Ideas Presented in Chapter 2
Idea #5: Experiencing the Meditative Function Rejuvenates the Mind and Body
Meditation plays an important role in the daily cycle of mind-body maintenance. The key short-term effect of the meditative function is rejuvenation. The word rejuvenate is based on the Latin word for young (juvenis). While meditation cannot literally make you younger, it can help you regain and retain characteristics we associate with a youthful, or un-worn body, mind, and soul. In general, rejuvenation returns a system to a condition that it enjoyed at an earlier time, a condition of less wear. Living enriches, but it also wears. While living structures are more delicate and susceptible to wearing out than are many non-living ones, living structures also enjoy a magnificent ability to restore themselves. They possess an inner structural "memory" of the way they were made and often can regain much of that original state after a damaging experience.
As you may have learned through various studies in the healing arts, nature has many restorative powers that modern cultures have left behind or ignored. One of the most potent of these is the meditative function. The meditative function produces bodily energy and mental freshness. It heals deeply seated scratches and dents in the nervous system and the psyche. It unwinds stress, soothes, combs, heals and cleans. In many ways, the rejuvenation works like sleep, but experience shows that neither can really replace the other. No doubt, the two work on different places within the mind/body mechanisms.
Aging, of course, is more than the ticking of the clock on the wall. There are countless complex, interactive changes that tick away within the body and mind. Taken together, scientists consider this to be the aging process. They catalog many factors that determine how old a person is biologically. Studies done on Transcendental Meditation in the 1980s, and published in reputable journals such as Journal of Behavioral Medicine, showed a significant effect on factors of the aging process—things like blood pressure, near-point vision, and auditory discrimination. They found that people doing TM for more than five years had measurements equal to the average person who is 12 years younger and people meditating for fewer years were like people five years younger.
The changes in the body may be the easiest ones to research and to write and talk about because they lend themselves to the vocabulary of science. But, they are not the essence of meditation. Meditation is first and last a feature of the mind. As with the body, the immediate effect of the meditative function on the mind is rejuvenation. While the body rests, the mind also rests and enjoys a release from tension, but the rest is different from the “lights out” rest of sleep. It doesn’t diminish in consciousness, although it does loosen its attachment to the objects that normally fill our consciousness. In this sense, we can say attention floats inward. With each inward transition, the mind softens and opens, steps back from the "the ten thousand things" in the environment, gets less stuck to everything. It becomes settled or quiet even in the presence of thoughts. This shift does not take the mind off to remote places. You remain within yourself, having thoughts and capable of hearing sounds in the environment.
In short, meditation’s effect within the mind is a shift in consciousness. At times, the experience is said to be "beyond thought.” Tibetan meditation master, Chögyam Trungpa, described this in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism (Shambhala,1973):
Fundamentally, there is just open space, the basic ground, what we really are. Our most fundamental state of mind, before creation of ego, is such that there is a basic openness, basic freedom, a spacious quality; and we have always had this openness.[p.122]
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