Life flows in patterns of rest and activity. Our hearts contract and relax beginning twenty two days after conception until the end of our lives. Our breath is also a perpetual reminder of nature’s commitment to act then relax. We inhale and pause; then exhale and pause, marking the course of our lives from the first inhalation at the moment of birth to the last exhalation at the moment of death.
In the Vedic tradition, the entire universe is a symphony of rhythms. When we’re in synchrony with this dance of nature, we feel balanced and whole; when we lose our rhythm, we feel a sense of disharmony or dis-ease. According to Ayurveda, we can nurture our health by living in harmony with the natural rhythms of the environment – including the rhythms of the seasons.
As autumn begins in the Northern hemisphere, we are entering a natural time of quieting as nature withdraws her energy and turns inward. In many traditional cultures, the shorter days and longer nights signaled the time for going within and reflection . . . for rest and renewal. In our modern world, however, there is a tendency to disconnect from these natural rhythms. Instead of slowing down, we may feel a compulsion to become even busier as the holiday season begins and the insistent voices of the media and marketplace urge us greater heights of consumption and activity.
Meditation is a technology for accessing the silence and harmonizing with the natural rhythms of life. Before and after every thought-wave of the mind, the ocean of awareness is silent. Most of the time, our thoughts are coming so fast and furiously that we don’t notice the deep stillness that gives rise to the activity of the mind. Meditation is like a bath for the mind . . . it refreshes and clears our mind, allowing us to see the same experience from a different point of view.
Meditation also provides deep rest for the body. During meditation, breathing slows, blood pressure decreases, and stress hormone levels fall. Some studies have found that long-term meditators have biological ages that are nearly twelve years younger than their chronological age. This is the power of the restful awareness response.
Enter the Silent Ocean of Awareness
There are many different meditation techniques that can quiet and relax the mind. Chanting, listening to music, free-form dancing, observing the ocean waves break against the shore can temporarily still the mind’s chatter and provide a glimpse into the silence space between thoughts. Here at the Chopra Center we teach a mantra-based meditation technique called Primordial Sound Meditation. What I love about this practice is that it’s systematic and simple. We don’t have to get obsessed about being in a certain posture or a certain position or learning a whole set of complicated instructions. We simply close our eyes, quiet our mind, and enter a more expansive state of awareness. And that refreshment allows every aspect of our lives to become more clear . . . more balanced.
So as we enter this season of quiet renewal, I encourage you to find your own ways to withdraw from the world of activity and busyness, if only for a few minutes each day – and harmonize with your own internal cycles of rest and renewal.