Meditation is the act of sitting quietly with our spine erect, and focusing inward. It can be practiced anywhere, but is preferable to have a sacred place for you and a time for regular practice. Since there are different forms of meditative practice, the technique itself is less important than the act of inward attention. It is the inward attention itself that calls forth the meditation state. Our bodies seek to move inward, to rest, and to reflect during the season of winter.
The ability to sit still and keep the mind focused on one thing is dharana, concentration. When that concentration becomes continuous and uninterrupted, it is called dhyana, meditation.
Meditation is not to be experienced as a process of going somewhere else with the mind; rather, the state of meditation is the state of being present. In this state we experience samadhi, the self-realization which is the ultimate goal of yoga.
Benefits of Meditation
• Meditation is the only activity that reduces blood lactate, a marker of stress and anxiety.
• Meditation increases calming hormones melatonin and serotonin, and reduces cortisol.
• Meditation has a positive effect on three key signs of aging: hearing ability, blood pressure, and vision of close objects.
• Meditators secrete more of the youth-related hormone DHEA as they age than non-meditators. Forty-five year old men who meditate have an average of 23% more DHEA than non-meditators; meditating females an average of 47% more. DHEA helps decrease stress. It heightens memory, sexual function, and the ability to control weight.
• 34-36 % of people with chronic pain were able to decrease medication when they meditated.
How Meditation Changes the Brain
• Increases the density of grey matter in the hippocampus and other areas associated with learning and memory
• Decreases grey matter density in the amygdala, the area associated with fear, anger and anxiety.
Psychological Benefits of Regular Meditation
• Increases positive emotions like love, compassion, clarity, warmth, generosity.
• Gives focus and clarity
• Spiritual Benefits of Meditation
• Meditation helps to free us from the fears, tendencies and limiting ideas that keep us from recognizing our kinship with others, and with the earth.
• Meditation connects us with others, with the animal and vegetable kingdom, with the earth, and with the source of life itself.