in the first 5 years of life and kill and bury the ‘hidden self’ – the angry rage of the infant, the infantile needs that can never be met.

When we incarnate we relinquish our remembrance of ourselves. Then we can choose to be who we really are rather than just wake up in paradise! Actually as we’ve just discovered you cannot choose not to be the pure loving nature that you are, but you can forget. The ego mind has led and leads you to forget. That’s why we need to establish a relationship, to put the deeper mind in touch with our soul. This requires that the ocean of the subconscious be cleaned out. That’s where all the (imagined) hurt and pain is stored.

So re-member who you are and remind others who they are. That’s your sole purpose. That is the whole thing!

Every soul is a master though some don’t remember their origins or heritage. Yet we each create the situation and circumstances of our own highest purpose and our own quickest remembering. So don’t envy success or pity failure because you don’t know what success or failure is in the soul’s reckoning.

Your soul doesn’t care what you do for a living and by the time of your death neither will you. Your soul cares about what you’re being while you’re doing whatever you’re doing.

Your soul is the sum total of every feeling you’ve ever had. For the soul to experience perfect love it must experience every human feeling. Love is not the absence of an emotion – hatred, anger, lust, jealousy it’s the summation of all feeling.

Everything is felt in your heart but there are two aspects to the heart – the muscular, pulsing part, and the inner sanctum of the heart. This is the place you go to when you feel your unity and it is mirrored in your outer world back to you. There are no images here and no words to describe it. This is the Samadhi or bliss referred to by Patanjali as the pinnacle of yoga.

 

Meditation (1) – Why Meditate

Meditation Series – (1) Why Meditate

 

I would like to share some thoughts about meditation. We will take it in stages. Firstly WHY Meditate (today), then WHAT is meditation, what is it’s essential nature, WHEN to meditate and then HOW to meditate. WHO is the meditator is also an interesting question which we can weave into our discussion.

Please read this information slowly, let it sink in, if you don’t have time now wait till you do. The reason I ask this is if you are not practising meditation regularly it’s because you don’t see it’s value and so WHY is a vital question.

So WHY. First we need to appreciate that meditation is difficult because turning away from the world is difficult. However it is needed now more than ever because life is moving and changing faster and faster.
It was more static before and this gave more empty space, which helped with sanity.
What used to be six weeks worth of stimulation and information we are getting in a single day.This means there is about forty times the pressure to learn and adapt. Increased pressure leads to two things either neurosis and mental health issues or transformation.

The essential problem is we don’t feel peaceful because we don’t feel grounded and we don’t feel grounded because there is no link to our soul nature. “”No matter what we achieve, our successes are hollow unless we fulfill the soul’s yearning to bring higher consciousness into our daily lives.” (Yogi Bhajan)

We feel depressed, a sense of separation that there is something essential missing. Since our soul is our essential nature and we do not allow the time for the soul to speak to the mind to heal this split in us, we’re right to feel this way.

When we don’t feel happy we start to live a compensatory life and this leads to confusion, fear, doubt and paralysis. Yogi Bhajan termed this ‘cold depression’; if you look into may peoples eye’s it can seem like no-one’s at home, you can’t feel the person’s presence, they are literally not present.

Most of our problems are self imposed; ill conceived beliefs, poor habits and unconscious living. We become aware of our neuroses through meditation. There is a chaos inside which we have created and we have to move through it. These problems originate because of how we use the mind. Your mind is not you. Your mind is you’re past constantly trying to control your present and future. Therefore nothing new can come, only repeating patterns that give the illusion of safety, which means we accept the predictability of the past. This is called living by fate. We react, rather than have the presence of mind to respond. Re-action just means to go over again in the same way. Meditation is to know through experience there is a world of your mind and a world of you.

The Mind is supposed to be our servant not our master, it needs to be trained, cleansed (so that it doesn’t dump into the subconscious) and it needs to be conquered, not just silenced.

Nature of the Mind

We are very advanced in terms of what we can do, of how we can manipulate our world but the mind is not developed/honed/polished; not usually realizing the light which illuminates itself (be transparent not opaque). The mind is usually representative of our self-image. The ego id, creating it’s own projections (based on family, cultural, societal conditioning). Hu = light Mana = mind; So human means enlightened mind. A transparent mind is one that is illuminated by the teachings (not it’s own agenda). It is sacred teachings that give us the right perspective, right understanding, right proportion, right seeing and right value.

The mind is part of the collective unconscious, the universal mind. This is what yoga means, the ability to tap our finite self, our (relatively!) small mind into the universal mind. Yogi Bhajan talks about the need to give the mind an infinite horizon.

The mind is mostly automatic, fast and beyond the restrictions of time and space, it supports your actions with many more thoughts than you could ever act on. ‘The result is that it is not you who thinks. Your mind thinks, not you. It floods you with thoughts, both wanted and unwanted, intended and unintended. Not all thoughts support the you which is you’.

‘The mind has no fundamental reality on its own. It requires your direction. In order to act and create you must use the mind, but the mind can also use you. It can convince you of something, encourage you, then abandon you when it is wrong.’

The mind is full of intrigues. For example; hoping, justifying, concluding, seeking and avoiding attention, proving, arguing a point, blaming and shaming, ourselves and others, identifying causes, revenging, looking for ways out, excusing, compensating, seeking criteria for success or failure, punishment or reward, clever questions and answers that go nowhere. None of these are to be considered good or bad. It’s just to make the games we play transparent by becoming an observer of the mind. ‘Either your mind is under you, or you are under your mind.’

The mind is constantly in motion producing thoughts at a very rapid rate. We start with a thought and then we have a thought about the thought. This double thought produces a feeling. Then we have a thought about the feeling, this produces an emotion, that is, we have started to invest energy in the feeling. This is about the descent of the idea into the body. The pineal gland which is also linked to the the 7th chakra and the 6th chakra is linked to our visualization, fantasy and projection. It is producing a kind of mind-babble [1000 thoughts per second]. Then we give some thoughts weight; we catch the thought, we start breathing it. This means we feel it. In meditation we are trying to reverse this so that we can get back to where the thought originates from.

Then we can get to the root of what is driving our desires. This awareness make us (temporarily, at least) greater than our desires and that awareness in itself is more pleasurable than the fulfilment of any desire.

By turning our attention inwards we notice the patterns of motivation and assumption that drive our desires, the paradox is that it is “through the spontaneous restraining action of deeper awareness there arises a pleasure greater than any that desire could offer”

When you are not hankering after anything you learn to relax because there is nothing to be tense about.

The small things of life start having new meaning, new significance. Then nothing (all) is (in) small

Yogi Ji said of this devotion “there is no sadness, no sacrifice which is not easily done. It is a kind of bewitchment of mind in which man is totally possessed, he’s happy with what he’s doing, his world is his own, his game is his own, his destination is his own and he shall make it”

 

We have 3 Minds

The 3 Minds

We are told that we have one body and one mind but actually we are ten in one; Soul, negative Mind, positive mind, neutral mind, physical body, arc line, aura, pranic body, subtle body and radiant body. I would like to give a brief introduction to our three minds.

The Negative Mind

The sub tractor. Negative – the place the mind goes to first, the quickest, objective is to protect, looks for what might cause us harm. Essential for spiritual development since it is the choice to negate what is not ultimately satisfying. It is an instrument to negate the unreal, our discriminating wisdom. It is the emptiness of the soul, our longing to go home. It is a deep instinctual need, a hunger. Something we call bad – misinterpreted as depression, the cause of addiction and co-dependency. It is not an emotional feeling and is therefore not for filled by temporary relationships; others can only be a mirror to our own depth of longing – not a resolution. It is the reason we are driven to seek unity through another. It is our store of vital energy. The depth of it makes it more subconscious. It absorbs and stores our patterns and blocks.

99% of our activities are to get rid of the negative mind. Yet it is our mental strength. By virtue of it we can then ask, ‘so what is the positive’. This is the same as saying eliminate to illuminate. By finding out what doesn’t work we can affirm what does.

Like an ocean it absorbs unfulfilled dreams and records of life. It becomes a mess to be cleansed by meditation and mantra. Otherwise when overloaded it becomes physical or mental impotency and obscures any sensitivity to being a spiritual being as it blocks energy flowing through the astral plane. In itself it is empty, it films everything about you, it records and holds the memory like water. Our patterns and blocks are put there by the positive mind which can double and triple your negative mind.

Positive Mind.

Involved in addition. Should be just a thin film of water at the surface. The + mind does not touch the depths of the subconscious. It’s job is to stay afloat above the – mind. It’s a problem solver, helping us to feel useful and allowing us to simply add the smile. Ultimately when the subconscious is cleared and kept clear we can be happy without reason.

Neutral Mind

Gives the soul the capacity to fully experience the emotional commotion of social living whilst maintaining non-attached awareness as more than (you stay in the boat whilst dropping a line). Helps you to make positive mind thinner because whatever cleaning out you’ve done is maintained. Ultimately it gives you freedom from the subconscious mind, which is freedom from our history in making us feel small/limited. You are not moved by the – or + thoughts and emotions but conclude a strategy. The weakness here is that the capacity to see all sides of an argument can lead to procrastination and indecisiveness. Following through is essential for meeting your destiny. Intuition, sensitivity and receptivity are needed. The mind is now in service of the soul. You become more transparent to yourself and others. Since whatever from the past that was holding us back from is cleared we are present to the full context of time and space and can sense the appropriateness of any action. This is the possibility of concious choice in relation to the world. Otherwise we are inclined to repeat patterns that limit us.