What is meditation?
The basic experience of meditation combines inner awareness with deep physical relaxation.
This is very different from sleep (during which we have limited awareness) and from wakefulness (when we are physically active and our awareness is directed outward).
There are many types of meditation for quietening the mind and expanding awareness. Most techniques seek to focus attention gently on some physical or mental phenomenon, which may be an object, a sound, a thought, or a physiological process.
Just by becoming aware of your breathing, for example, you can quieten your thoughts and create a deepening sense of relaxation. You can live your whole life as a meditation, as the observer witnessing your life. You can do this by simply observing what you are doing, feeling or thinking.
You can meditate on your meal. This also helps with digestion. Smell the food you are about to eat. Focus on each mouthful and be conscious of the flavors, textures and tastes. You can meditate while washing up, gardening, fishing or in fact anything you give your attention to wholly.
Modern research shows that frequent meditation creates balance between the two hemispheres of the brain. You can develop the ability to deliberately change your brain level functions. When you develop this skill you can change any negative programming buried in your subconscious so you can function in a harmonious state. (This is taught at a Life Force Retreat)
What are the brain waves patterns?
Just as your heart beats at so many times a minute, your brain also emits a certain number of vibrations, or cycles per second. The four brain-rhythm patterns are called Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta.
The Beta level is the level in which you live, eat and work most of the time. In Beta, the mind focuses on the physical dimension, the physical senses, time, space, intellect, belief and reason. Beta is where you also experience stress, tension, negative thinking, depression, self-doubts and emotional outbursts. Beta is left brain driven.
The Alpha level is the level in which the mind is focused on inner levels of power and awareness. Alpha is the source of inspiration, intuition and creativity. The mind is free from the worries and frustrations of the physical world. The average person operates in this level during rare fleeting moments of strong emotion or deep thought.
The next level is Theta. For most people Theta is the sleep level. It is an easy-to-learn conscious disconnection of the body and the mind, with little awareness of physical sensations. In Theta meditation you can access your “beyond everyday thinking” mind to envision the future and discover extra-ordinary inspiration and empowerment. Theta and Delta is where the most profound healing occurs.
The slowest level of brain wave pattern is the Delta level. This is the level of very deep sleep – the unconscious. Delta is the deepest meditative state.
As we use meditation to slow the brain waves from beta to alpha to theta and to delta, there is a corresponding increase in balance between the two hemispheres of the brain. As the brain waves slow down and the brain balances, you tap into ‘whole-brain’ thinking.
So what is ‘whole-brain’ thinking? This is where we use both sides of the brain to think, rather than one side at a time (as we usually do). We have heard how we normally use about 10% of our brain; with ‘whole-brain’ thinking we tap into more of our brain’s capacity and our potential.
‘Whole-brain’ functioning is associated with increased creativity, insight, learning ability, problem solving ability, memory, reading our bodily imbalances and healing.
Meditation and Hormones
Research has shown that meditation dramatically affects production of three important hormones related to longevity, stress and well-being. These are: Cortisol, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) and melatonin.
Cortisol is a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands. In increased amounts, Cortisol is a major age accelerator. It also interferes with learning and memory and it is in general, bad news for your health and your well-being.
Cortisol is the “stress hormone,” so we need some of it to combat the effects of stress. However, during prolonged stress, Cortisol increases to un-healthy limits. The more Cortisol you have, the more stressed you feel. You are then more susceptible to disease and you age faster!
DHEA is another hormone produced by your adrenal glands. DHEA is a precursor to virtually every hormone your body needs. When levels are low, you’re more susceptible to ageing and disease; when DHEA is high, the body is at its peak – vibrant, healthy and able to combat disease effectively.
DHEA acts as a buffer against the stress-related hormones such as Cortisol. As you get older, your body manufactures less DHEA, making you more susceptible to stress and disease.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps create restful sleep. We produce less of it as we age. During sleep many important rejuvenating substances are created in the brain and the inability to sleep soundly can dramatically decrease the quality of your life and accelerate the ageing process. New research also reveals that Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant, even more powerful than Vitamin E.
Regular meditation can help you reduce the production of Cortisol in your body, while increasing the production of DHEA and Melatonin.
General Guidelines for Meditation
Eliminate as much noise and as many potential distractions as possible.
Sit comfortably, with your spine reasonably straight. This allows energy to flow freely up the spine, which is an important aspect of meditation. You can sit in a chair, on the bed, on the floor, basically anywhere that’s comfortable. Leaning against the back of a chair, a wall, a headboard etc is perfectly acceptable. Your legs can be in any position – it is not necessary to sit cross-legged.
If, for physical reasons, you cannot sit, lay flat on your back. Place your hands in any position that is comfortable.
There are many types of meditation. The purist form of meditation is one where you follow the breath. Focus on the area at the tip of the nose and observe the feeling of the cool air gently entering your nostrils. Then notice the warm air flowing gently out of your nostrils. As thoughts drift in, allow them to drift away again and re-focus on the tip of the nose and follow the air flow.
During a Life Force Retreat, participants experience a very easy-to-use ancient meditation based on the above technique, called ‘Soul Breath Meditation’. This form of meditation is used to connect you to your inner truth. It can be practiced and used to create harmony within the body and to access ‘whole-brain’ thinking, or what I call ‘higher brain’ thinking. It is actually not thinking at all, but a deep ‘knowing’ that comes from the heart or soul.
If we live from the heart we do not need to ‘think’ as much. Bizarre…yet fantastic! Meditation can help us live from our heart and realise our inter-connectiveness with mankind, the universe and universal knowledge.
This allows us to always know our truth and be able to live from that truth. This means we can live a life of ‘Energetic Integrity’ with self-love and self-respect: the greatest healers mankind can have. ‘Energetic Integrity’ leads to a life of ‘Energetic Freedom’ where we live with energy, vitality and harmony.