How Meditation Transforms Us21 Feb 2017
How Meditation Transforms Us- by Marit Akintewe
Can 10 minutes quiet really do all that? There feels like there are more studies on the benefits of meditation than meditators these days! The impressive statistics on impact on stress, blood pressure, insomnia, depression and anxiety, heart disease, etc. are becoming very well known.
We are seeing scientific connections linking the parts of the brain impacted by meditation and the above physical benefits. For example a recent publication by the BBC on a study from Harvard Medical School, points to heightened activity in the amygdala during stress - an area of the brain that processes emotions such as fear and anger - signals to the bone marrow to produce extra white blood cells, which in turn act on the arteries causing them to become inflamed. This can then cause heart attacks, angina and strokes. Therefore, working to reduce stress through meditation, reduces the stimulation of the amygdala and its knock on effects on your health.
This is not news to Yoga though, although the way in which they describe the benefits are different, the power of transformation of stillness has always been well understood.
In one of the most widely known Yoga texts, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (written around 150BC-150AD), Patanjali describes the effect on the evolution of the being through meditative absorption using the term Nirodha Parinama (Patanjali Sutras chapter 3 sutra 9). This means the transformative power of the consciousness which appears between thoughts. That moment of stillness which is there as one thought finishes and before another arises. Awareness in this stillness, in this moment, transforms us.
Some of us are surprised to hear that thoughts do not come in a continuous stream, have a look for yourself and see what you find? There are indeed different thoughts, and so as we move from one onto the next there is a turning point, a moment of no-thought. It is like the breath, it appears to be a continuous flow, but if we stop and witness for a moment, we will see that there are moments at the end of the inhale and the end of the exhale when there is stillness. Allow yourself to focus in those moments of stillness for a few minutes, a few times a day, and watch how you transform.
This is how we evolve ourselves per Patanjali, through the power of stillness. When we consider this, we see how important it is that our meditation and Yoga practice (and daily life!) contain moments of quiet calm. Although they seem easier, and perhaps we have a sense that we are going deeper than we may on our own, we must be careful not to only use guided, or supported, meditation and Yoga practices which have a continual mental stimulation. For if we allow another person to guide our consciousness, we are not gaining person conscious control and our ability to enter into stillness on our own may not grow as we may hope.
In another well-known Yoga text, the Bhagavad Gita c 500-200BC, we see how important it is to gain control over our consciousness and how this benefit of meditation can support our transformation. ‘… one who possesses self-control can move amongst the sense objects using senses that are free of desire and loathing, and are directed by his will alone. Such a person attains a state of absolute tranquillity. In that state of tranquillity all his sufferings disappear…’ (chapter 2 v64 + 65)
Just preceding this the Gita offers a really interesting insight into our desires, it says that when a person thinks about an object (lets say, a chocolate biscuit) we then attach to the idea of that object, and desire arises i.e., we want one! If we do not get the object of our desire, anger arises (we get frustrated, or irritable that we are not allowed a chocolate biscuit) and so from this anger, delusion arises (we start to warp what we know as true and tell ourselves untruths like ‘how dare the media make me feel like I am not perfect as I am’ or ‘I don’t care about my health or the way I look’) and hand in hand with this delusion comes loss of memory. With this our intelligence is lost and then the person is lost!! The idea of the biscuit or whatever else comes to mind, causes great disturbance at the level of the mind and more. Meditation allows us to experience the first thought (about the biscuit) and let it go without attaching to it, and so the biscuit does not cause the same trouble. It is not the biscuit that is the problem, it is the way we relate to it that causes the unrest and potential stress, anxiety, and that is exactly what Yoga meditation will help with.
At the Seasonal Yoga Academy we believe in creating a community spirit and want yoga and meditation to be available to all so we offer a free pranayama and meditation class on Tuesdays at 19.45.
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