Although there’s a paucity of recorded history on meditation, its roots travel back to Vedic Hinduism ancient times. Researchers speculate that primitive hunter-gatherer societies may have discovered meditation and its altered states of consciousness while staring at the flames of their fires
Although there’s a paucity of recorded history on meditation, its roots travel back to Vedic Hinduism ancient times. Researchers speculate that primitive hunter-gatherer societies may have discovered meditation and its altered states of consciousness while staring at the flames of their fires. Over thousands of years, meditation evolved into a structured practice. Indian scriptures called “tantras” mentioned meditation techniques 15000 years ago.
Meditation was spread to Western society thousands of years after it was adopted in the East. It finally started to gain popularity in the West in the mid-20th century. In the 1960s and 1970s, many professors and researchers began testing the effects of meditation and learned about its multitude of benefits.
However, meditation shouldn’t be used as a replacement to traditional Western medicine, but as a supplement to treatments your doctor has recommended for you.Through experiments and tests using practiced meditators, Herbert Benson, M.D., a professor at Harvard Medical School, discovered that meditation counteracts the effects of the sympathetic nervous system – the one that gives humans the desire to fight or flee in any conflict situation. While primitive people needed this response in hunting situations, today it is the reason for many of our everyday stresses. During meditation, blood flow is directed to the parasympathetic nervous system instead. This is the part of the brain that triggers relaxation, a slower pulse and energy conservation – the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system.
Many studies are still being conducted about the effects of meditation. As more scientific knowledge is gathered, meditation will become a more accurately and frequently prescribed treatment.
• increased creativity and intelligence
• reduced depression
• increased learning ability, moral reasoning and memory
• reduced irritability and moodiness
• feelings of vitality and rejuvenation
• increased emotional control
• increased self-esteem
• increased alertness
• improved relationships
• improved concentration
• may help lower blood pressure
• prevented, slowed or controlled pain of chronic diseases
• boosted immune system
• lowered cholesterol levels
• improved airflow, especially in those with asthma
• younger biological age
There are a wide variety of meditation techniques available, some for specific purposes and others just variations with the same ultimate purpose. However, two main categories comprise all forms. These are concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation.
“Concentrative meditation focuses the attention on the breath, an image or a sound, 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” Sitting and silently focusing on dynamics of breathing is concentrative meditation in its most basic form. Breathing is a natural and readily available object of meditation. When a person is anxious or alarmed, his breathing becomes “shallow, rigid and uneven”. But when the mind is tranquil and balanced in concentration, breathing becomes slow, deep and even. Absorbing yourself in the repetition of your breathing will allow you to reach a point of simultaneous stillness and awareness.
Mindfulness meditation’s purpose is to increase awareness of the inundation of “sensations and feelings” around oneself, but at a distance. In mindfulness meditation, you experience every aspect of your environment without consciously thinking about it. “The person sits quietly and simply witnesses whatever goes through the mind, not reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories worries or images. Through this practice, meditators are said to gain an intense calmness and clarity.
By: +Prof: Koti Madhav Balu Chowdary