My previous blog on yoga gave a brief introduction about meditation, whereas here i will be delving deep into the topic of meditation taking into consideration the effect on both the mind and body. Body and mind are not two disconnected things; they affect each other. This is illustrated clearly in the chariot analogy below from the Katha Upanishad, an ancient Indian scripture. It is one of the most straightforward analogy to explain about our internal workings.
The ‘Body’ is a Chariot, which holds the Senses and Emotions (Horses) if uncontrolled can pull your Body and Life (Chariot ) in different directions. If the chariot is driven by our inborn Intelligence (Driver) that uses the Mind (Reins) constructively to control the senses and emotions (Horses), you can set your life. But the Mind (Reins) control is complex with layers of Personality(Ahankara), and Mindset (Chitta) created within consciously and sub-consciously from your social conditioning and life experiences. Behind all this activity is the ‘Higher Self’ (Jiva-Atma) sitting in the passenger seat– the Witness, the Silent Observer (It is not the soul). The things that influence the senses and emotions (Horses) direct the path on which your life(Chariot) moves.
The following is a quote from the Bhagavad-gita, a religious ancient Indian text that highlights the connection of mind and body.
If you have your mind controlled, then your mind is the best friend. But if your mind is uncontrolled, then he is your greatest enemy.
Since the above ancient texts tell us so much about our mind and body, it is imperative that we learn how to control it and make it work to our advantage.
Human Brain and Mind
In today’s world, a lot of research has gone into the study of the human brain. To give a picture of the brain and mind connection, the human brain is like the hardware and the mind is like the software. The human brain is etched by the thought patterns in your mind. In other words, the rewiring of the brain is possible through the mind.
Based on scientific studies, we have known that human brain is special because of the prefrontal cortex which only humans have among animals. This prefrontal cortex provides us the will power to be human. Also the human brain is neuro-plastic in nature ,i.e, as mentioned earlier it can be rewired. If we practice any skill that particular region of the brain required for that skill becomes stronger/denser. If we exercise our will power or focus or discipline again and again, we can find that it grows stronger and stronger similar to the biceps that grows with constant practice.
This functionality of the brain can be used to our advantage in handling stress that is one of the major causes of many ailments today. Our nervous system has two parts; an alerting & activating, stressed out part or the sympathetic nervous system and a calming, relaxing and restoring part or the parasympathetic nervous system. When our sympathetic nervous system is active due to anxiety or threats, our physiological reaction will be one of fight/flight/freeze states. The part of the nervous system that we use the most becomes the strongest. So it is imperative that we train our mind and body for a parasympathetic response. One of the method of activating the parasympathetic nervous system is by meditation wherein adrenaline and cortisol is replaced by dopamine and serotonin which are not only amazing but are alkaline in nature. An alkaline body can repair itself more effectively.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness is the art of bringing the mind to the present moment. It is part of the meditation practice wherein we bring the mind to the present moment again and again and a certain part of the brain lights up brightly. Mindfulness can be used to our advantage in moment of stress in the right now.
Meditation means to become familiar with. In this process we are mastering the present moment. As we become more aware of the present moment, we are not analyzing. Since the analytical mind which separates the conscious mind from the subconscious mind is not used, a door is opened that can be reprogrammed. Here, meditation can be used as a tool to enhance self control/will power/discipline. If we meditate for 3 hours the configuration of brain will change or if we practice little by little everyday for a couple of months the same change in configuration of brain/transformation of a person can happen.
Based on medical studies, meditation should be done for a minimum of 12 minutes for it to be effective. Reaching the breakthroughs of clearing one’s mind everyday depends upon the individual. Somedays, 15mins of meditation is enough to relax the mind but on a few days it may take 25 minutes or more for the same process to happen. We need to learn that the mind thinks involuntarily so it would be impossible to make it to stop thinking. So, let us use it to improve our lives by purging the past stress and to increase focus of the mind. There are different types of meditation practice like vipassana meditation, transcendental meditation etc.
During meditation we are accessing the 4th state of consciousness wherein the right and left side of the brain function in unison resulting in the whole brain lighting up. This is important because right hemisphere is in charge of the right now or the creative thought and the left side is in charge of the past and future or critical thoughts. When we are awake or asleep these two hemispheres do not function in unison. Performing in unison means increased neuro-plasticity and neurogenesis/generation of new brain cells. Long term meditation means increased thickness of the corpus-colossus which is in between the right and left hemisphere resulting in increased capability of handling challenging situations. Meditation can be used to manifest/create the life you love. Meditation with purpose can lead to manifesting our wishes.
Everything or every action in our lives starts with a thought. We either live in our memories of the past or with our vision of the future. Emotions are the end product of past experiences. Thought is the language of the brain and feeling is the language of the body. If we keep thinking the same past thoughts, they fire same circuits in the brain that wire together to give the same feelings to the body. Change requires becoming uncomfortable to a certain degree. We need to think what thoughts we need to fire in the brain in order to remold it.
Since we are the ones who generate our wealth/abundance, we need to teach our bodies emotionally about the good future to look forward to. Our body is the unconscious mind and it will begin to feel that it is living in that future once we teach it to do so. We need to teach the mind to embrace an elevated emotion ,i.e, teaching the mind to live in the future state. Its a scientific fact that the environment signals the genes. When we live in a state of elevated emotion, we begin to signal our genes ahead of the future manifested state. If we become familiar with the state of abundance, gratitude or wholeness that generates certain chemicals, more than likely we will be walking around living in the future state.
Our personality is made out of how we think ,act & feel. Hence our personality will decide our personal reality ,i.e, how we live our lives. As a result if we want to change our lives we need to change our personality. The first step to this is, we need to start becoming conscious of our unconscious thoughts, notice how we act & feel. When we start making small changes, we are teaching ourself a new thought which leads to a new choice and inturn a new behavior. This behavior will create a new experience that inturn results in a new emotion. This emotion tells the body chemically which the mind has understood. The new emotion will encourage new thoughts which is called evolution/improvement.
Conscious and sub-conscious mind:
Brain emits electrical pulses and they are characterized as shown in the below picture. Beta is the conscious part which is when we are awake and may include activities like analyzing/sorting data, playing sport etc., and the rest of the three brain waves in subconscious part namely; Alpha – the expanded awareness, visualization & the place of creativity, Theta – deep meditation state, the place where positive & negative memories are housed, Delta – deep sleep or healing state.
The thoughts per minute will be the highest in the beta/the conscious state and will come down gradually to nearly zero as we move down to the theta state. When we want to set any goals, it is a must that we be in the alpha state ,i.e, the place of mental imagery/creativity. In order to reach this state it is better we move to a calmer/relaxed surroundings which will bring us to this state.
In order to become a higher achiever or a peak performer we need to reprogram our minds. This can be done in the subconscious state of the mind that is influenced by images or emotions. One way of doing this is through vision boards. In a day, we have the window of opportunity where we move in/out of the subconscious state automatically ,i.e, just before sleep and just when we wake up. This is the window during which we need to see the vision board and visualize/feel as if we have already achieved the goal we are about to achieve. Also use/repeat positive affirmations for that particular goal as though it has been already achieved and the subconscious will start to work on that automatically.
In the subconscious state, the learning will happen at a faster pace. As we know by now that in deep meditation as well we are in the theta state, we can suggest any new idea by visualization to our subconscious for manifestation.
Lectures of Neuroscientist Dr.Joe Dispenza, Biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton
Lectures of Swami Mukundananda, Meditation trainer Emily Fletcher etc