MEDITATION IS A SIMPLE AND NATURAL PROCESS. It is a remembrance (smrit, from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali) of our True existence – in Kriya Yoga, for example, one repeats ‘Hong So’ – I am That. In this technique that we will delve into later, we sit silently repeating ‘Hong’ on inhalation and ‘so’ on exhalation; but we can use numerous preparations and techniques that lead us to the authentic meditative state, which we will also share during the course.
Meditation is the cure of cures and, in my humble view, the most important act of every day: the commitment that we should never lose. Just as we take a shower every day to clean the residues from the skin, or when we go to the bathroom to eliminate the toxins that accumulate within; meditation is a natural process of internal cleansing of our subtle energy body and our mental body, and we can say that this inner work, consequently, also purifies the physical body.
The habit of sitting quietly, once or more times a day, for a few minutes or longer, internalized, attentively listening to the breath and observing everything that happens around us and especially within us, with full attention, awareness, and presence… is meditation. This daily act completely and constructively transforms our quality of life and that of everyone who comes into contact with us. Moreover, we can all prioritize this act of self-love and love for others, dedicating a few minutes to this essential practice of life.
The science of yoga explains that everything starts from the mind, or rather, from the vibrations and sounds that emanate in the mind… That’s why it’s so important to heal this deep inner space. The body is the instrument given to us to live in this time on earth, and therefore, we have the duty to heal it and keep it healthy by taking care of nutrition, exercising daily, and purifying it. At the same time, the mind is the instrument on which the body depends to be well, and therefore, an intoxicated and poorly cared for mind consequently generates a sick body. Master Yogananda affirms, “The mind is more important than the body. The Spirit (or the Inner Self) is more important than the mind.”
Meditation has been studied deeply, although we still have much to discover about this ancient discipline for our complete Well-Being.
Here are some of the benefits of meditation proven by modern science:
- Used for years as a remedy for stress and the serious physical consequences that come with it, and for states of anxiety (including panic attacks).
- Stabilizes mood and prevents depressive states.
- In recent years, meditation has been used as pain therapy and even in oncology departments.
- Calms the heart.
- Helps with insomnia or oversleeping problems.
- Improves concentration in everything you do.
- Increases the production of endorphins – a substance (neurotransmitter) that produces well-being: it is the substance that allows us to numb pain, for example, that is created while practicing sports.
- Increases the production of Serotonin – a substance (neurotransmitter) that produces contentment: stabilizes the mood that often arises in deep love relationships between partners or between mother and child.
- Increases the production of GABA – a substance (neurotransmitter) the lack of which exposes the individual to addictions (alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, compulsive sex, or others).
- Greater production of Melatonin – a substance (hormone) that stabilizes sleep.
- Greater production of HGH – a substance (or growth hormone) that protects against tissue aging.
- Greater production of DHEA – a substance (hormone) the lack of which exposes us to tumors, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, and others. Our immune defenses depend on this hormone.
- Reduction in the production of cortisol – a substance (hormone) harmful to the body, such as lowering immune defenses and tissue aging.
- Thickening of the cerebral cortex (from 8 to 16 thousandths of a millimeter according to a study by YALE and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
- Ability to consciously produce brain waves in a state of deep relaxation and concentration.
The mental benefits of meditation are:
- The mind is more serene and lucid.
- Develops a sense of well-being.
- Increases mental faculties.
- Clarifies ideas (even in the most critical moments).
- Stabilizes mood.
- Contributes to creating harmony in relationships.
- Aids concentration at work, in studies, and in competitive sports activities.
- Develops awareness.
And this is the crucial point: awareness, mindfulness, being present in the here and now.
When we are aware of what we are experiencing in the present moment, then we are fully living the experience of life; when we are not aware (perhaps most of the time in an ordinary human being), we do not live, but let ourselves be lived.
If you meditate every day, you will notice that after a few weeks, things around you will be more beautiful… Colors will be more vivid and intense; you will see more splendid details in the landscape that were previously camouflaged in the background… Sounds, sensations of the body, everything will be naturally and “almost imperceptibly” more “intense” and more vivid.
And yet, the most wonderful benefit of meditation, and the cause of all the other ‘side effects,’ so to speak, is that of “returning Home” or to the “True Self”: it is to remember Who we are. When we are disconnected from our True Essence, we always feel a continuous dissatisfaction that we seek to fill externally, and that never truly fulfills us. Instead, when we begin an inner journey and come into contact with ‘That Being’ that goes beyond the mind and intellect, feelings, and emotions… we discover how to carry with us a “Portable Paradise” in any situation, as Master Yogananda says.
Briefly delving into deeper aspects of meditation, in one of the most important sacred texts of yoga, the “Bhagavad Gita,” we find 8 aspects of the Self that we can experience when meditating. These 8 qualities allow us to identify when such a ‘meditative’ moment occurs. When we are in contact with “That Self,” we perceive one (or more) of these 8 natural manifestations: the Light of the spiritual eye, an unconditional Joy, expansive Pure Love, inner Power or Potency, hearing the vibration of the OM mantra (primordial sound), a state of profound Peace, a light calmness during the day that is inexplicable, and/or Wisdom and intuition in every moment and everyday situation.
Another way to put into words this profound experience of the Divine Self is the term used in classical Indian scriptures: ‘Satchitananda’ – “always present, always conscious, and in ever-new Joy”; translated by Master Yogananda.
Roy Eugene Davis, a direct disciple of Yogananda and my spiritual Master on Earth, says that when we meditate until we reach this state of Pure Consciousness (turiya), we ‘burn’ past karmas, purifying what is no longer useful (such as negative habits); and at the same time, awakening and manifesting the karmic seeds that have to do with hidden and often suppressed natural talents during life.
By meditating regularly, without expecting anything – we will have all the benefits, and we will see how, naturally, our life will be enhanced.
It doesn’t matter if you are atheist, Catholic, Buddhist, or belong to any other religious or spiritual group or institution: meditate, and your life will be more “alive,” and you will always know how to receive the “fleeting moment,” the “here and now,” giving less and less power to mental confusion.
Finally, I leave you with an inspiration and reflection from Master Sri Yukteswar, Yogananda’s Master:
“Forget the past. The past lives of all men are obscured by many shames. Human conduct is always uncertain until it is anchored in the Divine Self. All things will get better in the future if you make a spiritual effort now.”