One way to think about being ‘in the moment’ or ‘being here now’

Right now, I’m plowing my way through the 500 or so pages of The Yoga of the 18 Siddhas: An Anthology. (We saw images of them in at least one of the temples we visited on our Namarupa Yatra nearly a year ago.) These Southern Indian sages are a less known lineage and branch of study. We’re all more familiar with Northern Indian Tantric “counterparts.”

Be here now…

A lot of it, to my surprise, is very proscriptive: Do this, and this, plus this to reach Samadhi or Siva-Consciousness. (The Siddhas are from the Saiva tradition, so the metaphors are of Kundalini and snakes and the nectar of immortality.) Here’s an example, from Bogar:

Directing the vital breath in the sitting posture will stop ageing;

Converting the physical body to ten million suns

Which will exist for three aeons time

Driving away desires and achieving contentment.

Other verses are more — to use one of our favorite words — esoteric. And the language itself, Tamil, is referred to as “twilight language”: Its meaning is obscure to begin with (the perfect language for poetry, then).

Verses like the above get to the heart of one notion of samadhi: eternal life. But it comes through that there is an opposite way of thinking about eternity, not just the grand expanse of time and space and existence. There also is making the present moment last. “Be here now,” as one noted contemporary sage has written.

This is, of course, one core idea to meditation. As I’ve been reading through these poems, a way of thinking about it — new to me, at least — bubbled up. It sort of involves math, so I apologize in advance for that.

You have to imagine two objects and the distance between them. (Back in high school, where I think I first was introduced to this idea, it was a boy and girl across the classroom.) You then have one object move half the distance toward the other. Then the other moves half the remaining distance closer. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

And even if you repeat it infinitely, or forever, the two object never will touch. Some distance — half of what just was — remains.

It occurred to me one night that being here now could be discovered or explored in a similar way. If one could focus first on this moment, and then try to divide it in half and focus on one side, and then divide that in half and focus on one side, and continue to do so, one would remain forever in the here and now, never getting out of this one particular moment.

This is something that our go-to Sage at this blog wrote, in Auguries of Innocence:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

In this case, we think, he wasn’t being ironic.

Posted by Steve



Harvard study dives into physiological proof of yoga’s benefits

The scientific study of yoga and its effects/benefits keeps pushing further and further.

The latest news, out of Harvard, builds on an earlier report we highlighted that suggested yoga causes changes at the genetic level.

John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, is leading a five-year study on how the ancient practices affect genes and brain activity in the chronically stressed. His latest work follows a study he and others published earlier this year showing how so-called mind-body techniques can switch on and off some genes linked to stress and immune function.

While hundreds of studies have been conducted on the mental health benefits of yoga and meditation, they have tended to rely on blunt tools like participant questionnaires, as well as heart rate and blood pressure monitoring. Only recently have neuro-imaging and genomics technology used in Denninger’s latest studies allowed scientists to measure physiological changes in greater detail.

“There is a true biological effect,” said Denninger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospitals. “The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.”

Here’s a direct link to the study’s webpage. And more details from the news report:

His current study, to conclude in 2015 with about $3.3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, tracks 210 healthy subjects with high levels of reported chronic stress for six months. They are divided in three groups.

One group with 70 participants perform a form of yoga known as Kundalini, another 70 meditate and the rest listen to stress education audiobooks, all for 20 minutes a day at home. Kundalini is a form of yoga that incorporates meditation, breathing exercises and the singing of mantras in addition to postures. Denninger said it was chosen for the study because of its strong meditation component.

Participants come into the lab for weekly instruction for two months, followed by three sessions where they answer questionnaires, give blood samples used for genomic analysis and undergo neuro-imaging tests.

Unlike earlier studies, this one is the first to focus on participants with high levels of stress.

I’m amazed researchers can find people to study who don’t have high stress levels.

Posted by Steve