Benefits of Meditation - Sahaja, Chakra, Kundalini Meditation Benefits

About

Sahaja Benefits

In the Western world, it may seem that meditation is “new,” but meditation has actually existed for thousands of years. Sahaja meditation distills the ancient secrets of the Eastern mystics to simple techniques that blend the healing power of our innate subtle energy system with Western views of self-improvement, self-realization, and spirituality. In other words, Sahaja offers the best of both worlds. It’s not just for mystics and monks. It’s for “regular” people, too.

Sahaja meditation is much more than just relaxing or “blissing out.” Because it has the capacity to dramatically alter your brain and overall physiology, it can ultimately help transform who you are now into who you want to be. Sahaja is a holistic approach to self-improvement. It has the potential to improve the whole self — mind, body and spirit. But you can also tailor your meditative practice to accomplish your specific self-improvement goals. And with Sahaja, you’ll have a built-in feedback system to help you verify your progress, as well as pinpoint areas that need improvement.

What Health and Well-Being Benefits Can You Expect?

Meditation has been practiced throughout the ages as a vehicle through which we can control attention, access the inner self, and trigger a variety of cognitive, emotional and physical health benefits.We think of the general spirit of meditation as still and peaceful, but there’s a lot going on under that still surface. Sahaja meditation is a complex mind-body process that acts on the central nervous system to produce changes in overall biochemistry and physiology, as well as brain structures and brain circuitry.

A growing body of meditation research has documented a host of mental and physical health benefits. Following are a few highlights of the cognitive, emotional and physical health benefits offered by Sahaja meditation, which are discussed elsewhere on this site in detail:

  • Adjunct or primary treatment of mental health disorders, depending on severity (e.g., depression, anxiety, AD/HD, stress relief)
  • Improved cognitive function (e.g., attention, perception, memory, creativity, productivity)
  • Improved emotional function and emotional self-regulation (e.g., maturity, self- esteem, decreased reactivity and defensiveness, resilience, increased rationality, objectivity and perspective-taking)
  • Improved immunity, improved molecular and cellular integrity
  • Adjunct or primary treatment of physical disorders, depending on severity (e.g., hypertension and other cardiovascular problems, diabetes, asthma, cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS)
  • improved personal characteristics (e.g., emotional intelligence, tolerance and social acceptance, altruism, forgiveness, fairness, humility, empathy and compassion, humor)
  • improved personality traits (e.g., openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness/sociability, decreased aggression and neuroticism)
  • increased focus on higher, more evolved needs (e.g., self-actualization, self-transcendence, spirituality)

For a comprehensive look at these individual topics, as well as cited evidence of the physiological mechanisms through which Sahaja may influence our mental health and well-being, see the Mental Health & Well-Being section.

Research is also beginning to pinpoint the physiological mechanisms through which meditation may produce health benefits.

Immunity

First, studies show that meditation can introduce key physiological changes all the way down to the cellular — and even molecular — levels. This micro-influence can significantly improve immune system function, which, of course, ultimately impacts every aspect of well-being. For example, meditation:

  • Triggers a set of adaptive responses at the cortical, autonomic, neuroendocrine, and cardiovascular levels that restore homeostatic and self-repair mechanisms
  • Boosts antibody production (antibody rise was associated with increased emotions)
  • Improves endothelial function and reduces oxidative stress (which accelerates aging, decreases immunity, increases inflammation)
  • Regulates the expression of pro-inflammatory genes, as well as reducing blood levels of C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation
  • Prevents CD4-T immune cell (the “brains” of the immune system) death
  • Slows cellular aging and protects chromosomes by, in part, increasing telomerase activity (enzyme that keeps immune cells young by preserving their telomere length and their ability to continue dividing)
  • Increases the hormone melatonin, which stimulates the immune system and the antioxydative defense system

Neurochemistry

Second, research shows that meditation helps regulate key neurochemicals (e.g., neurotransmitters and neurohormones) that are critical to our health and well-being.

These neurochemicals are responsible for inhibiting harmful electrochemical influences, such as stress-related culprits like cortisol) while stimulating those that stimulate neural growth and plasticity and positively effect our ability to think, reason, and react. In influencing our neurochemistry, regular Sahaja meditation can ultimately effect permanent changes in the brain and nervous system, thus improving long-term health and well-being.

Here’s a quick summary of how meditation positively influences neurochemicals critical to health and well-being:

  • GABA (gamma-aminobutyricacid) increases — calming, anti-anxiety effect; regulates the activity of other key mental health neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine.
  • Dopamine increases — attention regulation; modulates reward-motivation circuitry (including addiction/cravings and other impulses); positive mood and feelings of pleasure, mood stabilization; motor activity; stimulates feel-good, calming endorphins.

Serotonin increases — positive mood, mood stabilization; sense of well-being; involved in sleep cycles and circadian rhythm; modulates pain, appetite, body temperature, blood pressure and endocrine system secretion, as well as information processing (learning and memory), aggression, movement and sexual behavior

  • Norepinephrine decreases — decreases fearfulness and anxiety; helps prevent vasoconstriction, decreases heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar level; modulates arousal, and mood
  • Epinephrine decreases — relaxes sympathetic nervous system, decreasing fight-or-
    flight responses, such as heart rate, blood glucose, and blood pressure
  • Melatonin increases — promotes healthy sleeping and waking patterns; promotes positive mood and mood stabilization; stimulates immunity and antioxydative defense system; decelerates aging; reduces pain sensitivity
  • Cortisol decreases — decelerates aging and decreases immunity; increases immunity; decrease fight-or-flight responses
  • Acetylcholine increases — regulates attention and states of consciousness; involved in motivation, learning, perception, cognition, and memory consolidation; during meditation, enhances attention while diminishing awareness of distracting sensory input
  • Glutamate increases — enhances electrical flow among brain cells; involved in learning, memory and brain plasticity
  • Arginine vasopressin increases — increases arousal, learning and memory consolidation; maintains positive affect; decreases self-perceived fatigue; mediates oxytocin in social behavior.
  • b-Endorphinsincrease — natural opiate, painkiller; increases sense of happiness and well-being; reduces blood pressure; depresses respiration; decreases fear
  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)decreases — decreases stress response/fight-or-flight response; decreases cortisol secretion

For extensive citations and an in-depth look at the research on how meditation affects
neurochemicals, see Understanding Neurochemicals: The Key Players and Evidence of Meditation’s Impact on Neurotransmitters & Neurohormones.

Neuroplasticity & Cognitive Improvements

Third, freeing the mind through Sahaja’s state of thoughtless awareness leads to actual physical changes in the brain, which improves cognitive abilities and boosts overall neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s capacity to increase the structure and number of neurons (brain cells), reorganize neural pathways and connections (synapses), and even alter brain structures. Meditation takes advantage of the brain’s natural plasticity to produce structural changes to the brain, thus producing lasting changes in cognitive and emotional processing. In other words, by boosting neuroplasticity, Sahaja meditation can help positively shape how our brains grow and change over time by enhancing positive effects and diminishing the impact of negative effects (e.g., aging, stress).

Meditation’s effects, include, for example:

  • increasing the brain’s gray matter in the brain overall, functioning like “push-ups” for the brain; increasing gray matter volume in brain regions involved in sustained attention and cognitive control and performance, emotional control, self-awareness, interoceptive perception, monitoring of autonomic functions, feelings of empathy, compassion, and self-acceptance, purpose in life, self-directedness and autonomy (Hernández et al, 2016).
  • increasing amount, density and insulation of white matter tissue (which facilitates electrical connections between brain regions), improving critical aspects of cognitive functioning… intelligence, reasoning ability, memory, creativity, learning, reaction time and efficiency, emotional stability and self-actualization (the ability to achieve one’s potential)
  • increasing amount, density and insulation of white matter tissue (which facilitates electrical connections between brain regions), improving critical aspects of cognitive functioning… intelligence, reasoning ability, memory, creativity, learning, reaction time and efficiency, emotional stability and self-actualization (the ability to achieve one’s potential)
  • meditation alters the fundamental electrical balance between the brain’s cerebral hemispheres, better synchronizing emotional processing with reason and logical thinking, which leads to better balanced decision-making

The bottom line? The Sahaja meditator’s brain becomes better connected, better balanced, better synchronized, better organized and more efficient.

How long does it take for changes to kick in?

Sahaja meditation’s integral physiological component at the molecular level may actually begin immediately upon starting meditation, then continue to compound with regular practice, and ultimately, form the basis of long-term stable effects.In other words, over time, the brain rewires itself and short-term state improvements can become permanent, long-term trait improvements. ‘Stress management” or “disease management” becomes resilience, a suit of armor that better equips us to weather whatever comes our way.

Personal Characteristics and Personality Traits

From the beginning of your Sahaja meditation practice, you’ll be introduced to a whole new dimension of awareness unlike any other: the awareness of your inner subtle self.It happens not at the normal physical, mental or emotional levels, but at the higher level of Sahaja’s state of thoughtless awareness and through your ultimate ability to perceive the subtle vibrations caused by the flow of your inner energy. This enhanced awareness will help you identify and understand in an objective, nonjudgmental manner the qualities that constitute your personality, as well as the subtle energy centers from which they emanate. All your personal characteristics, present or lacking, become clearer over time, which allows you to develop a structured meditative approach to improve these characteristics. You’ll be analyzing your thoughts and feelings on a higher plane now.

This heightened self-awareness and mindfulness extends to your relationships with others. For example, your emotional intelligence increases, allowing you to better fulfill your own emotional needs, as well as those of your relationship partners. Your communication and conflict resolution skills improve, as does your empathy and compassion for others. Instead of always focusing on your own needs first, you become more mindful of others’ needs. Sahaja meditation improves self-esteem, self-confidence and self-reliance and increases your ability to form secure attachments.

Thus, you are not dependent on others for proof of your self-worth. You have a reservoir of self-respect to draw from. Sahaja meditation also increases overall emotional maturity, which decreases emotional reactivity. You become better able to self-regulate your emotions, keep your ego in check, and view conflicts or stressful situations with more objectivity and detachment, thus it becomes easier to forgive and let go.

For more information see Personality strengths guide. For an in-depth look at Sahaja meditation’s impact on personality, see Can Sahaja meditation influence Personality?.

Character Strengths

A rapidly growing body of research is revealing the many dimensions in which character strengths promote our health, happiness and well-being. Character strengths are ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving that promote human flourishing and facilitate exceptional performance. They’re essential to an individual’s core character.

Psychologists generally view individual character traits as stable and distinctive qualities, a persisting pattern of attitudes and motives that tend to predict kinds and qualities of moral behavior. Character is a constellation of mental and ethical or moral qualities distinctive to an individual, patterns of behavior, thoughts and feelings that are based on principles and moral judgements that certainly includes those “lines that you never cross.” “Good character” is actually a family of positive character traits. Character traits are notsegregated mechanisms that have automatic effects on behavior; rather, virtuous behavior involves choosing virtue for itself and applying that character strength in your life plan.

Perhaps most importantly, we should view character strengths as qualities that determine our response to life situations, regardless of circumstances. A character strength is a disposition to act, desire, and feel. It involves judgment. Ultimately, it leads to recognizable human excellence and human flourishing. Character, ultimately, is who we are even when no one else is watching.

If our successes and failures in life depend on how we respond to events and circumstances, then it is our character strengths that determine our success. You can think of character strengths as your personal bundle of potential, just waiting to be explored and developed.

Understanding your own character strengths is the genesis of your path to self-discovery and ultimately, long-term self-improvement. In a practical sense, an understanding of character strengths becomes a guiding compass for who you are and who you can become. Knowing your highest, best self ultimately allows you to make a difference not only in the world around you, but in the greater universe and humanity as a whole.

For more information see Character strengths guide. For an in-depth look at how Sahaja helps improve character and personality traits, see the Character and Personality improvement in Sahaja section.

Personality Traits

Personality is the sum of all the unique psychological qualities that influence an individual’s behavior across situations and time.  We each have a unique constellation of traits, a unique “behavioral signature.” Understanding our own personality traits gives us a sense of who we are at the core.

Each of our personality traits falls somewhere along a continuum between positive and negative, healthy and unhealthy. Each individual has the capacity to progress along each dimension as circumstances change. We are not simply “stuck” on one end of each trait dichotomy; rather, we are a blend of both, exhibiting some characteristics more often than others.

Genes. Ultimately, human personality seems to develop as a complex adaptive system and each dimension may be influenced by interactions between many biogenetic and environmental variables over time. Many of our traits appear to be at least somewhat heritable. Most studies show that heritability of human personality traits tends to fall within the range of 30% to 60% (Gestell, Broekchoven, 2003; Hosak & Hosakova, 2010; Savitz & Ramesar 2004).

Many primary personality traits, such as neuroticism, aggression, antisocial, extroversion/introversion, novelty-seeking/sensation-seeking, impulsivity, conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness to experience and even self-transcendence have been shown to have some genetic basis, but most are not highly heritable. (neuroticism and aggression/antisocial, novelty-seeking)

Some genes are only expressed or “turned on” in response to stimuli from the outside world, such as environmental influences, lifestyle and geography. Like light switches, genes must receive electrical current to turn on and express their particular proteins. (See also, Do Genes and Family Ties Determine Personality?) So while personality tends to remain relatively stable over time, its dynamics can be influenced — for better or worse — by many situational forces. But the good news is that most personality traits can also be improved over time both through deliberate effort, as well as through Sahaja meditation.

For an in-depth look at how Sahaja helps improve character and personality traits, see the Character and Personality improvement in Sahaja section.

Thoughtless awareness and the processes of attending and abstaining

The wellspring of Sahaja meditation’s benefits is achieving the state of thoughtless awareness, a “fourth state of consciousness” that transcends our normal planes of mental, emotional and physical awareness.Thoughtless awareness has been described as pure consciousness that manifests itself like a mirror becoming bright when the dirt and dust are cleared. The mind ignores ordinary things and becomes engrossed in the purest form of consciousness itself. This pure consciousness is the true person, not his or her body, mind, senses or thoughts. This is essentially the phenomenon we often hear referred to as experiencing the “inner self.”

Meditation involves, in part, two beneficial processes: attending and abstaining — in a nutshell, attending to the present moment with acceptance while delinking action from impulse; that is, abstaining from action emotional reactivity. In fact, our psychological health may depend, in part, upon our ability to naturally spontaneously perform these two processes of attending and abstaining in our daily lives. They can become a practical, effective technique of self-care.

Internalizing our attention and purifying our awareness during Sahaja’s state of thoughtless awareness automatically allows us to attend and abstain. Meditation heightens self-awareness and allows us to bring cognitive and emotional processes under conscious, voluntary control in our daily lives. We become better self-regulators, able to view problems rationally, objectively and without overreacting. We’re able to accurately appraise our stressors, which facilitates effective coping. Good coping skills, incidentally, a study at Harvard Medical School have even been found to improve immunity by increasing natural killer T cell activity.

Ultimately, the meditative process of focusing inward with a nonreactive, nonjudgmental attitude can trigger dramatic shifts in our perspective of ourselves and the world around us. Sahaja’s state of thoughtless awareness ultimately enables you to identify your inner self, while becoming a detached witness to events that you associate with “yourself.”

This ability to detach allows you to exercise more control over your thoughts and feelings, which helps reduce defensiveness and negative thought patterns that can lead to mental health problems and, ultimately, trigger drive the disease process behind physical illnesses. Defenses, which are constructed by the ego, are strategies that we adopt to cope with reality and maintain our sense of self-worth. But while they may temporarily shield us from anxiety by preventing us from being fully aware of our unwanted or “unacceptable” impulses, thoughts and feelings, they also prevent us from living authentically and being psychologically whole.

See also: Scientific evidence of Thoughtless Awareness.

The default mode

Many studies show that experienced meditators have quieter, calmer minds, even when idling in “default mode.”  The default mode network (DMN) is the brain’s “standby” mode. It kicks in we’re not attending a particular task and aren’t focused on the external world; for example when we’re daydreaming or our attention lapses. But an overactive DMN has been associated with depression, AD/HD, anxiety disorders, autism, schizophrenia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.

In normal daily life, our attention tends to switch between task-oriented neural networks that focus on the external world and our internal networks (such as the DMN) that are dedicated to self-reflection, contemplation, emotion and self-referential thought. Some neuroimaging studies have found that experienced meditators show reduced activity in the DMN, even when not meditating and can, in fact, even literally switch off the DMN at will to reduce distracting self-referential thought processes such as rumination or obsessive thoughts.

Other neuroimaging studies have revealed that some experienced meditators are able to keep both networks active at the same time during meditation. This special ability may help melt the perceptual psychological barrier of “Self versus Other” and help explain how meditators are able to experience a sense of total harmony with the universe — literally, a feeling of oneness. When experienced meditators relax into a state of oneness, neural activity changes: They’re able to lower the emotional wall between themselves and the outside world, which reduces emotional reactivity to painful experiences. So, it’s not that they’re blocking painful experiences; rather, they may be refraining from engaging in the thought processes that make those experiences painful. This is one way that meditation helps us effectively process difficult circumstances.

 At the very least, Sahaja meditation acts as a stress-buffer. In increasing our awareness of present moment experience, meditation increases positive thoughts and feelings, gives us a sense of control, increases acceptance of our emotional experience, and enhances our ability to accurately appraise stressful situations. Thus, meditation reduces the likelihood of ruminating, exaggerating our appraisals of threat, and just generally suffering distress about distress.

The research shows that increasing positive emotional states and decreasing distress-related thoughts and feelings can, in turn, produce deep benefits — from balancing the neurochemicals that drive our mental and physical health and cognitive functioning to slowing the rate of cellular aging. So not only can Sahaja meditation help prevent mental health disorders from developing, research shows that it can even help treat clinical disorders such as depression, anxiety, AD/HD, addiction and chronic stress. In fact, many practitioners find that through its state of thoughtless awareness, Sahaja provides deeper healing and self-improvement benefits than other forms of meditation, which has been corroborated in other studies (e.g., (Zollo & Berchicci, 2007; Aftanas, et al, 2002; 2005).

You’ll find that Sahaja meditation is a living science that gradually unfolds as your meditative experiences grow deeper and stronger, and can become, over time, an ever-evolving resource for self-improvement.  The insights and abilities you acquire through meditation can not only help you build a productive life filled with meaningful relationships, they strengthen your ability to spontaneously engage the healing process in your daily life.

What Spiritual Benefits Can You Expect?

Ancient yogic texts say that when the mind is completely stilled, we are free to experience the true Self — the divine soul. A Sahaja meditative practice can include both the personal and transpersonal aspects of experience, scientifically and empirically confirming some aspects of our experience (e.g., health), while leaving others, such as the spiritual benefits, to be confirmed by each individual practitioner.

Sahaja meditation provides a practical method for actualizing spirituality; that is, making spirituality a personal reality. It happens through a process of naturally evolving to higher and higher levels of spiritual maturity, being aware of the divine power, constantly interacting with it and harnessing it to continuously improve oneself. While you can spend an entire lifetime trying to mentally absorb spiritual concepts and still not find the answers you’re looking for, through meditation, you’ll find that it’s easy to integrate spirituality into your life on an ongoing basis and reap the associated benefits.

From day one, Sahaja allows you to achieve Self-Realization, the actualization of the Spirit within, and creating awareness of the subtle energy system. Every subsequent meditation involving the Kundalini energy and chakras (as in the case of Sahaja meditation) is a further step in understanding yourself through the state of your own chakras, and thereby a gauge of your personal characteristics and traits.

From day one, Sahaja allows you to achieve Self-Realization, the actualization of the Spirit within, and creating awareness of the subtle energy system. Every subsequent meditation involving the Kundalini energy and chakras (as in the case of Sahaja meditation) is a further step in understanding yourself through the state of your own chakras, and thereby a gauge of your personal characteristics and traits.

For in-depth information, see the section on Spiritual Benefits of Sahaja.

References

Aftanas, L.I., Varlamov, A.A., Pavlov, S.V.,   et al., Affective Picture Processing: Event-Related Synchronization within Individually Defined Human Theta Band Is Modulated by Valence Dimension, Neurosci. Lett., 2002, vol. 303, p. 115.

Gestel, S Van, and Broeckhoven, C Van. Genetics of personality: are we making progress? Molecular Psychiatry (2003) 8, 840–852.

Hernández SE, Suero J, Barros A, González-Mora JL, Rubia K (2016) Increased Grey Matter Associated with Long-Term Sahaja Yoga Meditation: A Voxel-Based Morphometry Study. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0150757.

Zollo, M., Berchicci, V., et al. Response: Understanding and Responding to Societal Demands on Corporate Responsibility. 2007.