“One who has control over the mind,
Is tranquil in heat and cold,
In pleasure and pain, and in honor and dishonor;
And is ever steadfast with the Supreme Self.”
– The Bhagwad Gita
Recent studies have suggested that a pet at your home is extremely beneficial to your health. Have you ever thought how a dog can contribute to your good health? Look at how it plays with the ball, how it wags its tail to show how pleased it is to have you or how restless it is to grab a loaf of bread and swallow it whole. Sheer observation of the behavior of the pets without being judgmental helps release the good hormones. We cannot help but being judgmental when it comes to observing a human being but same does not go for the pet. This is known as mindfulness and it is a part of meditation. This activity takes us away from the mainstream life momentarily and lets the mind start afresh.
Consider this quotation from Sylvia Boorstein:
“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.”
Similarly, when you appreciate the beauty of the world around you, when you are being grateful for being a part of the beautiful world and when you are thankful for the beautiful life, you generate tremendous amount of positive energy within you. This has been done through centuries in the form of prayers. This is another form of meditation.
Like sleep, meditation gives the mind time to rest but is deeper than sleep. Sometimes you feel exhausted even after a 10-12 hour sleep. If so, you have a disturbed mind. But with a 10 minute meditation you can feel fresh and alive. And the best part is, when you are well practiced you can meditate anywhere and at any time. Meditation starts transforming your life in and out. The quality of life improves as meditation has an important role in overall health plan.
A man traveling in a bus was getting irritated by a bunch of boisterous boys who had every commuter searching for earplugs. He was returning from work and had a very hectic and frustrating day. Beside the man was seated a girl who had just won a competition and was on cloud nine. Consider the feelings of the two. The man was getting furious on the boys whereas the girl was finding the hullabaloo very amusing. You might have experienced both the situations on different occasions. Ever thought why does it happen? It is not the power of the external stimuli that decides your response, but it is the state of mind that is responsible for what you feel and how you behave. The Dalai Lama once said:
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”
Now let us reflect on the days of examinations when we were in school. What happens when there are 10 days to go for an exam? We are trying to study hard but our speed is thwarted by the distractions. Sometimes the sound of people speaking, or music prevents us from focusing. While at the other times our own thought process carries us away to the distant arena of dreams. Now what happens when there are 3 hours for the exam? Any sort of disturbing sight, smell, sound or thought doesn’t affect you an ounce. The mind is focused and centered on the preparation for the exam.
The mind is the master. It doesn’t matter how the external environment is presenting itself. It depends on how your mind wants to perceive the stimuli. It is true that hot will be hot to everyone and cold will be cold to everyone but what makes a difference is your reaction. Some may tolerate hotness to an extreme limit while others may give up on a stimulus of low threshold.
Similarly, the peace of the mind is a function of stillness of mind. A still mind remains unperturbed by what is going on around us. Peace of mind is the key to lead a healthy and tension-free life. Mind and body are irrevocably interlinked to each other. The body cannot lead a healthy life when the mind is diseased and vice versa. Meditation helps achieve stillness of mind and relaxation of body stresses. Whether you are healthy or affected with ailments, meditation will undoubtedly take an important position if you are planning for an overall health management.
Stressful ways of life are leading to a rise in lifestyle related disorders. Hypertension and cardiovascular diseases are on a rise. Around 17.3 million people die of cardiovascular diseases all over the world every year. Meditation has been found to be beneficial in these stress related disorders.
Meditation is not only important for the diseases of cardiovascular origin but also for coping up with the other disorders such as in psychosomatic disorders. The etiology or the cause of a majority of diseases remains obscure and is currently attributed to psychosomatic affections. Insomnia, primary dysmenorrhea and low backache are of prominence. Psoriasis, ulcers and hypertension are the other diseases thought to be aggravated by stress.
Meditation has found a place in psychiatry. Many researches over a past few years have documented the biological effects of meditation in psychiatric disorders. It has been found to bring changes in the structure of brain matter after 8-week meditation program. Regional grey matter density was found to be increased by the meditation. Decrease in grey matter is found in various psychiatric disorders and increase in grey matter by meditation is a positive sign. In a similar study, meditation caused decrease in the levels of glucocorticoids and modulated the immune system of the body. Glucocorticoids are the hormones that are raised during stress. Psychological stress in chronic debilitating diseases has been countered well by mindful meditation.
Meditation has also been found to be beneficial when a person gets affected with a grave disorder that has jeopardized his life expectancy. It has been found to bring about somatic changes. In cases of cancer, increase in the levels of cytokines and natural killer cells was found out. These cells comprise the body defense system against the diseases. It has also been found to build up immunity against flu viruses.
It is time to integrate the established modes of treatment and ancient modes of prevention and cure. A holistic approach would help us fight many diseases that have assumed draconian form hard to conquer. Though mechanisms and effects of meditation on body and life need to be understood on modern parameters, yet an action speaks a thousand words. Meditation undoubtedly has a pivot role in the maintenance of health. This area demands more persistence and funds for research.
The vast potential of the meditation has just begun to unfurl. We still have a long way to go. Let us just delve into the meditation techniques and experience the joy. Swami Sivananda aptly quoted:
“Meditation is painful in the beginning but it bestows immortal Bliss and supreme joy in the end”
Meditation and its importance in overall health plan
“One who has control over the mind,