The Side-Effects of Meditation & Why They Don’t Matter Much!
Sadhguru answers a question on the benefits of meditation, and how the physical and psychological benefits are only side-effects. “The real thing is slowly building up” he says.
Q: Sadhguru, if someone decided to commit to meditation, how does that person know when things are moving in the right direction? Is there any psychological or physiological manifestation of this?
Sadhguru: Physical manifestations are probably always the most tangible. There are many physical and psychological manifestations and there are many other manifestations which are beyond physical and psychological. All these things can be questioned, but by whom? People who know only the physical and psychological, people who rely more on machines, who believe that machines are more reliable than the human beings who built them, those type of people question it all the time.
Dead or Brain-dead?!
Let me tell you something that happened a few years ago. I went to a certain place where they were doing all kinds of experiments on yoga and yogis. They thought I was a good subject – a guinea pig. I normally would not subject myself to these indignities, but it was a moment of obligation, so I said yes.
They said they want to check the gamma waves in my brain. I did not know I even had such waves! They put fourteen electrodes in different places on my body and mainly in the head region, and told me, “Now meditate.” I said, “I don't know any meditation.” They said, “No, no, you are teaching meditation to everybody.” “I teach meditation to people because they can't sit in one place. You have to teach them something to make them sit.” Then they asked, “Okay, what can you do?” I said, “If you want, I will simply sit still.” They said, “Okay, do that.” So I sat.
After about fifteen to twenty minutes, I felt somebody hitting my knee with some metallic object. Then they began hitting my elbow and my ankle – in all the most painful places. I did not know what their interest in my joints was. It became very persistent and then they touched my back. My spine is always super-sensitive and once they touched my back, I thought maybe it is time to tell them. If they want me to come out, if they would have just said, “Come out,” I would have taken a minute and come out. Why all this tapping?
When I opened my eyes, they were giving me a weird look. “Did I do something wrong?” I asked. They said, “No, our machine says you are dead.” I said, “Okay, that’s a great diagnosis.” Then they discussed amongst themselves and said, “Either you are dead or your brain is dead.” I said, “The second diagnosis is too insulting. I will take the first one. You say what you want. I am alive, it is fine with me. Brain-dead is not a good certificate to have.”
When you go about checking out life like this from bits and pieces of information and knowledge that you have, you will obviously come to wrong conclusions. But anyway, it is important because the world happens that way today. Because I was not willing to subject myself again, I asked some of our meditators to allow their brains to be scanned. It was processed in a premier institute in the country and what they found was that there is a phenomenal coherence between the right and left brain. The people who looked at it said, “We have never seen anything like this.” This is for people who have done these practices for just three months or a little more.
Right & Left Brain Coherence
What this means in terms of translating it into life is, whatever information you receive and process through the five sense organs generally goes to the left brain. Whatever information that is perceived through the rest of the body, which is not logical, which is not piecemeal, which is more homogeneous information that is most essential for your life, is processed in your right brain which is not logical. You may not be conscious of it but you are always using this information. Otherwise you could not be here. Unless there is an active coherence between the left brain and right brain, you cannot access this information consciously. Consciously being able to access that part of life within you, that part of information and knowing within you can take you places that you have not imagined. What you have been doing in your life with great effort, you could just do it like that.
For any number of people, it has translated into their lives in terms of action and how they live. I would say, if you are doing a particular kind of activity, let us say today’s software engineers, what they are doing in thirty days, probably very effortlessly, within six months of practice they could do it in a much shorter time. But if they are stretching it for contract purposes, that is left to them; that is not my business! Your ability to function in the world can be greatly enhanced – almost super-enhanced. Physically and mentally, it will set you apart in any crowd of people if you give yourself to the practice sufficiently. And health-wise, there is any amount of medical research today to tell you that it does miraculous things to you.
The Real Thing Is Slowly Building Up
But all these benefits – physical health, mental capabilities, being able to handle life with ease – these are just side-effects. The real thing is slowly building up. That, you will know only when it flowers. Till then, you think nothing is happening. It is like you planted a flowering tree in your house. As it grows, only leaves keep coming. Your neighbour comes and tells you, “This is no good. You said flowers would come but only leaves are coming. Let us chop it and make firewood out of it.” You said, “Let me see. Maybe tomorrow morning it will work.” Tomorrow morning – nothing. Again you said, “Let me see, one more day,” One more day, one more day… years passed. If you do not know how long it takes for this tree to flower, you would probably have chopped it a hundred times over. But if you keep nurturing it, one day when it flowers, when it is in full bloom, then you realize this plant was not about leaves, this was not about shade, this was not about a little bit of oxygen. This, when it flowers, is incredibly beautiful.
Editor’s Note: Here’s a list of the “side-benefits” as per medical research on the Shambhavi Mahamudra kriya offered by Isha Foundation. You can also try out these free 5-minute Upa-Yoga practices.