Dr. Shirish Nathwani, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, member of the Spiritual Heritage Education Network (SHEN), Canada
The purpose of this presentation is to examine and discuss briefly the nature and value of meditation in both its tangible to intangible aspects and from its modern and ancient perspective. Some focus is given here also to its 'healing' benefits.
First a misconception we need to clear at the onset about meditation is that it is not meant to be an escapism from life into some mountain or forest, nor is it a practice restricted to any age, gender, culture or religion.
Meditation is more than just reflective reasoning, contemplation or concentration, while these are helpful preliminaries to provide us a clearer concept of things. It is a technique of withdrawing the turbulent mind so that it can rest, rejuvenate and directly experience our oneness with Nature and others.
With the mounting evidence for the benefits of meditation today, medical professionals can no longer afford to shy away from studying this topic. Even though studies in meditation have proved difficult to standardize, quantify, and authenticate, the investigations so far has generated considerable excitement among researchers. Using modern technology in neuro-physiology, biochemistry, haematology, genetics and brain imaging, medical investigations are revealing findings that are so positive that more and more institutions keep implementing meditation in their programs.
Research findings demonstrate changes in brain function and structure among meditators specially in areas involved with higher and coherent brain activities while simultaneous reducing excitability in our so called primitive brain function. Improvements are observed in the area of physical, psycho-social and learning disorders and longevity studies. Clinical benefits observed in heart disease, blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, and other chronic disorders are associated with improved immune, anti-inflammatory and neuro-physiological parameters. The benefits observed in correcting learning disabilities and the decline in the re-incarceration rate, among prisoners exposed to daily meditation, as well as the drop in the rate of crime in some cities simply exposed to a critical number of mediators has caught the attention of many social scientists…
The big question for the medical profession is 'How does meditation work?'
A suggestion by a group of better known researchers working on mindfulness based meditation is that the benefits are secondary to the development of a state of steadfastness and calmness in the meditating subjects. Another suggestion is that because Nature has the inherent dynamic property of homeostasis connecting with Nature, this balancing state is passed on to heal the subject.
Ancient Eastern teaching and literature give us a 'new' understanding that is beginning to be authenticated by modern energy detecting technology. According to Patanjali (120 B.C.) a foremost sage / scientist of the time, lack of control on our thoughts and our false 'I', 'me' and 'mine' identification is the basis of our problems while in essence we are spiritual beings. A life force called 'prana' flows along meridians of the body to reach the spinal channels which traverses some major energy centers (chakras), reaching the crown area of the head. It is blockages in one or more of these chakras that is the source of all imbalances or diseases. Clearance of these is one of the powerful side effect of meditation.
We have no control over our birth or death, but do we have control over this interval between the two that we call 'Life'? Objective analysis reveals that the tendencies in our personality plays a key role in influencing our performance in life; this, in turn, is determined by the habitual thinking generated in the mind. In the final analysis, it is the degree of objectivity and purity in our thoughts that decides how much freedom we really exert in life. Unfortunately, we live in a society of mass thinking as reflected by the media and the turmoil we see around us. Thought pollution is the worst of all pollutions. This is where meditation helps.
There are several good methods of Meditation with much to offer. The method presented here is one of them. It goes by the name of Samarpan Meditation. It is primarily a path to self knowledge: Revealing all other knowledge in its proper context. It brings one's own hidden inner creative power to become manifest.
Samarpan Meditation makes the voice of our deep conscience dominant over our personal likes and dislikes. Our soul becomes the natural and spontaneous guide and executive. We connect with others at the soul (atma) level and begin to 'experience ' the presence of the Supreme Soul (Param-atma) in others and everywhere. Compassion and working for the common good becomes our very nature.
Meditation needs to be 'experienced ' not discussed. This practice, like some others, is geared to help us 'let go' (Samarpan) of our past regrets and bitterness along with the anxiety for the future. We then find ourselves in the thought-free present moment. This technique uses some initially very valuable tools to bring even a turbulent mind to a peaceful halt, often in less than six weeks of daily practice. Effort of any kind, since it always comes from the 'Ego', has no role in spirituality. During the meditation one does nothing. Initially, however, one needs to seat comfortably with the back straight and hands rested on the thigh palms facing up in a receiving mode, bringing the mind's attention to the crown of the head. A lighted candle and simple invocation of the subtle teaching or guiding principle (Guru-tatva) of one's heart's desire, provide that place where one's ego can be offered. Entering the silence of the mind comes easy here by the grace of a universal mantra, while one keeps letting go of all the contents of the mind. There are some other unique features of this Mantra that further help, even a novice, to be able to experience thoughtlessness very early in the practice.
What follows is a personal experience that defies description and thus begin one's own inner journey. It is the physician within us all, saying 'Heal thyself first!'