There are many things in life that are beyond our control. World events, radical views of other people, and political decisions are some of the things that can infuriate us, causing us to have anxiety, fears and even hatred.
Often, our lives can seem out of control. Sometimes we can feel trapped in a life that is dull and boring. A recent survey concluded that more than 70% of people are in jobs they don’t like, but they can’t leave because they need the income.
In all this haze of things that can upset us, there is one thing that we can take responsibility for, and that is our own state of mind. People can control us but they cannot control our minds. And we can change our state of mind for the better. We can learn to live a life that is wonderful, even if we can’t control external influences.
Transform your mind
Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. It is a way of learning to accept the life we lead in a way that fulfils us. It is a way to achieve happiness, greater physical health, and better mental wellbeing.
In this series on meditation, I am going to explore the subject in detail. I will be looking at the scientific background to meditation and I am also going to look at the various forms of mediation that are used by religious and non-religious groups around the world. Most importantly, I am going to teach the subject so that you can learn the basics. This post is a shorter version of my first podcast on the subject; Mediation Part One.
So, let’s make a start. What is meditation?
Well, it is a practice that is rooted in ancient history and it is a topic of modern science. Over the last ten years there has been an increased awareness about the subject, with many scholars, psychologists and neuroscientists carrying out research into the benefits of regular practice.
The brain is full of beta waves
If you were to hook up your brain to an electroencephalogram (EEG) during meditation you would find that your brain beta waves decrease. Beta waves dominate our normal waking state of consciousness. Beta waves are seen when we are alert, when we are problem solving and focused on a task. These waves show that the brain is active.
When we meditate, our beta waves slow down. Researchers have found that practicing meditation for 20 minutes every day, and slowing down our beta waves during this time, can have a significant effect on our mental and physical health. During meditation, the brain is able to make new neuro pathways that connect the left and right hemispheres. Scientists believe that the formation of these pathways helps to trigger healing in the body and help to reduce anxiety and mental distress.
During meditation, brain waves slow down to much lower frequency waves. When the brain changes to low frequency waves the level of neurotransmitters and endorphins in our brain increases and it is well-known that lower frequency brain waves increase the amount of serotonin, an important chemical that alters our mood. Many meditators say they reach a ‘natural high’ at the end of their session. This is usually because the level of endorphins that make us ‘happy’ increase during meditation.
Endorphins boost our cognitive ability and our ability to concentrate. They help improve our memory and our ability to learn new things.
Different waves for different things
The subject of brain waves is complicated. We have different brain waves, each of which produce different things that the brain needs. Why do we sleep? Well, during sleep our brains enter different states of activity and brain wave frequency. Chemicals are released at specific frequencies, and the balance of these chemicals is essential for mental wellbeing.
Regular meditators experience ‘extreme bliss’. This is usually achieved when brain waves slow right down to much lower frequencies; the delta brainwave. It is impossible for people to experience delta states when they are awake, it is only when we enter into deep meditation that we experience this state of consciousness.
Delta waves is known to have a profound effect on the physical body. This is when the body can really heal itself. The pituitary gland is instructed to release human growth hormones to help repair and to rejuvenate muscle and tissue. Delta waves are associated with deeper connection into the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is where we have all the answers to life, but it is hard to reach. Only for a few minutes during sleep do our conscious and subconscious minds connect. However, during the delta state, our conscious and subconscious minds are connected and it can reveal many interesting things.
Have you ever had a “gut feel” about something? Of course you have. Where did it come from, that gut feeling. Well, it probably came from the subconscious mind. As you cultivate your delta brainwaves, your intuition will increase, bringing with it an unbelievable ability to trust your gut instincts.
Many people believe the delta brainwave is the bridge between higher planes of reality. Spiritual gurus believe it is while in the delta state of mind that they connect with life’s universal energy. This is where you can learn to tap into the forces that govern our existence.
Meditation is good for us
From a scientific point of view, then, meditation is good for us. It certainly can do no harm. The key is to do it regularly, twenty minutes every day is a great starting point. As you become good at it, your brain will go quickly into delta state, and it is during this state that the real benefits of meditation will occur.
For a longer explanation of the science behind meditation, listen to my first podcast on this series; Meditation Part One.
In part two I will look at some of the western philosophies of meditation.