|31-07-2008, 04:32 PM||#1|
Join Date: Mar 2008
Psyhical changes of enlightenment?
|31-07-2008, 05:08 PM||#2|
Join Date: Mar 2008
and to answer my own question:
In almost all texts about mysticism, especially Eastern, there is much attention being paid to consciousness and the psychological aspect of spirituality, but relatively few mystics discuss the physical impact meditation and spirituality have on the body. I personally think that this neglect offers us an inadequate picture of what spirituality really is. For to have a clear understanding of spirituality we also have to look at the physical changes and transformations that occur in the body. The changes set about by meditation and by voluntary alternations in psychological structure set about by the spiritual awakening of the will, seem not only to occur in the psyche but seem also to alter the whole physical structure of the body. So if we want to know what spirituality is we also have to be aware of these physical changes. For spirituality can not and must not only be described in 'I-language', but also in 'it-language' (in 'it-language' we describe the world of sensation and this world can be measured and scientifically described in numbers, charts and diagrams).
So we can actually see with our own two eyes that spirituality and ultimately the enlightenment resulting from spirituality, do something. We can not only feel and conjecture that something is changing and transforming in the psyche of someone who is devoting himself to spirituality, no, we can actually see it, it is right there before our eyes and we can measure the changes occurring in the person's body. So spirituality is not something vague and mysterious. It can also be proved by all sorts of scientific investigations and it can be presented in numbers and diagrams by the sceptical scientist.
It is well known that during meditation the wave frequency of the mind changes. More alpha and theta waves are increasingly being measured as the mind slowly quiets down. The occurring of these waves has an impact on the brain and the brain starts to function more harmoniously. Meditation is like the magnet that creates a beautiful pattern in a heap of iron dust. It's the pull that transforms chaos into order again. Inwardly it is not only felt as a quieting down, but it seems as if the brain is sinking to levels of deeper tranquillity. During meditation one has the experience of falling, like on the verge of sleep, but consciously. This subjective experience correlates with the falling down of the peaks in brain wave functioning. They can be measured to fall out from high activity.
Many scientific articles have been published on the effects of meditation on brain functioning (for further study see link 1, link 2, link 3). But attention must also be focused on the fact that meditation and spiritual activity of the psyche have other effects on the body also, beside altering brain waves. Scientific evidence proves that mediation is the only activity that reduces blood lactate, a marker of stress and anxiety. The calming hormones melatonin and serotonin are increased by meditation, and the stress hormone cortisol is decreased. It seems that the whole of the parasympathetic nervous system is effected by meditation. This branch of the nervous system serves as a kind of counterweight against stress and tension in our body. Its function is quieting the nerves down and affording them recuperation from activity. When we mentally and physically relax, automatically this nervous system starts functioning and begins to gain control over the whole nervous system. Its centre of control seems to reside in the nerves of our back spine, especially in the lower regions.
Meditation seems to strengthen the functioning of this parasympathetic nervous system, with the result that the body loses its tensions more rapidly and more fully. What normally, without meditation, is a rather slow process, is now greatly intensified. The effects of meditation on this nervous system are much deeper than the effects of sleep. It would take sleep and normal relaxation years to totally free the nervous system of all tensions (which present them selves psychologically as fears, neuroses and depressions), but meditation can totally heal ('repair') it within months or a year. It is a far more thorough purger than all other forms of relaxation.
But meditation is no soft healer. It does the job very thoroughly and sometimes even with painful methods. And this is also a physical aspect that is rarely mentioned in mystic or other kind of spiritual texts (and not in scientific literature about meditation either). But if we want to be scientific in our approach we need to mention it. For what happens when the parasympathetic nervous system is being highly activated? It starts to free the whole system of its blockades and its damages. Now this can be a rather mild process if the system of the meditator is well balanced and healthy already. Then the effects of meditation are very positive from the very beginning. But what happens when someone starts to meditate with his nervous system completely in a wreck, say, after a deep psychological crisis? Unfortunately most people start meditating in this condition, for they had no need to before, so they think, and now they'll try anything to be freed of their pains.
Well, these people are bound to experience some heavy shocks. Only a few mystics were brave and honest enough to give us some report of the turmoil they've been through (though it might also be the case that most mystics totally forget about these difficult initial phases, when they've reached enlightenment). For what happens is this: after meditation the body wants to keep the silence, the harmony and the tranquillity it recently experienced. But the sympathetic nervous system (the part of our nervous system that excites us and makes us able to cope stressful circumstances) is still very tensed and on high voltage. After meditation this nervous system is bound to fall back into its old state, especially in the beginning, when the body is not used to the amount of relaxation meditation offers. And then the war starts.
Our system wants to be healthy and free. Our deepest Self wants us to be enlightened and totally free of all neuroses, fears and anxieties. But it is a psychological law that all this release of stress, that is brought about by the intensified working of our parasympathic nervous system, is taking up enormous psychological energy. The psyche is wearied down by the battle inside. An enormous fatigue can be the result of this battle. So people starting with meditation often complain about tiredness and depression. These are the concomitant symptoms of the workings of meditation. Nothing to be alarmed about, but signs that recovery is starting to work.
So at this stage the body is very tired and needs a lot of rest. In most cases sleep is very deep and long, and is often visited by all kinds of dreams about things from the past, things pleasant but also unpleasant. As more meditations and more spiritual work is being done, more consciousness about these dreams is growing and in the end one is able to remember every dream one had, which can be quite self confronting sometimes . For meditation and spirituality expand consciousness and make everything hitherto unconscious conscious. Not only beautiful feelings from the higher unconsciousness enter consciousness but also repressed feelings and thoughts from the lower unconscious. This can be the opening of the gates of Hell.
But we must never forget that consciousness heals. When everything repressed enters consciousness it first creates fear, depression and anxiety, because of the negative energies associated. But then it is healed. We simply have to watch this happen. We need not interfere with our thoughts. There is no need for condemnation or approbation, but simply of observation of what's going on in our body and mind. This observation is the medicine. For consciousness is the medicine in our inward life.
Now what can happen to the body in these initial stages of meditation? Let's very honestly list some of the symptoms the body may show, when it is destressing itself. But let's also be conscious of the fact that such a list may have a negative effect on someone who's taking up meditation for the first time. He or she may be discouraged in doing so. To counter such a negative effect let us once more state that these are transitory phases, happening only in the beginning. Please read the whole of this essay, because in the end we will list the physical symptoms the body will show when it is purged of its initial negative symptoms. Then the more positive effects of meditation and spirituality will be listed. There will be a happy end to this fearful list, to be sure.
1. convulsions of the spine
It sometimes happens that the back spine starts to shake and tremble after meditation. This may be accompanied by fits of rage or depression. Sometimes pain in the back and neck can be the result, but only if the nervous system is very stressed. Then the pressure on the nervous centre in the spine is too high. These convulsions may last a couple of minutes, sometimes a bit longer, but never more than a quarter of an hour. For someone who is not acquainted with these convulsions, they might look like the fits of an epileptic, but they surely are not. There is no foam on the mouth, nor any other disturbing physical symptom like biting the tongue or becoming extremely pale. There is no falling out of consciousness either. So there is no need to call in a doctor, because these fits aren't dangerous and will pass away in the end. Afterwards the psyche is cleaned of a lot of mental rubbish.
2. crying and weeping
This is a way of destressing everybody is familiar with. Especially the brain muscles are effected by the physical part of crying. It works by way of tending and relaxing the muscles, of the head in particular. So crying is very beneficial for tensions in the brain. The psychological effects of crying are: a. grief and fear enter conscious from more or less deep layers of the unconscious. b. after entering consciousness they are solved and seen as the way they are, as mere illusions of reality.
Crying is not as effective as the foresaid convulsions of the spine, because crying relaxes only the nervous system in the top of the body, while convulsions clean the system from the bottom up. It tries to heal the centre of the nervous system.
3. upward rolling of the eyeballs
These physical effects sometimes can be observed at the start of meditation, but they can also occur afterwards. It generally happens when the eyelids are closed. So it sometimes can also be observed when one is on the verge of sleep. It has to do with the muscles connected to the eyes and the brain. By rolling the eyeballs upwards these muscles are strained and that way afford relaxation to the brain. The eyes respond to signals from the parasympathetic nervous system activated by meditation. The nervous system wants the brain to relax. It calls in the help of the eye muscles. Also the straining of face or jaw muscles helps the brain relax. This can not only happen voluntary but also involuntary after meditation.
4. trembling of muscles or nerves
Especially in the extremities of the body, like the hands or the feet, one can sometimes observe after meditation a trembling of the muscles, caused by the destressing of nerves. In the beginning this trembling can be gross, especially during convulsions, but after a couple of weeks or months it slowly fades away. This trembling is different from the one very tensed or old people suffer from. For in the latter case it is a sign of a stressed nervous system, while in the former case it is a symptom of a destressing nervous system.
5. rigor corporis
In some very extreme cases of destressing the body can become stiff and motionless. All energy is flowing to the parasympathetic nervous system and the body feels as if paralysed. It takes a lot of effort to move. Everything is done in low gear. The mind is working low speed and can be depressed. These are hard times, because this looks like a genuine depression, which can show similar symptoms. It takes a lot of consciousness to see that it is not. For it is a kind of spontaneous energy control of the body preserving all its power for the parasympathetic nervous system. In these extreme cases help and advise from a very experienced meditator is needed.
In the course of time these fits and symptoms grow more rare and their intensity lessens. Slowly they'll wither away. For the mystic is by now recovering more and more. His nervous system is by now becoming totally free of all impurities. Psychologically he is growing into a new man. His capacity for concentration is greatly enhanced. He is an outpouring of creativeness. His mind is clear as it has never been before. There is by now a great stillness in his heart. He is at peace with himself and with the world. His heart leaps with joy and blissfulness. His consciousness expands. His heart overflows with love for everything and all. Everything he touches turns into the pure gold of the alchemists. For he's on the verge of enlightenment. Like Dante he has visited hell and the mountain of purgation, but now Paradise awaits him.
But what about brother Donkey? What are the physical aspects of the body at this stage? Is the body also transformed into something new? Or has there only been a psychological rebirth?
1. the body is completely at ease and relaxed
The first thing you'll notice if you'll ever meet an enlightened person, is the perfect stillness of his or her body. There is no fuss. There are no neurotic traits to be seen. There is a perfect rhythm and gentleness in the movements. The body is full of energy, but it is a hidden energy, only to be felt present but not to be seen. This body is at ease with itself and enjoys itself. It has accepted itself totally, even if it is not so beautiful according to more objective standards. For it hasn't condemned anything it sees or feels inside, but it has observed only and wondered about itself.
2. the eyes are very deep
There is stillness in the eyes also. With some mystics they seem rather dreamy looking and absent, but actually they are very alert and alive. Like black holes in the universe they seem to absorb everything around. They are very curious and like to watch. They tickle with joy. There is no masquerade seen in them, but they are the perfect mirror of what goes on inside. The eyes of other mystics are very penetrating and seem fierce and violent. To some people these eyes seem rather scary, because they seem to look right through. They seem to point to some strange psychic power hidden inside.
3. the extremities of the body feel heavy
The total relaxation of the body make the arms, hands, legs and feet feel rather heavy. When they are at rest one can feel gravitation pulling. They are in total control of the mind, but in an easy, not a strained way.
4. the nervous system feels very energetic
Because there is no blockade or damage in the nervous system anymore pranic energies can flow without being obstructed or hindered. This gives a very energetic feeling in the body. There is a burning flame being felt for things that matter. Passion runs high in such a body. Fits of ecstasy break through from the higher unconscious and seize the body and make it dance and weep with joy. This is the 'divine madness' of Plato breaking through and seizing the body. These fits are totally different from the ones described above. For no pain and fear is being felt anymore, but only sheer joy and completeness.
5. the body is rejuvenated
The body of the advanced meditator seems younger than it actually is. Research shows that meditation can rejuvenate the body:
Meditators secrete more of the youth-related hormone DHEA as they age than non meditators. Meditating forty-five-year-old males have an average of 23 percent more DHEA than non meditators, and meditating females have an average of 47 percent more.
[Kahn: Meditation as Medicine, p. 8, Pocket Books, 2001]
The body grows rapidly old if it is very tensed and neurotic. When the body is freed from all tension and neuroses a natural rejuvenation process is started. So not only psychologically does the mystic feel very young but also physically.
These observations show that we can't separate consciousness from matter. What happens to consciousness also happens to the body and vice versa. They are deeply interrelated and develop simultaneously. So if we want to get a clear view of the consciousness of enlightenment, we must also take heed of its physical aspect. That way we can describe in 'it-language' what can only be interpreted, when we use 'I-language', and so make it an object for objective science. To the true mystic these scientific investigations into the material effects of consciousness confirm what he already knows inside ie. consciousness works.
|02-08-2008, 09:27 PM||#5|
Join Date: Jul 2008
One of the things that people have mentioned about people they knew 'before' and 'after' (because I've only known people 'after') is that yes a tremendous amount of fear seems to have dropped away from them, and that is the very root of it of course. One will change dramatically in personalith, and another wont change much at all on the surface. People generally live in fear, in one way or another. Unsure about what the reason is for their existence, and feeling very isolated from existence. People who know who they 'truly' are, seem to have the courage of a lion, because there literally is nothing to fear anymore. Whatever they say, they don't care how it will be received.
No longer do they believe they are nothing but the very tiny 'self' called "joe bloggs" that has to defend itself constantly in one way or another, creating strategys to be liked or get attention or be aggressive to achieve respect or whatever. Natural relaxed men and women seem to flower out of it. Not phonys, who are forever on the back foot and constantly living a game of chess to feel secure. As for the eyes, I would extend what I've previously mentioned. I've only known people' after' enlightenment, and when there is a long eye contact with them it is as if there is just energy there first and foremost being connected with. Again, no fear on their part. Initially it can be quite weird being stared at for minutes on end because that is generally seen as a 'challenge' in our cultures. But it is one of the best ways to be draw into the being-ness that now shines through them with great clarity, when you relax into it all.
|26-12-2008, 03:13 PM||#7|
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Southwestern Missouri, USA