The Benefits of Meditation

The Benefits of Meditation


In order to improve our concentration and
achieve a sense of inner peace, we should get into a habit of daily meditation. There are many benefits of this ancient practice. From a biological point of view, the sympathetic
nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s reactions to stress, shuts down during
meditation. In our current high-stress civilization, many
people live in a state of chronic anxiety that eventually leads to serious problems
such as physical and mental exhaustion, lowered immunity, and insomnia. Meditation pacifies the sympathetic nervous
system, aiding rest, relaxation, and digestion, which are in turn responsibilities of the
parasympathetic nervous system. Scientific studies also indicate that meditative
practices lead to a reduction in the activity of the default mode network, a large-scale
brain network associated with daydreaming and ruminations (which are not good in excess). Finally, empirical research proves that meditation
can increase one’s attention span and other cognitive abilities. From a secular point of view, meditation consists
of breathing exercises and, in some cases, repetitive affirmations. As was proven above, these activities are
beneficial to our physical and mental well-being. However, the benefits can be maximized if
our practice is taken to a higher, religious level by repeating mantras. Mantras are sacred words, discovered by the
ancient seers who experienced the divine directly, that produce vibrations at certain frequencies
and ranges. They are not just mere mental focus points,
but reflections of universal energies. Chanting a mantra strengthens the union with
our eternal self (atman) and liberates us from the hypnotic glamour (maya) of the material
world. The sound vibrations are transmitted throughout
the body, bestowing their healing properties upon us. Although meditation techniques and mantras
are now almost exclusively preserved in the scriptures of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) and
Buddhism, there is nothing to suggest that similar methods didn’t exist in other pre-Abrahamic,
Indo-European cultures. Many ancient Greek philosophers stressed the
importance of self-examination. Some of them were taught and initiated by
Egyptian sages and Persian magi who might have been familiar with these techniques. In his work On Nature, the pre-Socratic philosopher
Parmenides described a mystical inner vision that he had experienced himself. The report of his vision is not very dissimilar
from what yogis of India experience in their meditative states. Plotinus, a 3rd-century Neoplatonic mystic,
argued that henosis (a state of oneness with the divine) can be achieved by turning wholly
within, purifying one’s consciousness from external sensations and dualistic patterns
of thinking. The Celtic deity Cernunnos, depicted on the
Gundestrup Cauldron (comparable to the representation of the Vedic god Shiva on the Pashupati Seal)
and on the Reims Altar, is seated in the lotus position (padmasana), possibly indicating
a meditative state. Since the late eighteenth century, scholars
have highlighted the close similarities between the Celtic druids and the Vedic brahmanas. This view was supported by the Hellenistic
writers of the Alexandrian School, who considered druids to be sages parallel to those known
to us from Greek, Egyptian, Persian, and Vedic traditions. It is also possible that various meditative
techniques could have developed in ancient Europe independently from Oriental influence. After all, the yearning for self-analysis
and inner stillness is something universal, not exclusive to the peoples of India or Tibet.