|Advanced Health & Life Extension||
There comes a time when the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge but can never prove how it got there - Albert Einstein
The term "Meditation" is broadly described as a state of concentration on some object of thought or awareness. There are an endless number of religious and Spiritual practices that use this term. While the individual techniques and practices may vary, the function of all of them is to still the restless conscious mind and allow the individual to experience a connection with the unconscious or subconscious mind, and according to mystical traditions, a higher source or superconscious mind as well.
The really important thing about meditation is the "Intent" with which it is practiced. Intent is different than a goal or objective. Intent represents the deep inner motivation of the individual. Through the mental focus of meditation ones Intent is amplified and made reality.
Meditation has been accepted by the mainstream as a system of techniques for relaxation, stress management and performance enhancement. The connection to Spirituality is addressed by many religions and mystical traditions. While the techniques and religious dogmas vary greatly, an individual who transcends them will find that the inner connections are identical for everyone. Spirituality and religion are not the same thing. Religions are associated with defined belief systems or dogmas that may restrict what is acceptable or possible for followers of those systems. Spirituality is based on what is real and verifyed by ones direct personal experience and may not conform to some belief systems.
The Spiritual Aspect of Meditation
While it is beneficial to use meditation techniques for relaxation, stress reduction and performance enhancement, one should be aware of and cultivate the Spiritual aspects as well. Every religion has a mystical tradition within it. Regardless of your religion or philosophy, you can look beyond the dogma money and politics and find the works of mystics who have gone beyond it all.
Meditation is a Modality of Personal Change
It is also important to recognize that meditation is a modality of personal change. What kind of personal change is determined by the Intent of the practitioner. One can become a more self centered and selfish person or a more benevolent and Spiritual person depending on the basic Intent that the Individual possesses or chooses to cultivate. It is, therefore, imperative that the Intent be clear, unambiguous and of the very highest ideal. Meditation is not meant to be used as a way for individuals to escape their conflicts and issues.
Meditations and exercises in mental focus that are based on desire, will, and competition imply conflict and a struggle to win or acquire some thing or objective, often without regard to the cost to self, others or the environment. This conscious, deliberate striving is always within the limits of a limited mind, and in this there is no freedom. The fruits of meditation become bound and limited by the rules of limited thinking that the individual embraces. Confining one's self to the paradigms of conflict and struggle is to deny the greatest benefits of meditation.
Meditation is an Altered State of Consciousness
In traditional terms, meditation is the mechanism by which seers see, shamans access "non-ordinary" reality and mystics access the non-physical realms. In modern scientific terms, researchers are aware that the practice of meditation induces physiological changes in the human body and brain. In the brain, brain wave patterns shift. The entire brain tends to become synchronized and the dominant frequencies shift toward alpha rhythms and even theta or delta rhythms in very deep meditation.
Meditation Changes the Practitioner
Research has demonstrated that meditators experience a "relaxation response" that is associated with a number of mental and physical health benefits. A few of these include stress reduction, blood pressure reduction, healing of stress related disorders (which includes most illnesses and diseases) and healing of many mental health conditions. There are additional psychological and Spiritual changes that occur in accordance with the intent of the practitioner.
Meditation and Science
There has been a great deal of scientific study of meditation and the results obtained by practitioners. For several decades, researchers have studied the EEG's of meditators and developed biofeedback technology and autogenic training techniques that are based on this research. More recently, researchers at Harvard, Yale and MIT have documented evidence that meditation can alter the physical structure of the brain. Brain scans of experienced meditators showed increased thickness in those areas involved with attention and sensory processing. In other words, meditation causes the brains of mature adult meditators to actually grow.
In another study, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study the brain activity of experienced Buddhist monks who were engaged in compassion meditation. The researchers observed that activity in the left prefrontal cortex (the seat of positive emotions such as happiness) swamped activity in the right prefrontal (site of negative emotions and anxiety), something never before seen from purely mental activity.
In 1993, a research project was conducted in Washington D.C. to demonstrate the potential for reducing crime through the practice of meditation. Approximately 4000 practitioners of meditation came to Washington D.C. and practiced meditation for an 8 week period. The maximum decrease in violent crimes during this time was nearly 25%. The maximum reduction occurred when the maximum number of meditators were present. Note that the criminals were not practicing meditation and had no idea that it was happening.
Meditation and Healing
It has been pointed out that meditation aids in relaxation and stress reduction and has physiological benefits associated with these responses. What about the Spiritual aspect, what does that have to do with health and healing? Healing is associated with vital energy otherwise known as ki, chi and several other terms. Meditation is one method of cultivating and enhancing vital energy.
There are many techniques and methods in use. The mystique that one must find a teacher to do it properly is a myth. The truth is that the connection is within each individual. Rather than relying on a guru or teacher, one is better off learning to trust ones own inner guidance. There is, of course, many books, instruction materials, people and courses that one can learn from.
Consider the importance of personal Intent as noted above.
Links and References
(4) Hagelin, J. S., Orme-Johnson, D. W., Rainforth, M., Cavanaugh, K., & Alexander, C. N. (1999). Results of the National Demonstration Project to Reduce Violent Crime and Improve Governmental Effectiveness in Washington, D.C. Social Indicators Research, 47, 153-201.
(5) Article from Harvard University By William J. Cromie, Meditation found to increase brain size, www.physorg.com/news10312.html
(6) Article by Sharon Begley, Science Journal, Scan of Monks' Brains Show meditation Alters Structure, Functioning, Nov. 5, 2004, http://psyphz.psych.wisc.edu/web/News/Meditation_Alters_Brain_WSJ_11-04.htm