By Vladimir Marchenko
- What is meditation
- Basic elements of meditation
- Scientific evidence for the benefits of meditation
- Is meditation safe?
- What to do if you can’t meditate
- Meditation and affirmations
Meditation is one of the most affordable ways to increase your concentration and appeal to your inner feelings. However, what are the actual benefits of meditation and what needs to be done to make it work?
What is meditation
The Latin verb meditari is literally translated as "to meditate," " to ponder", "to contemplate". Also, meditation is a set of techniques that are an integral part of religious, spiritual, psychological and health-improving practices. It can also be described as a unique mental state that arises in the process of practising awareness, concentration, contemplation, relaxation and self-immersion.
Mindfulness meditation was yet practised by Buddha Shakyamuni more than 2.5 thousand years ago. It is considered one of the most effective techniques for calming the mind and mobilizing a person's inner resources. The basic technique implies focusing on the present moment without worrying about the past and the future. Those who have reached a high degree of enlightenment come to a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment and deliverance from suffering - both bodily and spiritual.
Different religious movements and schools of psychology have their own rituals that allow you to enter a state of meditation without unnecessary effort. Dozens of meditative practices are known both in world religions and among local beliefs, but most often meditation is associated with Buddhism and Hinduism and imply concentrating on internal sensations, images, and breathing. Sometimes, during this process it is advised to be in a special body position, repeat certain phrases several times, or even turn to some Higher Mind out there.
Basic elements of meditation
Meditation practices can differ from each other in duration, the position of the body, the need to repeat mantras, or the lack of any specific requirements. However, there is a set of mandatory attributes common to all meditations:
- the session shall take place in a calm place, free from distractions;
- you need to maintain a comfortable and relaxing posture (sitting, lying, lotus posture);
- focus on a certain process or their combination (breathing, reproduction of memorized phrases, visualization);
- preserve the openness of perception (everything naturally passes through, without stopping).
Scientific evidence for the benefits of meditation
Until the middle of the 20th century, meditation practices were associated with the religious movements of the East (India, Japan, China) and were considered an exotic way of expanding consciousness. Although meditation has been practised in the Western Christian religion in the past, it wasn’t widespread among the general public. Meditation acquired a more specific shape in India only in the 1950s., and by the early 60s, it had penetrated the United States and Western Europe. The most famous representatives of the practice of meditation were hippies. It was they who brought fashion to Buddhism, meditation, contemplation, vegetarianism, inner liberation, etc.
Scientists became also interested in the effect of meditation on the body. Although the first attempts to investigate this phenomenon were made around the 1930s, possibly even earlier, it was by the 70s that a real boom in scientific interest in meditation began. During this time, more than 1,000 scientific papers have been published in English alone, generally confirming the positive role of meditation in human life. At the same time, the exact mechanism of their effect on consciousness and subconsciousness remains not fully understood. As a rule, meditation is recommended as supportive psychotherapy that does not replace other methods of treatment.
In particular, meditation has a positive effect on:
- low back pain;
- blood pressure, stress and ability to overcome difficulties among young people;
- increased awareness and quality of life, mental health improvement;
- reducing the severity of irritable bowel syndrome;
- Twenty-five out of 36 studies analyzed in 2012 reported an improvement of anxiety symptoms in groups that practised meditation compared to control groups.
Meditation improves memory and interhemispheric interactions and slows down the ageing of the brain. The effectiveness of meditation in ulcerative colitis, depression, smoking cessation and some other conditions remains not fully confirmed, however, as was admitted, might have a potential use.
Some studies suggest that there occur changes in the structure of the brain as a result of meditation. For example, in the brain of those who practise meditation for many years, it has been found more convolutions in the cerebral cortex, which in turn increases their ability to process information. It is also possible that the natural ageing process slows down with regular practice of mindfulness.
Is meditation safe?
In general, meditation is considered to be a safe way to work with consciousness for healthy people. Indeed, for some people with disabilities, it can be difficult, and even contraindicated, to perform certain parts of practice, f.e stretching. Same would apply to the spiritual component of meditation. It does not contribute to harmonious personality development in case people get too deeply imbued with the religious side of meditation and its postulates. Sometimes it can lead to the development of such conditions as depression and anxiety. In any case, listen to yourself and meditate with pleasure before seriously “plunging” into meditation.
What to do if you can’t meditate
Most often, people already get distracted at the stage "sit down, relax and do not think about anything." Indeed, not thinking about anything is quite difficult for an unprepared individual. However, meditation implies concentration and calming down the thought processes at least for a while, instead of filling the mind with emptiness. It is in being concentrated on an object or sensation that meditation is about. Of course, mastering this art takes time. Concentrating on something specific would be definitely easier for our brain, but it is important not to think and not to describe the object, but simply to take it as it is.
Since a simpler form of meditation involves concentration on a simple and material object, it is advisable to start with it. The more the object is imaginary, especially if you've never seen it live, the harder it will be to focus on it. Usually, we perceive objects primarily by using our vision, therefore, we most often start with visible objects (mountains, sea, candle flame). If a visual object contains too many external distractions for you, you can switch to sound themes (forest noise, birds singing). For involving also a tactile level, beads are often used for meditation.
Even during basic form meditations, consciousness tends to distract us from focusing and observing too simple (boring) forms. Memories, old offences, unnecessary questions begin to creep into one’s head. There may appear a desire to scratch, change a position, and do something. Mastering meditation is precisely about learning not to “fly away” from the chosen object of contemplation, to focus without being distracted or allowing external and internal “noise” to lead you astray.
Meditation and affirmations
For an easy start in the field of spiritual growth, affirmations can be used. They sometimes get confused with prayer (a mandatory ritual of a believer, adherent of a religion, expressed in asking some higher forces for help or understanding), spells (according to prevailing superstitions, a set of words that have magical, witchcraft or healing powers,) or mantras (a combination of sounds and phonemes, words and sentences that have a resonant frequency effect on the human body, its spiritual and psychological components, and can cause an altered state of consciousness).
Affirmations are designed for everyday use and all you need is a little free time to repeat or listen to them. They do not require adherence to a particular religion or ritual. For affirmations to work, you need to fulfil only two conditions - regularity and sincere belief that the pronounced words change life for the better. The whole power of motivating statements lies in the fact that not only they have an effect on consciousness and subconsciousness, health, on reaching success, love, and financial well-being, but also do change the direction of your thoughts. The brain perceives positive statements in the present tense as facts that are already true.
Flexibility in the perception of affirmations made it possible to create interesting solutions aimed at strengthening the mental health of the individual. One of the ways to meditate with almost no effort is offered by Hypnopedia app. It contains affirmations broken down by thematic categories, which you can listen to during the day. However, the real magic begins at night, because affirmations are also played during the user's sleep. This is possible thanks to a unique algorithm that collects data from Apple Watch sensors, processes it and triggers recitation of affirmations. At the most suitable sleep time from the point of your perception at night, the affirmations, selected before going to bed, are automatically reproduced. They do not wake up the user and do not require active “listening” - the improvement of your mental state occurs without your participation. So you boost your consciousness while sleeping.
You can download our app right now:Ссылка App Store
At the same time, the program works with sleep in general. So, for better falling asleep, you can listen to a collection of relaxing sounds, and for a smooth waking-up — schedule a smart alarm clock with the haptic alarm function.
Meditation is necessary for increasing consciousness, concentration, and expanding the spiritual component of the personality. Simple forms of meditation can be practised by almost everyone, however, one should proceed to more serious spiritual practices only after obtaining confidence. In any case, our inner world is a part of us, and taking care of it is very important to achieve overall harmony.