What is Meditation
- The practice of meditation calms the mind, gives a sense of being grounded and centred and ultimately has the capacity to totally transform our state of mind.
- The word meditation comes from the Latin ‘meditatio‘ and the old French ‘meditacion‘ meaning thought, reflection, practice, study and contemplation upon a subject.
- Dhyana is the Sanskrit word for meditation, meaning ‘a refined meditative practice that requires deep mental concentration’. Dhyana, is derived from the root words dhi, meaning ‘receptacle’ or ‘mind’ and yana, meaning ‘moving’ or ‘going’.
- Jon Kabat-Zinn – medicine and meditation come from the same Indo-European root. Medicine – ‘restoration of right inward measure’
Meditation – ‘perception of right inward measure’.
Meditation Then and Now
- Widespread popularity of yoga has increased the popularity of meditation and Ayurveda. and studies have revealed the scientific basis of its health benefits
- Jon Kabat-Zinn – the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Hospital Pain Clinic which has influenced similar programmes across the US and Europe.
- Dr Herbert Benson – proving the benefits of the core meditation technique that he has popularised as ‘The Relaxation Response’.
- Dalai Lama – The Mind and Life Institute to study the role of meditation and contemplative practices in alleviating human suffering in modern life.
- Mindfulness meditation is emerging as a valuable and widely used practice by mental health professionals and is being introduced into the school curriculum in many areas of the world.
Mindfulness Meditation—A Foundational Practice
- The basic mindfulness practice teaches us to draw our attention to a point of focus internally (eg breath) or externally (eg flame).
- Meditation is about being with our present experience and observing what is happening.
- Attention to the breath
- Recognition that we have wandered
- Return our focus to the breath.
- As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says “Meditation may be thought of as a technique by which we diminish the force of old thought habits and develop new ones”.
Recognise What is in Your Mind
- When we first sit down to meditate, we need to recognise what is going on in our own mind.
- Normally we are completely unaware of long-established habits of being completely absorbed in our thoughts, and because we’re unaware we don’t notice that our mind goes wherever it is pulled and gets stuck and repetitive.
- Meditation helps us to recognise what is happening in our own minds so that we can have some choice about where we focus our attention and mental energy.
- Everyday activities (walking, eating, washing the dishes, playing a musical instrument or engaging in conversation) can become an opportunity for mindfulness.
- We can listen, be receptive and respond from a place of awareness rather than habit.
- Emotions and experiences that were previously overwhelming can become easier to handle.
- We witness the thoughts, emotions and sensations as they come and go. This mental process is the nature of manas and manas is under the constant influence of ahamkara (the ego).
- Who is the conscious observer who does not get enmeshed in the intensity of thoughts and emotions? This awareness is our true nature – buddhi.
- Ayurveda teaches us that ultimately we are not our mind, but a part of the universal mind of awareness.
- Meditation is a powerful medicine for healing the mind and heart and is essential on the path to moksha.
How do we Benefit from Meditation?
- Both Ayurveda and modern scientific research show us that meditation has a powerful and beneficial influence on the body and mind.
- A regular meditation practice can help clear mental and emotional ama (toxins), and can help prevent the further build-up of ama. Diseases caused by deep-seated ama, such as heart disease, hypertension and stroke, are found to significantly improve with the practice of meditation.
- When we feel anxious, fearful, upset or angry, a chain of physiological events is set into motion; our bodies flood with hormones and biochemicals from the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands, igniting the fight-or-flight response.
- Stress depletes our ojas (our vital energy and immunity) and meditation can increase ojas.
Meditation can Transform your Brain
- Studies show that meditation changes the brain (neuroplasticity) and promotes its capacity to generate new healthy brain cells (neurogenesis).
- Studies show that measurable benefits of meditation begin immediately and increase gradually over time.
- Participants meditating for as little as eight weeks experience decreased anxiety, greater feelings of calm, plus growth in the areas of the brain associated with memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress regulation.
Ayurveda and the Benefits of Meditation
- Digests and assimilates experience and memory
- Cultivates the inner source of happiness
- Dissolves the seeds of karma
- Cultivates effortless awareness
- Increases feelings of connection
- Engenders a sense of wholeness
- Draws the senses inward
- Cultivates sattva
- Balances sattva, rajas and tamas
- Secretes tarpaka kapha
- Diminishes the strength of ahamkara
Modern Science on the Benefits of Meditation
- Calms the mind and enhances self and body awareness
- Increases neuroplasticity and stimulates neurogenesis
- Cultivates emotional regulation and self-regulation
- Restores immunity
- Shrinks the parts of the brain associated with anxiety, panic and fear, and expands and strengthens the parts of the brain associated with mood regulation, calm, self-motivation and happiness.
- Meditation lessens symptoms of depression and anxiety, and increases release of neurotransmitters associated with happiness and well-being
- ‘Inner pharmacy’ of beneficial neurochemicals including serotonin (happy mood chemical that helps regulate mood and sleep); dopamine (regulator of pleasure, reward and focus); oxytocin (hormone of feeling calm, secure and loved); and endorphins (released during periods of exhilaration)
The Benefits of Meditation
- Lowers heart rate and decreases blood pressure
- Reduces secretion of stress hormones
- Improves air-flow through the lungs
- Increases brain wave coherence
- Decreases anxiety, depression and irritability
- Increases mental and emotional stability
- Decreases pain perception
That brings us to the end of Lesson 2. If you are happy to move on to the quiz then just click on the button below and you will be taken to the next page. However, if you’d like to revisit anything you can go back at any time. Next we move on to Lesson 3, The Five Elements.