There are many books in print concerning the subject of meditation. These publications are usually associated with the religious practices of Western Contemplative Orders and of Eastern, Indian Yoga. This reflects the cultural bias of their authors and the fact that only in the religious setting are these meditational practices usually promulgated, especially in modern times. If one is to receive meditational training, one must adhere to the religious precepts of the keepers of the knowledge. This is in turn a reflection of the fact that for many centuries only the religious orders were the keepers of the knowledge, any knowledge actually. The initiate was introduced to the meditational process in due course as a part of the religious training. In the religious retreat, the demands of everyday life are minimized and the stage is set for the mind training which meditation affords. It is this fact, that the Yoga of meditation is mind training, that this work addresses.
The secularization of knowledge into the disciplines of Science has produced much new knowledge that is beyond the religious context. To my knowledge, only Transcendental Meditation has been looked at systematically from the viewpoint of understanding the results of meditative practices. The results of this investigation reports mostly upon physiological processes with some reports of psychological effects. Much discussion has been in the offing for enhancing mood, healing and stress management. These have been the only non-religious applications, albeit with pseudo-religious overtones. The aspects of using meditation for mind training has not been pursued systematically in the western world. Hopefully, this work will rectify this shorcoming or at least spur interest in doing so.
It is the express purpose of this work to present an easily understood program of meditational exercises and techniques and explain the possible results of their practices. The purpose of the mind training is to further the development of consciousness, to integrate the components of the central nervous system(CNS) with the peripheral nervous system(PNS) and to acquire the ability to willfully manipulate neural plasticity for the purpose of learning. In order to do this, one must first understand the process of meditation; what meditation is able to do and what it is not able to do. Once the process is understood and practiced until a measure of willful control is at hand, one may then begin the process of consciousness development, learning and integration beyond what is taught in the public school system in the U.S.A. The processes set in motion by the practices will aid in the educational abilities of anyone whom uses them. As such, it is my opinion that these practices should be required training for everyone after the age of 12 years. The peak of neurological development, but not necessarily neurological integration, occurs at about the age of 12 years. For this reason, at this time it is now appropriate to coach the integrating mind and assist its developmental potential.
The following discussion will give you, the reader, an overview of the meditational processes initiated by the exercises and techniques in order of their appearance and deepening awareness of the various states of human consciousness. Then we move to the meditations on neural connections. Lastly we integrate all that we have learned and hone our skills unique to our own beingness. At this point we decide what we want to do in the world and set the stage for its unfoldment!
Preparation for The Meditative Process
The first step is to make the conscious decision to embark upon the path of the meditative process. This requires a commitment of both time and effort. The time required is at least 1 ½ hours a day. More time spent in meditation speeds the process and will result in quicker results. It is recommended that one take two years out your life to engage in the meditative process 14 to 16 hours a day if already an adult. Perhaps this is one of the reasons meditation is taught via the religious venue. Youngsters should start in the 7th grade. Set up a schedule whereby at the same time every day the meditative exercises and techniques will be practiced for the 1 ½ hour time period.
Results will be gradual with times where nothing seems to happen interspersed with times of rapid achievement and integration. The key to achieving results is consistency of effort and using the exercise and techniques appropriate for the current stage of development. The stages of the meditative process are as follows:
Each stage has a set of exercises and techniques associated with it and builds upon the skills acquired in the proceeding stage. Once all the exercises and techniques are learned and all the stages are incorporated into ones consciousness, any skill may be utilized when appropriate. Self-healing, stress management and behavioral integration are some of the skills which are learned.
As with all learning endeavors, set and setting are a very important consideration. In the practice of meditation, one needs to create a space and situation within which to practice. This space may be anywhere which affords physical comfort and a minimum of distraction. As one is going to be quiet, wear clothing (preferably of natural fibers) appropriate for your climate which is comfortable and not tight or restrictive; avoid drafts and sudden interruptions. Sudden interruptions tend to shift one out of the meditative states rather abruptly and jarringly. As one progresses in stability and facility of movement between states, one is able to accommodate interruptions with ease. Try to find an area as free of electromagnetic radiation as possible, this includes unused electrical outlet plugs. Place yourself as far from any as is possible. EMF radiation and A.C. current affect the neuroendocrine systems adversely. It is a chronic stressor to which we all acclimatize or die due to a suppressed Immune System. One is able to determine the effects of these chronic stressors while in deep meditation. One is also able to determine the field strengths and vectors of any EMF fields within which one finds oneself. One also needs to be aware of the geomagnetic influences in the area of meditative practices. Learning to Dowse is but one part of the benefits of meditative practice. One becomes much more fascile at determining stimulating, neutral and stressful locations. It will enhance your meditative practice to do so in a neutral location.
The exercises are best performed when one is in a relaxed mood and have not eaten within the last hour. There are certain diets which facilitate the maximum benefit from these exercises. All efforts hinge upon keeping any foods which stimulate the neuroendocrine/hormonal systems out of the diet. The elimination of these foods allows for a calm and settled mind. It helps to eliminate mammalian food products such as red meat, dairy products (unless naturally fermented and well aged) and whey. These foods have many steroids and hormones which cause stimulatory affects in the body. Many plant foods also have steroids and stimulatory compounds. These should be eliminated as well. I am speaking of testosterone in pumpkin seeds; estrogens in alfalfa and clover tea; estrogens in pomegranates, persimmons and mushrooms; caffeine in coffee, tea and chocolate. By the way, the highest content of testosterone in any meat is that of turkey. Eat chicken, eggs and tofu for protein; potatoes, carrots, squashes and beets for carbohydrates; olive oil for fats (the fats in olive oil are closest to those in Mother’s milk). Salads are helpful for obtaining minerals and vitamins. Use all the leafy plants for making salads. Pasta with tomato sauce is excellent. Make a special effort to consume fish such as Herring and Sardines as they have the highest quality of Omega-3 oils which your brain and Nervous System require. Flaxseed oil is high in omega-3 oils. Most processed foods have a vast preponderance of omega-6 oils in them, this imbalance of omega oils is detrimental to health.
The Neurological Basis of the Meditative Process
For us to be aware of the neurological components and connections underlying behavior and its integration, since this is what we will be working with, a little anatomy & physiology lesson is in order. This will set the stage for why we do the exercises and techniques, the manner in which they are practiced, the signposts along the way and the skills achieved in doing so.
Recent research (http://www.world-science.net/othernews/110123_meditation) has shown that analysis of the brain scans of practicing meditators, which focused on areas where meditation associatd differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased greymatter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. The reductions in stress reported by the participants were also correlated with decreased greymatter density in the amygdala, a structure known to play an important role in anxiety and stress, researchers said. None of these changes were seen in the non-meditators.
The ancient brain (sometimes called the "Reptilian" brain) is the spinal cord, the medulla oblongata at the top of the spinal cord and the hindbrain composed of the pons and cerebellum. There is an evolutionary ancient mesh of interneurons extending from the medulla, through the pons and on to the thalamus and hypothalamus of the forebrain. This reticular formation comprises much of the brain stem core called the tegmentum. From the thalamus, a newer, more diffuse mesh ascends to all areas of the cerebral cortex.
The arousal centers of the brain are the pontine reticular formation of the medulla, the locus ceruleus of the upper pons, the substantia nigra of the midbrain and the posterior hypothalamus of the forebrain. These centers are the attention center of the brain termed the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS also seems to be the center of motivation. The RAS is a very complex set of neuron loci which serve as a convergence for signals from the external world and from your interior environment. The sleep areas of the brain are the nucleus raphe of the pons and the preoptic area of the forebrain. Turning on and off these opposing centers is under conscious and neuroendocrine control.
The diurnal or daily cycle we all experience is due to the secretions of the pineal gland, which is at the top of the brain. The cerebral cortex has expanded greatly in higher mammals and especially in humans and cetaceans. Evolutionarily, white matter is on the outside of the gray matter in brains. Gray matter is cell body loci (associated groups of neurons) while white matter is myelinated axonal tracts from neuron cell bodies to other distant loci of neuron cell bodies and processes. In higher mammals, the great expansion of new cell neuron bodies in the cerebrum and the cerebellum has reversed this trend in these locations. Thus the pineal gland seems to be in the center of the brain due to the overfolding of the cerebrum. Still, the pineal gland responds to the rhythms of light and darkness. With the onset of darkness, the pineal gland secretes melatonin which cues the RAS to diminish its activation of the cortex and thus, the sleep centers gain predominence. When the sun arises, melatonin stops being secreted and the RAS gains the upper hand once again and awakens you to greet the morn.
The role of the RAS is to generate dynamic effects in the cortex. It plays a significant role in determining whether a person can learn and remember, whether a person is impulsive or self-controlled, whether a person has high or low motor activity levels, and whether a person is motivated or bored. The RAS is the center of balance for the other systems involved in learning, self-control, inhibition and motivation. It provides the neural connections that are needed for the processing and learning of information and the ability to pay attention to the correct task.
The practice of meditation then deals with these centers: the RAS, the sleep centers and the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus controls the pituitary gland which in turn controls the endocrine glands of the body. The hypothalamus is the seat of the rheostatic (more correct than homeostasis) system of the body. Here, the set points for temperature, blood pressure, blood volume, the integration of the sensory and motor sympathetic nervous system, the behaviors related to internal organ activities such as thirst, hunger, sex, fear and emotional expression are located. Most of the incoming information is received and channeled to higher centers by the reticular formation.
When one begins the practice of meditation, the first thing that one learns is to gain a measure of awareness of these systems. One begins to look inwards instead of outwards. One begins to develop an awareness of the states, behaviors and control systems of the RAS, the sleep centers and the hypothalamus. We will discuss the limbic system, the forebrain and the cerebellum in detail later. These systems have to do with memory, learning skills and consciousness development. First we need to learn the workings of the body and how to willfully control its behavior.