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Indian Meditation: Meaning and Therapeutic Applications
Hinduism is considered the oldest religion in the world, and Meditation has been a part of the tradition for a long time. As per the Hindu tradition, every individual is a spiritual being, but once they get involved in worldly affairs, they detach from the Divine source; Meditation is a technique that helps individuals to become aware of themselves and connect their souls with the divine. The technique has proven highly useful in tackling and dealing with various physical and psychological disorders. Though the technique was initiated in India, it is becoming highly popular in the West and is one of the most effective techniques suggested by mental health professionals worldwide.
The Meaning of Indian Meditation
Transcendental Meditation was initiated by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who taught Meditation derived from the Vedas. The technique involves sitting alone silently, with eyes closed, and repeating Sanskrit mantras in mind. The Vedic scriptures explain that chanting mantras can help an individual rise above the conditionings of the mind and no longer be affected by the negative or positive thoughts of the mind. Indian Meditation is primarily a spiritual concept, and a means to connect with the divine. However, in the West, it is a technique of practicing mindfulness, bringing attention to one's thoughts and feelings, and increasing self-awareness. Indian Meditation primarily comprises two major techniques: chanting mantras and Mindfulness Meditation (Vipassana). There are different types of meditation. Some of these are briefly explained as follows
The key component of mindfulness meditation is becoming conscious of one's thoughts. It entails finding a quiet location to sit in and observe one's thoughts and feelings without passing judgment.
Transcendental meditation entails regularly reciting a "mantra," "chant," or a phrase in a certain way. Once more, you may do this in a peaceful setting. One can meditate for 15 to 20 minutes while sitting upright and comfortably.
Utilizing one's senses is another aspect of it. The individual can be instructed to close his or her eyes and relax while sitting in a serene and peaceful area. The primary goal of vipassana meditation is self-observation in order to change oneself. To establish a link between the body and the mind, one must pay attention to various physiological experiences.
Metta meditation (loving-kindness meditation) focuses on love and goodwill for other people. The person must sit quietly and comfortably while maintaining a straight posture. The next step is for the person to take a few deep breaths and repeat to themselves words of kindness, first to themselves, then to their family, friends, and other important people in their lives, and finally to everyone.
Chakras, also known as wheels, are distinct spiritual energy centers and powers within our bodies. These seven chakras are distributed across various regions of our body, and a distinct color symbolizes each.
Therapeutic Effects of Indian Meditation
Although the evidence of the therapeutic effectiveness of Indian Meditation is not very strong, some researchers have concluded that
Meditation shows significant physiological responses such as slowed heart rate and giving a sense of a "relaxed state."
Sahaja meditation, or passive witnessing of thoughts, has proven to improve the condition of individuals with physiological disorders such as asthma, epilepsy, and seizures as it reduces stress levels.
Transcendental Meditation can help people with a reduction in symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flatulence.
Studies suggest that Meditation can effectively help deal with systolic blood pressure and help patients with coronary artery disease.
Meditation in Psychotherapy
Meditation is an ancient spiritual practice but is now paving the way to treat people with psychological disorders. Meditation is now being incorporated into various psychotherapeutic practices, such as Cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy.
Evidence suggests that Meditation has distinct effects on the brain; the brain waves of meditation practitioners show high coordination of neural circuits and higher activity on the left prefrontal cortex, which is associated with feelings of joyfulness and other serene emotions. Meditation also affects the amygdala, which is associated with obsessions and compulsions, hence reducing the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The increase in attention and heightened self-awareness resulting from Meditation helps to open the brain and draw attention away from self-suffering, which results in positive transformations in the attitude and behavior of individuals.
Behavioral therapies and cognitive therapies are now increasingly taking Meditation into account. Cognitive Behavior therapy aims to understand the underlying attitudes that people may not be aware of. Pessimistic and self-deprecating thoughts result from these underlying attitudes; an effective way of unveiling them is through Meditation. Acceptance and Commitment therapy aims to control the problem and not the solution. The main idea is not to suppress negative emotions and feelings, or it will only make matters worse. Acceptance and Commitment therapy aims to improve the patient's relationship with the symptoms they experience rather than eliminate them. Meditation has been employed in acceptance and commitment therapy to bring negative emotions and feelings into the conscious, become aware of them, face them rather than suppressing them, and eventually deal with them effectively.
A variety of exercises that comprise elements of Meditation are suggested by psychotherapists, such as
Viewing the good and bad feelings as the black and white pieces of a chess game and attempting to understand that dwelling over the negative feelings is a futile contest with oneself.
Imagining oneself in a tug-of-war situation, where the negative feelings are strongly pulling the individual towards the pit; since the force is strong, the wise decision here would be to leave the rope, highlighting the importance of learning to let go, or else one way fall into the pit.
Imagining oneself sitting and watching people holding placards on which the feelings being experienced by the individual at the moment are written, it may be realized by the individual that they lost focus after a while; the aim is to re-trace events and figure out where the focus was lost and resume from there, this helps in increasing attention and awareness of one's thoughts and feelings.
Imagine that one is sitting with a device connected to their mind that measures the levels of anxiety; the anxiety seems to mount over time; what can the individual do to control the anxiety, or are their actions increasing the discomfort? This helps alleviate anxiety symptoms and become aware of one's thoughts, actions, and impacts.
Clinical Applications of Meditation
Medical practitioners continually recognize the role of stress in physical illnesses and how stress management techniques, such as Meditation, can be applied in the clinical setting. A study that attempted to understand the effects of Sahaja Yoga meditation established that the practice reduces the frequency and severity of epileptic seizures. Various other studies indicate that Meditation helps change the brain wave patterns and increases the activity of "alpha waves," which are associated with relaxation; changes were observed in the theta activity of the brain, suggesting the activation of the limbic system during Meditation. Alongside this, changes in brain images can be observed as people enter a meditative state. A meta-analysis conducted in 2014 suggests that mindfulness meditation has a significant impact on controlling anxiety, pains, and chronic illnesses and improves the quality of life. Although Meditation also affects mood, sleep, attention span, and menopausal syndromes, there is not enough evidence on the same.
There are promising results that Meditation can be effective in the clinical setting as well as psychotherapy, but there needs to be more evidence. Meditation began as a spiritual practice in India but is now gaining popularity worldwide, not merely as a spiritual practice but as a therapeutic approach.
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