Everyone has felt it -- the dread that life will never be the same, or the crisis that feels like it will end all things. There are stories of atheists, shot and bleeding, yelling for God, for the last minute save, the shimmering, golden light miracle, only for the miracle to be the great tunnel flooded with light far away, the feeling of understanding all things, and all fades to the Void so many Buddhist masters described beyond the thin veil of life. Firm in our resolve in facing the world, we are free, fine and self-assured, but all that seems a sweet memory when the blow stuns. We may even feel like the atheist, bewildered at our own pleading invocations to that great, bearded genie in the sky.
This happens. We are shocked. We seek something more meaningful. We think there must be more than these petty and ignoble shadows and echoes that permeate the fragile veil of atoms throughout us and around us, the strange predilections of misfiring neurons assembled into personalities screamed into the void of air with a vociferousness mysterious to us. What a bizarre and horrifying circus our world can become.
What are the continuous factors here? What are the factors we control? We cannot control others. We can control self. We can control the mind with the mind. The mind generally operates in two compartments in the most basic sense: the subconscious, which stores experience to supply information to the judgmental part of the brain, the consciousness. The consciousness observes and interacts with the world, but it relies on information supplied by the subconscious. When the world -- full of influential stimuli dragging us away from core being and root existence -- becomes the catastrophic cacophony that throws even consciousness into disarray, it is useful to use the power of what you do truly control.
Let's assume there is the body, the mind and the presence or spirit or being or core -- give it whatever name, it is the part of you that lies dormant underneath, the part that, if the body and mind are receiving 88.1 to 107.7 FM, is capable of receiving universes of shortwave. One should attribute as little qualities as possible so as to avoid boxing it or containing it. Once we silence the body, we access the mind, so it seems silencing the mind would access X -- presence, spirit, being or core. This is meditation.
Very rarely in life do we encounter the mind unencumbered by clutter, or like a garden polluted with weeds, to borrow a metaphor from a Zen master. The things around us clatter our minds from natural quiescence. Some things inside can do the same. As an item of essential reasoning -- not strictly logical but reasonable -- quieting the body accesses the mind, and quieting the mind's burden of input accesses us, the essential us.
Without a fee, without a trap, a box, a secret, this seems to me a truth, and any truth can be discovered by any person. It exists, it is free, it is discoverable. So with this elementary truth, what does the ultimate arbiter of truth -- science -- find in quieting the mind to access something greater?
Studies of non-specified meditation techniques found that -- in briefest possible terms -- meditation in general fortifies gray and white matter in the brain (something age atrophies), connections between the hemispheres of the brain, moves activity in the brain to more beneficial centers, fosters overall relaxation and information acquisition/retention due to a meditating brain's ability to slow mental clutter and take in more of a moment's totality.
Now ... what sort of meditation? Mantra or no mantra? In researching preferences on this count, I find merit in those who say the mantra helps keep the focus. There are even some who simply use tones as the mantra. It seems the mantra or the tones help develop the focus, but silence is silence, and silencing the mind, as previously stated, accesses the other.