Editor’s Note: Andrew Weil, M.D. is a world-renowned leader, best-selling author, and...
Life is a story we weave together from the thoughts, feelings, and emotions we experience each moment. Yet we live the majority of our life in the memories of our past and the expectations of the future. Rarely do we live in the purity of the present. These past memories and future expectations that we embrace throughout the course of our lives are what breed the stresses we feel in each day. In fact, the average person is a bundle of conditioned reflexes and nerves that are constantly triggered by situations and circumstances. Often the circumstances are simply the ups and downs of living each day. But there are times in our lives when the stresses, pressures, disappointments, and anxieties can seem overwhelming.
As we weave through life, some people find themselves in relationships that have become toxic or end unexpectedly; in other instances, life-long careers stop being nurturing or stop all together; and there are even times in our lives when imbalances in our health and well-being can suddenly start to manifest themselves as states of dis-ease. So often we have defined ourselves as the roles we play in particular relationships or jobs. For example, “I am a mother,” “I am a wife,” “I am a manager,” “I am a vice president.” When, for whatever reason, these roles and aspects of our lives – which we have used for so long to identify ourselves and to bring us self-esteem – stop satisfying our needs, we can feel a sense of loss, emptiness or confusion.
Fortunately, there is a timeless way to recapture this connection to our true self: the practice of meditation, which allows us to experience our own source. With this experience, we realize that we are not the patterns and eddies of desire and memory that flow and swirl in our consciousness. Although these patterns of desire and memory are the field of our manifestation, we are in fact not these swirling fluctuations of thought. We are the thinker behind the thought, the observer behind the observation, the flow of attention, the flow of awareness, the unbounded ocean of consciousness. We spontaneously realize that we have choices, and that we can exercise these choices, not through some sheer will power but spontaneously. Through meditation, we gradually bring harmony, laughter, and love back into our soul and, in the process, rediscover our unconditioned self, which can never really be lost.
By gently washing away the stress, tension, fear, and confusion that often accompany one who is at the crossroads, we can regain our connection to a calmer, more peaceful life. And from that moment on, a life filled with joy, harmony, balance, and peace is ours for the asking.
When the Student Is Ready . . .
Over the years, I have often been approached by people who tell me that after they had developed a meditation practice that lasted weeks, months, and even years, for some reason they just stopped meditating. In some cases, the routine of their lives took a new direction and they no longer felt they had time for a ritual that would connect them with stillness and silence. In other cases, they began a new job and they chose to commit all their time and energy to it rather than their meditation practice.
Some have complained that they found themselves falling asleep or getting frustrated with the lack of progress they were experiencing. Of course, this is all part of the process of releasing the thoughts and stresses that will ultimately connect us to pure consciousness – the magical bliss of the gap. But without proper instruction, there are those who misinterpret restlessness as an impediment rather than as a positive part of the process.
Then of course, there are those who have waited their entire life to begin a meditation practice and have now come to a point where they are ready to reduce stress, ease anxiety, bring calm to the chaos, experience peace of mind, and connect more closely with their inner voice on a path to higher states of consciousness. There is an ancient Buddhist expression: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” This is very true in the context of meditation.
Whether you have: 1) meditated and enjoyed it but haven’t developed a regular practice; 2) taken a hiatus from meditation and are ready to return; or 3) have never before tapped into that stillness and silence within you, today can be the first step on the path to discovering your soul. Once you have glimpsed your soul, everything else that happens in life seems to shine with the brilliance of bliss.
How Does Meditation Work?
We are all engaged in a continuous internal dialogue in which the meaning and emotional associations of one thought trigger the next, usually without our being consciously aware of the process. Buddhist psychology describes this process as samskara, which can be seen as grooves in the mind that makes flow thoughts in the same direction. Our personal samskaras are created from the memories of our past and can force us to react in the same limited way over and over again. Most people build up their identify on the basis of samskara without even realizing they are doing this.
In meditation we disrupt the unconscious progression of thoughts and emotions by focusing on a new object of attention, whether that is a mantra, our breath, or an image.
Meditation is one of the best ways to loosen the grip of sticky emotions and connect to our true self, which isn’t limited, angry, or fearful, but is infinite, pure consciousness. Meditation brings us home to the peace of present-moment awareness and gives us an experience of profound relaxation that dissolves fatigue and long-standing stresses and – as countless studies have shown – promotes both physical and emotional healing. The benefits of meditation include:
• lowered blood pressure and hypertension
• slower heart rate
• decreases cholesterol levels
• reduced production of “stress hormones,” including cortisol and adrenaline
• more efficient oxygen use by the body
• increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA
• improved immune function
Beyond these significant health benefits, the greatest gift of meditation is the sense of calm and inner peace it brings into our daily life. When we meditate, we go beyond the mind’s noisy chatter into an entirely different place: the silence of a mind that is not imprisoned by the past or the future.
With a regular practice, the expansive awareness you enter during meditation begins to permeate your life outside of your meditation sessions. You might experience flashes of elation and notice feelings of well-being sweeping over you at unexpected moments. You will begin to walk with more buoyancy and feel a warmth and peace in your heart. Your thoughts, actions, and reactions are infused with a little more love and mindful attention. All of these are signs that you are living harmony with your true spiritual self, and the result is a deeper appreciation and a profound awareness of the divine quality of existence.
Primordial Sound Meditation: An Ayurvedic Practice for Inner Calm
Primordial Sound Meditation is a powerful meditation technique dating back thousands of years to India’s ancient Vedic tradition. It is said that the Ayurvedic sages were able to enter extremely deep states of meditation, in which they could hear the subtle vibrations produced by everything in nature ― the sounds of the wind, thunder, butterflies, rushing rivers, and all creation. According to Ayurveda, these subtle vibrations are the expression of the infinite field of pure potentiality, which is the source of everything that manifests in the universe.
When you are instructed in Primordial Sound Meditation, you receive a personal mantra, which is one of the specific vibrations identified by the Ayurvedic masters. As you repeat the mantra silently to yourself, it creates a mental vibration that allows you to access inner silence and stillness.
As you meditate, the mantra becomes increasing abstract and indistinct, until you enter the field of pure consciousness from which the vibration arose. In the deepest meditative state, all thoughts and worries drop away and you experience the quiet that always exists beneath the noisy internal dialogue of the mind.