by Dr. Sunil Sharma, Guest Writer
Meditation is often associated with either relaxation or spirituality. It can be either a relaxation technique or a spiritual practice – both of these are just specific applications of meditation. Meditation is a method of changing your state of consciousness. Many texts commonly refer to the three ‘normal’ states of human consciousness – waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleeping, and a fourth spiritual state of consciousness sometimes referred to a ‘transcendental’ state. There are in fact thousands of states of consciousness. When we are angry, we are in a different state of consciousness, when we are in love we are another state of consciousness; when we are in awe of something, that is yet another state of consciousness. These also have different degrees within them. For instance, there are different degrees of anger and as we move from a state of slight annoyance to fierce rage, we move through different states of consciousness. Some states of consciousness feel good, some don’t. We instinctively know what states we prefer to be in and seek these throughout life.
Each state of consciousness affects how our mind operates. For example, it is difficult to think clearly or be creative in a state of anger. Memory is also impaired in a state of anger. When we are depressed, the world looks different to us from when we are in love. We’ve all experienced these different states. We’ve also experienced how our state can change. Sometimes our state might change from day to day or even from hour to hour. It just depends on what is going on in our lives and how we are reacting to it. Our ability to think clearly or creatively or compassionately therefore changes too.
What we think affects our state of consciousness and our state of consciousness affects how we think. As you can imagine, it is possible to put ourselves into a negative spiral downwards, where our thinking brings our state of consciousness down, in turn causing us to think more negative thoughts, bringing us down further and so on. Likewise it is possible to put ourselves into an upwards positive spiral, where our thinking raises our state of consciousness, in turn causing us to think more positive thoughts, and lifting ourselves up further and further.
Meditation is a method of managing our state of consciousness and developing it. Consciousness is the underlying quality of whatever we do. It governs our relationships, our effectiveness at work, our lifestyle choices, and our feeling of connection. By managing our state of consciousness through meditation, we therefore impact all aspects of our lives. Through a successful practice of meditation we improve our work efficiency, decision making, creativity, and our ability to relate and connect.
Meditation is a spiritual practice only for those who are on a spiritual quest. For others, meditation is just as much a mechanism for improving work, relationships and health. There is no shortage of research to show the positive impact of meditation on health. Meditation has a direct impact on reducing our stress levels, which in turn affect our health.
So, what is it that we do when we meditate? We manage our consciousness by directing our awareness. How we direct our awareness depends on our objective for the meditation. There are different kinds of meditations and they can create different results. To create relaxation, for example, one approach is to direct your awareness away from thought patterns that create negative emotions towards ones that create positive emotions. If you want to heal a certain part of your body, you may gather your awareness and direct it towards the part needing healing. This is something we do quite naturally. Think about what you do when you hurt yourself, for example if you hit your knee against something. The first thing you do is hold your knee and focus all your attention on it. This is a natural mechanism to heal the body through managing the focus of our awareness.
Of course, meditation is not the only way of managing our state of consciousness. What we think, particularly in response to events in our lives, has a major impact on our state of mind. Therefore we often complement a practice of meditation with new insights and perspectives to help take away the stress inducing nature of events. Much of our thinking is habitual. We have learnt to think a certain way, often through social or cultural conditioning. Many of our thought patterns cause us to react to situations in a way that creates stress, where in fact if we had a different perspective about the situation, we could react differently in a way that serves us better.
Knowledge is also rooted in consciousness. Two people listening to the same lecture can go away with two different lessons learnt, based on their respective states of consciousness. The connections we make with knowledge also depend on our state of consciousness. As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” Meditation is a way to raise our level of thinking. Meditation creates clarity, which enhances our ability to think, make connections, and make decisions. Some meditations are specifically aimed at enhancing mental clarity to improve thinking, decision making and creativity.
As a spiritual practice, meditation is not particularly different from the practice of increasing mental clarity. Meditation helps remove much of the mental debris that is preventing us from thinking clearly. In the process it also helps remove the mental debris that prevents us from having authentic connections with people around us. It creates more peace and in peace there is more love and more connection. As a spiritual practice, we turn our increased clarity and ability to connect towards the goal of connecting with God. The process is still one of directing our awareness, but the intention is to make a connection with God. This is not something that everyone aspires to do, but meditation gives us the mechanism to do so if we so wish.
Whether you have physical, mental or spiritual aspirations, meditation works on our consciousness, which underlies all our activities. It is like working on your roots. If you want to improve the quality of fruit on a tree, you can try doing so by polishing the fruit or working on the branches, but meditation nourishes the roots that strengthens and improves all aspects of our lives.
Hat tip to In5D for bringing this to our attention.