While spirituality is the strength and sweet spot of Sahaja meditation and we talk about it a lot, the benefits of Sahaja meditation go far beyond just relieving stress or relaxing. For many, meditation could also be a vague technique for finding peace and tranquility. Not for those who practice sahaja. Today we would like to say very precisely what Sahaja meditation can do beyond mere relaxation.
In the past, meditation has been plagued by the myth that it is merely a "relaxation technique". It is certainly true that most forms of meditation offer the benefit of relaxation. Some meditation techniques do not claim benefits beyond simple relaxation.
However, neuroscientific studies conducted in recent years have shown how and why Sahaja meditation offers much more. They have documented the specific neurophysiological mechanisms behind the meditators' experiences.
For starters, there are similarities in the activity seen in our neural networks between meditation just for relaxation and something much more powerful like Sahaja meditation. However, it has been found that Sahaja meditation induces increased activity in the paralimbic regions of our brain that are associated with relaxation.
Relaxation therapies and meditation only for relaxation lead to short-term state effects rather than permanent emotional and personality traits that have a long-term effect on our mental and physical health and well-being. In contrast, the state of thoughtless awareness of Sahaja meditation activates and connects regions of the brain that evoke improved attentional skills and positive emotions. This phenomenon makes it a beneficial therapy for people with depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder. Compared to relaxation therapy, thoughtless awareness has been found to induce more significant positive changes in personal ethics and psycho-emotional health, including reductions in stress, depression, and anxiety.
Sahaja's thoughtless awareness was found to be, on average, twice as effective in reducing work-related stress, general depressive symptoms, and some anxiety symptoms as a non-mental stillness approach to meditation (Manocha, Black et al., 2009). .
Sahaja makes longer-term and deeper changes in our brain
It was found that Sahaja meditation not only offers relaxation and stress relief, but also has profound long-term effects on the functional and structural plasticity of the brain.
For example, many studies have shown that long-term meditative practice has a lasting impact on the activity of the neuroendocrine system both during and after meditation. The neuroendocrine system is responsible for ensuring that our brain maintains a stable state of the internal, physical and chemical conditions in our body, along with many important functions such as regulating our metabolism, energy use, eating and drinking behavior and blood pressure.
In particular, meditation reduces levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), norepinephrine, and adrenaline.
Meditation increases serotonin (associated with positive mood), especially in long-term meditators; GABA, which has a calming, anti-anxiety effect; Dopamine, which is involved in pleasure and reward, motivation, motor activity, attention regulation, and triggering the release of endorphins.
Studies have compared experienced meditators with beginners and compared initial, lighter meditative states to Sahaja's more intense state of thoughtless awareness. These studies have shown that during the mindless experience of awareness, the intensity of brain activity in attention and emotion-related brain regions correlates with the intensity of thought reduction and meditation-induced happiness. (Aftanas and Golocheikine, 2001, 2002a, b, 2003, 2005).
Meditation activates these neural networks; Relaxation therapies don't. And these networks can be gradually improved with new "doses" of meditation (Rubia, 2009). In other words, the more we meditate, the more we benefit.
Experienced Sahaja meditators have found their brains to be better connected, more balanced, better synchronized, more organized, and more efficient.
Studies have also provided neurophysiological evidence of the long-term effects of Sahaja meditation on emotional stability, relief from negative events, and greater emotional resilience to stressful life events.
How To Get The Most Of The Benefits Of Meditation In Your Life
Even ignoring the spiritual benefits of sahaja, there are many life-changing benefits of meditation. It is the best investment you can make for holistic physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual improvements.
The only way to do this is to come up with a fail-safe meditation plan. Our next article explains how to create such a meditation plan.