How does meditation work?

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How does meditation work?

There are many forms of meditation, ranging in complexity from strict, regulated practices to general recommendations. If practiced regularly, meditation is thought to help develop habitual, unconscious microbehaviours that can potentially produce widespread positive effects on physical and psychological functioning. Meditation even for 15 minutes twice a day has been shown to bring beneficial results.

Parasympathetic response
Most theories are based on the assumption that meditation is a sophisticated form of relaxation involving a concept called the parasympathetic response. Psychological stress is associated with activation of the sympathetic component of the autonomic nervous system which, in its extreme, causes the ‘fight or flight response’. Meditation and any form of rest or relaxation acts to reduce sympathetic activation by reducing the release of catecholamines and other stress hormones such as
cortisol, and promoting increased parasympathetic activity which in turn slows the heart rate and
improves the flow of blood to the viscera and away from the periphery.

Other neurophysiological effects
Other proponents claim that meditation involves unique neurophysiological effects; however, this remains to be proven. Research at the Meditation Research Program suggests the limbic system may be involved in Sahaja Yoga Meditation since significant effects involving mood state have been consistently observed.

Defining what we mean by meditation

The most important issue that must be addressed in this field of research is to clearly define meditation and then subject that definition to scientific testing.

Meditation is popularly perceived to be any activity in which the individual’s attention is primarily focused on a repetitious cognitive activity. This very broad definition is, in the opinion of the Meditation Research Program, the main cause for much of the inconsistent outcomes seen in meditation research.

Thoughtless awareness
If one closely examines the authentic tradition of meditation it is apparent that meditation is a discrete and well defined experience of a state called ‘thoughtless awareness’. This is a state in which the excessive and stress producing activity of the mind is neutralized without reducing alertness and effectiveness.

Authentic meditation enables one to focus on the ‘present moment’ rather than dwell on the unchangeable past or undetermined future. It is this state of equipoise that is said to be therapeutic both psychologically and physically and which fundamentally distinguishes meditation from simple relaxation, physical rest or sleep.

Dr Ramesh Manocha
Meditation Research Program – Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney

Next: Meditation and thoughtless awareness

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19 comment(s) so far, want to say something now?


  • Ana Cristina
    Oct 6, 2009
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    The limbic area of the brain is sought to be responsible for many autonomous functions. Do you have any research on the effect of Sahaja meditation in this area? I´m interest because I do meditate at the Sahaja for a while now and, as a reseacher, I´d like to study a bit about the effects you mentioned on the limbic part of the brain.

    Reply

    german
    July 15th, 2010

    Ana, are you a researcher? what kind of research do you do?

    Reply

    1

  • admin
    Oct 6, 2009
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    Hi Ana,
    There are 2 web sites where you may find more resources about scientific studies:
    http://www.researchingmeditation.org
    http://www.meditationresearch.co.uk

    There is also the compilation of all the researches recently Dr Ramesh Manocha sent:
    Compilation

    Reply

    2

  • K Singh
    Dec 11, 2009
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    I am going through lessson # 4 well.

    Reply

    3

  • Linda Hueffed
    Jan 18, 2010
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    Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing this information so freely with everyone. I’ve been referring lots of people to your site. I look forward to each class and article in my inbox. Thank you Thank you Thank you.

    Reply

    4

  • abhilash
    Mar 23, 2010
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    A most enjoyable site. Enables you to take control of your mind, like taming the wild horse.
    keep the fire burning.

    Reply

    5

  • ajit
    Sep 27, 2010
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    i have a question , is three channel situated in spinel cord or only sushumna, rest of two situated out of spinel cord

    Reply

    Avdhut
    December 2nd, 2010

    …Sushumna attains full control of sympathetic and parasympathetic when sahasrara is fully open. Physical body feels as if it dissolves into energy, mind is without thought, with complete awareness, breath flows in and out as if in a constant flow, one moves without any apparent effort, and there is only feeling of peaceful joy in the heart.

    Reply

    6

  • Vinit G
    Jun 5, 2011
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    Will Meditation help get 8 hrs sleep and open up blood supply to the Heart ?.

    Dont postpone anything beautiful for tomorrow. Live intensely, live totally. Here & Now ! -

    Reply

    7

  • padmagangadhara
    Jun 14, 2011
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    It s very very helpful to me to know the more n more informations.I am enjoying the meditation. n hope get more n more information n practicals.
    thank u

    Reply

    8

  • Susan Lennard
    Aug 12, 2011
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    I just hope that research into Sahaja Yoga meditation goes deeper and more widespread and that the research teams make their findings public knowledge through the media so that the whole world learns of the importance of Sahaja Yoga and, of course, Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi. JSM !

    Reply

    9

  • beka
    Nov 3, 2011
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    I have been reading a lot about Sahaja Yoga. I have always felt that meditation is the key to opening up ones mind to be so much more. It seems that it is just not that difficult to do for some people, but I don’t feel I have been able to learn how to do this correctly. I have such a time tuning out things around me, even in complete silence. My mind cannot shut off. Or I usually just fall asleep. Can anyone give me any suggestions.
    Beka

    Reply

    10

  • Jasmine Ambrose
    Jun 16, 2012
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    I just sit to quiet my mind. That is my meditation everyday. But I would love to learn to do Sahaja meditation. How is sahaja meditation done ? Help ?

    Reply

    admin
    June 16th, 2012

    @Jasmine

    You can try the online course on http://www.onlinemeditation.org or visit a near by Sahaj center.

    Reply

    11

  • Madhulika
    Jul 24, 2012
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    Thank you for this wonderful articles. Sahajayoga is very beneficial for every person.

    Reply

    12

  • Golden
    Oct 10, 2012
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    Meditation has helped me in a big way sense my husband passed . i can take these times to let my mind rest , thanks for all your information .

    Reply

    13

  • sambath kumar
    Jan 16, 2013
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    I fully agree with the definition ! after running around i now understand that the meditation might have helped me a lot in my life if i would h ave learned when i was a young man.!!.

    Reply

    14

  • shashi
    May 14, 2013
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    Thank you for the news letter.
    It was very informative.
    I try to meditate everyday and have experienced peace, positive energy most of the time.
    I still wish to know more about meditation so would appreciate more information on it.

    Reply

    15

  • Hamenu Victor
    Aug 10, 2013
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    I agree with the definition in fact you are really teaching me something which is very essential in life and thank you.

    Reply

    16

  • Bobbi Rich
    Nov 16, 2013
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    My meditation is working great. I feel so much calm and joy inside of me. I am sleeping so good now. I am having shoulder replacement surgery in a few days so I won’t have the use of my right shoulder and arm, but there is nothing wrong with my spirit. I know I can find an abrieviated way to meditate..

    Reply

    17

  • Narayana Rao
    Dec 13, 2013
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    Whatever method of meditation is used this definition is the simple and the most scientific one. And that understanding will guide us in the right direction. Thanks for such lucid explanation!

    Reply

    18

  • Dolores
    Apr 25, 2014
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    I have been practicing Sahaja Yoga meditation for about a month now and I am truly enjoying it as I have
    a lot of anxiety and doing this truly calms my mind. I am looking forward to doing more and learning more.

    Reply

    19

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