Meditation and Melatonin Connection

Yesterday I had one of those AHA moments about meditation. I have always read in various books about how prolonged meditation cuts down the amount of sleep you would need. I should admit, I really was trying to put that to good use – when I was working for myself – where the work days would last 16 hours and there was no work/life balance.

Anyhow, what I have always known was – 20 mins of nap during day == 1 hour of sleep during night. And 15 mins of deep focused meditation == 1 hour of sleep during night. I have seen that being said everywhere but I could never understand why.

Yesterday I learned the answer. Here are the details.

Everyone of us have something called ‘Pineal Gland‘. This small almond shaped gland is the end point of our nervous system which connects to our brain. As we get signals from nervous system, this gland kinda vibrates and releases a hormone called ‘Melatonin‘. Now Melatonin is a natural hormone – which we use to replenish and heal our bodies. So sleep is a means to the end of getting Melatonin. There I was like AHA. Now I know.

So basically when you take a nap or meditate – you are making Melatonin. Once our body gets that – it doesn’t need us to sleep longer hours for more and that way you can get away with 6 hours of sleep and still be alert during day.

Again, I don’t think just simple meditation generates Melatonin. What meditation does is to slow down our brain waves and I think when we get to theta level – we are able to produce Melatonin.

I have also learned that in the ancient cultures, people knew about this and focused on Pineal gland focused meditation technique. Usually when we meditate we are asked to either focus on a picture, idol, light or breathing. The more noob the more external things you need to focus on. So, you would start your meditation practice with a picture and end up doing it by focusing on your breath as you progress. But in Pineal gland focused meditation technique the seeker focuses on the back of the head (where the gland is located) and this (with practice) furthers the easy making of the Melatonin harmone. I think this is a very valid technique. Two years back I was taking a Super Memory reading course – because I had way too many books to read than time. In that they teach you a technique which works like a wonder. While reading the book – imagine a imaginary orange behind your head. Just hovering there. Once you do that, your focus kinda shifts to the back of your head and it kinda puts you in a trance where all the external distractions are minimized. It’s called the orange technique and it really works.

Tantrically thinking, I think Pineal gland is actually the esoteric, analogical third eye of Shiva. It’s not a literal one which is between your brows but something inside your head. And as Mythology and Scriptures say – once it’s open it doesn’t destroy the literal world, but your *idea* of this world. This whole shebang you carry around in your head called life is blown away.

Purpose of Meditation (Well one of)

I have been a fan of meditation for a long time. Even though I don’t do it regularly, I have done it pretty regularly in the past and I often try to sneak it into my everyday life. There have been a lot of explanation on as to what meditation does and how it affects us. Internet is filled with that literature. We all know it’s good for us. But I often wonder what would be the end result. What could be the end of meditation?

I came across some answers in the past – which I tried to capture it here and here. But I still keep thinking about it now and then. An another answer occurred to me the other day. Meditation for me is peaceful and it makes me a witness to my life rather than a participant. The days I meditate, I usually tend to have control over my thoughts, emotions and thereby actions. I get into this witness or 3rd person stance where I watch myself on the stage of life.

I think there is a reason for that. I think the reason meditation gets me into witness position is to let me align things. What things? My thoughts, my speech and my action. The triumvirate of my daily life. It lets me subtly adjust these things so that they align. In India there is a word for that – ‘Trikaranasuddi‘ – the matching of thought, word and deed. By noticing myself during the day I become observant of what I am thinking, speaking and doing. Any mis-match produces stress and thereby gets me to correct it.

If you think about it – the stress we have in our daily level comes from this mismatch. If my words don’t match what I think and if I do something other than what I say, there is stress and  meditation usually reduces that. I never understood how and now I think this is the reason why. As always I have made a drawing out of it –

 

Addicted to New, Obsessed with More

That is how I would describe sometimes I feel. I mean, I can start to think about million things and I can blame it on all of them for this unsettling feeling. But in the end it all comes down to taking responsibility for my own feelings and my own issues. There is this constant nagging within which basically lures me into this trap of “Newness”. It’s like I am a *bee* which just goes from one flower to flower seeking more and more and something new. I am addicted to newness. This shows up very easily as to what I do when I read news. I jump from link to link not even giving my brain a full reading opportunity. It’s like Twitter has set a internal reading limit on my brain and I can’t read anything more than 2 sentences. Boredom has become more of a habitat than a situation. Boredom has become so easy to acquire.

Then the obsession with “Moreness”. I want more and more of stuff. It could be anything. As long as it tickles my 140 char taste buds I will take it. Boredom also plays a role in this. The natural pull has become to seek new and then get bored easily and then see more new. This vicious circle has literally has me in it’s grip (there you go, I am objectifying my problem and putting it outside of me).

This is crazy. I mean sometimes I feel like I think this situation is medical – like ADD. But I don’t think that’s correct. I wasn’t like this before. It’s just one of those weird stages I am in. There is only one way to fix this – becoming aware of it and cutting the habit off. It’s hard when you have Google reader and subscribed to 4000 blogs. It’s like falling in a bottomless pit.

In addition to becoming aware of it I also need to get back to my daily meditation. I know, with a baby arriving in the next 1 week – it might sound as an impossible task to do. But I think I will take this baby step first and try. Because the other option really sucks.

The 40 bits

It is said, scientifically that our brains are processing 4 billion bits of transactions per second. Out of these 4 billion we are consciously aware of only 40 bits at any time. Just 40 bits. The whole body working, the awareness of mind about it’s surroundings, everything is taken care without even us being aware about it.

It’s a very efficient design. Our mind gives us exact information we can process (if we mind gives us info to process – who is processing? That’s another blog post). But, as you can make a guess there is amazing amount of info that is being either discarded or filtered. And this is not always a good thing.

40 bits is our cognitive upper limit. 40 bits is metal awareness limitation. This in-place limitation affects our daily life. We tend to think that these 40 bits are “The Truth”. And over a period of time these Truth’s are turned into Beliefs and belief systems. All this happens even without our knowledge. These 40 bits are the thin veneer pulled tight over our eyes.

Just because we have a limitation, it doesn’t mean we can’t break it or over come it or at least use it smartly. Here is where the Creativity process comes into picture. There are 2 steps to over come this limitation.

  1. Becoming aware of it
  2. Replacing, reusing the 40 bits

1. Becoming aware of it: I have talked about this here, here and here. I don’t want to go into more details, but the gist of it is – you need to be aware of your own thoughts. The inner chatter that happens is where all the action lies. There are a bunch of ways to become aware of it.

  • Just being still
  • Being in the moment
  • Meditation
  • Being in Nature
  • Taking a stand whole day – Like “I will not judge anyone or anything all day today” and keep watching yourself over that stance.

Recently I have came across a great book which does this process but with Questions. It’s Byron Katie’s ‘The Work’. It’s a very simple 4 questions inquiry process which is tremendously powerful once you start to use it. I would highly recommend that to adopt a inquiry process if you don’t have time to meditate. Another thing you could do is to read ‘Bhagavad Gita’ every night. I know I sound so totally Hindu here. But, I am recommending Gita not from a standpoint of religion but from the point of view of Philosophy. It drums this whole thought system which, if used, is very powerful. I would recommend Jack Hawleys – Bhagavad Gita for Westerners (not much on mythology and a small book)

2. Replacing, reusing the 40 bits: Well this has been my day to day thing all my growing up years. I always thought that there exist some system out there by which we can be more creative. I have ready and used many many systems – but the whole idea behind it is – you need to stretch out your mind by opening yourself up with new information. In this age and day there is no dearth of information – but if you always seeking the same info- they you are always keeping the same info in that 40 bits you got.

So, 2 books come to mind. Any book by Edward De Bono – he might come out as dry and simple. But trust me try the tools. Another one is by author Dan Roam – He has a visual problem solving framework. His books are here and here. The advantage of using a visual model as compared to textual model is you can put those 40 bits to maximum use. Like if you draw a picture – you can refer to it probably using just 1 or 2 bits – like a pointer for all those computer guys.

I know it’s not easy being aware of our own 40 bits. Awareness is scary and processes are hard. But again it’s something you do on a long term learning basis. You can’t get this done faster. It doesn’t work that way.

This concept of Manifestation

If you are like any other normal person you would have seen a flurry of many many new-age gurus talking about Manifestation and how we are in control of our lives. The idea is not new but the packaging is. It used to be learned, used and followed by a bunch of off the track people in an alternate universe – but The Secret -movie, bought it to the mainstream.(You should also check out What the Bleep do we know? – more real and scientific) Quickly the gurus in the movie turned their back on it and started propagating how ONLY they understand the Secret. The main concern of the people who don’t like Secret is – that it’s too goody goody and non-actioney. The Secret doesn’t talk a lot about the action that needs to be done to achieve what you want to achieve. I totally agree – but hey, don’t shoot the messenger.

I have been, like any other person, curious about this idea for quite some time. My personal freedom and my personal creations are extremely important to me and I believe in the concept of being the person who is in charge of my own reality. I have been reading up quite some books on this concept and this blog post is all the that information filtered to my understanding.

The beauty of belief is – everyone tends to create, see and do what their belief systems dictate. So, based on my beliefs – the way I understood it could be totally off from what others see. This is just my one opinion in the million out there.

The (Hi)Story:

This goes back a little. The way I grew up – was in a patriarch family where my dad called shots on everything. Just like most Indian families. For various reasons and causes, I grew up to be an extremely shy and awkward teenager (who didn’t?). When I turned 20 – I decided that I need to change myself. In someway. I didn’t know what to do. I have been scared of Public Speaking but enjoy the whole process of someone taking the stage and entertaining a crowd. So, I thought I will have to face my fear and then I will be fixed! Little I knew about the arduous process of self-change.

I joined a Leadership Training program which was taught by a Genius who was also a chain smoker. Good start eh. Over the period of next 3 months I faced situations where I almost peed in my pants, cried many many times and embarrassed myself. I wouldn’t want to go on stage at all. It was really hard. But in the end, I ended up becoming aware of 2nd things – 1. The power of my mind., 2. I am still going to be shit scared of public speaking!

Things moved on, life happened. The literature I was exposed to made me learn more and more about other self-help books. I started to form a basic model of how this works in my mind. Fast forward – 2003 NYC. I was taking Yoga classes at Sivananda Ashram. In one class the teacher, talked about how our mind is a powerful tool and how it could manifest things that our belief system tells us we can’t. It stuck with me and I was looking for an opportunity to put it to test.

Somehow, by turn of fate one day I ended up standing in line for tickets to see ‘Rent’ on Broadway. They usually have a raffle before the show to give away free tickets to the very few.(It’s actually the first two rows – which are actually the ‘spit fire’ lanes!) Now, I used this “mind over matter” theory to see if it is true. For the next 30 mins – I did everything I could – thoughts wise, feelings wise, emotions wise, images wise, actions wise, behaviors wise etc – immerse myself into defeating my belief system that I have won the raffle and free tickets. It was not easy to convince my beliefs and it looked stupid to try that. But I kept it on. The third name they called was mine! Now I know – those skeptics who are reading this – it could totally be a spooky coincidence. I agree. But it didn’t matter to me. I don’t think I was so ever shocked in my life like I was then. Literally shaking. I didn’t even watch Rent properly. One thought kept pounding in my head – What else can I do?

The Concept:

So, here I am trying to take this blog post as an opportunity to kinda cull my learning into one small piece. Since I usually think better with drawings and visual aids, I am going to draw a image which comes to mind.

Concept of ManifestationThis looked far better when I drew it on a paper. Graffling is not my skill. So, I want to explain the numbered points:

1 – Mental State: This is your present mental state. At any given time there are so many thoughts, ideas, images, sounds, smells etc belong to this mental state. You can leave it as it is or you can organize the mental state. This is the origin. Whatever exists here is converted to reality in some form or shape by the vibrational state. We do have control on this. The inputs to Mental state are

  1. 5 senses
  2. Internal talk

2 – Vibrational State: I talked about this in the past. This is the state we have no control over. It’s like the inevitable fact. Nothing we do can change this – directly. However, the only way you can make use of this state is to influence upon things indirectly. How? Through the mental states. So, like the candle light is reflected in a mirror – the vibrational state just mass produces anything that the mental state gives.

3. Beliefs: These are the filters. Affecting what is fed into vibrational state as well as what goes out of it. If you have way too many filters then – there is nothing much passing through – meaning, your mental state doesn’t match your reality and vice versa. We have control over this. We can become aware of them and start dropping them off. The more we clear and select our beliefs – the more mental state matches the reality. Of course we will have to start with the primary belief – we can change our reality.

4. Reality & Results: As vibrational state outputs – they come out of us as actions, behaviors, words, theories, ideas etc. Again these are filtered by our beliefs. Depending on how our beliefs are structured – we act, think and talk, there by resulting in our actual reality.

That’s all to it. That’s the manifestation process as I understand it.

The Strategies:

Knowledge is useless without application or action. So, how do we turn these into personal strategies? Here are some of my thoughts:

1. Objectives and Goals: The reason why a lot of people ask and talk about setting goals is – getting clarity about what you want is half job done. In this model – it would apply to the ‘Mental State’ stage. Just writing down all the goals and setting timelines (realistic) is the first step.

2. Meditation: This might sound odd for Manifesting theme. But what meditation does is – it basically lowers the resistance of our beliefs for the time we meditate. I talked about a meditation method in my previous post. So, let me break it down a little in detail. You do meditation for 15 mins every day. Those 15 mins, you try to concentrate on your breath. It’s hard but with practice you will get to stage where you can do that. When you focus on your breath – there are 2 things happening: 1. Your thoughts are being ignored or not given major attention. 2. Focusing on breathing – streamlines it. Slowly after 5 mins, you will notice you are breathing deeper and longer.

This in turn gets you into something called ‘Alpha brain waves‘ – which is a very productive place to be. In that place your resisting guard would be let down and since you already placed your goals and objectives in your mental state prior (through daily goal setting etc) these would be easily conveyed to your Vibrational being which creates actions, ideas and behaviors in you which create your reality.

So, the meditation actually is doing a lot of things under the hood without our knowledge.

3. 21 day habit swap: In his book Psycho-Cybernetics – Dr.Maxwell Maltz originally talked about this 21 day theory. Basically Dr.Maltz was dealing with people who had their body parts removed for various reasons. Some people who lost their arm would still feel pain in it, even though there was no arm. And it usually took 21 days for patients’ body to get over the pain and come to an understanding of new reality. This vital info could be used to form new habits and change how we view and create reality.

Once you set goals – you could start working on them and trying to be consistent for at least 21 days. Most of the time it works. After 21 days, it would become natural for you to work on the goals & tasks.

4. 68 seconds rule: I have no idea why that number – but it’s like number 42 – the meaning of life. If you can manage to do this, it could create some wonderful results. Basically it goes like this – any thought, strongly held for 68 seconds would kick off major changes in your reality. My logical mind doesn’t understand why? I have no data on it – but it has worked for me in various occasions.

So, that’s my understanding of this concept of Manifestation and some strategies involved. I am willing to look at any other info you have to offer to me. But in gist it’s how I understand and it has been working like that for quite some time for me. Please remember – no theory is correct or accurate. We are all blind men groping the Elephant!

Be easy on yourself, play with different methods and most important of all – enjoy the ride, even if it means you are scared of Public Speaking.

15 minutes of Meditation

Recently, I have started to consistently meditate for 15 minutes every morning. I do miss those good old days where I used to meditate for an hour, now a days stuck between Conference calls and morning emails – it has become more of a luxury. So, I decided a new practice of just 15 minutes every day after I take my shower. There are many many ways you can meditate – but the one I follow is simple process of watching my breath. Here are some things I found out and wanted to share with everyone.

  1. Expect roadblocks – it’s like the whole world is conspiring against you to stop you from meditating. You will have a work emergency, someone calls and something obviously breaks down.
  2. Expect Physical uncomfortableness – Your chin would itch. You might fart. Your stomach would grumble etc. Please don’t try to stop it. Just become aware of it.
  3. Expect Crazy thoughts – in like 5 minutes you will start to feel like, you have been meditating for 15 years. You would be like “Enough Already”
  4. Expect random and crazy thoughts – It’s like your mind (actually ego) gets trapped in a box and starts to throw around all those fears, crazy thoughts etc towards you. Don’t panic. Just come back to your meditation, by bringing your focus back to your breath.
  5. Perfection – This is the single most reason why I stopped meditating in the past. I was like, if I can’t be perfect and meditate for 1 hour – I don’t want to do it for 15 mins. There is no logic behind that thinking. Except that my Ego has trapped me into this paradox where I want to meditate, but because of my perfect scenario not available to me I refuse to do it.
  6. Failure – There is no failure. It’s a mental construct. You can’t fail at this. No one is watching you. No judgment. There is not single way to fail at this. However if you do it consistently, you will get better and better at focusing.

This is what I have observed once I start to be consistent in it:

  1. I am more poised during the day
  2. There is this point of view, which is hard to explain but easy to experience – which gives you an ability to watch yourself.
  3. I started noticing stuff which I never did. My beliefs, values. Most importantly my thoughts.
  4. You would get this Big Picture view of anything where it becomes easy for one to see where all this fits in, in the big picture.
  5. All the trivialities sort of start to fall off.

I am no expert at this, but just 15 minutes of my day affects so many hours of my waking life. That’s all I know and that’s all I want to do at this time. I won’t let Perfection stop me from being good.