A human being bears both the treasure and the burden of being conscious of one’s existence. Self-consciousness is a treasure because it brings with it all the possibilities of human experience: self-expansion through love, work, art, social adventure, philosophy, and various other cultural activities. But it is also a burden because the human being is deeply aware of change, decay and death. One is ever haunted by the knowledge that all things must pass, that any thing or condition can change at any time that one’s life is in fact permeated by impermanence. However much one may attempt to turn away from this awareness, it remains an ever-present interior dynamism that drives one to live. When traditional practitioners of the ancient eastern religion of Zen Buddhism want to achieve grater spiritual insight, they turn to a technique is called “meditation”.
Now a days more and more doctors are prescribing meditation as a way to lower blood pressure, improve exercise performance in people with angina, help people with asthma breathe easier, relieve insomnia and generally relax the everyday stresses of life. Meditation is a safe and Simple way to balance a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states. It is simple; but can benefit everybody.
The use of Meditation for healing is not new. Meditative techniques are the product of diverse cultures and peoples around the world. It has been rooted in the traditions of the world’s great religions. In fact, practically all religious groups practice meditation in one form or another.
A review of scientific studies identified relaxation, concentration, an altered state of awareness, a suspension of logical thought and the maintenance of a self-observing attitude as the behavioral components of meditation; it is accompanied by a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body that alter metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain chemistry. Meditation has been used in clinical settings as a method of stress and pain reduction. Meditation has also been studied specifically for its effects on stress.
All the meditation techniques can be grouped into two basic approaches:
- Concentrative meditation
- Mindfulness meditation
focuses the attention on the breath, an image, or a sound (mantra), in order to still the mind and allow a greater awareness and clarity to emerge. This is like a zoom lens in a camera; we narrow our focus to a selected field.
The simplest form of concentrative meditation is to sit quietly and focus the attention on the breath. Meditation practitioners believe that there is a direct correlation between one’s breath and one’s state of the mind. For example, when a person is anxious, frightened, agitated, or distracted, the breath will tend to be shallow, rapid, and uneven. On the other hand, when the mind is calm, focused, and composed, the breath will tend to be slow, deep, and regular. Focusing the mind on the continuous rhythm of inhalation and exhalation provides a natural object of meditation. As you focus your awareness on the breath, your mind becomes absorbed in the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation. As a result, your breathing will become slower and deeper, and the mind becomes more tranquil and aware.
according to Dr. Borysenko, “involves opening the attention to become aware of the continuously passing parade of sensations and feelings, images, thoughts, sounds, smells, and so forth without becoming involved in thinking about them.
The person sits quietly and simply witnesses whatever goes through the mind, not reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories, worries, or images. This helps to gain a more calm, clear, and non-reactive state of mind. Mindfulness meditation can be likened to a wide-angle lens. Instead of narrowing your sight to a selected field as in concentrative meditation, here you will be aware of the entire field.
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. Studies show that after TM, reactions are faster, creativity greater, and comprehension broader.
A laboratory study of practitioners of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s 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.
Some of the meditators, whose ages ranged from seventeen to forty-one, had been meditating only a few weeks, others for several years. All recorded changes associated with deep relaxation.
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; below that experienced even in deep sleep. Meditators took on 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 anxiety and tension states 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 during. 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.
“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,” 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 body’s own inner wisdom to be heard.”
Healing Power of Meditation
Research has shown that Meditation can contribute to an individual’s psychological and physiological well-being. This is accomplished as Meditation brings the brainwave pattern into an alpha state, which is a level of consciousness that promotes the healing state.
- Deep rest-as measured by decreased metabolic rate, lower heart rate, and reduced work load of the heart.
- Lowered levels of cortisol and lactate-two chemicals associated with stress.
- Decreased high blood pressure.
- Low skin resistance is correlated with higher stress and anxiety levels.
- Drop in cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is associated with cardiovascular disease.
- Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier breathing. This has been very helpful to asthma patients.
- Increased brain wave coherence. Harmony of brain wave activity in different parts of the brain is associated with greater creativity, improved moral reasoning, and higher IQ.
- Decreased anxiety.
- Decreased depression.
- Decreased irritability and moodiness.
- Improved learning ability and memory.
- Increased self-actualization.
- Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation.
- Increased happiness.
- Increased emotional stability
Meditation is a multidimensional phenomenon that may be useful in a variety of ways. First, meditation is associated with states of physiological relaxation that can be utilized to alleviate stress, anxiety, and other physical symptoms. Secondly, meditation brings about cognitive shifts that can be applied to behavioral self-observation and management, and to understanding limiting or self-destructive cognitive patterns.
Meditation may also permit deepened access to the unconscious. Meditation techniques help us to focus attention on the manner in which unconscious conflicts are being processed and recreated in the mind on a moment-to-moment basis. Thus, it offers the possibility of not just understanding such conflicts conceptually, but of actually penetrating and gradually dismantling them through meditative insight.
Our discussion has suggested that meditation may offer the possibility of development beyond what most therapy can offer, but proceeds more effectively when certain egoic issues such as self-esteem, livelihood, and intimacy and sexuality have been at least to some extent resolved. Meditation may be a more effective means of developing ego strength and exploring unconscious conflicts, relationships issues, and so forth, especially when a preoccupation with these concerns is a cause of sufficient anxiety.
I believe that meditation can make a significant contribution to the deep transformation of personality sought. Meditation may promote transformative insight into maladaptive patterns of mental and emotional activities induce more self-reliance. Meditation can in some cases be useful in promoting social adjustment, behavioral change, ego development, and so forth by generating a mindfulness and inner peace that leads to greater efficiency in work, openness to feelings, and satisfaction in daily life. Moreover, meditation can enable the person to view emotions with dispassion, acceptance, and loving kindness, to transmute neurosis into a spiritual path, and to taste an inner freedom “beyond any identity structure”. I think that the use of meditation mainly makes sense that deliberately understands itself as contemplative or transpersonal; for meditation’s ultimate goal is to evoke the higher potentials of consciousness, and experiences of spaciousness beyond the cognitive structures and constructs of the self.
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- Perez-De-Albeniz, Alberto & Holmes, Jeremy (2000) Meditation: Concepts, Effects and Uses in Therapy. International Journal of Psychotherapy, March 2000, Vol. 5 Issue 1
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