06/10/2019 0 Comments
The science behind meditation
Meditation is now taken seriously by athletes and a wide range of professional people who want to maintain their bodies and their minds at peak performance, or simply to remain pain-free.
I treat very many people whose physical symptoms such as neck and shoulder tension, headaches, backache, digestive problems, skin disorders, fatigue etc seem to be very related to psychological stress. As well as people whose obvious psychological problems such as anxiety, worry, negative belief patterns, panic attacks, low mood and depression are the result of various acute and chronic stresses from the past, or part of their present life experience.
Some people that I treat may be on physical painkillers and or psychological painkillers (such as anti depressants). While these drugs may give some relief from symptoms they don’t really get to the cause of the problem and can have unpleasant side effects. In my opinion meditation can be a really useful tool to help deal with both physical and psychological symptoms.
Unfortunately it is often overlooked and underused and undervalued as a treatment mainly due to ignorance of its power. Meditation can be viewed with suspicion, due to some people viewing it as a bit strange and mystical, and also because it requires a bit of effort (not much though) by the person to help themselves rather than just going to the doctor for a pill, or to an osteopath like myself for a massage or manipulation.
To me though it is very empowering, in that meditation is something that you can do for yourself, it is free and has no side effects! If taught correctly and practised regularly it can really change people’s lives dramatically for the better. I think it is a shame when I sometimes do suggest meditation as an adjunct to the other work that I’m doing with pstients, that some people do not take it seriously and others dismiss it out of hand or may say they may learn later on when they have time.
For those that do commit to practising meditation regularly the results of this very powerful simple, non mysterious self help tool will speak for themselves. Meditation has been tested scientifically for many decades and has been shown to benefit an enormous number of conditions, including:
- an improved ability to cope with stress
- helps mood disorders including depression, anxiety and panic attacks
- helps one deal with pain
- improves memory, learning, self awareness and creativity
- reduces blood pressure, the risk of heart disease and stroke
- helps prevent asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and fibromyalgia
- decreases symptoms of pre menstrual tension and the menopause
- decreases symptoms of social isolation
- decreases emotional over eating
- increases the grey matter in the brain and many more! and no negative side effects!
Can you imagine a drug that could do all these things?
It would be the most prescribed drug in history by far! Yet so many people, including doctors, are ignorant of the benefits of meditation. I have been teaching meditation to individuals and groups for many years and have recently started a new group which meets every second Monday at my practice.
Various techniques of meditation are taught including mindfulness,and mantra meditations. Everything is explained very clearly and simply and people can go away and practice from day one. An effective method of meditation will eventually lead to an experience of profound stillness, an inner silence and peace. Because our minds are so very busy this peace may only be glimpsed briefly to begin with,but eventually the mind settles down and this stillness and peace is experienced fir longer and longer periods of time during the meditation. This state of peace is very healing for the mind and body and relieves a lot of stored stressing the brain and nervous system.
This peaceful state is actually the natural condition of our mind beyond the process of thinking. The mind and body are brought to a profound living stillness, the whole metabolism and mind slows down. These effects are measurable with scientific instruments. But the true benefit of meditation is not just about sitting down and experiencing peace and stillness while meditating. If done regularly ,meditation cultivates our nervous system to sustain the inner peace in our daily activity as well.
Meditation also shows us that we are not just the never ending stream of thoughts and belief patterns running through our heads (many of which are meaningless, random and unproductive and perhaps delusional), but there is another part of us – a silent peaceful even blissful part that is always accessible, and that we can increasingly live life from that base, rather than the often chaotic tyranny of our own thought stream.
Effective meditation techniques are not difficult or complicated and deep meditation itself is a mental procedure that uses the inherent nature of the mind to systematically bring the mind to rest. If the mind is given the opportunity it will go to rest with no effort. In fact proper meditation involves no force or coercion,it should be easy and effortless.It is not about forcing out or blocking thoughts, the silence will come naturally if the simple technique is followed correctly and the right attitude is adopted.
Like anything though it takes time to master,but nevertheless impressive results can happen very quickly, sometimes immediately. An example being the man came to a recent group meeting.He had been taking strong anti inflammatory medication for pain in his neck and back for a year and a half every day. But after the first time he meditated all his pain went ,and 6 weeks later at the time of writing the pain hasn’t returned. Of course not everyone will experience such an incredible improvement in symptoms so quickly,but it goes to show how de-stressing through meditation can profoundly affect the body and mind.
A person I know who has meditated for years once described meditation as shampoo and conditioner for the soul. I think that is a very good description. But for meditation to work it has to be practised and very stressed people sometimes say that they don’t have the time, and even people who begin to meditate sometimes stop when their lives become extremely stressful. But of course these are just the sort of people who need meditation most, and the stressful times are the times when we must continue to meditate to help get us through.
Meditation can act as an anchor when our lives become “stormy”. Meditation is possibly the most undervalued,underused yet transformative self help tool that we can use for an enormous range of health problems. Its as important as physical exercise and good diet-nutrition in my opinion. Meditation is uncomplicated and simple to do and free!Its just a question of learning an effective technique and setting aside a little time each day and getting in the habit. Once cultivated it’s a habit that you won’t want to give up.
JUST DO IT!
Graeme Stroud ND, MRN, DO, ACOH is an osteopath, naturopath, certified zen body therapist and a qualified healer.