Given how easy Vedic Meditation is, it should pass the “so what?” test: How does this benefit me? There have been hundreds of scientific studies not only on how it affects the brain and the psychology of the practitioner, but how it affects the physiology.
One of the main benefits of Vedic Meditation is stress relief. The reason it is so effective is a result of the technique. When the mantra drops us to the level of Being, body follows and in that relaxed state, the body actually rests at a level 2-5 times deeper than sleep. There was a study at UCLA in 1972, using college students as subjects, some of whom had only just learned to meditate. They were dressed in typical hospital gowns – open in the back – and the scientists placed electrodes on their heads and chests, taped a clamp to the right eyelid to measure REM, hooked them up to a lie detector to measure changes in perspiration, put a butterfly catheter in their forearm to measure oxygen in the blood, and as a “coup de grace” inserted a rectal thermometer through a hole in the chair.
After establishing resting state without the mantra, the students were asked to meditate. Afterward they answered questions about their experience and every one of them felt that it was not representative of a “true” meditation because of the physical discomfort of the test apparatus. Some signed a petition protesting the results before they came in, because they didn’t experience the depth of rest that they normally experienced while meditating. Well, the results came in and they showed that the metabolic rate of the body dropped to a level 2 times lower than during sleep. There were changes in the blood, heart rate, and brain activity. The one thing that did not change was body temperature. Even with invasive apparatus, the technique worked. Later studies have shown the body resting up to 5 times deeper than sleep (my guess is those studies didn’t use the rectal thermometer).
We all know that while sleeping, the body releases the stress of the day and attempts to rejuvenate. At a rest 2-5 times deeper than sleep, the body is able to release accumulated stress at a much greater rate. With release of stress, blood pressure normalizes and there is less chance of heart disease.
The issues aren’t just health related. Stress tends to lock down creativity and holds one back from acting on creative impulse. There is a fear of bold choices, leading to an inability to creatively problem solve.
But what is stress? Stress isn’t a “stressful situation” it’s a “stress response”. This response is physiological in the form of premature cognitive commitments – PCC – a fight or flight reaction to something that isn’t really worthy of that reaction. PCCs come from the brain asking the senses to memorize a change in expectation leading to a legacy of stresses that are largely irrelevant to our current situation.
Here’s an example: You’re driving on the freeway, listening to your favorite music and suddenly someone cuts you off, causing you to swerve – whatever chord change was happening at that moment becomes a stress trigger (sense of hearing memorizing change of expectation) – it doesn’t matter that it was your favorite song. The next time you hear that chord change, your hands get clammy, you get a copper taste in your mouth, your mouth dries up and you feel a sense of foreboding. But it’s not that something bad is about to happen, it is a past stress trigger.
This is how we end up with a whole bunch of pre-fabricated responses. Someone offers you a piece of pie with some strawberries on it. You can’t have that pie without experiencing all of the pre-fabricated responses you have to strawberries and to pies and to offerings. Instead of the present moment, you have every moment that came before.
The body is a physical printout of consciousness and holds stress in its cells. By allowing the body to rest at a level 2 to 5 times deeper than sleep, Vedic Meditation releases PCCs that are no longer relevant. You no longer have stored stresses and the body begins to change. (Now, ask me about the reversal of aging….)
What do you do to relieve stress?
Sanora Bartels is an independent teacher of Vedic Meditation working with individuals to sustain balance and achieve success in all areas of life. Her training included a year of study that took her from Los Angeles, California to Rishikesh, India to Flagstaff, Arizona. You can find her at www.VedicMeditationTeacher.com.