(excerpts from JOHN WHITE, The Meeting of Science and Spirit, 1979)
Meditation works on all levels of our being: physical, psychological and social as well as spiritual. Research shows that it improves general health and stamina; it decreases tension, anxiety, and aggressiveness; it increases self-control and self-knowledge. Drug use and abuse are usually curbed and sometimes stopped. Psychotherapy progresses faster than usual. Personal and family relations tend to improve. And except for borderline psychotics, meditation is safe, harmless, extremely easy to learn, beautifully portable, available in endless supply, and completely legal.
Meditation research has been reviewed by Michael Murphy and Steven Donovan in their very valuable book The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation. It covers scientific research from the first meditation study in 1931 through 1988 and summarizes what has been found to happen, physiologically and psychologically, during and after meditation sessions. Murphy and Donovan show that most claims for meditation are valid so far as the first stages of meditative activity go. Although they say more and finer research is needed to look at the “greater heights and depths of transformative experience,” research to date corresponds with traditional accounts by meditators sufficiently to suggest that “the ancient paths towards enlightenment produced the kinds of enlightenment and illumination they claimed.”
There will never be a better world until there are better people in it. Meditators claim that meditation changes their lives for the better. Edgar Cayce described meditation as an emptying “of all that hinders the creative forces from rising along the natural channels of the physical man to be disseminated through those centres and sources that create the activities of the physical, the mental, the spiritual man; properly done (this) must make one stronger mentally, physically” (Reading 281-13). Dr Haridas Chaudhuri, philosopher and author of many works on spiritual development, defined meditation as “the art of bringing to full flowering the hidden spiritual potential of man’s psychophysical system.”
“Although enlightenment is the ultimate goal, many (perhaps most) meditators will not reach this fulfillment. Nevertheless, if you begin meditating, you can be reasonably certain that you will still find many worthwhile benefits in your life. They are likely to include:
(1)Freedom from the feeling of pressure in day-to-day affairs.
(2)Avoidance of what is generally called “that tired feeling”.
(3)Minimal recurrence of chronic nagging pains such as headache, arthritis, indigestion, and colitis.
(4)Reduction of insomnia, caffeine and nicotine dependence, and general use of drugs.
(5)Greater tolerance and love for others.
(6)Greater satisfaction from your religious affiliation, if you have one.
(7)Greater desire to be helpful, either in public service or in your own private life.
In the more advanced states of meditation, mental and physical stillness is complete. The meditator is totally absorbed in a blissful state of awareness having no particular object. His consciousness is without any thoughts or other contents; he is simply conscious of consciousness. In yoga, this emptiness of consciousness without loss of consciousness is called Samadhi. IN Zen, it is satori. In the West, it is best known as cosmic consciousness or enlightenment. In this there is a paradox. In the emptiness comes a fullness – unity with divinity, knowledge of humanity’s true nature, and (to use a phrase from St. Paul) “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.” Lama Angarika Govinda, a German who became a Tibetan Buddhist lama, said that meditation is “the means to reconnect the individual with the whole – i.e., to make the individual conscious of his universal origin. This is the only positive way to overcome the eg-complex, the illusion of separateness, which no amount of preaching and moral exhortation will achieve. To give up the smaller for the bigger is not felt as a sacrifice but as a joyous release from oppression and narrowness. The ‘selflessness’ resulting from this experience is not due to moral considerations or pressures, but a natural attitude, free from the feeling of moral superiority; and the compassion which flows from it is the natural expression of solidarity with all forms of sentiment life.”