I think if you just viewed it as stress release, that would be fantastic, well worth it, but the stress relief benefit is probably only 10-20 per cent of the total package. It's creativity, it's insight, it's centredness, and then the things that those qualities bring: better relationships and more.
Ray Dalio, head of Bridgewater Associates, world's largest hedge fund
Living with others is not so easy
How many hundreds of thousands of books are there on relating to others? How many seminars on the topic take place every year? How many counsellors are there in the world, each with clients seeking better relationships?
Yet still, we find problems, issues and unresolved conflicts filling so many of our relationships. And not only romantic ones, but our relationships with family members and workmates too.
There can be such deep resentments and misunderstanding, what once seemed like a platform of unity that would last forever, can sometimes find itself shattered on the rocks of divergence.
But before we can restore harmony, we first need to understand the nervous system.
All painful memories and unprocessed stresses linger within our nervous system, in particular, a branch of our nervous system, which mediates the ‘fight or flight’ response. Whenever this gets triggered, one of the side effects is that we become emotive and often irrational.
Unfortunately, due to the challenges of modern life, we find this part of the nervous system far more active than is beneficial to harmonious relations. As a result, we are much closer to the trigger point.
Worse, evolution has created a situation where specific functions within the mind, body and nervous system shut down when we are stressed. And this often exacerbates the issue.
Take, for example, the hippocampus, the part of our brain that processes the storage and recall of information. When we’re stressed, this becomes impaired. With each impairment, all sorts of irrelevant stimuli can come to be associated with a painful memory. All of a sudden, the intensity and flavour of an old past hurt comes to the fore, even when it has only the vaguest connection to a prior fault-line. Our response network has now been hijacked by old memories and patterning. No matter how much we try and use our conscious mind to tell us we’re being silly or irrational, we can’t help being just that: silly and irrational.
Our conscious mind doesn’t stand a chance!
How can Vedic meditation help?
Vedic meditation can help us develop our nervous system so that it no longer has a hold over us. And so we can improve our personal and professional relationships.
The practice achieves this by giving each individual a sound or mantra that soothes the mind and de-excites our nervous system so that it can enter a unique state of deep relaxation from where it can begin, spontaneously, to heal past hurts.
The body’s natural creative intelligence will respond to the mantra by quietly disposing of all our old rubbish for us. It resets the system and allows our nervous system to enter a more sustainable level of balance, meaning that we create more and more distance between ourselves and our innate reactions.
New inter-neuronal connections form as old, irrelevant ones, which have been storing and activating festering emotions, are politely discarded. Our emotions get triggered less frequently, resulting in fewer negative impressions accumulating while we cleanse ourselves of unhelpful autonomic responses.
We become more pleasant to be around, more engaged and more full of love for those about who we care.
We find ourselves being less judgemental, having an ever-greater understanding and more patience while our communication skills improve. Meditators are always reporting an improvement in their ability to express themselves and a greater awareness of others.
Mental clarity and greater confidence in expressing oneself result in a tendency to communicate our thoughts and feelings in a much more inspiring way. And because our nervous system is in a much calmer and more natural state of balance, we take things far less personally and are more perceptive and attentive listeners.
There is a sense of feeling much more complete as a person that we have much to give and want to share it with those we love. We are not giving out of need or out of compulsion; it is much more wholesome than that. It is for the pure joy of expression of love, of friendship, of warmth.
When we give in this way, we feel we are lighting up within, and the people we are with feel uplifted by this. We don’t even have to try. It flows spontaneously from a contented heart. There is a power and potency in this giving that is unsurpassed in its richness.
Meditation also delivers a useful ability to let go when a relationship has lost its relevancy. It does none of us any good to cling onto something that has served its purpose, and yet we desperately hold on, either out of need or out of the fear of the unknown.
When we are filled up from within, we become free of fear and free of need. We are happy to inject life into everything that is relevant to us and to gracefully close the chapter on anything irrelevant, and we do so in a way that is beneficial to all.
The result is a consistent improvement in our personal and work relationships that is edifying to all those who come into our orbit.
It has really helped me as a person and in the way in which I communicate with friends and family.
Steve, CEO, Sussex