Jamie Bazil – An Introduction To Meditation : The What And The Why? – 5 May 2012

So I was writing up the report “The Mystery & Mastery of the Eye” based on the information and techniques shared in the first half of my presentation at TruthJuice called “2012 is Now: Blueprint for Global Awakening” (4th April 2012), but more and more newbies to meditation were expressing interest, at which point it dawned on me that I was diving straight into the deep end for a lot of people. I decided, then, to put together this introduction to meditation practise.

This theory and the following practical will enable practitioners to cover all the basics, and after mastery of these move on to the advanced practises shared in the aforementioned report and elsewhere with confidence and ease. I cannot say how long one would need to master the basics. Of course one must figure that out for one’s self, or join a class offering basic meditation practise in breath and mindfulness. And ultimately follow your intuition to decide. That said, even if one just follows diligently the techniques and tips shared in the following pages and the accompanying videos, one will make swift progress and eventually find oneself prepared for more.

Many masters of meditation suggest that meditation alone is difficult if not impossible. I would say that meditating in a group or with another is easier, in terms of increasing one’s motivation, but if one has the necessary motivation it is indeed possible to achieve some success. Also, whilst in my 25 or so years of meditative practise I was most of the time without a teacher, apart from my own intuition and possibly reincarnational imprinting to guide me, I nevertheless learned from my mistakes and finally have relative mastery of the process. So in a sense you will benefit from my lifetime of practise, and in a sense even if you were just to follow my instructions here, you would have a headstart at the practise, a headstart which in many ways I did not have as a child.

In-built within my instruction are various tips and techniques which ensure that your meditative practise is safe, effective, and very expedient. If you already meditate or consider yourself experienced, also bear in mind that I will share much with you seasoned voyagers that may enhance your existing practise. That said, experienced meditators may move straight into advanced practises such as that detailed in the above report, although it may be that you do not get the most out of said practises as the advanced practises assume that you have the prerequisite knowledge contained herein.

In any event, the following article will offer a basic introduction to what meditation is, the reasons why we would do well to develop a regular practise, and then explore how to actually engage basic meditative practise with expediency. Are you ready?

What is Meditation?

Meditation can be defined in many ways, it may also be – in its deepest sense – indefinable. To cut a long story short though, meditation consists of the following main aspects.

Relaxation – This goes almost without saying. Try and enter a relaxed meditative state by clenching your fists and grimacing. Whilst it’s certainly possible, it wouldn’t be an expedient method! So the first element of meditation is to be relaxed in mind and body.  This can be achieved by correct posture and breathing (see the following article and video “How to Meditate”).

Concentration – Meditation is considered by many westerner’s to be a case of “switching off”, becoming unconscious, or falling asleep. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is more about being relaxed whilst concentrated. One may concentrate on the breath to stop the mind from wandering, one may concentrate on a mantra or some sacred object like a religious figure or flower, or one may simply concentrate on being aware and awake. Some concentration may be more focused, some more diffused. In fact, in Awakening the Mind, Anna Wise points out that there are four types of concentrated awareness, including Internal Spot, External Spot, Internal Diffuse Awareness, and External Diffuse Awareness, and even more if you combine these. [1] Most meditation with eyes closed would probably involve Diffuse Internal Awareness, awareness to my mind being interchangeable with concentration in the sense of “I am concentrating my awareness within myself” or “diffuse from within myself to a concentrated point outside of myself.”

Awareness – To repeat the end of the last statement; meditation is about being aware and awake. When you meditate, it would be nice if you had a clear or empty mind, but this is very unusual, or at least takes many years or even decades of practise to achieve. I used to think the same, and it was very frustrating. Less than a year ago did I finally realise that that really isn’t the aim of meditation. The aim is just to be present and aware. To be the Observer. To watch the thoughts like clouds and be detached from them. Only a crazy person gets angry with the sky! Do not encourage the thoughts and start off the domino cascade effect, but nonetheless do not expect to have an empty mind either. The number of people I have met who have said “Oh I tried to meditate, but I gave up because it was too difficult. I couldn’t empty my mind.” I have learned, one of the true benefits of meditation, not to be frustrated by such statements anymore! All that we need to do is become aware of the Gap between thoughts and focus on that. And as we focus there, the Gap takes up more of our awareness and then it seems as if our mind is empty, or at least for longer periods of time.

Hemispheric Synchronisation – This is more of a scientific and biological term referring to the balance of the left and right hemispheres of the brain brought about by various practises such as tai chi, martial arts, dancing, and other such practises including of course meditation. If one dances or does Tai chi and synchronises movement between both sides of the body, for example, this kinaesthetic synchrony will harmonise both brain hemispheres. Similarly, a key attribute of – successful – meditation practise is the synchronising and integrating of the left and right hemispheres. In brain scans of people suffering mental illness, a pattern has emerged; both sides of the brain “doing their own thing” and not working in harmony. There is even a condition which 1 in 4,000 people have called Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum (the Corpus Callosum being the “wires” that connect both sides of the brain) in which the Corpus Callosum is missing. This is like having a lobotomy and causes all sorts of challenges.[2] Conversely, anything that increases synchrony will increase harmony amongst the hemispheres and hence good mental and physical health. On a biological level, synchrony may be essential to experience of the transcendental, although the jury seems to be out on that one. Hemispheric Synchrony is discussed in more detail in the following section, and future articles covering this subject in depth will be produced.

This is the basics of meditation, but we could talk about other qualities engendered by meditative practise all day long, such as Compassion, Detachment, NonJudgement, Equanimity (calm composure especially under challenging circumstances), Service (being aware of who you really are and why you are here). These things become more apparent in us and through us, as we gain more clarity. As if to say, we become more translucent. How does that happen? Well as we meditate we peel back layers of illusion created by the Ego, that part of us which tends to be judgemental, negative, lacking confidence, or over-confident, and so on and so forth. All that stuff which isn’t really us. How we achieve this is by remembering that we are the Observer, the ever-present awareness. We avoid identifying with our thoughts, and even our emotions, as being real. We just watch them and let them go by. In Buddhist Vepassana meditation, like Zen, there is a belief that this is all you really need to do. Just watch the breath and be aware. All else is illusion.

Mindfulness and knowledge of the Ego is second nature in the East, but only started to enter the Western psyche with the influx of gurus from the East during the heyday of the hippy era in the 1960s. More recently, there has been a surge in such awareness primarily with the integration of Buddhist Mindfulness practise and also popular books like Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now [3] which I would highly recommend as background reading material to your meditation practise.

Why Meditate?

In this day and age, living in a highly-stressed Western lifestyle of “fast this, fast that,” clockwatching, and all the other stresses and strains of 21st century living, meditation is of increasing value – if not necessity.

In the East it is definitely associated with transcendental and mystical reality, and a lot of time and effort may be devoted to such practise. In the West, however, there is less time to be devoted to such and it is usually seen as merely a way to relax. Another trait of the industrial western world is our lack of patience. So people often shy away from meditation because it seems pointless or fruitless, forgetting that not everything worthwhile in life pops out of a microwave ready cooked in 10 minutes! Practising meditation may thus help you with the virtue of Patience!

Second to the “meditation is boring” perception, is the perception that meditation is relaxing. Whilst meditation is not about relaxation per se, not in the usual sense, it certainly has been shown by numerous scientific research studies and ancient wisdom to relieve a lot of anxiety and stress-related conditions. There is evidence that it may lower blood pressure, relax the heart and brainwaves, and generally improve one’s health. As so many psychological, even many “physical” conditions of dis-ease, are highly stress-related, the benefits of meditation are obvious. Not to mention the anti-aging benefits. Many years ago I heard  that one study discovered that 12 years of regular meditative practise will, on average, lead to looking 6 years younger than your chronological age. And if you thought that was impressive, Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, author of Brain Longevity[4], reports in an article called “The Anti-Aging Benefits of Meditation:

“In a fascinating study on meditation, published over a period of years in three different medical journals, we find that when a group of researchers age (how old a person is physiologically rather than chronologically), determinants of blood pressure, vision and hearing were all improved for age with meditation. Those practicing meditation for five years were physiologically 12 years younger than their non-meditating counterparts. Even short-term participant were physiologically five years younger than the controls.”[5]

There is increasing evidence that meditation may help with many psychological disorders such as depression and ADHD (difficulty concentrating and hyperactivity most prevalent within children). This works by helping people to relax, release more serotonin (the happy brain chemical), and also by balancing the brain hemispheres and the heart-waves. Mindfulness practise, which is an essential element in all meditative practise, has become a popular complementary treatment option within the west, either offered as stand alone training or incorporated within therapeutic practise.[6] I myself went through Mindfulness training for attentional problems many years ago, and it was very successful.

There is increasing research to suggest that the brain, because it is a muscle, is also literally being healed and rewired by meditative practise. Research carried out by Richard Davidson with Buddhist monks, with the permission of the Dalai Lama, has revealed that the fronts of their brains –  the left prefrontal cortex – tends to be more developed. “This suggests,” says Davidson, “that the positive state is a skill that can be trained.”[7] Generally, meditation is good for the brain because it balances the left and right hemispheres. This enhanced synchrony of balanced Ying-Yang, which some maintain is our true natural state, is increased over time and the brain in a process of homeostasis attempts to maintain such peaks by re-wiring itself to handle such increases in inter-hemispheric  connectivity. Then we reach a new plateau (whereby the previously “peak” experience becomes hardwired and therefore normal experience), and the process continues.

According to various researchers and developers[8], the process of meditation may be enhanced through use of hemisphere synchronising technologies known commonly as binaural beats (or similar such as isochronic and monaural beats). In short, using two discrete tones of varying frequency (say 100hz to the left and 95hz to the right), one’s olivary nucleus will consolidate the frequencies and hear (or resonate) to the difference between tones, in this instance 5hz. From here there will be a corresponding stimulation of both brain hemispheres at the frequency of 5hz, so that both left and right come into synch with each other.

And then the strength of the carrier frequency can be altered (for example you could create the same frequency difference of 5hz by using 60hz minus 55hz), which will give the brain a stronger stimuli at the same frequency, or so the theory goes because there is some controversy on this point.  In other words, causing the brain to progressively handle more and more stimulation and synchrony, in response to which it has to keep growing to prepare itself for future stimuli of the same or stronger intensity, a phenomenon which sounds akin to body-building. Even if one is sceptical of such technological approaches to enhancing meditation, it would be far from controversial to suggest that meditation is a form of exercise for the brain and literally changes it structurally

This brain synchrony and driving stimuli can literally re-grow and heal the brain. Lower brain frequencies, such as Delta, are hypothesized to reach deeper into the thalamus, the emotional centre of the brain, where trauma is held. The benefits of synchrony are obvious. Commonly people experience spontaneous emotional release and healing when they break through to deeper and higher levels. And there is also research from biofeedback, for example, to show that rebalancing of the brain and healing even increases IQ scores.

Hopefully I haven’t confused the matter by introducing brainwave training and biofeedback. These technologies or aids to meditation, if you will, are by no means necessary although in my experience have been very helpful and may enhance one’s practise. I will share more on this topic in future, but for now explaining the basic background behind the hemispheric synchronising phenomenon of binaural beats helps us understand, on a biological level, how classic meditation tends to work.

Throughout the meditation instruction I offer you, the concept of synchrony becomes paramount to safe, successful and expedient practise, and I have methodically inbuilt within the instructions techniques and tips on how to ensure that this key feature of meditation is achieved. The following article, How to Meditate, will contain practical information on how to ensure your meditation practise takes this vital factor into account.

REFERENCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY

1). Wise, Anna, Awakening the Mind: A Guide to Harnessing the Power of Your Brain-Waves, Tarcher, 2002: http://www.amazon.com/Awakening-Mind-Guide-Harnessing-Brainwaves/dp/1585421456

2). Video on AGCC: http://www.thirteen.org/curious/mind-brain-machine/agenesis-of-the-corpus-callosum/7/

5). Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., The Anti Aging Benefits of Meditation (accessed April 2012): http://www.drdharma.com/utility/showArticle/?objectID=229

6). Wikipedia, “Mindfulness”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness

7). Waage, Tom, Happy Monks: http://www.tomwaage.com/aging_and_mental_health

8). IAwake Technologies, Research and Development: http://www.profoundmeditationprogram.com/research

via http://www.conscious-universe.net link to original article

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