Meditation: The Power of Silence


Meditation is probably one of the most widely respected practices found in many spiritual traditions. Gautama Buddha discovered meditation to be the most effective path to self-realization and enlightenment, making it the fundamental practice of Buddhism. In the secular world, meditation is a commonly prescribed self-help technique for anti-aging, stress reduction, psychological well-being, drug/alcohol addiction, pain management, reversal of heart disease, and healing of other physical ailments, often eliminating the use of pharmaceutical drugs. In fact, meditation provides greater reductions in pain intensity and pain unpleasantness than medications like morphine (Mercola, 7/21/2012). Over 1,000 scientific research studies have been published on meditation since the 1960s linking various methods of meditation to the following physiological and psychological benefits:

Physiological Benefits

  • Increase production of endorphins, a natural pain killer and “feel good” hormone or antidepressant
  • Lower heart rate and blood pressure
  • Lower levels of bad cholesterol
  • Lower levels of cortisol and lactate-two chemicals associated with stress
  • Higher skin resistance (low skin resistance is correlated with higher stress and anxiety levels)
  • Reduction of free-radicals (unstable oxygen molecules that can cause tissue damage and aging)
  • Higher levels of DHEAS in the elderly (lower levels of DHEAS are associated with aging)
  • Younger biological age (lower core body temperature or metabolic rate can significantly extend one’s lifespan)
  • Improve flow of air to the lungs (helpful for respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema, COPD)
  • Improve brain health, function, and brain activation
  • Help with infertility, psoriasis, allergies, arthritis, osteoporosis, PMS, menopause, endometriosis, hepatitis, tension headaches, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, insomnia, fibromyalgia

Whereas the sympathetic nervous system dilates the pupils and raises the heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure for a “fight or flight” response, meditation activates the parasympathetic nervous system, decreasing muscle tension, lowering blood pressure, breathing rate, and in highly experienced meditators, lower body temperature and basal metabolism rates.

Psychological Benefits

  • Increase brain wave coherence (harmony of brain waves is associated with higher IQ, creativity, memory, concentration, intuition, inner peace and improved moral reasoning)
  • Improve memory and learning ability
  • Decrease anxiety or panic attacks, depression, irritability and moodiness
  • Decrease in perception of problems or stress as things do not bother you as before
  • Increase feelings of happiness, emotional stability, self-confidence
  • Increase personal insight and self-understanding
  • Bring to surface any suppressed or forgotten issues so they can be healed or resolved

Spiritual Benefits

In addition to the above physiological and psychological benefits, there are the following spiritual benefits:

  • Deeper realization and connection to God and others
  • Receive guidance or solutions from God (your Higher/Larger Self)
  • Realization of who you really are and the nature of reality
  • Self-actualization or realization of your fullest potential in life
  • Higher levels of consciousness resulting in intuitive or psychic powers, ability to accurately read and understand others, and the ability to manifest what you need
  • Freedom from the fear of death or any other fear
  • Freedom from the past and the future so life’s precious moments can be fully experienced
  • Compassion for all sentient beings

Beyond the Ordinary State of Consciousness

Our ordinary state of consciousness (i.e., our typical waking state or beta brainwave state) provides us with a limited view of reality or range of experience where we find it hard to pay attention to many internal and external details at once. As a result, we can forget things, repeat things unwittingly, make mistakes, not understand, misunderstand, or have accidents. Meditation helps us expand our field of consciousness so that there are more connections between different parts of our brain and we become more conscious of the infinite amount of information that is all around us and inside of us. We can more easily understand and make connections between things that may have seemed different before and see things that were once hidden deep in our subconscious and super-conscious mind. If we meditate regularly and for long enough periods of time, our brain waves can progress from beta waves to the following order of expansion of consciousness that can eventually be our new “normal” waking state:

  1. Alpha waves – a state of alert relaxation and peace common in the first stage of meditation where things do not bother us and all negative emotions such as anger, pain, worry, anxiety and fear disappear.
  2. Theta waves – a state between waking and sleeping where daydreaming takes place, insights or answers to questions or problems arise, inspiration, extra sensory perception (ESP), intuitive visions/sounds/feelings/direct knowledge, astral projections, out-of-body experiences, or shamanic “journeying” experiences.
  3. Delta waves – a state of deep sleep with no dreams (but still lucid or with awareness or consciousness if in meditation), a state of suspended animation where respiration and heart beat are virtually undetectable, experience of being timeless, formless, in the “void” or merging with the “white light” or “God.”
  4. Epsilon, Gamma, Hyper-Gamma, or Lambda waves – a state where right and left brain hemispheres are completely synchronized, highest level of intelligence and awareness, ecstatic/blissful state.

When we lie down to sleep, most of us start in beta and then as we relax we get into alpha. As we drift off into sleep we slide into theta and then later to into delta, but our theta and delta experience are unconscious or without our conscious awareness. During the part of our sleep where we are dreaming, we switch back and forth between alpha and beta brain waves but without our conscious awareness since most of us are not aware that we are dreaming at the time we are dreaming in our sleep. During meditation, we retain conscious awareness during all brain wave states which allows us to experience higher levels of consciousness. If we fall asleep during meditation, the meditation is considered terminated as one cannot be in meditation if we lose conscious awareness.

The Power of Silence

There are many forms of meditation ranging from complete silence with no thoughts, to active prayer, chanting, visualization, free, spontaneous movement, and mindful concentration on daily activities. The purest form of meditation and the most powerful, however, is the silent meditation with no thoughts, just witnessing without commentary. The power in meditation lies in its ability to bypass, quiet, train, or control the mind so that the voice of your heart and spirit can be felt, heard, and allowed to lead the mind. Suffering and problems arise when the mind is out of control and full of distracting and disturbing negative thoughts, images, internal dialogue, stories, and belief systems that lead to negative emotions and therefore negative actions or even accidents and disease. Though a person may create or have a positive intention with their conscious mind, it can quickly be subjugated by their unconscious, automatic, or reactionary mind. This explains why many self-improvement plans or goals are not achieved. Having full control over your mind does not mean that you never let your mind wander. It means that you have control over when you want your mind to wander. When your mind wanders with your permission and is under the full control of your heart and spirit, it becomes very productive in that it wanders into new or innovative ideas, solutions, or guidance. The goal of meditation is not necessarily to remove external and internal stimuli, but to train the mind not to be distracted by them and to see beyond them or through them for what they really are.

The Power of the Present Moment

Many books have been written about the power of the present moment, like Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, Michael Brown’s The Presence Process, and Thich Nat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness. Accidents, stress, illness, and misunderstandings are created when we are constantly thinking about the past or worried about the future and not paying attention or participating fully in the present moment. Reality can only exist in the present moment because the past is already gone and the future has not happened yet. So if we are not living in the present moment and are thinking about the past or the future, we are in essence avoiding Reality. This does not mean that we can never think about the past or the future. It is sometimes very appropriate to do this when the current moment actually calls for this such as brainstorming an idea to implement in the future, creative thinking, or processing emotions from the past.

Unfortunately, many of us tend to be stuck in the past or think about the future when we are suppose to be listening to the person talking to us or when we are actually engaging in some other activity that requires our full attention. This incessant, non-stop inner dialog or train of thoughts can be at best distracting and at worst stressful, sabotaging, and dangerous. All fear, for example, is a fear that something bad will happen in the future based on something bad that happened in the past. Since the past is already gone and the future has not yet happened, all fear then is based on something that actually does not exist. The practice of meditation helps us separate the past and future from the present so that the events of the past and the fear of the future do not control our actions in the present moment which is the only thing that is real. How many of us go through life limited by what happened in our past and thereby limiting our future? If we continue this trend, our life will become smaller and more narrow as we age with fewer and less possibilities. When we realize that every moment is a new moment, a potential fresh start that is free from the restrictions of the past and future, our possibilities are endless.

Meditation frees persons from tenacious preoccupation with the past and future and allows them to fully experience life’s precious moments. Many men and women tend to live in a state of perpetual motion and expectation that prevents them from appreciating the gifts that each moment gives us. We live life in a state of insufficiency, waiting for a mother to love us, for a father to be kind to us, for the perfect job or home, for Prince Charming to come along or become a perfect person. It’s a mythology that keeps us from being whole. Meditation is a humble process that gently returns us to the now of our lives and allows us to wake up and re-evaluate the way that we live our lives. We realize that the only thing missing is mindfulness.” – Daeja Napier, Insight Meditation Center

The Observed & The Observer

Meditation quiets the mind enough so that you can see clearly what thoughts are from the past and which are projected into the future. It creates a kind of order and distance between you and your thoughts and emotions thereby forging a new identity within you. Your thoughts and emotions become the Observed (the person or identity you are observing or witnessing) and the new identity is the Observer (the person that witnesses everything in silence without judgment or action). You’ll notice that both the Observed and the Observer are you and that in the beginning, you act out and are the Observed most of the time. The Observed is the person that experiences, takes action, reacts, has thoughts, emotions, judges self and others, analyzes, labels, etc. During meditation, you begin to experience yourself as the Observer who witnesses everything but with complete peace, love, patience, nonverbal understanding, knowledge, and wisdom. You will find that solutions or answers to issues in your life come easily to you during meditation because the Observer begins to merge into the Observed, providing form to the wealth of the unmanifest. Some refer to meditation as their time to commune with God for this reason.

As you become more adept at meditation, you will eventually experience yourself as both the Observed and the Observer not only during meditation but also during your other daily activities. At this point your identity is whole and complete. You have united your human aspect with your Divine aspect, heaven and earth, yin and yang. You become the Divine expressing as you on this planet and your possibilities are infinite.