Article by Andrew Tomkinson
“Select a clean spot, neither too high nor too low, and seat your- self firmly on a cloth, a deerskin, or kusha grass. Then, once seated, strive to still your thoughts. Make your mind one-pointed in meditation and your heart will be purified…………………………..”
These words originate from the Bhagavad Gita, one of the best known and most influential of the Hindu scriptures. This book provides an entire section on the practice of meditation which is central to the Hindu way of life. It is also an important part of other eastern religions, Buddhism and Zen but it also has its place in Christianity and Judaism. However meditation does not require adherence to any of the faiths and religions that advocate it.
The benefits to be gained from meditation are many. Those people who meditate regularly believe that it leads to a significant lowering of tension and negative emotions. At the same time meditation can increase efficiency at work and deepen the sense of inner calm.
This feeling of well-being will bring a number of physical benefits. Regular meditation will eliminate or reduce stress, ease migration and tension headaches, reduce blood pressure, benefit the the heart and reduce the pain of menstrual cramps.
What we seek to achieve through meditation is a state of passive alertness that transcends the day to day level of thought and distraction. This ‘higher level’ of consciousness can be achieved by every person and does not require a knowledge of religious or spiritual teaching. Meditation is a straightforward way of freeing the mind, forgetting about everyday stresses and focusing upon mental relaxation.
In its simplest form meditation is nothing more than allowing the mind to concentrate upon a simple repetitive sensation such as the running of a fountain or repeating a word over and over again. Any of these and more can be used as something onto which the mind concentrates so strongly that problems and anxieties disappear. When described in its more re fined an d mystical guise, it is a means to a state of self fulfilment, being completely at one with the universe.
Meditation is not a time consuming process nor is it a form of self-hypnosis. If done correctly it is a life saving experience during which any preconceived opinions and ideas fade, the intellect and senses are refined and the ability to concentrate is improved.
Meditation has existed for several thousands of years but it was only in the 1960’s that it became popular in western culture and today many thousands of people benefit greatly from its effects. Meditation slows down the heart rate and reduces oxygen and carbon dioxide production. It also raises levels of skin resistance to pain or to an electrical current, which tends to be lower when we are stressed and anxious. This indicates an increase of muscle relaxation and can be explained for phenomena such as lying on a bed of nails or walking through fire.
During meditation there is also a reduction of activity in the nervous system and an increase in blood circulation. This slows down the metabolism resulting in the body achieving a hypometabolic state. This is a different state than what the body experiences during sleep or while under hypnosis and is best described as deep and prolonged relaxation.
Meditation has also be shown to have a major effect on the way that the brain works. During meditation the brain produces a balanced pattern of both alpha and theta brave wave rhythms. This may indicate that while in a state of deep relaxation the brain is better able to find a balance between its logical and rational and creative and imaginative sides. This results in more healthier, productive and fulfilled individuals. If it is practised regularly meditation will help to fight depression, reduce hypertension, and relieve anxiety, migraine and psychosomatic illness. Concentration, memory and creativity are also improved through regular practice of meditation.
Regular practice of meditation is also of benefit to people who have difficulty in sleeping and suffer from low energy levels. The quality of sleep will improve when meditation is practised regularly and most meditators testify to feeling less tired during the day, needing less sleep at night and waking up feeling more refreshed.
When starting to meditate it is important to find a quiet, peaceful place and to use this place regularly. Soft background music, incense or low lights are helpful in creating a conducive atmosphere. There are two stages involved in the process of meditation. Firstly comes physical relaxation, where the focus of attention is on the body and tension build up is tackled and when the body is relaxed the clarifying and emptying of the mind can begin.
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