M is for Meditation
M is for Meditation.
Vinod D. Deshmukh, MD, PhD., Neurologist.
Meditating is a way of being in the moment and being the moment. It is one’s wholistic being, one’s full presence. Presence, the wholistic energy-awareness-being has an infinite potential. Presence is the light within oneself and it is the key to meditate and be inspired. We can live in such a timeless ocean of stillness, silence and serenity. One may call it, sacred.
Why meditate? It is because most of us are suffering from the following four maladies: an aimlessly running body, an incessantly wandering mind, an endlessly suffering heart, and a lack of self-understanding and an inspired life. If you are really free of these four fundamental problems, then, you don’t have to meditate; you are already an enlightened human being, living an inspired and loving life; you share your life freely and generously with all living beings. But, for the rest of us, here is a simple way to solve these common dysfunctional problems by frequently observing periods of simple awareness meditation and learning some skills for a good way of living. Life is good, beautiful, peaceful and full of natural wonders. Let us see, if we can explore life’s mystery and learn to understand and love it.
At this moment, if you are not aware of your body, mind, self, and being, then, pay attention to it. Just notice what is happening now. What are you doing or engaged in? Is your present physical and mental activity purposeful or you are just spending time, not knowing what to do? Are you running away from something or someone out of fear, or are you running towards something out of pleasure and desire? Is your mind wandering from one thing to the other, without any purpose or goal? Is your mind constantly going back and forth to what happened yesterday? Are you thinking about what will happen tomorrow in school, at work, or in life, and worrying about some new problem, disease or death? Are you upset or distressed about something, or have you had a bad argument with someone? Are you angry, disappointed or depressed? If so, you obviously don’t feel well in yourself. Your heart is suffering, the mind is wandering, the body is running aimlessly, and you don’t know what to do about all this. Does this sound familiar? So, what can we do? Here is an awareness meditation as a way of life.
An Awareness Meditation and a Way of Being
1) Slow down your unessential movements and intentionally move-pause-and-be aware of your current posture and gesture. Do this for about five times and then be still and relaxed. Let your body be comfortable and at-ease with itself. Be aware of your body.
2) Slow down your breathing and then, intentionally breathe-pause-and-be aware of your inhalation and exhalation with a pause in between. Do this for about five breaths, and then relax and be aware. Let your body breathe effortlessly. Experience what it feels like.
3) Slow down your self-talk and rumination. Instead of talking to yourself, do intentionally voice-pause-and-be aware; voice a sound like ‘hum’ or ‘aum’ and then pause and listen to the silence. Let your mind stay quiet, calm, and composed in that peaceful silence.
4) Slow down your rapid eye-movements. Do intentionally gaze-pause-and-be aware of something in front of you. Let your eyes and vision rest on something beautiful. Look outside at the vast sky, whether cloudy or clear. Listen to the rain or thunder. See the lightening. All such spontaneous natural phenomena can be calming and beautiful.
5) Slow down and look who you are interacting with. See who or what you are relating to. Is she or he your friend or foe? Are you being threatened or admired? What are your current intentions? Are you trying to hurt someone, or are you appreciating the friendship? Please do interact-pause-and-be aware of the wholeness of the current situation. See what is happening now and what is your specific role in it. What are the consequences? Are you being helpful or hurtful?
6) Can you let the current situation flow, as it may? Can you accept the things, as they are? Can you stop intruding and make things worse? Can you just be quiet and witness the wonderful unfolding of the natural phenomenon? Can you walk-pause-and-be aware of a migratory bird that you have never seen before, a manatee popping out of the quiet river or a flock of seagulls flying across the setting sun? Can you be a still, silent and serene?
Be. Be the peaceful and loving person that you naturally are. This is you, the intrinsic being that breathes, moves, speaks, acts, thinks and loves. This spontaneous being has the natural bodily energy, emotional passion, self-awareness, and steady attentiveness. You are the primordial, time-free wholistic being. You are naturally peaceful and loving. That is your true nature. You always have the potential to be at-peace with yourself and be at-home with your world. You are in nature and the nature is within you. Be curious, creative and compassionate. Learn to live in nature peacefully and whole-heartedly. Be in harmony with nature. Be one with nature. Be creative and enjoy the present life-in-nature. Appreciate the amazing unity of Life.
Be creatively absorbed in art, science, problem-solving and the daily living. Make your life better. Get inspired and come up with reasonable and compassionate solutions for yourself, others, and the humanity. Human life can be good, joyous, creative, generous and beautiful. Be a loving presence, a true light to yourself, and others. Be present-minded and keenly attentive to this moment that you are in, now. Realize fully your potential for living an inspired life.
How does one pause-and-be-still? One becomes aware of one’s movements, either voluntary or automatic. One decides to learn to slow them down, pause, and be aware. Initially, there is a conscious effort involved in such learning. As one advances in such a skill, the movements and the pauses become effortless and subconscious. That effortless and spontaneous state of physical and mental pause is the state of mental stillness. One can choose any sequence of bodily movements and hand gestures, and then learn to move and pause skillfully with full awareness. With regular practice, an expertise will develop. It can become your second nature.
How to breathe consciously? One becomes aware of one’s breathing, its movement, sound and sensation. One can pay attention to the gentle sound, the sensation of touch and the fluid movement of each breath. One can consciously take a breath, hold, and let-go. One may count to five breaths in a given posture-gesture, and then, repeat the same or initiate a new cycle.
After completing this sequence one can relax and rest joyfully. Never rush or be impatient. It is better to have longer exhalation than inhalation. Prolonged inhalation and breath-holding increase the sympathetic neural activity, causing increased breath-rate, heart-rate, and blood pressure; whereas, prolonged exhalation, pause and relaxation increase the parasympathetic neural activity causing lowering of breath-rate, heart-rate, and blood pressure. As one relaxes, the breath becomes slower in frequency, smaller in amplitude and volume. Breath is less projected out. It can stay localized to the nasopharynx and the head calmly.
How does one pause-and-listen? One must become aware of one’s ongoing speech, both external and internal. The internal speech is our verbal thinking or self-narration. Complete your train of thought and the internal story or a dialogue. Then, experience what it feels like to be quiet and stay silent without saying anything. When one becomes truly quiet and silent, one may hear a spontaneous sound of silence. Such spontaneous mental silence in a silent surrounding, becomes a vast unified field of the great silence. This is very energetic and exhilarating. Please dwell in such a natural field of peaceful silence and appreciate its wonder. From such a quiet and silent mind, new ideas and insights may dawn upon you.
How does one pause-and-explore the surroundings? Go for a walk in nature by yourself without any specific goal, expectation or agenda. Be fully aware and receptive to all that you come across. Notice what is beautiful, ugly, and small. You will be surprised, how many interesting patterns of forms and colors that there are in nature. Nature is truly rich and infinite in its beauty and wonders. One can learn a lot from nature. Try to relate to nature in a positive way. We are an integral part of nature. Nature is usually inspiring! Here is my recent poem.
Now and Beyond
I am the silence beyond my voice;
I am the stillness beyond my movement;
I am the serenity beyond my provoked feelings;
I am the person beyond my thoughts, memories and imaginations;
I am the being beyond all descriptions and expressions;
I am, what I am now.
I am the life beyond my act of breathing;
I am the seer beyond my act of seeing;
I am the awareness beyond all my divided experiences;
I am the bliss beyond all my negative feelings;
I am, what I am now.
I am the empty bowl,
That sings melodiously, when struck and caressed;
I am the blue sky that remains empty or full,
When all clouds flow away and dissipate;
I am, what I am now and beyond.
The Sky of Shanta Awareness. During meditation, one lets one’s body, mind and self settle in their spontaneous, silent, serene, and sky-like conscious state. I call it, the “Shanta Akasha.” The Sanskrit word, Shanta means still, silent and serene. Akasha means the sky. Such a Shanta-Sthiti or peaceful state is unique and indescribable. But it can be expressed poetically, as it was done by King Janaka. He expressed his perspective to Rishi Ashtavakra: “I am the infinite (energy-aware-being) like the sky, and the phenomenal world is like a small pot (within it); this is true self-knowledge. Understanding this, there is nothing (more) to be renounced, to be accepted, nor to be terminated.” (From “Ashtavakra Gita,” translated by Swami Chinmayānanda, 2001).
The Ocean of Blissful Silence. “On prolonged perception of (the silent and peaceful) self-aware being, the (wandering) mind becomes blissful awareness itself. It is like a turbulent river becoming (the ever-calm and) infinite ocean, on its mergence into the ocean. This gives rise to a feeling of unitive mental peace and serenity.” From Sri Shankaracharya’s “Prabodha-Sudhakar: The Nectar Ocean of Enlightenment” Published by Samata Books, Chennai, India, 1984, Pages 53-54).
“There is an incessant and spontaneous spring of peaceful energy-awareness (being) within (you); Let your (wandering) mind settle and dwell in it.” Quotation from the Words of Wisdom by Swami Swaroopananda of Pawas.
“Within the sanctum of the heart (source and sink of being), Brahman alone exists. There is the “I” ... “I” feeling that pulsates and shines as the Atman itself. Enter your heart yourself, by self-inquiry or self-mergence. By quieting your breathing (and the wandering mind), abide in your peaceful and loving being, the Self.” Quotation from Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Words of Wisdom.
The Space of Bliss. Here is a beautiful metaphor, “The Sky of Bliss.” It expresses the profound depth of understanding of our true nature, which is unconditional and unlimited bliss like the limitless clear blue sky with its healing radiance. Once we learn to be “The Sky of Bliss” we can be completely free of all fears including the fear of aging and death. (That’s immortality). It is also conducive to inspiration, intuition, new ideas, creativity and wisdom. There are six steps to be learnt and developed to realize such a wholistic and blissful awareness.
1) Presence, present mindedness or mindfulness.
2) Beauty, discover and appreciate the beauty that evokes spontaneous joy.
3) Silence of mind by attentive listening and minimum self-talk and thinking.
4) Peace of mind by being quiet and more accepting of the present reality.
5) Bliss blossoms naturally when all mental agitations and turmoils are resolved.
6) Love for self, others and Nature is the final flower that blossoms and enlightens all.
(The Brahmananda Valli section of the Taittiriya Upanishad, Tranlslated by Swami Sharvananda, The Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, 1921. Pages 82-84).
Copyright © (2019) by Vinod D. Deshmukh, MD, PhD., Neurologist. For further reading, references, questions, and comments, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The list of books and articles on meditation in an alphabetical order of authors.
1) Adishwarananda, Swami. Meditation and its Practices. Trio Press, Kolkata, India, 2003.
2) Austin, JH. Meditating Selflessly: Practical Neural Zen. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. 2011.
3) Burk, DS. Meditation. Penguin Random House LLC, 2016.
4) Butera R and Byron E (eds). Complete Book of Mindful Living. Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, Minnesota, 2016.
5) Chinmayananda, Swami. Meditation and Life. Chinmaya Publication Trust, Chennai, India, 1962.
6) Csikszentmihalyi M. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper Perennial, NY., 1990.
7) Deshmukh, VD. Presence as a new mode of attention. Society for Neuroscience, Abstracts, 1982 November:8.
8) Deshmukh, VD. Presence: The Key to Mental Excellence. Self-published in Jacksonville, Florida 1990.
9) Deshmukh, VD. Turiya: The Fourth State of Consciousness and the STEP Model of Self-Consciousness. Journal of Interdisciplinary Crossroads 2004 Dec: 1, 3, 551-60.
10) Deshmukh, VD. Neuroscience of Meditation. TSW Holistic Health and Medicine 2006:1, 275-89.
11) Deshmukh, VD. The Multistream Self: Biophysical, Mental, Social and Existential. The Scientific World Journal 2008:8, 331-41.
12) Deshmukh, VD. Vedic Psychology: A Science of Wisdom. J Altern Med Res 2011;3(1):29-43.
13) Deshmukh, VD. The Astonishing Brain and Holistic Consciousness: Neuroscience and Vedanta Perspectives. Nova Science Publishers, Inc., New York, 2012.
14) Deshmukh, VD. Cognitive pause-and-unload hypothesis of meditation and creativity. J Altern Med Res 2013;5(3):217-231.
15) Goleman D. The Varieties of the Meditative Experience. E. P. Dutton, New York, 1977.
16) Jon Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment and your Life. Sounds True, Inc., Boulder, Colorado, 2012.
17) Krishnamurti, J. On God. HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1992.
18) Leggett Trevor. Shankara on the Yoga-Sutras. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 1992.
19) Madhavananda, Swami. Atmopanishad in Minor Upanishads. Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, 1980. Pages 11-16.
20) Roth, Bob. Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2018.
21) Siegel, DJ. AWARE: The Science and Practice of Presence. Penguin Random House, New York, 2018.
22) Spear, HE. Chakras: A Beginner’s Guide to Healing. Fall River Place, New York, 2014.
23) Taimni, IK. The Science of Yoga. The Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, ILL, 1961.
24) Tejomayanand, Swami, (Ed). Living in the Present. Chinmaya Publications, Langhorne, PA, 2008.
25) Tolle, E. Stillness Speaks. New World Library, Novato, California, 2003.
26) Vivekananda, Swami. Living at the Source. Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, 1993.
27) Walther IF, Metzger R. Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Paintings. Taschen Bibliotheca Universalis, 2018.
28) Willard C. Growing Up Mindful: Essential Practices to help Children, Teens, and Families Find Balance, Calm, and Resilience. Sounds True, Inc., Boulder, Colorado, 2016.