The Essence of Meditation For a Better Well-Being
The word 'meditation' is derived from the Latin words 'meditari' meaning to think and 'mederi' meaning to heal. It is not a physical process, but a way of life that means 'a cessation of the thought process.' It is a state of thoughtless awareness and an approach to train the mind in which the excessive stress producing activity of the mind is neutralized without reducing alertness and effectiveness that allows the mind and muscles to gently relax.
"When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a candle in a windless place." – Bhagavad Gita
Meditation is that state of mind that gives profound and deep peace when the mind is free from any agitation, and is calm and serene, yet completely alert. It gives us deep rest which is deeper than the deepest sleep one can ever have that enables us to make better choices by allowing the mind to think more clearly. It is an approach to attain a state of consciousness when the mind is free of scattered thoughts to reduce the activity of the mind to one. Its practice helps people to achieve balance both mentally and physically as well as emotionally. The great Indian sage Patanjali considered meditation as self-realization and he himself experienced an absolute awareness of his self through meditation.
Let us consider an example. If we light a lamp in a dark room and remove everything surrounding it, the light liberated from the lamp still remains. In the same way, if we remove every thoughts and imagination from our consciousness, what remains is only consciousness. This pure state of consciousness having no other disturbances is meditation.
In today's world, the complex lifestyle demands the need for meditation. It is an essential practice for mental hygiene that leads to liberation of the energy of mind and expanding the quality of consciousness. It usually leads to an inner transformation of the mind that takes up to a higher level of awareness developing the ability to connect to an inner source of energy that results to good concentration, clarity of perception and an unshakeable inner strength.
Origin of Meditation:
The origin of meditation dates all its way back to ancient times and has been a part of human life since the very beginning of the human existence. The history of meditation speaks of such practices in India dating back to nearly 5000 years where it originated and evolved over thousands of years to its present structured form. The Hindu rishis (saints) who lived in the Himalayas are said to have discovered the practice of meditation and considered it as a spiritual practice and the knowledge was later passed from generation to generation, setting the groundwork for the history of meditation.
The earliest records of evidence of meditation is found in the Hindu scriptures in written form that date back to several thousands of years where the methodologies of meditation are described. The different religions later adopted their own meditative practices and meditation evolved in their cultures and societies in the way as it was preached.
Later meditation was spread wide across the globe by Gautama Buddha who is considered as a major meditation icon that changed the historical trajectory of meditation. Initially it was adopted by the various Asian countries and later spread to the Western society thousands of years later and started to gain popularity in the mid twentieth century. Many researchers had carried out extensive research in the area to test the benefits of meditation and learned about the multitude of the benefits.
Principles of Meditation:
Meditation which is a necessity for the present generation is based on some key principles which are as follows:
- Detachment: To make the mind free of any scattered thoughts.
- Concentration: To make the mind, soul and body to concentrate at a point.
- Inspiration: To inspire oneself about the benefits of meditation.
- Conviction: To assure about reaching the final state by own.
- Imagination: To develop imaginative powers.
- Visualization: To visualize any thought in the mind.
- Realization: To realize the inner soul.
Mind and Performance:
As described earlier, meditation improves focus and attention for a healthy physical and mental well-being. There is also improvement in cognitive ability even among people with old age. There is evidence that meditation helps to thicken prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula which allows the brain to process information faster. Meditators often have larger amounts of gyrification that makes the brain better at processing information and improving attention.
In a study conducted by the University of California on patients having a past history of depression concluded that 'meditation decreases ruminative thinking and dysfunctional beliefs.' There is significant decrease in depression symptoms to a similar degree as antidepressant drug therapy.
A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin concludes that “open monitoring meditation” that involves non-reactively monitoring the content of experience as a means to recognize the nature of cognitive patterns indeed increases the grey matter density at the areas of the brain related to learning and memory. Other studies concluded that long-term meditators shows a larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of grey matter.
A research conducted by the University of Kentucky concluded from their observations on some participants that included novice as well as experienced meditators that meditation can indeed be associated with decrease in total sleep time through acute improvement of psychomotor vigilance.
Thus meditation can be considered to be helpful for various mental diseases thus increasing the overall performance of our brain and increasing focus on repetitive and even boring tasks.
Health Benefits of Meditation:
The well-being of a person depends mainly on the physical and mental health of that person. According to WHO, around 90 percent of diseases depends on our mind due to the various factors including tension, hypertension, frustration etc. So if we limit our thoughts, we can get rid of various diseases and this is possible only through meditation whose health benefits are manifold.
We can never see our mind, but rather we can feel our mind and its activeness. Even if meditation is related to spirituality, it is not bounded only by the limits of religions. It is the way of maintaining synchronous balance among the mind and the body for a better mental well-being of a person by utilizing only a few minutes a day. Through meditation, the physiology of the body undergoes a change and every cell in the body is filled with more prana(energy).
Meditation is like a bud which blossoms more when cultivated with love. It is like diving deep into the mind to bring about its enrichment and helps in creative thinking.
- Reduces heart rate and lowers high blood pressure.
- The slow rate of breathing during meditation purifies the lungs.
- Regular practice helps to maintain normal body temperature.
- Reduces blood sugar level and helps in treatment of diabetes.
- Lowers the symptoms of menopause and pre-menstrual syndrome.
- Reduces the tendency of myocardial infarction.
- Lowers the levels of blood lactate thus reducing anxiety attacks.
- Improves mood and behavior by increasing serotonin production.
- Improves the immune system.
- The brainwave patterns are brought into an Alpha state that promotes healing.
- Reduces anxiety and makes the mind fresh.
- Improvement in emotional stability and intuition.
- Increases creativity and gain peace of mind.
- Sharpens the mind and reduces anger and frustration.
- Helps to bring emotional steadiness and harmony.
- Brings about personal transformation.