Meditative state, One of the eight limbs of yoga.
“If you sit there and try to meditate, it is not going to happen. If you create the necessary atmosphere in your body, mind, emotion and energy, meditation has to blossom.”
▵ What is Meditation?
“So generally we assume, at least in India we say… When we say meditation we are referring to Dhyan. What is Dhyan? Or let me use the word meditation because that’s English. When you say meditation, you need to understand this is not something that you can do because you can become meditative, you can become meditation. You can never do meditation. It’s a certain quality. If this quality has to blossom within you, if meditation has to blossom within you, if you cultivate your body, if you cultivate your mind, your emotion and energy to a certain level of preparedness, meditation will blossom within you.
If you do meditation… anything that you do, you can’t keep it up, isn’t it? Isn’t it so? Suppose right now your breath, are you doing it or is it happening? It’s happening. Your life, are you doing it or is it happening? It’s happening. Suppose your breath or your life was given to your hands to do it… let’s say the breath. If you got angry with somebody you would forget to breathe, isn’t it? Yes? Fortunately all the vital things are happening. You just have to sit here and enjoy the process of life, for that what a mess people are making out of it. So when your breath cannot be given to your hands, when your basic life cannot be given to your hands, meditation, how can it be given to your hands?
But if you create a certain atmosphere, meditation will blossom. If there is spring in the soil, if there is spring in the sunlight, if there is spring in the atmosphere around flowers will blossom, isn’t it? Flowers will not blossom because you sit there and peel them. So if you sit there and try to meditate, it is not going to happen. If you create the necessary atmosphere in your body, mind, emotion and energy, meditation has to blossom. Meditation is not going somewhere, it’s a homecoming. It’s getting back to your original nature. Instead of being on the surface you’re going deeper into the core. It cannot be done. But you can make it happen.”
How to Meditate
▵ How to Meditate
The moment we utter the word “meditation,” there are all kinds of misconceptions about it. First of all the English word “meditation” doesn’t mean anything in the sense, if you close your eyes and sit, in English we call it “meditation.” You can sit with your eyes closed and do many things. There are many dimensions. You can do japa, tapa, dharana, dhyana, samadhi, shoonya. Or you might have just mastered the art of sleeping in vertical postures! So what is this thing that we call as meditation? Generally we assume that people are referring to what is known as dhyan or dhyana. In that context of referring to dhyan as meditation, it is not something that you can do. Nobody can do meditation. The reason why most people who have tried meditation have come to the conclusion that it’s very difficult or impossible is because they are trying to do it. You cannot do meditation but you can become meditative. Meditation is a certain quality. It is not a certain act. If you cultivate your body, your mind, your energies and your emotions to a certain level of maturity, meditation will naturally happen. It is just like if you keep the soil fertile, if you give it the necessary manure and water and if the right kind of seed is there, it will grow and bloom into flowers and fruits. Flowers and fruits will come out of a plant not because you want it, but simply because you created the necessary, conducive atmosphere. Similarly, if you create the necessary atmosphere within yourself, on all the four dimensions of who you are, then meditation will naturally flower within you. It is a certain fragrance that one can enjoy within himself.
▵ Meditation and the Mind
The mind does not like meditation because if you keep the body still, the mind will also naturally become still. This is why so much stress has been laid in yoga on hatha yoga and asanas. If you just learn how to keep your body absolutely still, then your mind will also become still. I want you to just observe yourself and see how many unnecessary movements your body makes when you stand, sit or speak. If you look at your life, you will see that more than half the time is taken up in these things that you yourself don’t care for. If you keep the body still, the mind will slowly start collapsing and the mind knows that it will become enslaved if it allows this. The main aspect of meditation is, right now your mind is the boss and you are the slave. As you meditate and become more meditative, you will become the boss and your mind will become the slave and that is how it should always be. If you don’t know how to keep the mind as a slave, it will put you through all kinds of endless suffering. If you allow the mind to rule, it is a terrible master. But as a slave, the mind is wonderful – it is a miraculous slave.
▵ Sadhguru, I wish I could simply sit for long hours, but I am just not able to keep my body still. How can I overcome this limitation?
Sadhguru: To sit still, definitely your body needs to be conditioned – hatha yoga is towards that. But even if your body is in a good condition, you still will not be able to sit still, unless you settle some other aspects. There are eight limbs of yoga – yama and niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. They are not steps – they are limbs. If you had eight limbs, which one to move first is your choice, according to your need. Is there a rule which limb to move first? Since you are from India – do not think you must always put your right leg first. There are certain aspects of life where putting your right leg first is better, and there are other aspects where putting your left leg first is better. Which leg to move first depends on the activity. Similarly, which limb of yoga to use first depends on where you are.If you want to sit still, just working on your body is not good enough – you have to work upon your mind too.
For a long time in the history of humanity, the body was the strongest aspect and the biggest hurdle. Therefore, people were put through hatha yoga first. A few hundred years ago, only 5-10% of people had mental problems. Others only had physical problems. Even today, in the villages, most people only have physical problems, not mental problems. But generally, in the last few generations, people have had more mental problems than physical problems, because they use their mind more than they use their body. This is a big shift for humanity. Until 100 or 200 years ago, human beings used their body much more than their mind. Since I am a contemporary mystic, I am looking at people who are here now.
As their problems are more mental than physical, we generally start off with kriyas and meditation, which mainly work on the level of energies and mind, and only then go into hatha yoga. If you want to sit still, just working on your body is not good enough – you have to work upon your mind too. Particularly for this generation, focusing on settling the whole system – mind, emotions, body, and energy – is important. It is a wrong perception that people of today are more brilliant than people of the past. It is just that people’s minds are more out of control today because of haphazard use.
The way our education system is structured, it will invariably lead to disturbed minds. A child is going from reading poetry to mathematics – both are connected, but there is no one to make the connection. From mathematics, they go to music – both are connected, but there is no one to make the connection. From music, they go to chemistry – they are connected, but there is no one to make the connection, because the music department and the chemistry department do not get along. Everything is taught in disjointed ways because after all, no one is studying with a passion to know. Everyone is studying to pass the examination and get a job.
This is a very destructive way of educating yourself and a pathetic way to live. But no matter how senseless it is, the majority of people in the world have chosen to live like that. Recently, I was at a very high profile evening event, where alcohol was being served in a corner. The host said, “Sadhguru is here, let’s not have alcohol served.” But some people could not keep their hands off it. There was a minister who came and said, “I’m sure Sadhguru is a man of the world – he won’t mind.” I said, “When did the whole world get drunk?” Today, it is made out like if you are a man of the world, you must drink, otherwise, you do not belong to this world. We are culturing human minds in a completely wrong way. Then how can we expect them to be peaceful and blissful? It will not work. Unless you do the right things, right things will not happen to you.
If your body is not at ease simply sitting here, obviously, something is not okay with it, even if you are medically certified as normal. I was surprised to know that according to the medical textbooks in the United States, going to the toilet twice a week is considered normal. According to yogic culture, yogis should go to the toilet twice a day, because excreta should not remain in the system. What should go out must go out at the earliest possible time. First thing when you get up in the morning, it should be done. Twice a week means on an average, you keep it in your body for three days, and you expect your mind to be okay? It will not be okay because your colon and your mind are directly connected. The colon is at the muladhara, which is the foundation of your energy system. Whatever happens at the muladhara, happens to the whole system, one way or the other – and particularly to your mind. Today’s scientists are arriving at such conclusions because they study the human being under a microscope – piece by piece.
Therefore, about every bit, they come to a different conclusion. The whole cannot be perceived from outside – it can only be perceived from within. Do your sadhana, change your diet to include more natural foods, and you will see in a couple of months’ time, you will sit still.
Five Amazing Benefits of Meditation
▵ Five Amazing Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is a powerful tool for spiritual growth, and is essentially a process to take one beyond the limitations of body and mind. Teachers and practitioners of these “inner technologies” have also experienced the many physical and mental benefits of meditation and Yoga. In recent years, a growing number of scientific studies and research on meditation have corroborated these experiences. Isha’s introductory practice is the Shambhavi Mahamudra, an ancient kriya that has millions of dedicated practitioners who aver that they experience greater emotional balance, concentration, focus, stability and better health with regular practice of the meditation. In fact, there have been several scientific studies that measure the various benefits of practicing the kriya regularly – both with regard to brain activity during the kriya, as well as statistical research of how it affects people’s health and well-being.
▵ How does the Kriya Work?
The reason why most people are unhappy or unhealthy is that the physical, the mental and the “pranic” body are not in alignment. Sadhguru says, “There is a certain way to engineer our system, to make this body, to make this mind… the very chemistry within us the way we want it.” Traditionally, Yoga sees the human being as five layers of body: the physical body, the mental body, the pranic energy body, the etheric body and the bliss body. The reason why most people are unhappy or unhealthy is that the physical, the mental and the “pranic” body are not in alignment. Sadhguru explains, “If they are properly aligned, a natural expression, an overwhelming expression of joyfulness will naturally happen within a human being. Now, we are looking at the technology of keeping these three bodies constantly aligned so that joyfulness is not an accidental happening; joyfulness becomes a normal condition, a natural way of living for you.”
▵ Studies on Shambhavi Mahamudra
Studies on Shambhavi Mahamudra have been varied: some have examined its impact on disease status and medicine usage, some have looked specifically at menstrual disorders, while others have studied the benefits of this meditation on sleep, heart rate variability, brain activity, etc. Other studies have researched general well-being and improved attention spans among regular meditators. Let’s take a look at the results of some of the key studies.
Benefits of meditation #1: Improved cardiac health
Two studies published in 2008 and 2012 examined how Shambhavi Mahamudra supported cardiac health. The studies showed that participants had a more well-balanced Cardiac Autonomic Nervous System and an overall increase in Heart Rate Variability (HRV) during the practice. A higher HRV has been linked to better immunity to stressful situations, and is said to bestow a greater survival advantage on individuals. A lower HRV on the other hand has been linked to various heart diseases such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, chronic heart failure and myocardial infarction. The researchers conclude that practitioners of the Shambhavi Mahamudra and other Isha Yoga practices have higher exercise tolerance, better cardiac response to stressful situation, lower probability of undergoing hypertension of cardiac troubles such as ischemia or infarction.
Benefits of meditation #2: Greater coherence within the brain
A study from the Centre for Biomedical Engineering, IIT Delhi, looked at EEG (Electroencephalography) data from practitioner’s brains before, during and after practicing the kriya. The results show that practitioners experienced a greater level of coherence between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. EEG coherence is known to be a measure of how well connected various regions of the brain are. Higher coherence indicates greater exchange of information between various regions, as well as improved functional coupling and coordination. Higher levels of coherence are also correlated to higher scores on IQ and creativity tests, as well emotional stability and cognitive flexibility. The researchers also measured signals at various prominent EEG spectral bands known as the alpha, beta, delta and theta. Shambhavi practitioners were seen to have higher alpha band power in general, indicating that they experienced lower stress levels. There was a high increase in delta band power and theta band and a notable reduction in beta band power. A reduction in beta band power indicates reduced susceptibility to mental tension, excitement and anxiety. Higher theta and delta activity have been noted in previous research as indicative of conscious access to deeper states of meditation. “Delta rhythms combined with alpha are known to reflect an inner intuitive empathetic radar, a kind of sixth sense” the researchers note.
Benefits of meditation #3: Improved sleep
A study presented at the 20th Congress of the European Sleep Research Society, Lisbon, Portugal compared the sleep patterns of 15 male meditators with a control group of 15 age and education-matched, male non-meditators. Participants were aged between 25 and 55 years. The meditators had practiced Shambhavi Mahamudra as well as other Isha Yoga practices. Whole-night polysomnographic measures were recorded in participants and EEG data was recorded, along with other parameters. The results showed that the percentage of REM sleep, sleep efficiency and total sleep time of meditators was significantly higher as compared to the control group of non-meditators. Meditators also experienced better sleep quality as evidenced by fewer awakenings after sleep onset. The study concludes that consistent practice of the Shambhavi meditation has a positive impact on quality of sleep.
Benefits of meditation #4: Improved attention and focus
A study, published in the journal Perception, looked at how 89 participants performed in the Stroop task and attentional blink task before and after a 3-month Isha Yoga meditation retreat. The Stroop task looks at interference in the reaction time of a task. For example, when the name of a color is printed in some other color (for example, “red” is printed in black), respondents can make errors in identifying the printing color. Participants of the study were prone to fewer errors after the retreat than before it. Similarly, the attentional blink task involves participants identifying various visual stimuli presented to them within extremely short durations. Participants showed 58% correct detection during pre-retreat tests and 69% correct detection in post-retreat tests. The researchers conclude that “the hypothesis that meditation tends to improve allocation of attentional resources.” A similar study by a team from the Université de Toulouse, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour, UC Irvine and the Indiana University School of Medicine looked at how Isha Yoga practices improve performance in attentional tasks due to better allocation of attentional resources, an ability to sustain attention and focus, faster re-allocation of attentional resources, greater cognitive flexibility and a reduction in automatic response. The study observes that these improvements are likely due to structural, anatomical and functional changes in meditators’ cognitive systems as compared to control groups drawn from the general population.
Benefits of meditation #5: Reduced menstrual disorders
75% of women are thought to experience problems related to menstruation, which has a huge physical, psychological, social and economic impact on their life. The primary means of treatment for such issues are known to offer less than satisfactory relief, even when patients choose surgery as a last resort. Currently, Yoga has become very popular as one of the mainstay alternate treatments for many disorders. The benefits of meditation and Yoga in relation with such ailments have been under study for a while and show great promise. A team from the Indiana University School of Medicine, conducted a questionnaire survey of 128 female practitioners of the Shambhavi Mahamudra between the age group of 14 and 55 years, from the USA, UK, Singapore, Malaysia and Lebanon. 72% of the respondents practiced every day and the rest practiced 1-3 times in a week. The questionnaire asked respondents about the prevalence and impact of various menstrual disorders before they began the kriya and after they had practiced it for at least six months. Disorders covered included Dysmennorhea, symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, heaviness of menstrual flow, irregularity of menstrual cycle, the need for medical or surgical intervention for disorders, and the impairment of work during the menstrual period. The results showed a 57% decrease in the impact of Dysmennorhea, a 72% decrease in psychological symptoms such as irritability, mood swings, crying spells, depression and arguments, a 40% decrease in breast swelling and tenderness, and a 50% decrease in bloating and weight gain. There was an 87% decrease in the incidence of severe menstrual flow and an 80% decrease in the irregularity of the cycle. There was a 63% reduction in the need for medical or surgical interventions, and an 83% reduction in the number of instances of impairment at work. The authors conclude that the kriya “can be considered as an adjunct therapy for menstrual disorders given the improved symptoms in all the parameters.”
▵ Other benefits of meditation
In a questionnaire asking about improvements in life experienced from practicing the Shambhavi Mahamudra, 536 respondents indicated how the kriya had helped reduce medication and eliminate problems such as depression, allergies, asthma and other ailments. 91% reported greater inner peace, 87% reported improved emotional balance, 80% experienced greater mental clarity, 79% experienced increased energy levels, 74% reported improved self confidence and 70% reported better concentration and higher productivity. Among meditators who had been suffering depression, 87% reported improvement, 25% reduced their medication, and 50% were able to stop their medication. Similarly, for those suffering anxiety, 86% reported improvement, 28% reduced their medication, and 50% were able to stop their medication. Among those with insomnia, 73% reported improvement, 40% reduced their medication, and 30% were able to stop their medication. Similar improvements were seen for those with poor resistance to colds and flu, those who had suffered from headaches, asthma, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal disorder, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and a range of other chronic ailments.
▵ In brief
Taken together, all these results support a drop in stress and anxiety, a boost in mental alertness and focus, and an increase in self-awareness due to practicing the Shambhavi Mahamudra. It is also clear that regular practice benefits cardiac health and either leads to a stop in the use of medication or at least reduces it considerably for a range of ailments including hypertension, depression and menstrual issues.
▵ Try it out!
The beauty of the Shambhavi Mahamudra is that it takes a mere 21 minutes of your day. The kriya is a part of the Inner Engineering program, Isha’s flagship course. A large part of the course can be taken in the comfort of your home, through Inner Engineering Online, and initiations into Shambhavi are offered around the world at regular intervals. Another option is the Isha Kriya guided meditation. Isha Kriya is a powerful 12-18 minute practice that is offered online as a free guided meditation. For those who would like a taste of what meditation has to offer, this would be a great start. Try it at IshaKriya.com
Science of Meditation
▵ Science of Meditation
Sadhguru, if someone decided to commit to meditation, how does that person know when things are moving in the right direction? Is there any psychological or physiological manifestation of this?
Sadhguru:Physical manifestations are probably always the most tangible. There are many physical and psychological manifestations and there are many other manifestations which are beyond physical and psychological. All these things can be questioned, but by whom? People who know only the physical and psychological, people who rely more on machines, who believe that machines are more reliable than the human beings who built them, those type of people question it all the time.
▵ Dead or Brain-dead?!
Let me tell you something that happened a few years ago. I went to a certain place where they were doing all kinds of experiments on yoga and yogis. They thought I was a good subject – a guinea pig. I normally would not subject myself to these indignities, but it was a moment of obligation, so I said yes. They said they want to check the gamma waves in my brain. I did not know I even had such waves! They put fourteen electrodes in different places on my body and mainly in the head region, and told me, “Now meditate.” I said, “I don’t know any meditation.” They said, “No, no, you are teaching meditation to everybody.” “I teach meditation to people because they can’t sit in one place. You have to teach them something to make them sit.” Then they asked, “Okay, what can you do?” I said, “If you want, I will simply sit still.” They said, “Okay, do that.” So I sat. After about fifteen to twenty minutes, I felt somebody hitting my knee with some metallic object. Then they began hitting my elbow and my ankle – in all the most painful places. I did not know what their interest in my joints was. It became very persistent and then they touched my back. My spine is always super-sensitive and once they touched my back, I thought maybe it is time to tell them. If they want me to come out, if they would have just said, “Come out,” I would have taken a minute and come out. Why all this tapping? When I opened my eyes, they were giving me a weird look. “Did I do something wrong?” I asked. They said, “No, our machine says you are dead.” I said, “Okay, that’s a great diagnosis.” Then they discussed amongst themselves and said, “Either you are dead or your brain is dead.” I said, “The second diagnosis is too insulting. I will take the first one. You say what you want. I am alive, it is fine with me. Brain-dead is not a good certificate to have.” When you go about checking out life like this from bits and pieces of information and knowledge that you have, you will obviously come to wrong conclusions. But anyway, it is important because the world happens that way today. Because I was not willing to subject myself again, I asked some of our meditators to allow their brains to be scanned. It was processed in a premier institute in the country and what they found was that there is a phenomenal coherence between the right and left brain. The people who looked at it said, “We have never seen anything like this.” This is for people who have done these practices for just three months or a little more.
▵ Right & Left Brain Coherence
What this means in terms of translating it into life is, whatever information you receive and process through the five sense organs generally goes to the left brain. Whatever information that is perceived through the rest of the body, which is not logical, which is not piecemeal, which is more homogeneous information that is most essential for your life, is processed in your right brain which is not logical. You may not be conscious of it but you are always using this information. Otherwise you could not be here. Unless there is an active coherence between the left brain and right brain, you cannot access this information consciously. Consciously being able to access that part of life within you, that part of information and knowing within you can take you places that you have not imagined. What you have been doing in your life with great effort, you could just do it like that. For any number of people, it has translated into their lives in terms of action and how they live. I would say, if you are doing a particular kind of activity, let us say today’s software engineers, what they are doing in thirty days, probably very effortlessly, within six months of practice they could do it in a much shorter time. But if they are stretching it for contract purposes, that is left to them; that is not my business! Your ability to function in the world can be greatly enhanced – almost super-enhanced. Physically and mentally, it will set you apart in any crowd of people if you give yourself to the practice sufficiently. And health-wise, there is any amount of medical research today to tell you that it does miraculous things to you.
▵ The Real Thing Is Slowly Building Up
But all these benefits – physical health, mental capabilities, being able to handle life with ease – these are just side-effects. The real thing is slowly building up. That, you will know only when it flowers. Till then, you think nothing is happening. It is like you planted a flowering tree in your house. As it grows, only leaves keep coming. Your neighbour comes and tells you, “This is no good. You said flowers would come but only leaves are coming. Let us chop it and make firewood out of it.” You said, “Let me see. Maybe tomorrow morning it will work.” Tomorrow morning – nothing. Again you said, “Let me see, one more day,” One more day, one more day… years passed. If you do not know how long it takes for this tree to flower, you would probably have chopped it a hundred times over. But if you keep nurturing it, one day when it flowers, when it is in full bloom, then you realize this plant was not about leaves, this was not about shade, this was not about a little bit of oxygen. This, when it flowers, is incredibly beautiful.
▵ Isha Kriya
“Isha” means that which is the source of creation. “Kriya” means an inward action towards that. Isha Kriya is a simple yet powerful tool to move from untruth to truth.” Sadhguru Rooted in the timeless wisdom of the yogic sciences, Isha Kriya is a simple yet potent process created by Sadhguru. Available for free as a guided meditation with an instructional video and downloadable instructions, or through one of the free immersive workshops conducted globally, it has the potential to transform the life of anyone who is willing to invest just 12 minutes a day. The purpose of Isha Kriya is to help an individual get in touch with the source of his existence, to create life according to his own wish and vision. Daily practice of Isha Kriya brings health, dynamism, peace and wellbeing. It is a powerful tool to cope with the hectic pace of modern life. For details on free Isha Kriya workshops conducted locally, or to request a free session at your workplace or community center, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
▵ Chit Shakti
“Once your thought, emotion and energies are organized, your very body will also get organized. Once all these four are organized in one direction, your ability to create and manifest what you want is phenomenal.” Sadhguru Everything that human beings have created on this planet was essentially first created in our minds. So how we organize and focus our minds will decide the direction our life flows. Using the power of the mind to create what one wants in his life is called Chit Shakti. These four Chit Shakti guided meditations will help you to manifest love, health, peace and success in your life. Each one of us has desires, our very own list of dreams and longings. Creation may have its own blueprint for us, but our personal desires cannot be easily wished away. They may be extravagant or mundane, ambitious or trivial, they may be inconvenient, they may be too personal to share, but they are ours. And for us, they are real, they are precious, they are urgent and deeply significant. Here is a rare offering from Sadhguru, a mystic who embodies the wisdom and clarity of profound realization. It is an offering that enables each one of us to become our own alchemist, that empowers us to transform long cherished desires into reality. Sadhguru offers this with the intention that once these desires are fulfilled, we will turn towards the larger goal of our ultimate wellbeing.
Chit Shakti Meditation is available in the Sadhguru App.