HOW IS MEDITATION USED TODAY?
People from all walks of life, in all the countries of the world belonging to all the possible religions, meditate for a wide variety of reasons. The same technique offers something different to each according to his needs and motives. Some of the motives for which people meditate today are:
1. To relax the body, mind and rejuvenate one’s flow of energy in order to more effectively face the responsibilities of one’s demanding and active life.
2. To heal illnesses (especially psychosomatic ones).
3. To overcome emotional problems.
4. To develop a more relaxed, and positive view towards life.
5. To develop a peaceful and more clearly functioning mind.
6. For greater ability to penetrate into the core of problems and find inspirational solutions. This has been found especially useful by scientists and businessmen.
7. To tune into a creative inspirations for artistic expression.
8. For freeing oneself from addictions such as cigarettes, alcohol, narcotics and tranquilizers.
9. To purify one’s character.
10. To develop will-power.
11. As a method of self-observation and self-discovery.
12. To develop the latent powers of the mind.
13. To create a relationship with God.
14. To develop an inner relationship with God.
15. For spiritual growth, self-knowledge or enlightenment.
16. For transcending the identification with the body and mind, and experience spiritual realities.
17. For the ecstasy of union with the Universal Spirit, which is the essential reality of the universe.
Meditation has been and is being used for a wide variety of other practical uses, which there is no space to mention here. The possibilities are infinite, as the powers of the human mind are unlimited.
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ON THE EFFECTS OF MEDITATION ON THE BODY AND PERSONALITY
Numerous scientific experiments have given repeatable results concerning the effects of meditation on a person’s body and personality. Some of these effects are measured during the process of meditation, while one is sitting and concentrating. Others are made over the years, observing the changes that occur in one’s physical and mental functions, as a result of years of regular practice of meditation. These results are from scientific research studies including people who meditate and similar control groups of people who do not meditate. These results have been made on meditators who were practicingTranscendental Meditation. I believe, however, that all forms of meditation will produce the same results.
1. DEEP PHYSIOLOGICAL REST is shown by a distinct drop in the metabolism rate, as measured by the oxygen consumption by an individual in meditation, waking activity, sleep and hypnosis. In meditation there was a sudden drop (16%) in oxygen consumption, whereas in sleep there was only an 8% drop (maximum) and in hypnosis a slight rise from the basic metabolic rate. These results indicate that the body and mind are established in a deep state of relaxation and rest which cannot be achieved even in sleep.
2. Another indication of the deep rest is that the number of breaths needed to be taken each minute during meditation drops from an average of 16 breaths per minute during normal restful waking consciousness to only 7 breaths per minute in the depths of meditation. This indicates that the body and mind are in deep rest and that there is much less need for oxygen.
Some people, when they first encounter this state in which they need less oxygen, become frightened because they suddenly realize that they have not breathed for a long time. They can rest assured that there is absolutely no danger. Whenever the body actually needs to breathe, it will give the message to the breathing apparatus to take in the necessary oxygen, without needing to think about this at all. This is a completely safe and very beneficial state of consciousness.
3. Good news for those with heart problems is that meditation is also extremely restful and rejuvenating for the heart. Studies have shown that meditators experience a more restful heart both while relaxing and during activity. This fact has been used by open-minded doctors who use meditation, along with exercise and discussion groups, to help their heart patients to refind their lost health and vitality.
One does not need, however, to become a heart patient in order to benefit from this aspect of meditation. Remember that the heart is a pump which functions continuously. Like any other pump it will break down more quickly if it is over used and over stressed. Meditation is a powerful preventive tool for all physical and mental problems.
4. Another indication of the deep rest produced by meditation is the significant drop in the blood lactate level from 1.2mg/100ml to .7mg/100ml. The blood lactate level is a measure of the relative use and fatigue of the muscles. The lower the lactate level the more rested and rejuvenated is the muscle tissue.
5. Tests show meditation’s deep calming effect through the decrease in skin conductivity. The skin’s electrical conductivity is a measure of an individual’s relative state of peace or tension. Tests have shown that the conductivity during meditation can fall 300% indicating that the individual has relaxed both physically and emotionally.
6. Brain wave measurements during meditation show a higher incidence of alpha waves indicating a restful alertness. There is a sense of peace and yet a wakeful awareness in one’s environment. One might compare such a state to the relaxed alertness of a cat, who is completely relaxed, but ever ready to respond, if there be needed.
7. Another scientific study showed that meditation induces greater communication and interaction between the two hemispheres of the brain. This brain wave synchronicity leads to a more wholesome and balanced way of thinking and acting. Many investigations are being done concerning the different qualities of functioning evinced by the left and right hemisphere. It is believed that the left hemisphere works more through logic, and that the right is more oriented towards creative free flowing thought. A harmonious balance of these two is obviously needed for a healthy and productive way of life.
Such studies also showed increased communication between frontal and posterior portions of the brain. Although we are not sure what this may mean, it is obvious that meditation allows an increased communication, and perhaps attunement, between that various substations of our brain.
8. Perhaps the best documented and well known effects of meditation concern its ability to reduce blood pressure in those with high blood pressure. A typical result is that during meditation one’s diastolic blood pressure would fall from 15 to 13 and the systolic from 8.5 to 7. Such results would continue to remain in effect for hours after the meditation and eventually become a permanent reality after some years of meditation and proper eating, living and thinking.
Those are only a few of the many changes which have been measured during the process of meditation. Now let us look at some of the more long term changes, which were observed in meditators after some period of daily meditation. Remember that the results are compared to these meditators themselves as they were before they started meditating or to control groups of similar people who do not meditate.
LONG TERM PHYSIOLOGICAL CHANGES
9. In the long run both the heart rate and breathing rate develop a slower pace as the body experiences less mental-emotional stress and learns to waste less energy. The body becomes more relaxed and more efficient.
10. Persons who meditate experience much more stable health. They have less illnesses in general in their lives. This is true both in comparison to their lives before they began meditating and also in comparison to others of the same age bracket who live similar life styles but do not meditate. This indicates an obvious strengthening of the immune system. There have been a large number of scientific studies made recently concerning the relationship between mental and emotional states and the immune system. It has become obvious to all that a person who is relaxed, has a positive view of himself and life will have a much stronger immune system than he would have had if he allowed his energy to run down or was plagued by negative thoughts and negative feelings.
LONG TERM PSYCHOLOGICAL CHANGES
11. Studies have also shown that those who meditate regularly react more quickly and more effectively to a stressful event. These studies paint the following picture. An average person who is neither especially relaxed nor overanxious requires a certain amount of time to react to a stressful stimulus. His stress will build gradually and then he will start to relax. A person who meditates regularly tends to react more quickly and then relax more quickly. Anxious individuals tend to react much more slowly and then their tension keeps building up for a long time after the event. They do not let go of the event but dwell on it for long after it has passed.
This experiment destroys the misconception that meditation makes a person uncreative and unresponsive. The truth is the opposite. He has a much quicker reaction time, because his mind is much more present and not so preoccupied by various problems which exist only in the past or future.
A similar test showed that, with the same stimulus, non-meditators took 5 seconds to react while meditators took only 3 seconds to react.
12. Meditation also increases one’s perceptual ability and motor performance. In an experiment with a speed and accuracy test in which each was scored according to both speed and to accuracy, meditators scored 7 while non-meditators scored only 2.5. This means that meditation will aid us in all of our mental and manual activities and tasks. The quality and productivity of our work will increase in every aspect of our life.
13. In Holland studies with high school students showed that those who meditated had an «intelligence growth rate» of 28 points, while those who did not meditate had a growth of only 10 points. This is one reason why meditation first made its largest appearance in the West through the students, who quickly realized that their mental abilities were deeply enhanced by this process called meditation.
14. Memory recall is also enhanced by meditation. In long term memory recall studies meditators scored 52% while non-meditators scored only 32%. In similar studies on short term memory recall, meditators scored 70% while non-meditators fell far short with only 37%. We can see that meditation is a powerful tool for developing all the mind’s abilities. Rather than being a retreat from life is actually a very practical tool for leading more productive and effective life.
15. Many psychological studies have been made in work environments concerning meditators and control groups of non-meditators. In the specific time period in which the study was made the meditators experienced a 40% increase in JOB SATISFACTION, while non-meditators experienced only a 5% increase. Meditators exhibited a 50% increase in PRODUCTIVITY, while non-meditators actually had a drop of 10% in their productivity. Meditators experienced a 65% improvement in their relationships with coworkers and a 45% improvement in their relationship with their supervisors. Non-meditators in the same company experienced only a 10% improvement in their relationships with coworkers and only 25% improvement in relationships with supervisors.
Thus in the same work environment meditators were able to experience significant improvement in their feelings of satisfaction, productivity and relationships with coworkers and supervisors, while others in the same environment had significantly different experiences. We can see from this how subjective our reality can be and to what degree we create our own reality.
In another similar study meditating workers experienced a 50% increase in job satisfaction, while non-meditators had only a 5% increase. This increase in satisfaction is a result of a perceptual change on the part of the meditator and not due to changes in the work environment. This is true for many aspects of our lives. We may believe that we cannot be happy with what we have, that we are in danger. But a perceptual change removes this illusion and all is fine again.
It is important to realize that this does not happen because the worker becomes pathetic and unconcerned. Remember that he has a 50% increase in productivity and 65% improvement in relationships with coworkers. This does not indicate a suppressed powerless character but rather a positive attitude towards life and work.
16. A large number of psychological tests have been done on those who have been meditating for various periods of time. A test made on those who had been meditating for only two months in comparison to non-meditators produced the following results:
a. In a test of inner directedness meditators scored 7 while the non-meditators scored only 2.2, showing that those who meditate either have an inherent sense of inner directedness or develop it through meditation.
b. When tested on a scale for self acceptance meditators scored 2 while the non-meditators averaged only minus 1. It appears that the inner contact developed during meditation helps a person experience a more harmonious relationship with himself.
c. A test for spontaneity showed the meditators to have a score of 2.3 while the non-meditators had minus 3. This again dispels the myth that meditation causes a person to become dry and unresponsive. The opposite is true. He or she becomes more responsive, more spontaneous and more creative.
d. In a test for self esteem meditators scored an average of 2, while non meditators had a minus 3. This additional self-confidence is an important part of any life endeavor, and a great asset in life.
e. In a test for the capacity for intimate contact with others, meditators scored 2.3, while the others scored only 2, again showing that meditation does not make a person more removed from others but rather it makes him or her more capable of intimate contact with them. This is a result of the fact that one feels more secure and has a better relationship with one’s own self. Thus one fears others much less, and needs to play fewer social games which keep us apart.
f. In a test for how much anxiety a person has, meditators scored only 2 while non-meditators scored 8 evincing their higher tendency towards anxiety than the meditators.
In other similar psychological tests it has been shown that, in comparison to non-meditators, meditators have much less depression, an increased sense of friendliness, and decreased tendency to want to dominate others, more respect for others, greater emotional stability, greater staying power in the face of physical or mental difficulties or stresses, less rigidity in their character and greater SELF-ACTUALIZATION. Concerning this last factor, meditators who started out meditating with a self-actualization factor of 30, scored 35 after 6 weeks of meditation and 50 after 4 months.
This is one of the most important gifts offered to us by our meditation. The gift is that we are able to manifest more and more of our inner as yet unmanifest potential on all levels: physically, emotionally, mentally, artistically, in relationship with mechanical tasks, creative endeavors, and even our financial needs. Our mind is more clear, productive and creative.
17. In line with the previously mentioned psychological tests, important studies have also been done on the effect of meditation on prisoners. Tests on prisoners who meditated in relationship to themselves before meditating and in relationship to prisoners who did not meditate produced the following important results:
a. There was a marked decrease in psychasthenia. They became much more healthy and socially acceptable in their behavior.
b. They evinced less anxiety and less aggressiveness.
c. They accumulated much less offenses towards the prison rules and became inclined to 100% more positive activities such as sports, clubs and educational activities.
OTHER LONG TERM PHYSIOLOGICAL CHANGES
Previously we had mentioned some of the physical effects of meditation on the body during the time period of the meditation itself. Now let us discuss some of long term results on the body, as a result of daily meditation.
18. After 4 to 6 weeks of meditation, meditators with hypertension have found their blood pressure fall on an average from 15 to 13.5 and the lower from 8.5 to 7. This is obviously good news for hypertensive.
19. A group of meditators who had been suffering from bronchial asthma found significant relief. Ninety four percent of them found improved flow through the air passages. Sixty one percent of them found significant improvement in their breathing. Doctors following up these patients found the same results.
20. Meditators were checked on their consumption of cigarettes after starting to meditate. Of the 39% who smoked heavily at the start, the percentage dropped to 20% after 9 months an to 17% after 21 months. Concerning those who smoked lightly, 50% smoked lightly in the beginning. Only 25% after 9 months and it dropped to 20% after 21 months.
21. The same test was done on those who drank heavily. They were 18% at the start. After 9 months they had dropped to 15% and after 21 months to only 5%, a significant and important change in their lives. For those who drank only lightly the numbers changed less. They went from 55% at the start, to 42% after 9 months and back up to 45% after 21 months. It seems that meditation is a great harmonizer which works more intensely there where we are most out of our balance without removing us from life or from contact with those around us.
22. Even more significant results were found on meditators who had been in the habit of using various types of drugs before they began meditating. The results were as follows:
TYPE BEFORE AFTER 21 OF DRUG STARTING MONTHS AMPHETAMINES 27% 3% BARBITURATES 19% 3% MARIJUANA 77% 23% LSD 42% 5% HEROIN 17% 2%
This test was made on 1300 persons who were users of some type of drug before they began to meditate. The first numbers are not representative of the number of people starting meditation who use drugs. The sample study was not done on an average group of meditators, but rather those who already used drugs.
The results are spectacular as you can see. The great power of meditation is that it gives us an inner source of security, power and satisfaction, so that we do not need to become or remain dependent on chemical substances, situations or persons. We become stronger, healthier, more self accepting, more creative and more productive.
23. Other tests made on meditators show that they need much less sleep to recover from sleep deprivation. They tend with their normal sleep time to recover from various abnormalities in their sleep pattern. They do not need to sleep long hours to make up for what they have lost.
24. In a study on 408 meditators with a history of infectious diseases 70% showed a significant decrease in the illness they experienced after starting meditation.
25. In a similar study on 156 meditators who had a history of allergies, 56% experienced a decrease or cessation altogether of their allergies.
26. In yet another study on people with inflamed gums, 45 persons started meditation and 26 who did not were the control group. The results are as follows”:
GROUP IMPROVEMENT NO CHANGE GOT WORSE Meditators 76% 20% 4% Non-meditators 15% 41% 46%
These results were found after only 25 days of meditation. The previous three scientific studies would lead us to the conclusion that meditation strengthens the immune system and thus our resistance towards disease is thus a powerful healing tool in all cases in which the body has lost its balance.
27. In a study on insomniacs who started to meditate the time which they required in order to fall asleep dropped off an average of 75 minutes to only 15 minutes.
28. A study on athletes showed that, after starting to meditate, there was an improvement in their performance on various athletic events as well as their intelligence as measured by intelligence tests.
29. In one other study it was found that meditation has the tendency to normalize a person’s weight. That is if he is overweight, he tends to loose, and if he is underweight, he tends to gain.
SOME CONCLUSIONS CONCERNING THESE RESEARCH STUDIES
The conclusion is obvious. Meditation increases whatever is good and life supporting in a person. It strengthens our immune system, harmonizes our endocrine system and relaxes our nervous system. It creates health and vitality. On a mental level it develops inner peace, clarity, self-confidence, self-acceptance, creativity, productivity and eventually greater self-actualization. It makes our work environment more satisfactory, improves our relationships with coworkers, supervisors and subordinates. It makes us more creative, more responsible and more productive.
On a spiritual level it puts us in contact with our inner voice, with our inner strength, with our inner spiritual wisdom and love. Think now, what would happen if many people in our society meditated? How would it affect our society?
HOW MIGHT MEDITATION AFFECT THE SOCIETY AS A WHOLE?
All indications and logical deductions point to the belief that meditation on the part of large numbers of people in our society will have a very positive effect. Let us consider in the light of what we have already learned about the benefits of meditation, how meditation may affect some of the main sources of chaos, disruption and unhappiness in our society today.
1. CONFUSION – Few people today are not confused. Very few know what they want; what is right; what is wrong; what to do with their lives. Most are bombarded by so many opinions, desires, activities and responsibilities that they cannot think clearly. Sitting quietly for 20 minutes by himself everyday will help each individual to clear his mind, free himself from the haze of thoughts and emotions and become clearer about his life. He will be a more efficient member of society.
2. LACK OF INNER DIRECTION – People today are like sheep following the dictates of political leaders, religious leaders, TV commercials and in general the established view of what is success and failure, what is important in life and what is not. Thus people are like unconscious machines who are operated by the forces around them. They have no inner directions, no inner guide, even concerning the basic aspects of life such as: how to eat, how to communicate, how to live happily in harmony. Meditation will help people to reawaken to their inner sense of what is important and of value to them, and how to live harmoniously. They will become stronger, more satisfied from within. They will offer society a higher quality of human being.
3. LACK OF SELF-CONFIDENCE – When someone lacks self-confidence, he is not likely to perform any of his life functions effectively or well. He will not be a good worker, businessman, scientist, artist, politician or teacher. Neither will he be a high quality mother or father, or spouse. Self-confidence is essential for being effective at whatever task one has to do. Meditation increases one’s self-confidence by putting one in contact with inner energies which were previously latent and undeveloped. Thus, as people meditate more, they will become more efficient members of society, in whatever role they play.
4. LACK OF INNER MORALS – Society today suffers from a serious lack of contact with inner values and moral behavior. There is a complete breakdown in the moral structure of society. People cheat, lie and use each other as if it was perfectly normal to do so. But they would not like others to do the same to them.
Thus there is a lack of consistency between what a man believes, thinks, says and does. His word has little truth, and thus little power. Neither do his actions. The result is a society of people who are looking out only for themselves, often at the others’ expense. There is little cooperation and harmony, and thus the whole system is falling apart economically and politically.
The harmonious functioning of any group of people depends on the basic law of doing to others as we would like others to do to us. When this is not followed, only disintegration and unhappiness can result – for all.
Meditation puts an individual in contact with his inner sense of morality. This inner sense of morality has always been, and will always be, in us, but we have lost contact with it. With meditation we become more sensitive and start to realize our oneness with the others and eventually become incapable of cheating, lying or doing harm to others. Meditation can help restore the natural moral foundation on which the success and harmony of society are based.
5. LACK OF LOVE – We all suffer from lack of love. We all want more love than we are getting. The lack of love in modern society is responsible for the outrageous increase in divorce, mental asylums, cancer, psychosomatic illnesses, inner city crime such as theft, rape and murder and in general, the feeling of loneliness and isolation which runs deep in our society today.
If people had enough love in their lives there would be none of the above. It requires great inner strength, inner peace and inner contentment, and also love for ourselves, in order to be able to love others steadily. Otherwise our love will change to disappointment or anger the moment the other does something we do not like. Only a person with great inner strength and inner resources can love unconditionally. He must have no fear, no feeling of vulnerability.
Meditation helps one to begin the process of knowing his inner self, and of developing an inner peace which is not so vulnerable to the external events. One begins to learn to love oneself and feel greater acceptance for himself and others. Meditation helps to remove the blockages to love, the ego-defense mechanisms which exist in the personality. Regular meditation by the members of our society will make it a more loving and peaceful place to live.
6. NERVOUS TENSION – Nervous tension is the main “dis-ease» of our present society. It leads to all types of other diseases and emotional problems as well as conflicts in relationships, at work and at home. The problem with nervous tension is that it grows rapidly in a vicious circle. The more tension we have, the more easily we accumulate more of it. The more tense we are, the greater the probability that every little thing will bother us. On the other hand, the more relaxed we are, the less likely we are to get tense about the things which occur around us. Also the more tension we have, the more likely we are to absorb the tension of others around us. When we are relaxed we can let their tension pass through us and remain unaffected.
Thus what we have today is a society of tense human beings walking around, each building on the others’ tension, each releasing his tension on the other, spreading it around everywhere he goes.
This is, of course, very unpleasant, especially when you walk into an office and ask for some information and the employee bites your head off, because he has just been chewed out by his boss, who is upset about his daughter who disagrees with him about everything, and who is unhappy because her boyfriend is not interested in her anymore. Meditation is a way of releasing on a daily basis the tension which builds up in us. In this way we can return daily to our natural peaceful state of body and mind, rather than build up tension from day to day. Thus we avoid many illnesses, problems and conflicts with others. Meditation offers society more relaxed, healthy, peaceful and clear- minded human beings.
7. LACK OF SELF-CONTROL – There is very little will-power or self-control left in people today. They can seldom manage to carry out their inner decisions such as to lose weight, stop smoking, control their emotions or develop a daily discipline. Gone are the days when people had the self-control to fast before the various spiritual holidays.
People have become slaves to their desires, and thus slaves to their senses and the distractions which surround them. We are not free to make a decision and carry it out. We have many voices in us. One part of us makes a decision to improve our lives and the various other parts of our selves distract us into following their own desires. There is no master voice to put order to our inner house. Without self-control, an individual can do nothing in his life. He will be a robot, a slave controlled by his various momentary impulses. He will never achieve his goals. His word means nothing. He may say that he will be there at a certain time, or that his product will be ready on a certain date, but because he cannot control his energies, he fails to do so. You cannot believe or trust a man with no self-control. He is neither a good soldier, nor a good employee and, of course, a very dangerous employer or leader or any kind. He is also not a very good parent.
Meditation is the process of learning to control the mind – the most difficult task on earth. We have gone to the moon and penetrated deep into the mysteries of subatomic particles, but we have made zero progress in understanding and controlling our minds. A man with self-control is the most precious gem which one can offer to society. He is like a diamond among pieces of carbon. But those pieces of carbon also can be formed into diamonds through various techniques of self-control such as fasting, prayer, vows and meditation.
A FEW CAN HELP MANY THROUGH MEDITATION
Thus it seems likely, from this short hypothetical analysis of the question, that meditation has much to offer society. And, in fact, in one study done in the small state of Rhode Island in America, they found that divorce, the incidence of cancer and crime rates dropped considerably when the percentage of the population which meditated reached 1%. It would be a wonderful service to society if those in power would start to make meditation more available to the members of society through TV and Radio documentaries, and programs in schools, and government and private agencies.