How Sahaja Meditation Enhances Emotional Intelligence
Because the practice of Sahaja meditation fosters a rich emotional life, it naturally helps build that blend of psychological abilities that we refer to as emotional intelligence (EI), and it does so without sacrificing rational, objective thought.
A 2016 Sahaja meditation study using the brain structure imaging techniques of MRI and Voxel-Based Morphometry (Hernández et al, 2016 ) found that long-term Sahaja practitioners (compared with non-meditators) had significantly larger grey matter volume not only throughout their brains overall, but also specifically in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and left insula — regions associated, in part, with emotional intelligence — as well as in right hemispheric regions (insula, ventromedial orbitofrontal cortex, inferior temporal and parietal cortices) associated with, among other traits, aspects of socio-emotional intelligence such as self-awareness, feelings of empathy, compassion, and altruism.
Enlarged gray matter volume in these areas of the right temporal lobe have long been associated, in healthy individuals, with socio-emotional abilities such as higher empathy and interpreting the intentions of others (Saxe et al, 2003; Morishima et al, 2012).
The key components of EI include:
- perceiving, identifying, and understanding emotions; comprehending emotional meaning
- using this understanding of emotional information to motivate you, assist thought, and guide your behaviors
- the ability to self-regulate and self-manage one’s emotions; self-motivated, inner-directed, channels feelings purposefully
- empathy, social skills, ability to help manage the emotions of others
Let’s look at how the practice of Sahaja mediation enhances these individual abilities…
Emotional faculties and the Subtle Energy System
The primary determinant of the state of our emotions, emotional faculties and thereby emotional intelligence within the subtle energy system is the left energy channel.
The left channel is the reservoir of emotional energies within us that gets replenished each time we meditate using the power of Inner Energy within us. In Sahaja meditation, this Inner Energy is awakened in your very first session, during the process of Self-Realization, and your entire subtle energy system is activated.
From Day 1 of the practice of Sahaja meditation, we are equipped with the ability to balance the source of our emotional faculties and the root cause of our emotional behaviors – the left energy channel.
Through regular meditation, in the longer term, a well nourished and balanced left energy channel ultimately grants significant emotional intelligence and maturity. We learn how to be fully aware of our emotions and feelings and those of others.
Self-awareness is central to the practice of Sahaja meditation, and awareness is the foundation upon which all other EI abilities are built. To be emotionally honest with ourselves and others, we must first be emotionally aware.
At the beginning of your Sahaja meditation practice, you’re introduced to a new form of awareness: the awareness of your inner subtle self, an awareness unlike any other. You may feel as if a whole new world has opened up. This heightened level of self-awareness is like no other form of awareness that you’ve been used to; it may almost be as if your level of self-awareness has been exponentially increased through a new, higher stream of awareness. Many of the external events in the world to which you used to devote mindshare will cease to have significance in your life.
This heightened self-awareness seems to exist on a new dimension altogether. It happens not at the physical, mental or emotional levels, but at the higher level of thoughtless awareness, as well as through the perception of the subtle vibrations caused by the flow of your inner energy.
Thereafter, every day is about being aware of yourself, your own vibrations, the state of your energy centers and even vibrations around you, including the state of others’ energy centers, if and when you need that information.
Enhanced awareness helps us understand the source of each of the qualities that constitute our personality, i.e., the energy centers from which they emanate. The picture becomes clear. You’re able to identify your own traits and feelings. For instance, you discover exactly how the feeling of contentment is achieved for you, where it originates from, and how to further develop that quality (working on your Nabhi, or third energy center). You know exactly what it takes to develop more empathy towards others (working on your Anahat, or heart energy center). All the qualities present or lacking become more clear over time and you develop a structured way of working on yourself to fill the voids within you. For example, a sense of honesty, understanding, respect and good communication skills — all of these are locatable and attributable to specific energy centers. Once you learn to perceive the strength of each energy center, you can perceive the intensity of those qualities within you, day in and day out.
Once your inner energy has been awakened, and with the continued practice of Sahaja meditation, you’re likely to leap a few EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) levels. This newly heightened awareness includes the ability to identify the emotional nutrients that you need, as well as the nutrients that your relationship partners need, whether the relationship is a marriage, friendship or professional relationship. Relationships lose that destructive, negative drama because you’re analyzing your thoughts and feelings on a higher plane now.
Through the practice of Sahaja meditation, you also learn that no matter what, another person can only fulfill certain needs, that you must rely on the universal power of love within and the pursuit of higher goals to fully fill you needs. Through Sahaja meditation, you begin to realize that there are higher aspirations in life and that they can become the primary fulfillment of your emotional needs. For example, suppose you find yourself in the position of having to invest time and energy all over again in establishing a new relationship and detecting the emotional needs of a new partner, hoping that it will be better than the previous one, or at least provide the same level of emotional fulfillment.
But suppose, instead, that there is an alternate mechanism that will fill your emotional voids while toning down your emotional neediness and expectations of others? Sahaja meditation helps move you toward being this person.
In advanced stages of Sahaja meditation practice, you may develop the ability to adapt, adjust and get along with just about anyone. You’re no longer “high maintenance.” You have a positive impact on the people around you. You become the source that others rely on to fill their voids, whatever your relationship with them.
Enhanced Empathy and Compassion
Meditation increases, in general, your empathy and compassion for others, that ability to “walk in someone else’ shoes.” Sahaja meditation tends to “soften your core;” after all, meditation begins with the heart… living, thinking, and doing “from the heart” – putting your whole heart into everything you do. The meditation-enhanced qualities of empathy, compassion and kindness help shift our perspective from self-oriented to other-oriented, counteracting our natural human tendency to be self-centered. These abilities also tend to help us develop a more positive view of other people, in general. We may begin to focus more on what’s right with them rather than on what’s wrong with them. And as our EQ increases, we develop a deeper understanding of others’ emotions and how those emotions influence their behavior.
Research suggests that through meditation, we can actually train ourselves to be more empathetic and compassionate, just like we can learn to play a musical instrument or develop certain athletic skills. Studies have found that focusing on compassion and empathy for others during meditation increases empathy. fMRI scans showed that meditation activated areas of the limbic (emotional) system (the insula and temporal parietal juncture, which are involved in empathy and emotion sharing, including detecting emotional states in others) (Lutz et al, 2008).
(For more on empathy and compassion, see Sahaja Meditation Cultivates Empathy and Compassion.)
Emotional Regulation: Maturity and Balance
Enhanced self-awareness and introspection through meditation help develop other qualities, such as patience, self-control and emotional maturity.
In learning to balance your energy centers through meditation, you can always take that moment of introspection to observe yourself objectively and stop yourself from overreacting (e.g., lashing out, childishness, defensiveness, etc.). These abilities are developed through continual introspection.
Your ability to remain calm and composed and observe without reacting unless necessary is being driven by a sense of inner balance, which can be achieved by balancing the energy centers daily through meditation. You’re better able to wait for what you need, rather than expecting to receive it immediately. You realize that nothing is just about you or just for you. Instead of just focusing on your own needs first, you’ll become more mindful of others’ needs and seek ways to help them.
Emotional self-regulation involves an ability to self-monitor (awareness of your actions) and accurately self-evaluate (judge the acceptableness of your actions), abilities that are improved through meditation. Over time, experiencing one’s higher Self through meditation becomes a stable, internal frame of reference. We develop an unshakable sense of Self, even when the world around us is in flux. We become inner-directed (rather than controlled by external events) and self-regulated, with an internal locus of control. We are not dependent on others for proof of our self-worth. We have a reservoir of self-respect to draw from.
In Sahaja meditation, the awakening of the inner energy and its flow through the energy channels and energy centers enables the state of thoughtless awareness and deep meditation. The state of your energy centers drives your physiological, mental and emotional functioning. Specifically, the left energy channel is exclusively indicative of our emotional functioning and emotional abilities. During the practice of Sahaja meditation, you can detect the level of energy flow in your left energy channel. If one is traumatized or depressed, for example, one would feel a complete lack of energy and detect a number of obstacles to the flow of the inner energy in the left energy channel. There are corrective measures and techniques available to restore the energy in the left energy channel, which helps one regain emotional balance. When balance is restored, our reactions to stressors proportionate. We’re able to feel and express our emotions, without losing control of ourselves.
Over the longer term, the practice of Sahaja meditation strengthens our ability to establish this balance firmly and stay within the limits of reasonable emotional reactions and responses, which continues to enhance our emotional intelligence on an ongoing basis. Why? An entirely new dimension of emotional perception of the Inner Self is now available on a daily basis.
Once this ability is developed, it’s easily applied to our relationships with others, helping us perceive and understand emotional needs in relationships. We’re able to articulate emotional problems in ourselves and, most of the time, in others. Over time, with regular meditation, our understanding of emotional responses sharpens significantly. This ability to perceive your own left energy channel and correlate the flow of energy constantly to your feelings becomes a powerful tool that you’ll start using to stabilize and improve your life in every way. Eventually, the impact of this tool becomes readily apparent to others; people are drawn to people with high EI.
In fact, it may almost seem as if those who practice Sahaja meditation now have a unique tool all their own, parallel to all other available strategies for managing and building emotional intelligence.
For those practitioners who can sustain a regular Sahaja practice, it may almost seem as if they have an “unfair advantage.”
Managing emotions becomes a lot easier when you have this constant Sahaja introspection mechanism that allows you to detect energy imbalances. This mechanism has two levers: observing emotions, as well as feeling the impact of those emotions on your left energy channel and energy centers. In many cases, the latter occurs even before those emotions begin to veer out of control. For example, we may detect that the inner energy in the left energy channel is exhausted; managing the emotions triggered by a stressor may have used it up. Having a higher EQ makes it easier to steady yourself because you realize that you’re about to become unduly emotional or overreactive. At other times, the perception of the energy happens after the emotions have manifested. There are Sahaja balancing techniques that will replenish the left energy channel and preempt emotional outbursts.
Sahaja meditation, over time, becomes a sustained effort to examine feelings, work on oneself to improve positive feelings of contentment and security and remove the negative feelings. Once you become a good “detective,” you also start perceiving the emotions of others and becoming sensitive to them. Over time, your emotional intelligence continues to increase as you accumulate more and more practice in detecting the emotions of yourself and others. You recognize that the world is large and that you are but one small piece of it, thus very few things are about you; rather, they are about how you impact the world around you.
Forming Secure Attachments
A core focus of Sahaja meditation is achieving a sense of inner security in our lives. In Sahaja, the premise behind the feeling of security is that the living spiritual energy within us that is in completely harmony with nature offers the best form of protection to us in our lives. It guides us every step of the way, gently showing us through the mechanism of vibrations when we’re on the wrong path. It also completely tunes us into what we are best at doing, helps us communicate effectively and tune our personality to be at peace with our surroundings and the people around us.
This sense of inner security is a permanent feeling that greatly reduces the need to seek security from others, from relationships in general, or from any other external source.
Sahaja meditation enhances our ability to form secure attachments in relationships in a number of ways. Partners who have a secure attachment style are able to use meditation as an emotional regulation strategy, minimizing stress and enhancing positive emotions. The quality of mindfulness, which Sahaja bestows, has been positively correlated with secure attachment and negatively correlated with both anxious and avoidant attachment styles (Shaver et al., 2007; Walsh et al., 2009). People with anxious and avoidant attachment styles show greater emotional reactivity, less ability to label emotions, and observe, notice and attend with awareness and non-judgmentalness.
Sahaja meditation decreases anxiety through stress relief and its ability to focus attention on the present nonjudgmental and non-reactively and separate thought from feeling. By relieving anxiety, Sahaja helps reduce the fear of intimacy, which can cause us to avoid close relationships. Sahaja’s state of thoughtless awareness helps us process difficult emotional experiences and the associated painful feelings that may make us feel vulnerable. We are able to detach the emotional charge and work through those painful emotions, rather than run away from them.
Sahaja also helps increase self-confidence and establish secure self-esteem, which decreases anxiety and sets the stage for building greater emotional intelligence.
Sahaja meditation teaches you a completely new type of bonding: a sort of “detached attachment.” What this means is that you have a bond secure enough to sustain a healthy relationship, but you’re less likely to be upset if your expectations aren’t met. You don’t need to demand so much in return. Your emotional void is now filled with the universal love within you and an absence of any turbulence within — a complete sense of calm.
You don’t go overboard in forming attachments, in general, and in particular, to those who may hurt you. Nor are you likely to form those automatic, inevitable expectations of others. Best of all, you learn to recognize when you’re getting too attached and beginning to develop expectations, which, if not met, may lead to emotional imbalances or fracture relationships.
Through the practice of Sahaja, misunderstandings and quarrels are kept to a minimum and each partner learns to adapt quickly and agilely; for example, you’re comfortable depending on someone else when necessary, but try not to. Meditation helps prevent you from relying on defensive facades, such as the defense that you are a self-reliant, non-dependent person who “doesn’t accept help from others.” You’re also comfortable with someone else depending on you, but also try to help that person become independent so that he or she doesn’t have to. In other words, you try to achieve the best possible relationship scenario, where both partners are “low maintenance” people who become content to give more than they receive. That ultimately creates a stable relationship and a secure attachment.
Now, “low maintenance” does not imply a relationship that lacks depth, fullness or intimacy; rather, it suggests a welcome lack of relationship drama, a stable relationship free of constant emotional turmoil in which both partners have unrealistic expectations of each other that could never possibly be met so both end up unhappy.
The practice of Sahaja meditation expands your horizons in new and important ways. You become a more mature, self-actualized person with greater purpose.
You learn to quickly fix yourself and your relationship problems and focus on the larger problems of the world, rather than drowning in a sea of your own emotional needs or becoming ensnared by unhealthy attachments in the small world around you.
Through Sahaja meditation, you are constantly learning, examining your inner self, and trying to assess your emotions. Perhaps a negative emotion appears as a nagging relationship disturbance on the horizon of your attention, so you pause what you’re doing and introspect why you’re feeling that way. Over time, you’ll be able to draw on your EI memory reservoir, reminding yourself that you’ve seen this before and successfully managed it. In fact, two key elements of EI — emotional understanding and emotional facilitation (processes by which emotion facilitates thought) — rely heavily on memory in order to categorize emotional messages and prioritize problems and solutions. Through a Sahaja meditation practice, perception is integrated with experience.
Sahaja’s state of thoughtless awareness can help calm you in preparation for facing a difficult situation. You’ll be able to monitor yourself and plan your response rather than be knocked off-balance, losing control and responding defensively. When you examine yourself over time (and others too), you may wonder how you ever let emotions rule your life or allowed yourself to suppress feelings that were giving you important information.
The ability to use the subtle energy system to perceive emotions in yourself and others increases your ability to be emotionally expressive.
Expressiveness is further increased by the experience of observing, identifying, and managing your emotions over time. You realize how valuable those positive moments in life are, savor those emotional experiences and want to share them with others. The joy of discovering and enjoying a new dimension of awareness within you can make you a bubbling, spirited and sensitive personality — people around you may notice that you seem to have a new effervescence. You begin to express your emotions more openly and at the same time, you’re working on identifying, controlling and eliminating the negative emotions that were keeping you stuck in the past. You’re on the path to becoming an inspirational, motivating, compelling person. Others will notice that, too.
Ultimately, you become better than most people at understanding emotions and helping others manage their emotions too (e.g. calming or soothing someone else, knowing the right thing to say). You’ve seen yourself through your own emotional difficulties, understand what it takes to get through them and can share that information with others. You’ll have the ability to accurately distinguish subtle differences between a relationship partner’s emotions, including nonverbal behaviors. You’ll develop an enhanced ability to connect with others through subtle nonverbal communication, too.
During your Sahaja practice, a technique that specifically focuses on the fifth energy center (Vishuddhi chakra) will influence your communication abilities.
Many studies have demonstrated that Sahaja meditation decreases physiological arousal, which helps diminish anxiety, anger, and fear so that you can respond to conflicts in considered, emotionally intelligent ways. Sahaja meditation gives you the ability to resolve conflicts positively and with confidence and to use tools such as humor and rational thinking to defuse volatile situations and deal with challenges.
Meditation helps you control impulses that are harmful to relationships and generate constructive emotional response patterns instead.
Sahaja meditation allows you to take charge of your thoughts. You learn to recognize that your own thoughts, physiological changes, and behaviors are driving your emotional responses, and that you can take charge of them to ensure that your behavior is in harmony with your intentions and goals for the relationship. Ultimately, Sahaja helps you recognize when behavioral patterns aren’t working for you and find ways to change them so that you can move forward toward your goals.
High emotional intelligence allows relationship partners to manage volatile emotional forces that would send lesser-EI partners to opposite corners. Couples who can regulate or manage anger and other negative emotions, rather than letting them escalate to a point of no return, have more resilient relationships. The ability to “relax and calm down” on cue discussed in previous sections is a high-EI ability that can prevent a relationship from going off the cliff.
Most Sahaja practitioners become focused on goals of self-improvement and higher discovery of truths that may elude most people, rather than focusing on others’ faults or the he-said, she-said of conflicts. You will naturally seek to bring a quick resolution to conflicts and resolve the negative emotions associated with conflict. This is a significant head start in conflict resolution. Emotional reactions and outbursts are a part of life, but as someone who is constantly seeking peace and inner calm, your first priority will be to try to help all parties stay calm and focus on finding resolution.
The emotionally detached witness
Perhaps the most important asset that you will develop over time is a permanent or sustained sense of calmness from within that comes from practicing Sahaja meditation, day in and day out.
The act of being a detached witness is another special state, unique to Sahaja meditation, that’s key to conflict resolution.
This state is achieved through the regular practice of meditation with a special focus on the fifth energy center. As this state is developed and mastered over time, you experience significantly reduced reactivity to negative events.
In fact, in an ideal detached witness state, you’re able to fully emotionally detach from the conflict and witness what’s happening without reacting to it.
With regular Sahaja meditation practice, this detached witness state will automatically and instantaneously kick in the instant you encounter a negative situation or the escalation of a conflict. And this state is not just for the instantaneous, sudden situations. You are also able to develop this state if quietly, detachedly witnessing conflicts that tend to develop slowly over time. You’re observing the situation and those involved in it, yet, you are not reacting to it or affected by it. Time gives you the power to carefully introspect and understand your role in the conflict and make adjustments where necessary.
Most Sahaja practitioners are really pleasantly surprised to discover the degree to which meditation reduces their reactivity or are even allows them to remain completely unperturbed by circumstances that they would have strongly reacted to in the past.
Forgiveness is another special trait that you develop through the regular practice of Sahaja meditation, especially with a focus on the sixth energy center (Agnya chakra). Forgiveness becomes so much easier. As a conflict is developing or is even reaching a flashpoint, you realize that it’s much easier for you to forgive now and not hold grudges, which allows you take a much more objective view of the conflict rather than being (or becoming) part of the problem. Many times, you’ll realize that you can simply let go of the conflict, despite the other person’s actions or reactions. Sahaja practitioners often report that the other person in a conflict who yelled at them was surprised by their lack of reaction and even subsequently toned down their own response and perhaps felt a bit embarrassed by their own behavior.
So, if, through meditation, you can develop the ability to witness what’s going on, stay calm, and forgive, you have a natural, built-in conflict mediator, whether you’re a party to a conflict or just the referee.
Communication in conflict
Effective communication is a skill that develops over time. Meditation can help. Eventually, you don’t hesitate to say what needs to be said, yet you become more diplomatic in how you deliver the message. If a conflict escalates to the point where you feel someone needs to know that his or her behavior is causing the conflict, you’re better able to find just the tone and the right words. Granted, it may not always be easy or comfortable. You’ll encounter stubborn people and stubborn problems that seem to have no easy solution. Sometimes it takes courage to deliver difficult messages in a manner that will get through to someone. Those messages may even escalate conflicts in the short term. But words of wisdom and substance will encourage reasonable people to introspect and examine their own actions once they’ve cooled down.
How do you handle people who simply won’t “get it,” no matter what you say? With patience. You wait. And hope that the person can come to see “the error of their ways.” Your goal is to find the most diplomatic, peaceful way of ending the conflict, or in lieu of that, end the relationship itself. Since you have a higher level of EI and are better at deciphering and analyzing emotions, chances are, you’ll be the first person to realize when it’s probably best for all involved if the relationship ends. Sahaja practitioners often report realizing that a relationship wasn’t going to work out, no matter how hard they tried, and calling for truce and separation.
Most Sahaja practitioners tend to be very patient and offer every reasonable chance for a conflict to resolve itself, but they also tend to not keep trying to fix meaningless relationships that don’t aid the pursuit of their higher life goals. It’s the balance and spirit that counts and, as a regular Sahaja practitioner, you’ll suddenly find that you have an ample supply of both.
There’s another subtler dimension of a Sahaja practice that plays a role in communication and conflict resolution — the ability to perceive negativity within oneself and others in a tangible manner through the state of one’s energy centers. Blocked energy centers or channels are often referred to as “negativity in the subtle system.” Every conflict is ultimately due to negativity of some sort, either within you or external to you. And every type of physical, mental and emotional imbalance can ultimately be detected, felt and traced back to some sort of a blockage in a particular energy center or channel, either within you or within others, or a combination of both.
Over time, your ability to perceive what’s going on with your inner energy will reveal to you clearly that certain relationships, actions or circumstances are filled with negativity — negative people, emotions, influences or actions. Through Sahaja, you can apply techniques that influence the subtle energy, removing the imbalance or negativity. In other words, you may be able to use these subtler powers to resolve conflicts or strengthen relationships without any form of external communication. Several Sahaja practitioners have reported that when they experience an argument or conflict with someone at their workplace, they entered the state of thoughtless awareness and used special techniques to detect and remove the energy imbalance, and the conflict came to a surprising end.
Now, in fairness, these techniques are somewhat advanced and may require some mastery of Sahaja meditation. It’s also true they may not always work since you only have control over some aspects of any conflict or communication. You cannot control another person; for instance, if you have a relationship partner who is chronically angry, you cannot magically dissolve his or her anger. But you can learn to control yourself.
Optimism and positive feelings
A widely respected EEG study of Sahaja meditation that documented the long-term neurophysiological effects of Sahaja’s thoughtless awareness on emotional stability and psychological resilience found that experienced Sahaja meditators showed greater emotional intelligence.
They could better identify their emotions, enjoyed a wider spectrum of positive emotional experiences, showed much lower psychological and physiological reactivity to stressful stimuli, and bounced back quicker after stressful life events (Aftanas, Golosheykin, 2005).
As your attention expands to include your inner self and you begin to discover the world of the subtle being, you realize that your vision in life may have been quite narrow up to this point and that there are so many bigger, better things in life to appreciate. Optimism about your future increases. Petty problems — especially those that relate to you — matter much less. Furthermore, the state of thoughtless awareness itself helps make problems seem much smaller, less intense and more manageable. Problems require less thought and are less likely to provoke overreaction. You focus only on taking right action to resolve them. You’ll find that it becomes easier to remain positive and content on a daily basis.
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