A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind

(Killingsworth & Gilbert, Science, 2010)

Mindfulness means being in the present moment with an open and non-judgmental attitude. You can think of mindfulness practice as a workout for your brain–a way to keep strong, fit, and resilient. Like

physical exercise, mindfulness requires some basic training and ongoing practice. Developed primarily via meditation practice, over time, mindfulness results in greater focus and well-being.

Growing empirical research shows that mindfulness meditation techniques can:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Decrease emotional reactivity
  • Improve concentration
  • Strengthen confidence and resilience
  • Promote peace of mind and well-being
  • Help cope with pain and illness
  • Enhance willpower and decision-making
  • Help cultivate compassion for self and other

Meditation Basics

Despite all its popularity, today very few of us truly know what meditation is. Some regard meditation is the mental concentration on something, others consider that we meditate when we imagine something that gives us peace or satisfaction. All these methods are being with one goal to slow down and, eventually, completely stop the incessant activity of our minds. These exercises are not really meditation – they are substitutes for meditation because it is normally very difficult to stop our minds all-together. In reality, meditation is a state of thoughtless awareness. It is not an act of doing – it is a state of awareness. We either in this state or we are not, regardless of what we are doing in life. Truly, a man can be in meditation while doing his day’s labors as another man can be very far from meditation while sitting in a lotus posture on the top of a mountain.

When we take a look at the various explanations of meditation, another thing we often see is that meditation is defined as taking a moment to sit quietly or to ponder. True meditation, however is much more than this. It is a state of profound, deep peace that occurs when the mind is calm and silent, yet completely alert. This is just the beginning of an inner transformation that takes us to a higher level of awareness. This enables us to fulfill our true human potential. The problem, of course, is how to achieve this state.

Meditation is not…

Concentration

Concentration is an effort to fix the attention on a particular object or idea for a long period of time. The techniques used in visualization are another type of concentration.

Loss of control

Sounds, voices, colors and involuntary movements have nothing to do with meditation or spirituality. These are symptoms of loss of awareness and loss of control over some parts of ourselves.

Exercises

Exercises, such as postures and breathing, do not constitute meditation. They may help establish some balance if under the guidance of a true master (a realized soul). Their practice without a true spiritual goal only leads to an imbalance in the right channel.

Mental effort

Thoughtless awareness is achieved through the raising of the Kundalini. To get rid of blockages that prevent her ascent, we use the hands and introspection but never mental effort (e.g., the continuous repetition of “I must stop thinking”).

Why meditation?

Meditation is seen by a number of researchers as potentially one of the most effective forms of stress reduction. [1] While stress reduction techniques have been cultivated and studied in the West for approximately 70 years, the data indicates that they are not consistently effective. [2]

Meditation however, has been developed in Eastern cultures and has a documented history of more than several thousand years. Eastern meditative techniques have been developed, trialed and refined over hundreds of generations with the specific intention of developing a method by which the layperson can regularly attain a state of mental peace and tranquillity, ie. relief from stress. It is a strategy that can easily be adapted to the needs of clinicians and their patients in the West.

A US study for example, showed that a short course of behaviour modification strategies that included meditation led to significantly fewer visits to physicians during the six months that followed. The savings were estimated at over $200 per patient . [3]  A study of insurance statistics showed that the use of medical care was significantly less for meditators compared to nonmeditators. [4]

The growing emphasis on:

  • quality of life outcomes
  • concepts such as psychoneuroimmunology or mind–body medicine  and
  • reducing healthcare costs
  • suggest that stress reduction and improving mental health are becoming increasingly relevant to healthcare.

Some key points about meditation

Meditation can be an effective form of stress reduction and has the potential to improve quality of life and decrease healthcare costs.

Meditation is effortless and leads to a state of ‘thoughtless awareness’ in which the excessive stress producing activity of the mind is neutralised without reducing alertness and effectiveness.

Authentic meditation enables one to focus on the present moment rather than dwell on the unchangeable past or undetermined future.

There is little quality evidence comparing one meditation technique with another or meditation with relaxation techniques.

The theoretical explanation for the effects of meditation and relaxation techniques is that the release of catecholamines and other stress hormones are reduced and parasympathetic activity is increased.

Whether meditation involves other unique neurophysiological effects remains to be proven.

[1] Hassed C. Meditation in general practice. Aust Fam Physician 1996; 25(8):1257–1260.

[2] West M (ed). The psychology of meditation. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987.

[3] Achterberg J. Mind body interventions, meditation. In: Berman B. Alternative medicine, expanding medical horizons. Washington DC: Office of Alternative Medicine, National Institute of Health, 1992.

[4] McSherry. Medical economics. In: Wedding D, ed. Medicine and behaviour. St Louis: Mosby and Co, 1990 : 463 – 484 .

Source Cred: freemeditation