Debbie West, Contributor
Meditation, an ageless practice that involves clearing away the information overload that builds up in our psyche, is gaining popularity to deal with today’s fast-paced environment where our minds are constantly inundated with a steady stream of information. Stress often caused by “mind clutter” is identified as the primary cause of many diseases in our bodies and is greatly reduced using meditation. For this reason, meditation, an accepted practice in the East, has gained significant acceptance in the West. Today, clinical research has proven that meditation has positive effects on an individual’s overall health, physical and spiritual well-being, and many physicians now recommend it to their patients to treat and prevent illness and disease.
History of Meditation in the West
Starting around 1960, mediation and other alternative healing modalities like reiki, energy medicine, reflexology, the use of herbs and essential oils, and acupuncture began to rise in popularity in the West. One of the first programs to raise the public’s awareness to the positive effects of meditation was Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn, Ph.D, who founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of MA Medical Center in 1979. The first peer-reviewed scientific paper about mindfulness meditation for chronic pain patients that was published in 1982 in General Hospital Psychiatry by Jon Kabat-Zinn was based on data gathered in the first years of the Stress Reduction Program at UMass Memorial Medical Center. Their work over decades has shown consistent, reliable and reproducible demonstrations of major and clinically-relevant reductions in medical and psychological symptoms across a wide range of medical diagnoses, including many different chronic pain conditions, other medical diagnoses and in medical patients with a secondary diagnosis of anxiety and/or panic. Over the years, Mindfulness Meditation became a world-wide phenomenon, used in hospitals and corporations and was even featured in a famous PBS series “Healing our Mind” in the 1990’s.
Inner Peace Transforms Humanity
In simplest terms, meditation is the practice of quieting our physical bodies and our minds and focusing our attention inward instead of upon the world around us. As you begin to practice meditation daily, it will become easier. You might also notice that the sense of peace inside you during meditation will begin to carry over into the different parts of your day. Although some schools of thought suggest that the mind should be blank when you are meditating, many feel the mind can be used as a constructive force in the process of reaching the higher self.
Meditation promotes coordination at three levels: causing relaxation to the physical body; quieting our thoughts on the mental level; and reenergizing us spiritually. By following a few simple steps, anyone can learn to meditate; even beginners may experience the calming effects of a few moments of purposeful silence. Michael Hathaway, a regression therapist and author of It’s Time to Simplify Your Soul’s Code sees meditation as a natural way to reconnect to the loving universe and find gratitude.
“Sending out positive thoughts act as a channel to attract back to us that same energy,” comments Hathaway. “Deepening our connection to our inner self, finding love and acceptance, creates a sacred space of peaceful satisfaction where we can then release our traumas and negative energy. Meditation only a few minutes a day can deepen our connection to the greater good and give us a nobler and more compassionate connection to nature and humanity.”
This connection to a deeper inner realm of guidance gives us wisdom and promotes physical health by the flow of positive energy throughout the body.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a spiritual leader whose lifework is dedicated to uplifting human values, agrees. He is the co-founder of the International Association for Human Values, a nonprofit service organization committed to promoting the development of human values throughout the world. He is also the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, a nonprofit educational and service organization designed to assist individuals at all levels of society in reaching their full human potential.
“Today I see the crisis in the world as one of identification: A man identifies himself with his profession, religion, race, culture, nationality, language, region, or sex. Only after that does he identify with being a human being. Limited identification leads to war. Through education we need to bring about a change in our basic identity. We are all first part of the Divine, and secondly, we are human beings. This can happen only through right spiritual knowledge,” explains Sri Ravi.
Mediation is not just for spiritualist new age thinkers and eastern gurus. It is now widely used by mainstream religious leaders.
“Transcendental Meditation is a bridge to deepen my religious commitment,” Fr. Dubi explains. “I meditate every morning before I celebrate Mass. I feel much clearer, much more centered, and much more silent inside… It enriches and enhances our understanding and empowers our prayer and allows me to come in conscious contact with a power that is greater than ourselves.”
Fr. Dubi was ordained as a priest in 1968. He has served as pastor of St. Victor Parish since 2005, after serving as the pastor of St. Anne’s Parish for 21 years. Father Dubi has been practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique for 36 years.
Meditation in Mainstream Medicine
Over the last two decades, meditation has increased in popularity in mainstream medicine and is now recognized as a tool to improve well-being, increase mental awareness, maintain physical health, and reduce or eliminate the use of medication for dealing with chronic pain and attention disorders and for lowering blood pressure. The National Institute of Health (NIH) established the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) to identify and research alternative healing modalities. Created in 1999, the NCCAM under the NIH was formed with the goals of funding research, research training, the dissemination of health information, and other programs with respect to identifying, investigating, and validating complementary and alternative treatment, diagnostic and prevention modalities, disciplines and systems. Since 1999, NCAMM has funded thousands of research studies at over 200 institutions. The rise in spending on alternative medical care such as meditation in the US is in the billions; in 2009, ABC News reported that 38% of the population spends money on alternative treatments adding up to over $34 billon.
Reports over the years have proven the effectiveness of meditation for spiritual and physical health, known in the scientific community to be intricately connected. For example, in a report, issued on May 8, 2006, by ScienCentral News (www.sciencentral.com), Massachusetts General Hospital psychologist, Sara Laza, is quoted as saying she can see measurable physical changes in the brains of people who routinely meditate.
“Meditation can have a serious impact on your brain long beyond the time when you’re actually sitting and meditating, and this may have a positive impact on your day-to-day living,” said Lazar, an instructor at Harvard Medical School.
Transcendental Meditation for Health and Preventative Care
One of the most well-known methods of meditation today is Transcendental Meditation. Hundreds of scientific studies have been conducted on the benefits of the TM program at 200 universities and research institutions world-wide over the last 40 years, and the NIH awarded $26 million to research TM for reducing stress with a focus on cardiovascular disease. According to Bob Roth, Executive Director of the David Lynch Foundation:
“Transcendental meditation provides direct experience of the self with a capital “S” the unbounded, infinite, unchanging transcendental value of our innermost nature, the cosmic ego, our own true inner self. When we experience that, new healthier, more integrated connections are made between different parts of the brain.”
TM is used world-wide by the David Lynch Foundation as a means to alleviate PTSD in veterans and as a program to transform schools and learning. Roth explains:
“Children from the age of 10 and up can learn TM; it is very calming to the body and awakening to the mind. TM research has shown it to be effective for treating ADD and ADHD and autism.”
Already, mediation has shown effectiveness in reducing stress and anxiety and boosting test scores in school.
Reducing the use of medications is a primary concern for this generation of physicians, considering the ineffectiveness and dangerous side-effects caused by many medications especially when given to children. A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry concluded that mindfulness meditation is just as effective as antidepressants in preventing relapses of depression. Said researcher Stefan Hoffman, professor of psychology and Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, “I was skeptical at first. I wondered, ‘Why on Earth should this work?’ But it seems to work quite well.”
The biggest question is if meditation is so effective in treating patients then why isn’t it covered under our health insurance? Bob Roth seems to think that this will occur in the not so distant future.
“It is just a matter of a year or two before TM will be covered by most if not all of the largest health insurers,” according to Roth. “The reason is simple: with health care costs soaring, even bankrupting many businesses, insurance companies are desperate to find innovative, evidence-based approaches that can both prevent and treat disease and significantly reduce health costs. Meditation is going mainstream, and TM is seen as the gold standard of evidence-based meditation techniques.”
According to the Transcendental Meditation (TM) website, for instance, just 20 minutes of practice twice a day will reduce stress, improve health, enhance creativity, promote work success, and ultimately, create world peace.
Edgar Cayce, labeled the “Father of Holistic Medicine” by the American Medical Association, brought back knowledge from ancient civilizations for access to health and well-being. Cayce teachings emphasize how we can allow our body to continually rebuild itself with emphasis on diet, exercise, rest and meditation, which keeps us mentally and physically young and spiritually centered. This concept evolves as we adapt to the notion of our spiritual being as the most intricate part of the human physiology. Based on all the scientific evidence, Cayce was right about meditation – inexpensive and effective – certain to continue its rise in popularity in mainstream practice. This futuristic medicine is a method of blending a whole-body approach to wellness, a mind-body-spirit wisdom that combines scientific knowledge with spiritual acumen.
Read part 1 of this 3 part article series: Ego – Overcoming the Limitations of Personality While in Search of the Cosmic Self
About the Author
Deborah West worked in corporate public relations and media for over 20 years and is currently a freelancer, reporting on a wide variety of topics including disclosure, ancient and multidimensional civilizations, the the shift in humanity’s consciousness and brings truthful reporting to topics ranging from healthcare to energy. She writes a column called Lost Knowledge at The New Era Times and has a weekly radio show called Lost Knowledge on Tuesdays 3-5pm CST. To see her articles go to: http://www.tnetimes.com/contributor/deborah_west/92/
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