The Senior | Sahaja Online

Sahaja & You Profiles

The Senior

You’ve reached the golden years of your life, which should offer a golden opportunity to explore new horizons and find new purpose. Everywhere we look, there is indeed new evidence to suggest that our Golden Years can, indeed, be golden. You’re no longer doomed to endless days filled with shuffleboard and checkers. The fears, limitations and bleak medical certainties once attached to old age no longer seem inevitable. Many seniors are living vibrant, exciting lives well into their eighties, and even nineties… excelling in sports, traveling the globe, even launching new careers — living their lives to the fullest. Sixty, the media proclaims, is the new forty.

Do you feel forty? If lately, when you roll out of bed each morning, you’re only too aware that you’re “not getting any younger,” Sahaja meditation can help. When we become increasingly aware that the mind and body isn’t working like it used to, it’s easy to slip into a quiet despair. Perhaps you’re concerned about money. You may fear losing your independence. Perhaps your days no longer seem to have purpose since retirement. You may have concerns about your health, your memory and other aspects of cognitive functioning that “aren’t what they used to be.” Perhaps you’re spending far too much time either ruminating about the past or worrying about the future and it has become harder and harder to simply relax and enjoy the present.

Sahaja meditation can shave years off your physiological age and help you find peace and purpose. A meditative practice helps convert a pervasive sense of dread into a reinvigorated sense of anticipation and optimism for what tomorrow may hold. Optimism, peace and joy are restored. Your mind turns from circling the past to appreciating the wisdom of your experience, and relishing the present. You begin to reinvest in your future. This transformative process is the path to fulfilling your purpose and living in peace and contentment.

Ultimately, Sahaja meditation will instill in you the strength and confidence to trust your own inner wisdom and make healthy, independent choices that lead to emotional stability, happiness and growth. Through meditation, you’ll realize that it’s never too late for personal growth.

How Sahaja Meditation Helps Seniors

Sahaja meditation is much more than simply feeling peaceful and relaxed. The state of the mind changes the state of the body through the central nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system. Peace of mind sends the body a ‘live!’ message, while depression, fear, anxiety and unresolved conflict send a ‘die’ message.

Here are some specific mental, physical and spiritual benefits of Sahaja meditation that are important to many seniors…

Health and Well-Being Benefits

Peace and purpose

Meditation can help you find peace and purpose in your golden years. Sahaja meditation’s built-in therapeutic process functions, in part, as a mirror for self-reflection, which becomes a powerful mechanism for self-improvement and self-healing. You’ll be able to see your unique gifts and talents with clarity, identify strategies to overcome obstacles and heal old wounds and, ultimately, transcend the limitations that are preventing you from achieving your highest potential. Sahaja meditation opens new dimensions in your life, and helps you notice, appreciate and understand aspects of your own personality like never before. You can discover each subtle center of your inner energy system. You may come to realize that you’ve always had a center of magnetic attraction within you. Very soon after activating this center, you may find that younger generations are attracted to this invisible magnet inside you and you feel needed and valued again. Your age and experience, combined with the newfound sense of gravity within, soon begin to attract people who look up to you for advice on real life matters. Creativity blossoms and you may find yourself exploring new dimensions and activities that you always appreciated from a distance but never tried.

Improved energy and vitality

The mechanisms through which Sahaja meditation influences your inner energy system combine to create holistic fitness. Sahaja’s state of thoughtless awareness, combined with the ongoing nourishment of inner energy provided by a regular meditative practice, recharges your mind and body. You’ll immediately notice that relieving energy blockages and restoring balance to your energy centers through Sahaja techniques infuses you with more natural energy and vitality in your day-to-day life. Your inner energy can quietly and efficiently “heals the tiredness inside.” You’ll find that you have better discipline, sharper focus and increased motivation — qualities that are essential to keeping you on the path of improvement.

Stress management, improved coping skills and total mind-body resilience

Stress can be exhausting and debilitating and it contributes to all mental and physical health problems, in one way or another. Meditation acts as a stress buffer, helping you manage stress, take control of your life, and sustain robust health and self-reliance. Meditation also promotes accurate appraisals of stressors, which improves coping and leads to smarter decision-making. Regular meditation activates a built-in stress management mechanism that helps your cope with stressors on an ongoing basis, enhancing long-term resilience. The sense of inner calm you experience during Sahaja’s state of thoughtless awareness instantly boosts your energy level and emotional resilience, enabling you to better cope with stressful events in the future. Freeing your mind from stressful thoughts through meditation frees more of your energy to enjoy all the good things that life has to offer every day.

Emotional self-regulation

Meditation helps you master your emotions, which means you’ll be better equipped to focus and solve your problems, rather than just feel guilty about your mistakes and reflect on what “might have been.” You’ll begin to live in the present, rather than dwelling on the past (common in depression), or worrying about the future (common in anxiety). Experienced meditators develop a new “Idle Mode” (e.g., during downtime or daydreaming) that’s more present-centered and less self-centered, which leads to better mental health. Meditation functions as an emotional regulator, producing lasting changes through, primarily, two mechanisms: attentional control (by controlling what we pay attention to) and cognitive control (by exercising conscious control over our thoughts and feelings). Meditation teaches us to view thoughts simply as events in the mind, independent of their content and emotional charge. We are able to detach emotion from thought and pay nonjudgmental, nonreactive attention to all aspects of our experience, which reduces emotional reactivity.

Depression and anxiety relief

Sahaja meditation helps relieve depression and anxiety symptoms and has been shown to elevate mood and increase positive emotions by influencing neurochemicals released by the brain’s emotional center, the limbic system, (e.g., beta-endorphins and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine and melatonin).Meditation rewires our perspective of emotionally charged events and protects us from intrusive, negative thoughts. Self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence improves. Negative thoughts and feelings melt away. Positive feelings of optimism, peace and joy return.(See Suggested Reading below for an in-depth look at about how Sahaja helps each specific mental health condition.)

Enhanced self-awareness and introspectiveness

Because Sahaja improves self-awareness and introspectiveness, you’ll have live and constant feedback of what’s going on with your mind and body. This powerful self-diagnostic tool allows you to quickly pinpoint the root causes of problems and adjust your behavior to achieve your goals. Your own internal process of self-realization increases your compassion for — and sensitivity to — others and improves your communication skills, which improves your family and social relationships.

Improves coping with grief and loss

During Sahaja’s state of thoughtless awareness, you associate with the inner self that knows no, sadness, loneliness, or hopelessness. This inner self can observe these emotions, thoughts and feelings come and go without reaction. You do not feel alone because the outer “self” that was experiencing these thoughts and feelings disappears. There is only profound peace, and a sense of feeling at one with the eternal, infinite universe, which may help you feel unity with who or what we have lost. As the inner energy rises during meditation, replenishes vital energy throughout our nervous systems that was depleted by the costly emotions associated with grief and loss and gives us a new reservoir of energy to fuel coping.

Delayed aging

Our brains shrink naturally with age, but research has shown us that regular meditation can produce structural changes in the brain that improve cognitive functioning and ward off the effects of aging. For example, studies at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University have shown that the cortical brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing are thicker and higher functioning in people who meditate regularly, suggesting that meditation can offset age-related cortical thinning. In fact, these meditation-related improvements were most pronounced in older meditators. Several studies over the past three decades have shown that people who have been meditating for around five years are physiologically 12 years younger than their chronological age, based on a standard measure of biological age that assesses, for example, blood pressure, near-point vision, and auditory discrimination.

Improved cognitive functioning (memory, attention, perception, reasoning, learning), increased neuroplasticity

Meditation takes advantage of the brain’s natural plasticity to induce structural changes to the brain, thus lasting changes in cognitive and emotional processing. Meditation functions like “push-ups” for the brain, improving memory, reasoning, creativity, learning, motivation. One 2016 neuroimaging study found that Sahaja meditation significantly increases the brain’s gray matter overall, and in particular, 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). Studies at UCLA found that the brains of active meditators were larger and contained more gray matter than the brains of non-meditators. They also found that the normal age-related decline of white-matter tissue (which facilitates stronger, faster electrical connections between brain regions) was considerably reduced in meditators; in fact, the white-matter fibers were more numerous, more dense and better insulated throughout the brains of meditators, 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 has been found to actually alter the fundamental electrical balance between the brain’s cerebral hemispheres (Cahn and Polich, 2006), increasing synchrony between emotional processing and reason, which leads to better decision-making. The long-term meditator’s brain is better connected, better balanced, better synchronized, better organized and more efficient.

Decreased chronic pain and pain sensitivity

Meditation can actually modify how the brain perceives pain. Meditation increases melatonin, which has been found to play a role in reducing pain sensitivity. Several studies have pinpointed other mechanisms through which meditation may relieve pain. NIH-funded neuroimaging studies found that long-term meditation can mitigate the brain’s response to pain by 40 to 50 percent. Studies at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that meditation’s ability to help people let go of negative or distracting thoughts and emotions produced a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. Meditation, in fact, produced an even greater pain reduction than pain-relieving drugs such as morphine. Another study of seniors found that meditation helped relieve chronic back pain by increasing awareness of the present and of negative emotions and by inhibiting negative emotional processing that worsened the pain. It also regulated attentional skills such as focus and concentration, which allowed participants to become fully engaged in present moment activities so that they could actually choose how to — direct their attention. Meditation in a peaceful, natural setting (e.g., garden or water setting) was found to be especially effective at reducing chronic pain, as well as helping to improve fine motor skills and overall feelings of well-being (Morone et al, 2008).

Improved sleep quality

Relief of stress, anxiety and depression through meditation automatically improves sleep quality. Meditation also elevates levels of the sleep hormone melatonin, which not only regulates sleep but interacts with serotonin to stabilize mood, increase positive emotions and prevent distress.

Improved socialization and sense of community

In addition to meditating alone, many seniors find that meditating in a group setting is a rewarding social experience that creates a sense of community and helps prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness. Many find that collective, interactive meditation is exhilarating and rejuvenating because the benefits of meditation are compounded within a group of people who are “on the same frequency;” that is, connecting to the collective universal energy at the same time and place.

Boosts the immune system, increases longevity

Sahaja meditation helps modulate the body’s natural stress-immune response. It increases disease-fighting T-cell activity, increases antibody production, reduces oxidative stress, regulates pro-inflammatory genes that play a role in causing inflammation, stops immune cell death, slows cellular aging, protects chromosomes, and increases telomerase activity.Meditation also increases melatonin, which acts as an antioxidant and immunomodulator, stimulating the immune system and the antioxydative defense system, thus delaying aging. Meditation’s ability to reduce inflammation is important because inflammation plays a significant role in driving the disease process for a host of serious illnesses, including cancer, cardiac disease, pulmonary disease, diabetes, arthritis and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. (For example, Meditation has been found to boost immune function inmen with prostate cancer and women with breast cancer.)

Helps prevent and treat serious illnesses such as epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, asthma and others

Sahaja meditation regulates the autonomic nervous system, reducing physiological arousal, which triggers physiological changes such as: reduced respiratory rate, heart rate and blood pressure and regulation of blood glucose and the stress hormone cortisol.

Spiritual Benefits

You bring to the meditative experience a lifetime of memories, insights and wisdom, and through Sahaja meditation, you may ultimately discover new dimensions of human existence and come to understand your life experience with a level of awareness that transcends the physical world. In fact, you may discover that your most profound learning experiences are yet to come. Peace, security and tranquility come from having a deeper understanding of the universe, and your place in it. Sahaja meditation has many layers, varied and deep, that you can explore at your own pace, in your own way.

Those who choose to explore Sahaja at its deepest levels may experience its connection to spirituality. In fact, some people in their golden years find this to be the most important benefit Sahaja has to offer. Many find that spiritual techniques improve self-confidence, erase insecurities and make forgiveness of both yourself and others easier. You may find that you’re able to let go of grudges and conflicts that you’ve been hanging onto for years and move on, rather than remaining stuck in the past. This newfound liberation will allow you to enjoy your life to the fullest extent.

Finally, if you’ve always wondered about what the purpose of human life — and your life — is, or if you’ve wondered about the existence of natural powers beyond human control, a spiritual Sahaja practice may allow you to explore those dimensions and discover these truths for yourself.

References

Cahn, B.R., Polich, J., 2006. Meditation states and traits: EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies. Psychological Bulletin 132 (2), 180–211.

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.

Natalia E. Morone, MD, MSc, Cheryl S. Lynch, MD, MPH, Carol M. Greco, PhD, Hilary A. Tindle, MD, MPH, and Debra K. Weiner, MD. “I felt like a new person.” The effects of mindfulness meditation on older adults with chronic pain: qualitative narrative analysis of diary entries. Journal of Pain. 2008 September; 9(9): 841–848.