The Science behind meditation and 5 simple tips for beginners

Vijeta Tomar

Chief Yoga Instructor, Pinaki Yoga

“We are spiritual in either conscious or unconscious way. We all belong to the same spiritual journey and we precisely reach our destination sooner or later”.

These days, many people are moving towards Mediation for their inner longing of authenticity, compassion, love and inner peace. They found it efficacious in terms of their work, health and relationships. While human experiences are full of joy, sorrow, success, failures and uncertainty Meditation is the golden key that makes us more acceptable towards all these experiences of life with the sense of observation and awareness from within.

“Our Life is an endless journey: the practice of meditation allows us to experience all the texture of the roadway, which is what the journey is all about.” – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Teachings Of Buddha : An Important Memoir on Meditation

According to Ashtanga Yoga Of Patanjali, Meditation is one of the important aspects of 8 limbs of Yoga. Meditation used to be practiced by ancient saints and sages of Hinduism and was considered as the important practice to achieve the final goal of Yoga practice that is Samadhi.

In many of the Indian scriptures like Bhagavad Gita, Upanishad, Vedas, Ramayana there are hundreds of ways to practice Meditation which is referred as Yoga. In Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Dhyan Yoga, Lord Krishna reveals the Yoga of Meditation and how to practise this Yoga. He discusses the role of action in preparing for Meditation, and explains in detail the obstacles that one faces when trying to control their mind and the exact methods by which one can conquer their mind.

During this practice of Meditation, Saints and Sadhus focus their mind on Supreme Soul or Paramatma and unite with God. These ancient practices come under Religious Practice Of Meditation.

Based on this information of vedic era, teachings of Buddhism came into picture with the concept of Mindfulness and Morality. His teachings were not really concerned with the existence or non-existence of God and became a part of Orthodox Indian Philosophy.

Image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay

Meditation is the major part of the Eight Principles of Bhuddhist Philosophy of Life to get freedom from sufferings.

And then he added his own experience and a new form of meditation called Satipattahana.

Sati-attention ; Upa-Inside ; Thana-Keep , meaning, Keep Your Attention Inside.

Satipattana is the establishment or arousing of mindfulness, as part of the Buddhist practices leading to detachment and liberation. This is the real technique of Mindfulness Meditation that Buddha teaches to his followers.

The Goal of Meditation is not to stay calm and relax and to feel Good. The Goal of mindfulness meditation is just to stay aware and focused towards mind and its thoughts.

The Meditative Mind : A simple guide to know how meditation works with mind and affects its functions

The theory of Buddha behind mindfulness was that we just need to make friends with our emotions and we need to be aware about the present moment and observe every ingoing outgoing thoughts and feelings with them. By practicing mindfulness, the brain becomes healthy, more active and more developed.

But how can this simple awareness technique be helpful in reducing the functioning of Monkey Mind, where it always indulges itself into an ocean of thoughts & emotions?

How this observation is responsible for our innovative ideas, for our better emotional understanding and for an organized functioning of Mind.

Mediation plays a key role towards changing our life and perception towards life. Let’s understand the neurology behind Mindfulness and Concentration.

Meditation with DMN (Default Mode Network) of The Brain

Default Mode Network is the system of the brain that scans our brain and finds some memories from the past and also involves future imagination. It is implicated in self-related thinking, unnecessary thoughts, daydreaming and mind wandering due to which mind behaves like a monkey and is also called Monkey Mind.

This brain network allows us to call up memories from the past and thoughts for the future but it also lets us endlessly ruminate about regrets and fears in our thoughts.

According to the studies and research the DMN found less active in expert meditators as compared to the non-meditators or beginners of Meditation. The consistently reduced activity of DMN has been found with the practice in Meditators as per the evidence data of recent meta-analysis.

Meditators allow themselves to stay present for a longer period of time, with minimum number of thoughts and imaginations because of this reduced functioning of DMN, where non-meditators can not be without thoughts even for a couple of seconds.

Meditation with Emotional and Awareness center of The Brain

Meditation practice with mindfulness is claimed to improve emotional and physical well-being. More and more people are getting involved into the practice to handle their emotions and to be more responsive rather than instantaneously reactive.

One of the largest study regarding the same has been examined by the team of researchers at Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin and Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, France,

That was published in the journal NeuroImage in November 2018.This research was examined with long-term meditators, short-term meditators and non-meditators.

It has been found that practice in long-term meditators was associated with lower amygdala reactivity to negative pictures, Thus, meditation training may improve affective responding through reduced amygdala reactivity. The amygdala is an area of the brain critical for emotion and detecting important information from the environment.

Mind Image with different Departments and Duties

It has been found with the further studies that the size of amygdala gets shrunk and the prefrontal cortex, responsible for logics and awareness, becomes thicker in expert meditators.

Also, the reduced activity of DMN leads to the increased activity of the logical system of the brain, that is, the prefrontal cortex. Less functioning of DMN allows the prefrontal cortex to be more focussed on the present environment and situations.

Due to this thickening of the prefrontal cortex and less activity of amygdala, meditators are more mindful, innovative, connected and patient in all circumstances.

Expert meditators are connected with the cosmic energy and their amygdala is hardly connected to emotions, self-regulation or tracking goals perhaps because emotion regulation becomes more automatic with increased practice.

Meditation with Pain center of The Brain

Meditators feel less pain compared to non-meditators, found in the study. Brain imaging studies have shown that chronic pain leads to reduction in gray matter volume and the integrity of white matter connectivity. Gray matter is home to the neurons in specific brain regions.

Meditation practitioners have more gray matter than controls in multiple brain regions, including those involved in pain modulation.

It has been found that many parts of the prefrontal cortex (awareness center of brain) decoupled from cingulate cortex (pain center of brain) which leads to less pain feeling in expert meditators.

study by WAKE FOREST BAPTIST MEDICAL CENTER, based on that mindfulness meditation trumps a placebo in pain reduction, has been published in November 2015 in Journal of Neuroscience.They found new evidence regarding Mindfulness meditation reduces pain by activating brain regions (orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortex) associated with the self-control of pain.

“Another brain region, the thalamus, was deactivated during mindfulness meditation, but was activated during all other conditions. This brain region serves as a gateway that determines if sensory information is allowed to reach higher brain centers. By deactivating this area, mindfulness meditation may have caused signals about pain to simply fade away”, said by one of researcher.

Benefits of Meditation

Meditation is the key solution from our health to our relationships. It has a number of benefits with the array of conditions and situations. Nowadays more and more people are using Meditation as a simple method to build awareness and to deal with their thoughts, emotions and moods. But there are a number of benefits of this practice, not only mentally but also physically and spiritually.

Balanced Physical and Mental Health

It’s difficult for us to control our thoughts, control our urges, wants and desires of our mind and to control our instant reactions and actions. The practice of meditation clears away the mind chattering and helps us to look at our mind and emotions and to deal with them in a better way.

It has been experienced by many expert meditators that with the constant practice of Meditation, the demanding nature of mind has been reduced. Due to which they experience less urges and desires through their senses and that helps them to control their senses and stay satisfied.

Mindfulness builds up a strong concentration and this leads to innovative ideas, better decision making and a balanced emotional metabolism.

Though there is no such evidence that meditation is the perfect solution to deal with any health disorder yet it has been found in some cases that many people recover their health issues through the practice of Mindfulness. Meditation has been found as an effective remedy for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, chronic pain and other health conditions.

As meditation reduces the size of the amygdala (emotional center of the brain), it has been found that it helps in dealing with anxiety and depression, where it increases the alpha waves (brain waves in relaxation) and provides a calming effect to the mind.

Also, a reduction in biomarkers has been found after a long term practice of Meditation. Cortisol level , CRP-level, C-reactive proteins have been found less and reduced in many patients. According to Yoga, during Meditation every function of the body slows down for sometime, which boosts the Prana (vital energy) of the body. This improves the body’s healing power and rejuvenates each and every cell of the body. Many people were able to cure cancer, HIV and tumors through deep meditation and solitude.

Improves Memory

People with more awareness and concentration are found to have stronger memories compared to others. We memorize things from our past when we use our concentration center of our brain and that digs our older memory and represents us. Due to meditation our cerebral cortex , (memory center of the brain) and prefrontal cortex (concentration center) works together strongly and helps us to remember more and more moments.

Students can use meditation to remember their learnings and also it helps them to stay confident. Meditation helps students to bring new ideas and let them stay focused towards their studies.

It has been found that meditation helps in age-related memory loss in many old age people. It provides a clear mind and reduces stress which helps them to be focused and prevent memory loss.

Enhance Rest and Receptivity of Mind

4 states of existence deal with different levels of frequency of mind, where lesser frequency leads to more resting-state and more receptive state for mind. Look image for reference

Table 1 : States of Consciousness

The frequency of mind is high when we are awake and lowest when we are in deep sleep & dreaming i.e. the state of Unconsciousness and Subconsciousness. Where we can not feel anything. All of our senses are blocked and receptivity of mind is zero.

In meditation, brain waves are alpha, this is the state of superconsciousness and the gateway of the subconscious mind.

It is the state of higher imagination, visualization, memory, learning & concentration.

At this state of consciousness, our mind is at a deep relaxation level and at a higher level of receptivity. Whatever we will repeat in our meditation our subconscious mind will accept that as an innocent child. This is how it helps many people to improve their learning ability and to get rid of bad habits like smoking or alcohol.

Sleeping meditation used for better sleep and rest. During sleep meditation any statement that we repeat will be the last thing our mind remembers even after sleeping. Our subconscious mind will work on the same statement and our mind will consider that as one of our commands and work for that during day and night.

Meditation cures many sleeping issues like insomnia, day time sleeping and sleeping while studying. One of the popular meditation techniques from Yoga called Pratyahara is used for this purpose and there are a number of people who used this method of meditation for physical and mental purposes and were able to achieve positive results from the practice.

Why Meditation is the most powerful technique to control the mind?

Meditation has a positive impact on all centers of our brain. It has a number of benefits physical and mental like, stress reduction, emotional balance, memory improvement, less thoughts, more mindfulness, reduce pain, improve self-awareness and provide better sleep.

With all these benefits it provides an attitude of kindness and positivity. Which keeps us humble and patient towards other people and in every circumstance.

Meditation moves our attention inward and introduces us with our inner world. This changes our perception towards life and other beings. One of the biggest positive changes that people see in themselves after meditation is self-awareness and self-observation.

This improves our category of interests from material world to the world of inner self and we are able to experience something beyond. To move our mind from small, physical, and non-permanent aspects of life to the awareness of cosmic energy and self-aura is the biggest achievement for any Meditator.

Meditation & Mindfulness not only improve the quality of mind but also it improves our way of observation and experiencing life.

“If we can train ourselves through meditation to be more open and more accepting toward the wild arc of the experience, if we can lean into the difficulties of life and the ride of our minds, we can become more settled and relaxed amid whatever life brings us.” – Pema Chodron

Why do beginners fail in the practice of Meditation?

Though meditation is a simple practice of mindfulness but due to our inability to handle our Monkey Mind we find it the most difficult task for us. Many people are bound to their comfort zone where they found everything their mind demands for.

Unconsciously people are following everything their mind asks them to follow without knowing about the consequences. This is due to a weak connection between their mind and themselves.

In this case when someone sits for meditation he observes something with which his mind and body is not comfortable. Due to which his mind generates a thought to come out from the current moment, and from years if you are following commands of your mind, you won’t take even seconds to get up and stop your practice.

Here are 5 simple tips for meditation at beginner level,

Plan Your Meditation: No project can work without a proper planning and distribution. You should plan your meditation for a few minutes and follow some steps of practice so that you know about how to deal with your upcoming thoughts in your meditation. Also, sit with the strong will power to finish your meditation on time and not before that. This will help your mind to understand that it’s your time to be in command and so that it helps you to control your mind and works according to you.

Object for Meditation: Choose your object for meditation that will help you to come back from your thoughts. It can be your breath, sound, any visualization of God or anything you are comfortable with. Your object of meditation will help you stay present and improve your concentration ability.

Come Back Attitude: Keep your attitude of comeback always. When you go into a thought and you are completely involved in it, just come back to your object as soon as you come to know that you are into some thought. This comeback is necessary because it is the call of awakening and it alerts your mind to be more and more focussed.

Focus on Eyebrow Center: Eyebrow center is the area of pineal gland and ajna chakra, responsible for more intuition and more concentration. When you sit in meditation start with your breath and keep looking at the center of the eyebrows with closed eyes. This will help you build a strong connection in a very short time.

Use some helping tools: Using some tools for your comfort and ease is a good idea for the practice of concentration and mindfulness. Yes, I agree we face a lot of difficulties and put many efforts to build this connection with our mind, so there is nothing wrong if you can make this process easy with the help of some tools. You can use a pillow behind your back, a blanket underneath, use a chair if you feel stiffness in your legs, and apply a little balm in your eyebrow center for concentration.

Checkout my video regarding “Simple meditation technique for beginners and 5 signs of your progress.

Practice for Mindfulness

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Step 1: Set a timer for 10 to 15 minutes and choose a quiet place with no distraction for your practice.

Step 2: Sit on the floor with crossed legs or on a chair if your legs are tired, with the closed eyes.

Step 3: Take 10 deep breaths and stay aware about every ingoing and outgoing breath.

Step 4: Focus on the eyebrow center and visualize a yellow light at the eyebrow center.

Step 5: Keep looking at your thoughts, do not judge and interrupt in between, just watch your thoughts and stay aware about every emotion of your thoughts.

Step 6: Come back to your breath and focus on the eyebrow center with the closed eyes.

Step 7: Repeat this practice for a complete time period with the closed eyes.

Step 8: Slowly become aware towards your toes, your legs, your thighs, your palms, your hands, your chest, your back, your neck, your head and your face.

Step 9: Slowly become aware of your surroundings, listen to every small sound around you and come back to the present moment.

Step 10. Repeat ‘OM’ 3 times in the end, slowly rub your palms together, keep your palms on your eyes, under your palms slowly open your eyes and keep your palms down.

“Meditation is simply training our state of being so that our mind and body can be synchronized. Through the practice of meditation, we can learn to be without deception, to be fully genuine and alive. “ – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Thank you 🙂

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