Is meditation good for your health?

According to an article in the American Scientific Mind, the Dalai Lama meditates four hours a day. In the fall of 2005, the Dalai Lama gave the inaugural Dialogues between Neuroscience and Society lecture at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, DC. The Dalai Lama said meditating for four hours was hard work. He said if neuroscientists were able to find a way to put electrodes in his brain and provide him with the same outcome as he gets from meditating, he would be an enthusiastic volunteer. 

What kind of outcome do we get from meditating?

There is significant scientific evidence that even a short-tem meditation improves attention and cognitive enhancement. That means it improves conscious intellectual act – the mental process of knowing, awareness, perception, reasoning and judgment. 

How does meditation change the brain?

Regular deep meditation makes the gamma waves fire very rapidly in harmony. Neuroscientists have figured out which brain cells are responsible for the gamma waves. They can induce these brain waves in mice. The next thing is to use this technology and transfer to the humans. This way we can create artificial meditation (meditation on demand) and reap the benefits of meditation.

Writing in the Scientific American Mind (Nov/Dec, 2009) Peter B. Reiner says, “At the very least, it is safe to say that the prospect of using advanced technology to mimic at least some of the brain activity present during meditation states has moved from the realm of science fiction to that of scientific possibility.”

What are the other benefits of meditation?

In one scientific study, a group of 40 undergraduate Chinese students were given five days of 20-min integrative training on meditation. The result showed greater improvement in conflict scores, lower anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue and higher vigour, a significant decrease in stress-related cortisol and an increase in immune-reactivity.

Medical and psychological studies have shown that meditation is effective to varying degrees in the symptomatic control of migraine headache, hypertension and other conditions. It helps in the purification of body, mind, and soul. Meditation has been found to reduce heart rate, pulse rate, respiratory rate and plasma cortisol level and to increase electroencephalogram alpha waves associated with relaxation (Shapiro, 1995).

Meditation or for that matter any relaxation exercise appears to impact more strongly when the anxiety is primarily psychological, such as excessive worrying.

In 2008, the American Journal of Hypertension reported that regular practice of transcendental meditation was associated with reductions of 4.7 mm Hg in systolic pressure and 3.2 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure compared with control groups. These reductions were equivalent to those seen after adding a second anti-hypertensive pill to a treatment regimen. This reduction would be expected to significantly reduce cardiovascular disease risk.

Other studies have shown medical benefits of relaxation exercises such as meditation, breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation in tension headaches, anxiety, psoriasis and cardiovascular diseases. Thus it can increase longevity, reduce use of medical care, medical costs in treating chronic pain, smoking cessation and serum cholesterol level in elderly and others.

As Pythagoras (580 B.C. – 500 B.C.), a Greek philosopher and mathematician said, “Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen and absorb.” Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662), a French philosopher said, “All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.”

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