The word meditation refers to the ancient practice of conscious awareness. Spiritual seekers and teachers from many different religions have engaged in various types of meditation for centuries, and modern research is revealing its psychological and physiological benefits.
Meditation helps us settle and find calm in the frenetic energy of the thinking mind. As Ashoka’s teacher Lama Willa Miller says, “The goal of meditation helps one to maintain inner peace in spite of the turbulent thoughts. It changes our relationship with thoughts.” Meditation turns the mind onto itself; it is self-observation.
The benefits of meditation are numerous. As a result of changing our relationship with out thoughts, many feel more relaxed and emotionally calm. Respiration and blood pressure usually drop, and we become more able to live in and appreciate the present. Ashoka has personally experienced lower stress, greater self-awareness, improved concentration and creativity, a decreased tendency to react rashly, and an increased tendency to take time to think and respond with empathy.
Meditation has had a powerful impact on Ashoka’s life. At a Vipassana Meditation Retreat in July of 2009, Ashoka meditated 10.5 hours a day for 10 consecutive days. No talking, no glancing, no gestures, no writing. He was surprised by how the outer silence opened his awareness to inner sounds. This transformative experience of the deeper sounds and sensations in his body fueled a commitment to meditate two hours daily, which he did for three years. He has continued practicing daily, now meditating for 45 minutes a day.