Meditation is the beginning of the path of self-
In today’s post, I am going to talk about meditation, what it is, its history, what it is for, the benefits, the science behind meditation and why you should incorporate it into your life.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
Meditation is a practice in which an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.
Dhyana or meditation is the 7th limb of Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali and is regarded as the gateway to achieving Samadhi (Liberation). Meditation can be defined as a continuous, uninterrupted flow of awareness towards a fixed point of focus.
Mindfulness has spread in the West since the late 19th century, accompanying increased travel and communication among cultures worldwide. Most prominent has been the transmission of Asian-derived practices to the West. New Age meditations are often influenced by Eastern philosophy, mysticism, yoga, Hinduism and Buddhism, yet may contain some degree of Western influence.
The goal of meditation is for reaching Samadhi (the liberation of the mind from all disturbing and distracting emotions, thoughts and desires), resting the mind so we can experience higher states of consciousness. So through meditation, you understand the deeper dimensions of yourself; the breath, body, and mind.
The US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that “Meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being.”
In today’s world, we are only concerned about our experiences in the outer world because the skills and education provided to us also teach us only how to function with the external world, but no one teaches us how to experience our inner dimensions. Without knowing what goes inside us and only focusing on the outside, we become ignorant and over-dependent on external sources for our happiness.
The emergence of the capacity for focused attention, an element of many methods of meditation, may have contributed to the latest phases of human biological evolution.
Research on the processes and effects of meditation is a subfield of neurological research. Modern scientific techniques, such as fMRI and EEG, were used to observe neurological responses during meditation.
Meditation lowers heart rate, oxygen consumption, breathing frequency, stress hormones, lactate levels, and sympathetic nervous system activity (associated with the fight-or-flight response), along with a modest decline in blood pressure.
Those who have meditated for two or three years were found to already have low blood pressure. During meditation, the oxygen consumption decrease averages 10 to 20 per cent over the first three minutes. During sleep, for example, oxygen consumption decreases by around 8 per cent over four or five hours. For meditators who have practised for years, breath rate can drop to three or four breaths per minute and brain waves slow from alpha waves seen in normal relaxation to much slower delta and theta waves.
Since the 1970s, clinical psychology and psychiatry have developed meditation techniques for numerous psychological conditions. Mindfulness practice is employed in psychology to alleviate mental and physical conditions, such as reducing depression, stress, and anxiety. Mindfulness is also used in the treatment of drug addiction, helping to reduce pain and improve controlling attention, and self-awareness. Meditation also improves positive prosocial emotions and behaviours
HOW TO PRACTICE?
It is advised to regularly practice Asana, and Pranayama along with a healthy diet and good sleep to maintain proper physical, mental and emotional health. One should maintain a cheerful attitude under all circumstances of life.
When the body becomes stable, it helps the mind become stable.
Time: The best time to practice meditation is Brahmamuhurta, the period of Brahma, which is an hour and a half before sunrise because the subconscious mind is active and unconscious experiences are more likely to manifest at this time of the day. Another auspicious time of meditation is Sandhya, the evening during the time of sunset when the day meets the night.
Food: Meditation should be done on an empty stomach. 2-3 hours post-meal. One should wait at least 15-20 minutes to eat or drink anything after practice.
Duration: The duration depends on the practitioner. For a beginner, it is advised to start slowing with 5-10 minutes
Sitting Position: Easy sitting position is the best but if you find it difficult you can sit on a chair or sit without crossing the legs, as long as your head, neck, and spine are erect. Otherwise, you can even lie down if you need more relaxation or feel discomfort while sitting.
Place of Practice: Choose a quiet, nice spot where the practice will be easy for you and try to meditate always in the same place
Physical Relaxation: It is very important to feel physically relaxed before you start your meditation. That is why you should do asanas to get rid of any physical, emotional, and mental tension
Mental Relaxation: After practising asanas, one should practice pranayama to bring physical as well as mental tranquillity, because by practising Pranayama, the flow of prana is channelised correctly in the body which further helps in calming the mind.
Vehicle for awareness: Your object of focus during meditation is your vehicle for awareness. So you can focus on any object of your liking, it can be any part of the body, any chakra centre, mantra, yantra, mandala, or even visualization of an object. Choose one that is easy for you.
I hope this short article has helped you understand meditation and why you should incorporate it into your life. It will help you achieve peace of mind, reducing stress and anxiety levels to others will keep your mind clear, so it will be easier for you to make decisions and be more decisive.
Meditation is the beginning of the path of self-knowledge.
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References: Vinyasa Yogashala School Rishikesh