Meditation is practised by many people as a means of relaxation, an aid to developing mental focus, for experiencing peace of mind or getting relief from stress or pain.
Regular practice of meditation has been shown to have several health benefits, including a healthier heart rate, improved blood pressure, a drop in cholesterol levels, stronger immunity and a slowdown in the ageing process.
Scientists have not yet clearly understood how exactly meditation leads to better health, but stress reduction appears to be the key to this, since stress contributes to most of the modern killer diseases.
Apart from reducing anxiety and stress, meditation has been observed to have other psychological benefits. These include lower irritability and moodiness, better memory and learning ability, and greater emotional stability.
The above are the better-known effects of meditation. But its practice can bring greater rewards in the form of freedom from harmful habits and tendencies and spiritual empowerment that enables one to lead a happy life.
Many people inflict suffering on themselves, knowingly or otherwise, because of their shortcomings, peculiar ways of thinking, and behaviour. While some do not even realise that their habits are doing them harm, others, who are aware of their weaknesses, struggle to remove them.
The reason some negative traits seem difficult at times impossible to remove is that they are deeply entrenched in the soul.
The soul contains a complete record of all its experiences thoughts, feelings, actions and interactions. Experiences from past lives, stored in the unconscious mind, are often manifested in the form of dreams, feelings, phobias, desires or habits. These influence our thinking and behaviour without our knowing it.
When introspection reveals that the fault lies within, we start making effort to change. The change has to be very deep, within the soul, for it to be complete and lasting. If anger is deep-rooted in us, merely trying to be pleasant is not going to work. We may be able to camouflage anger and put on a smile, but inside we will not feel good. Anger suppressed for an extended period puts pressure on the mind and will force its way out in unexpected and unpleasant ways.
To be free from anger we have to remove its roots in the soul. The only way to do this is meditation, particularly Rajyoga meditation.
In Rajyoga, we first remember our true identity that we are an originally pure, peaceful, powerful soul and then connect with the Supreme Soul. The process of going within and experiencing oneself as a spiritual being or soul helps us rediscover and use our innate qualities of love, peace, purity and truth. The mental link with the Supreme Source of energy empowers us, as virtues and powers flow into the soul, making it richer and stronger.
Meditating in this way is akin to lighting a fire in the soul that gradually burns away the unwanted things that have accumulated there unhappy memories, bad feelings, and damaging habits. Some of these are strongly bonded to the soul, like alloy in gold. Just as one needs to put gold in fire to purify it, intense meditation is needed to remove deep-seated impurities from the soul.
Such meditation is often called volcanic meditation, in reference to volcanoes, whose heat and power can melt rocks. The power of a volcano lies within it. Similarly, volcanic meditation is all about internal awareness.
For practising volcanic yoga, we first need to become introspective and free the mind from negative and unnecessary thoughts. Being habitually critical of others, having an inflated ego, being oversensitive, inability to accept one’s weaknesses – all these lead to wasteful and negative thinking, which consume our time and mental energy.
Introspection and the practice of seeing oneself as a soul makes us focused. When we focus the mind on the positive qualities of the soul or on the Supreme Soul and immerse ourselves in experiencing that quality, be it peace, love, purity or power, the soul begins to fill with it. The intensity of the experience is often described as a fire. When the fire of love for God is ignited in the soul, it destroys all its weaknesses. This is how volcanic meditation brings about lasting self-transformation.
Practice of powerful meditation can be made easier by cultivating good thoughts. This makes the mind calmer, lighter, and stronger. The company of those who have a positive outlook also helps. It provides us support and shields us from negative influences that trigger thoughts and feelings which prevent us from having any deep, powerful and transformative experiences in meditation. Such company is needed until we become powerful enough to be unaffected by negativity.
Volcanic yoga brings power in many forms, such as purity, love, peace, and tolerance. Some souls are rich in a virtue or power but are unaware of it and therefore do not use it for their own good or to benefit others. They are like dormant volcanoes that do not show any sign of activity.
The really strong souls are like an active volcano that can transform its surroundings. These yogis uplift not only themselves but also those who come in contact with them. Peace, truth, purity, and love radiate from them, leaving a deep impression on others. They become instrumental in changing the lives of many. We can do the same by becoming embodiments of power and virtues through volcanic meditation.
B.K. Brijmohan is Additional Secretary General of the Brahma Kumaris.