Karina is 34 years old and works as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company. On business she often has to fly on business trips, and she … is terrified of flying. In search of a solution, Karina came up with a special ritual: 40 minutes before boarding, she comes to the chapel for passengers of the Domodedovo airport. No, not for prayer – she seeks (and finds) strength in herself.
“For about fifteen minutes I just sit in silence, without interfering with panicky thoughts (like“ Of course, there will be bumpiness during takeoff! ”) Rushing through my head. But if at the same time I breathe deeply, the excitement gradually subsides and I feel that I can already get on the plane. “
Alexander is 43 years old, he is a top manager of a car company. Every day, during a break for twenty minutes, he walks along the alley leading to the checkpoint, and he does it deliberately. “I feel that some windows are opening in me, my consciousness seems to expand,” he says. “After that, I return to work refreshed.” Is it only refreshed? What exactly happens to him in these twenty minutes?
Alexander and Karina, like many people of Western civilization, discovered, without even knowing it, the power of self-absorption, which has been known in India or Japan since time immemorial. In the modern world, where a person lives under the yoke of thousands of obligations and prohibitions, sometimes it is already unclear who he really is, meditation may well turn out to be the simplest and most accurate way to find a way to oneself.
True, you still need to understand what meditation is.
“Of course, many people know that she came to us from the East, considering her a special state, in which yogis are sitting in the lotus position,” says Moscow yoga teacher Ilya Dunaevsky. “But this is a very superficial view.”
“Meditation is the general name for a wide range of techniques that are aimed at relaxing the body and calming the mind,” explains psychotherapist Viktor Makarov.
To meditate does not mean daydreaming. This is primarily an action, a spiritual practice, which, through certain postures and movements, allows you to make some kind of inner journey, awaken bodily memory, cleanse your mind and soul from unnecessary, superficial and come closer to the true in yourself.
Taming the Intellect
There are many ways to start this journey inward (Tibetan practices, Zen meditation, Indo-Burmese vipassana …), but in general they involve several stages: maintaining a certain body posture, a period of concentration, detached observation of one’s thoughts and, finally, meditation itself.
You can also meditate on the move – during a walk, morning jogging – and it is not at all necessary in the lotus position, says Viktor Makarov, especially since it is simply difficult for most to accept it.
Meditation itself is not a goal, it is just a way that helps you to find yourself in a special – some call it “enlightened” – state of consciousness. The most important thing in this process is to focus on the inner world and “stop” thinking in order to get away from the everyday, familiar look.
“This is an opportunity to find your true self,” says ethnopsychologist Igor Zhukov. – At this moment, various filters, restrictions and settings that have been regulating life from childhood are turned off. We get the opportunity to feel both what is hidden inside us and how the world around us works. Our view no longer depends on imposed attitudes. “
Unlike relaxation, which is more aimed at reducing muscle tone, meditation requires vigilance and focus.
The purpose of such an inner journey is to temporarily disconnect that part of the psyche that constantly processes information, contact with thoughtlessness, understood simultaneously as “emptiness” and “infinity”. At first these encounters are sudden and fleeting, but through regular exercise they occur more frequently in the meditator.
Unlike relaxation, which is more aimed at reducing muscle tone, internal tension, meditation requires vigilance and concentration. At this moment, consciousness is changed, but, unlike trance, it is changed by us personally, of our own free will. The meditator controls himself and his reactions, and no one can manipulate him.
“If we hold tightly the reins of our intellect – like a galloping horse, we can gradually open up more and more free space between its ‘jumps’, – explains Jacques Chocq, who has been teaching yoga in France for more than three decades.
How does it affect health
By changing the inner world of a person, meditation practice can have a beneficial effect on his body, our experts say.
Viktor Makarov, psychotherapist: “It has been noticed that meditation can reduce headaches, menstrual pains, lower blood pressure and heart rate, relieve anxiety and relieve chronic diseases such as colds. It can really be an important addition to traditional therapies. ”
Igor Zhukov, ethnopsychologist: “Many diseases are associated with the uncontrollability of our emotions and desires, and meditation helps to overcome this effect. When we plunge into ourselves, the biochemical processes of the body are also normalized, self-regulation mechanisms are turned on, which have gone wrong for one reason or another. “
Frederick Rosenfeld, psychiatrist: “Meditation itself is not a therapy, its healing effect is more of a bonus. Studies over the past 30 years have shown that meditation reduces stress levels, helps with certain types of phobias, halves the likelihood of depression recurrence, and improves immunity. However, constant meditation is not shown to everyone: in some people with a fragile psyche, it can cause anxiety attacks, a feeling of loss of orientation. It is not worth it to deal with it in moments of depressive or existential crises: divorce, dismissal, loss of someone close. “
Purification of consciousness
“Our mental life is filled with everyday worries, regrets and remorse that litter the inner world,” says Viktor Makarov. – We often think how imperfect, inept, awkward, sometimes we hear from our parents that we are failures – and such thoughts and feelings fill the inner world, interfering with living an active, productive and ultimately happy life.
Weedy thoughts crush the feeling of fullness of consciousness, do not allow you to see clearly, develop, move forward. A meditator can free himself from internal “garbage” in a state of enstasis, which means immersion in oneself.
Enstaz is paradoxical in nature: it is both empty, liberated and filled to the brim with being-consciousness. In this state, a person is able to observe everything that happens in him – sensations, emotions, thoughts – simultaneously actively and detached.
“We are able to see and accept everything, but we have no attachment, no desire to grab and hold on to something, there is no greed or rejection,” comments French psychiatrist Frederic Rosenfeld. – Everything comes and goes like clouds floating in the sky. We take a position of contemplation and acceptance, observing the impermanence of all that exists. With this inner gaze acquired (and with a little practice), it is easy to combine meditation with almost any activity. As wise people say, you can meditate even when you are peeling potatoes! “
However, getting this inner freedom can be more difficult than it seems at first glance. Simply because on the way to the state of enstasis it is necessary to penetrate into the shadow zones of one’s own “I”, inaccessible to consciousness, as in any other inner work. And to figure out what we find there and what may come as a surprise for us (not always pleasant).
Taste for the main
Mark, a 67-year-old owner and head of a publishing house, has devoted about 40 minutes of meditation every evening for more than a decade and a half. For him, this is the most reliable way to deal with stress.
“After starting to meditate, I gradually learned to concentrate on work much faster and recuperate, despite the pressure of external circumstances,” he admits. – Of course, this “path to myself” was not absolutely smooth: I had difficult periods when I could hardly manage not to be led by my own cruel or petty thoughts … But I think these crises paradoxically made me stronger.
The moments of bliss I experienced, the feeling of going out into the beyond, gradually revealed to me the main thing: everything goes away – both life dramas and doubts about the foundations of being. “
“A person who seeks to gain fullness of consciousness through meditation changes the hierarchy of values,” says Viktor Makarov. – What is significant for him comes to the fore. He acquires a contemplative view of the world, stops rushing, gets more satisfaction from himself and life. And he begins to feel closer to other people. “
Regular meditation leads the practitioner to understand the meaning of what is happening, gets rid of superficial, superficial, develops a taste for the most important.
French sociologist Frederic Lenoir notes that modern man is increasingly experiencing an urgent need to feel a kind of higher power in himself. In his opinion, the growing popularity of meditation is connected precisely with this inner drive: “On this path, everyone finds what he believes in: an atheist -“ nothing ”, a Buddhist – enlightenment, a Christian – the mystery of Christ. Today, meditation is mastered not only by those who have converted to Buddhism or people close to it, but also by Jews or Christians who strive to use this Eastern practice to learn that inner silence in which only one can feel the presence of God.
The journey into which meditation invites us does not impose norms and rules, does not call and does not become a way to get away from problems, but, on the contrary, makes it possible to see the situation with a renewed, purified gaze and find a solution.
Meditation can change brain parameters
Psychologist and psychiatrist Richard Davidson and his colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA) have been studying the neurophysiological features of the brain of Tibetan monks for 15 years. Magnetic resonance imaging shows that in monks with more than 10,000 hours of meditation, the structure and function of the brain differ from those of the control group, which proves the plasticity of the brain.
During meditation, gamma waves sharply increase in monks, which indicates a high level of consciousness at this moment, and the activity in the left frontal lobe – the area of the cerebral cortex responsible for positive emotions – is significantly higher than in the right, associated with negative ones.
Systematic meditation develops areas of the brain responsible for attention and decision-making, and improves the ability to concentrate.
“Basically, there is nothing mysterious about meditation that cannot be explained in the strict terms of Western science,” says Richard Davidson. “Our data allows us to understand why people spend time meditation: it just has a positive effect on their daily life.”
If you want to try it yourself
It is best to start practicing meditation thoroughly with the help of a specialist teacher. Our tips for those who are interested in getting only the most basic idea of how this is done.
Choose a convenient moment. You can meditate in the morning to start the day in the best possible mood. In the evening, to get rid of the accumulated tension. In the middle of the working day, to “recharge”. In general, you can meditate anywhere and anytime, as soon as you feel the need to pacify your soul. It is still worth choosing a certain moment and a certain duration of the session – for example, ten minutes before breakfast.
Create a suitable environment. It is best to meditate in a permanent place, such as in a quiet room, facing a wall. Choose loose and comfortable clothes, take off your shoes. An unobtrusive background music will help you too. In the subway, train or bus, despite the noise and many people, you can also meditate.
By concentrating on your breathing, listening to the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation, you will notice that your consciousness gradually calms down: focusing on the breath allows you to be less distracted by something else. Even in a traffic jam, while driving, you can listen to yourself, feel the spine touching the back of the chair, feel the vibration of the motor, the breeze on your face, notice the color of clouds floating across the sky … In a word, see the present moment in all its simplicity and at the same time richness facets that in everyday life we habitually do not notice.
Relax. Start with relaxation: if possible, lie on your back, yawn, release tension. With your eyes closed, breathe through your nose, calmly and deeply. Relax your stomach, try to feel well all the support points of the body and its weight. “Glide” over different parts of the body, “illuminating” them with the ray of your attention: up from the feet to the back of the head, then along the hands to the tips of the fingers.
Choose a pose. In the tradition of Buddhism, it is customary to meditate in the lotus position, but you can choose others – the main thing is that the pose helps to feel with your body what you are striving to find with your soul – stability, openness, straightforwardness.
Fix your gaze. The eyes are half-closed, the gaze is directed forward to a certain imaginary point (a meter away from you). All the meditator’s attention is turned inward, but at the same time he should not lose touch with the world around him.
Concentrate on your breathing. This is one of the most important elements of meditation. Feel your breathing without disturbing its natural changing rhythm: gradually it will slow down, it will become easier. When inhaling, air spreads to the lower abdomen, which relieves muscle tension and creates a sense of harmony. Focusing on the breath helps to resist the tendency to be distracted from any process, including meditation.
Free your soul. By disciplining the body with the help of posture and breathing, we get the opportunity to focus on the soul, to cleanse it of unnecessary things. The consciousness of the meditator does not seek to either retain or evaluate the thought that has come. It only contemplates – without attachment and passion – what passes before it. Try to get into this mood. If this exercise still causes discomfort, focus on breathing again and wait for the moment when the mind is ready to find peace and continue to search for truth.
- Osho “The Path of Meditation. Leadership step by step ”(IG“ Ves ”, 2007).
- Madonna Goding “Meditation” (Kladez-Buks, 2005).
- Mircea Eliade, History of Faith and Religious Ideas (Criterion, 2002).