How can the birds sing when it’s not spring? How can it feel like Christmas without the snow? How can you see the twinkling stars on a foggy day? How can the sunshine pass through the dark clouds? And so, how could Yoga, Pranayama, and all the other spiritual practices be complete without meditation?
The word meditation is the English word for Dhyana, which is one of the folds of Yoga, and the principle method of attuning to God. In the western world, many people take meditation as a method of relaxation of the body and the mind. This of course is very effective and is the best way to calm down the mind and body. Many sportsmen and professionals have adopted meditation in their day to day life. For people who have a very stressful type of work, meditation is like a tonic for the brain and irritating nerves.
Meditation is of two types. One is when you focus your mind on an object, on a thought or a problem. The other type is to make your mind blank and just relax without any thoughts or worries and try to connect to a higher level of consciousness. The first type draws out the potential from your deepest mind and brings it forth to your conscious mind. This kind of meditation can be directive and creative. But this cannot calm down the mind, as the mind is very deeply active, in conscious and in subconscious state. This however, can make the mind very powerful.
The second type of meditation is the practice of withdrawing the mind and senses from the world, and trying to merge into the cosmic consciousness, or God. Deep meditation can lead to the state of Samadhi. This state can be like of an induced trance, where the person loses the identity of the body, and becomes aware of the soul, the Atma, which is the true existence of the being. Meditation of this kind should be practiced for controlling your materialistic desires and senses. This practice helps you withdraw your desperate mind from attachments, desires, and leaves you with a sense of contentment. It can heal you of many ailments, both mental and physical. This kind of meditation can be done sitting on the ground cross legged, sitting on a chair, or even lying down on bed. The only danger here is falling off to sleep! But in all cases, the backbone should be straight, so that the three Nadis, namely- Ida, Pingala and Sushumna are in proper circulation. The Sun breath and the Moon breath must flow evenly in a rhythm. The deep balanced breathing brings about an equilibrium in the mind and helps control the senses.
The Hindu scriptures define Dhyana, or meditation as a mode of focusing your mind totally towards God. This is purely spiritual, and is one of the methods of God realization. But this kind of meditation can only be done if the mind is totally oblivious of the earthly surroundings and experiences. The Yogi, or the person, almost goes into a trance, in a state of mindlessness and senselessness. This kind of meditation attunes a person with the Cosmic consciousness and the person experiences a state of bliss. The person gets temporarily disconnected with the world and draws Cosmic bliss, just like a bee drawing sweet nectar from the flower. After having finished the meditation, the person should sit motionless for a few minutes to get the mind and body adjusted to the earthly energies, and then get up.
This kind of meditation may be difficult to practice, so for starters, the person is recommended to first meditate on a Jyoti, or a candle flame with the eyes open. This should be practiced for many days. After few days, you should first start meditation with eyes open, looking steadily at the flame, and then after few minutes, close your eyes and try to retain the image of the flame between the eyebrows. This flame is to be meditated upon as the light of God. After many days, you will find that as you close your eyes, the image of Jyoti appears automatically. The point between the eyebrows, at the origin of the nose is where the Ajna Chakra is placed. This is the Chakra of spiritual awakening, and enlightenment. Therefore by constantly meditating on this point, your consciousness opens up to the Cosmic awareness and you get connected to the higher plane.
This kind of spiritual meditation is the best because, not only you benefit spiritually but many worldly problems leave you. Just to remind you, all the challenges and problems that we have on earth are due to the mind and senses. Our desires, attachments, anger, greed and ego are the prime causes of mental, physical and practical problems. You could find the solutions to some of them, but only temporarily. If your state of mind hasn’t changed, then nothing will change. Even if you recover from some challenges, you will be faced with many more, as they reflect upon you as severely as you take them! Therefore, the best and the only way to avoid these turmoils of life is to make your mind immune and non reactive to them. After sometime, they will just cease to be.
Meditation teaches you to identify yourself as the spirit, as the Atma, which is a part of God. And when you identify yourself as the part of God, then the worldly materialism will not tempt you. You will forever be in a state of calm, peace and bliss. Everything around you would seem superfluous and transitory, and subsequently, you will break free from joys and sorrows, from sufferings and grief. You will become the master of your mind and senses.
We are all subject to so many miseries and difficulties in life. While we have to deal with them at a practical level, but mentally, we should be like a Yogi, who never gets perturbed at worldly challenges. The biggest problem in this dark Age is the disturbing minds and senses of people. If our minds can be redirected towards righteous and spiritual values, and senses can be controlled, then man can be a master of his life and destiny.
Therapeutic Benefits To Sathya Sai Baba’s Teachings
Sathya Sai Baba has long taught that one should not fret about the past or worry about the future and that mindulness of the present moment is the key to balance, strength, fortitude, health, well-being and peace.
As a matter of fact, Sathya Sai Baba has said:
“You are an embodiment of Divinity. The Divine Principle in you is eternal. That lives today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow. Hence, treat the past, present, and future as one even though our experiences in the three phases of time are different. Do not give much credence to these experiences. Past is past; it will not come back. We are not sure of future. Present is the only reality with which we should be concerned. This is not ordinary present, but omnipresent, because the past as well as future are present in it. Dear souls! All your experiences in this changing world are only momentary and unreal. They are like passing clouds. You need not be too much worried about them. You are marching forward. Continue your life’s journey with steadfast faith in God. Why should you have to look back and brood over the past?
We will achieve victory in every walk of life when we foster good thoughts and good deeds. From today onwards, do not think of the past or the future, because it is not in our hands. What is the guarantee that we will live until tomorrow? Therefore, this present time is very important. Make good use of it. Do not go against your inner self. That is what I tell my children, the students here, “Follow the master”. Who is your master? Your inner self is your master. So there is no need for anyone else; follow your own inner self. That is your God. That is your happiness. That is your wealth. That is your peace. Happiness and peace are not outside.”
Recently, various media has been published discussing the therapeutic effects of “Mindfulness Meditation”, which focuses on the present moment and the elimination of stresses that arise from thinking about the past and/or the future. The following article was published in The Hindu newspaper about the benefits of “Mindfulness Meditation” and how it can bolster the immune system and slow the progress of HIV.
Mindfulness meditation slows the progression of HIV, research studies show Reducing stress can bolster immune system in HIV-positive people.
CD4+ T lymphocytes, or simply CD4 T cells, are the “brains” of the immune system, coordinating its activity when the body comes under attack. They are also the cells that are attacked by HIV, the devastating virus that causes AIDS and has infected roughly 40 million people worldwide. The virus slowly eats away at CD4 T cells, weakening the immune system. But the immune systems of HIV/AIDS patients face another enemy as well — stress, which can accelerate CD4 T cell declines. Now, researchers at UCLA report that the practice of mindfulness meditation stopped the decline of CD4 T cells in HIV-positive patients suffering from stress, slowing the progression of the disease. The study was just released in the online edition of the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of bringing an open and receptive awareness of the present moment to experiences, avoiding thinking of the past or worrying about the future. It is thought to reduce stress and improve health outcomes in a variety of patient populations.
“This study provides the first indication that mindfulness meditation stress-management training can have a direct impact on slowing HIV disease progression,” said lead study author David Creswell, a research scientist at the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA. “The mindfulness program is a group-based and low-cost treatment, and if this initial finding is replicated in larger samples, it’s possible that such training can be used as a powerful complementary treatment for HIV disease, alongside medications.” Creswell and his colleagues ran an eight-week mindfulness-based stress-reduction (MBSR) meditation program and compared it to a one-day MBSR control seminar, using a stressed and ethnically diverse sample of 48 HIV-positive adults in Los Angeles. Participants in the eight-week group showed no loss of CD4 T cells, indicating that mindfulness meditation training can buffer declines. In contrast, the control group showed significant declines in CD4 T cells from pre-study to post-study. Such declines are a characteristic hallmark of HIV progression. Creswell also noted that researchers found a “dose-response” relationship between MBSR class attendance and CD4 T cells, meaning, “the more mindfulness meditation classes people attended, the higher the CD4 T cells at the study’s conclusion.”
The researchers were also encouraged because the overall CD4 T cell effects remained even after controlling for a number of factors that could have skewed the study results. Most notably, they found equivalent protective effects for participants whether or not they were on antiretroviral medications for HIV. Even participants taking HIV medications showed the CD4 T cell buffering effect after the mindfulness meditation class, Creswell said.
There is emerging evidence from other studies that shows that behavioral stress-management programs can buffer HIV declines in HIV-positive people, Creswell noted. And while there has been an exponential increase of interest in and practice of mindfulness meditation in the West over the past 10 years, this study, he said, is the first to show an HIV disease protective effect with mindfulness meditation training.
In order to understand the health benefits of mindfulness meditation, Creswell and his colleagues at UCLA are now examining the underlying pathways through which mindfulness meditation reduces stress, using brain imaging, genetics and immune system measurements.
“Given the stress-reduction benefits of mindfulness meditation training, these findings indicate there can be health protective effects not just in people with HIV but in folks who suffer from daily stress,” Creswell said.
Apparently, Sathya Sai Baba has long known and preached what science is today discovering, i.e., mindfulness of the present moment is the key to mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, health and peace.