In the CHAPTER THREE All of the modern forms of psychology are very much concerned with the flowering of potential in each individual. This is referred to as self-actualization. It is the progressive unfoldment of each person’s innate capacities. This is exactly what yoga is all about, but instead of self-actualization, yoga refers to self-realization in all spheres of being, or awareness of one’s inner nature and its expression. The final aim of yoga is self-realization, where an individual has manifested all his potential to the peak, to the ultimate, where he is in tune, in perfect harmony with his inner being and his external environment.
In modern psychology a self-actualized person is exactly the same type of person, a person who has expressed all his latent potential, innate abilities and no longer reacts adversely to his personality and surroundings, harmonizing with everything external and internal. Both modern psychology and yoga stress the importance of evolution, of continual growth of each individual from ‘less wholeness’ to ‘more wholeness’. The final aim according to yoga is oneness with existence, with
God, with supreme consciousness. Psychologists as yet have not actually stated this as the final goal, but who knows, they may postulate this some time in the near future. Some schools, however, such as psychosynthesis, have said that self-realization is the ultimate aim of life.
In the past, psychology has tended to assume that a man is psychologically bound by fixed drives and motivations. It therefore assumed that a man should fulfil these so-called drives in endless repetition. However, this continual satisfaction of basic needs, though necessary, only removes tensions and frustrations for a short time. It in no way allows the individual to remove completely the basic tensions in his life. Modern psychology and yoga emphasize the importance of transcendence, the overall growth of an individual so that he does not stay in the same life mould. He should continually seek higher forms of fulfilment, the reason for higher aspiration being that the new aspiration is more joyous, more blissful than the previous. In this way the evolving individual leaves lower forms of drives behind because they are less satisfying. Yoga has always said this, and modern psychology is agreeing with yoga more and more in this context.
Modern psychologists have become greatly interested in meditation and have started to do research in this direction. They have not only performed scientific experiments but have even started referring to ancient texts on meditation to gain some insight into its implications and utility. They are even trying meditation for themselves and experiencing things that take them way beyond their normal intellectualization. Such has been the
insight, obtained partly through meditation, that psychologists have started to redefine their definition of a normal human being. They have postulated that most people, from the day they were born, are subjected to constant classifications. In other words, people are indoctrinated that things are good/bad, persons are black/white, persons are Christian/Muslim/Hindu, persons are clever/dull and so on. We love or we hate. We become totally involved in a word categorization that prevents us seeing the world as it really is. People become automated. Many psychologists have declared that one of the main aims of psychology should be to de-automate people.
Modern thinkers, especially psychologists, are very concerned with the damaging effect that fast, competitive living can have on the mind. It is indeed a truth that mental problems and diseases are becoming epidemic. Psychologists realize that each person must have a mind that can face a bombardment of intense external activity. Many have realized that each person must become his own psychological adviser. The method that is being widely recommended and adopted is meditation. It is the universal way of removing or preventing excessive worry, conflict and stress. It is also the sure way to a positive and contented life.
At least it is becoming widely accepted that meditation is neither a sleep nor a hypnotic state. In this context, psychologists are only considering persons who sit down at a regular time to meditate for a short duration. The fact that certain highly evolved people are continually in a state of meditation, sleeping and waking, should indicate
that meditation is beyond sleep and hypnotism. More and more psychologists are advising people to practise meditation so that they can observe their inner functioning. In this way they can become aware of overactivity of the different organs and the brain itself, and steps can be taken to rectify any overstimulation or malfunctioning. This is the best method of treating disease, stop it before it occurs. Half an hour of meditation every morning helps to bring quietude and to thereby improve external activities. Our ability to perform our daily work and play depends entirely on our inner being. If our inner being is not in harmony, then our interaction with the external environment cannot possibly be harmonious.
Meditation is the sure way to counteract pessimism, depression, tension and so on, states of mind which most people have accepted as a normal part of life. Even psychologists now believe this and modern progressive thinkers in the field of psychology have stated this idea. They now believe, like yoga, that the normal state of man should be a continuous expression of joy. Meditation can be utilized by everyone for mood control, to switch off negative states and to replace them with states of well-being.
One of man’s greatest problems is his inability to adapt to change. A hundred years ago and before, and even now in countries that have not developed a technological society, this was no problem for there were virtually no changes from year to year, let alone from day-to-day. Technological societies, however, are in a continual state
of change. The changes occur faster that the mind can adapt to them. The result is mental disorder, in a minor or major way depending on the individual. Psychology has recognized this problem and is recommending meditation as the sure way to develop the capacity to face change.
Psychology has always recognized the need to know the extensive inner workings of the unconscious mind. It has tended to be concerned with the part of the unconscious that contains our complexes and phobias. This is, of course, necessary in order to purge the deep-rooted conflicts that tend to dominate our lives. The method used by yoga, and also increasingly by modern fields of psychology, is meditation. Yet at the same time it is important to explore the vast regions of the mind, the higher unconscious, to use psychological terms, in which are contained our hidden capacities, abilities, our inner potentialities. Many of us have a true vocation in life, a natural flair to do certain things, yet because we don’t know them, we never do them. In a sense we are in a state of continual frustration. If we could express this potential, then we would start to live self-actualizing, creative and happy lives. The method is through meditation. In this way we can find our inner being and then start to fulfil its innate nature. We can start to do what we are best at.
Biofeedback: a modern trend in yoga
Biofeedback techniques have been utilized in relation to meditation. Biofeedback is concerned with measuring and monitoring electrical waves emitted from the brain. Let us first of all discuss the cause and nature of these
brainwaves. The existence of brainwaves, though perhaps brain rhythms is a better description, was noticed at the end of the nineteenth century during research into the brains of monkeys. In the early part of the twentieth century, this field of research spread to humans. It was found that the frequency, voltage and amplitude of the waves varied quite appreciably. Steady research into this phenomenon has been going on ever since and the pattern of the brainwaves has been used in pathology to show the existence of malfunctions in the brain, such as tumours and general mental disorders.
What are these brainwaves? Medical researchers are not absolutely sure, but the following is a brief description of their cause and nature. The brain is made of millions and millions of cells, called neurones. There are countless connections between these individual cells and other cells. In fact, we say tentatively that every cell in the brain is directly or indirectly connected to every other cell. Nerve pulses continually travel along these complex neurone circuits. Each neurone consists of a central body, an axon and various dendrites. It receives nerve impulses from other neurones via the axon, a long strand-like fibre. The individual neurone in turn transmits nerve impulses to other neurones through branch-like fibres called dendrites, which connect to the axons of other neurones. The nerve impulse is only transmitted when the electrical charge in the neurone builds up to a certain level. At this predetermined level there is a sudden burst or impulse. It is these pulses that give the brainwaves.
Researchers have found that a distinct relationship exists between the frequency, voltage and amplitude of the brainwaves and the state of the individual. For convenience, the waves have been divided into four types: beta, alpha, theta and delta. The reader must remember that these brainwaves are not the states of mind; they are merely a manifestation which allows one to know one’s state of mind. Though much is still to be discovered regarding the relationship between these waves and the state of mind, the following is a brief summary of present-day knowledge regarding these waves.