Meditation, The Conscious Sleep
Meditation, a practice used since ancient times in some countries such as India, is gaining popularity in the modern western world. And now modern medicine is studying the effects of meditation on aging gray matter in the brain noting that it is preserved more in those who have meditated than those who have not. They have also noticed that meditation affects various regions throughout the brain.
Oftentimes meditation is associated with a religious practice, and although many techniques teach devotion to a deity, meditation can simply be a practice of stillness.
In practicing stillness, one becomes the observer of himself…stepping out of oneself and watching. Whether it be observing the breath or the thoughts that float by, the practitioner begins to acknowledge that there resides within him, an outsider that is looking within…at you. How is this valuable to us?
When we overly identify with our thoughts and emotions (which we do nearly 100% of the time), we lack peace of mind and clarity. We are too deep inside the forest to see the trees. With quiet reflection, we can safely withdraw from our thoughts and feelings…even if it’s just for a few seconds, and find some serenity and clarity.
Meditation, also called the conscious sleep, provides invaluable rest to the brain. In normal sleep, we reside in the subconscious entirely. In the conscious sleep, we rest..consciously. This is incredibly valuable for the brain..and in large for one’s mind. During subconscious sleep, the mind is ever active most of the night, in dreams and processing the day’s activity, with all of its sensory input. However, in the moments of mental stillness attained during meditation, the mind rests. Perhaps this is the explanation for the preserved gray matter amongst the elder meditators.
What does this mean to you? It means that if you suffer from chronic insomnia due to mental restlessness, you now have a tool to provide the body and mind with rest…even without sleeping. Simply clear the mind and focus on the breath. There are techniques to help you build endurance for focusing. We all begin the practice with restlessness, even the Dalai Lamah struggles with restlessness during meditation. The idea is to not resist the thoughts but to step outside of them, and into the observer..now you’re meditating.
Other physical benefits of meditation include blood pressure , pain reduction and better circulation.