Meditation – not just for the mind! – Shelby Sun

Last week I attended a talk by Dr. Herb Smith a former Rhodes College psychology professor. He was teaching meditation.

I am often asked , “what is meditation?”

As doctors we have a fairly sophisticated definition. Scientifically we define meditation “as stylized mental technique from … (Eastern Traditions)… repetitively practiced for the purpose of attaining a subjective experience that is frequently describes as very restful, silent and of heightened alertness, often characterized as blissful.”

“What?” you ask.

In lay language,  it is “a simple process of watching your own mind. Not fighting with your mind. Not trying to control it either. Just remaining there as a choice less witness.” In meditation there is no prejudice, and no judgment,” as described by the website.

In the 1960’s,  a Harvard professor secretly brought Tibetan monks into his laboratory and conducted various physiological tests while they were meditating. He found things which are obvious today, but were startling then. Meditation altered the physiology of the body.

By meditation, the monks were able to alter their skin temperature, oxygen consumption, blood pressure and heart rate.  Today, studies show that a single session of meditation alters brain activity. Scientists have studied people who listened to a meditation audiotape and compared them to those who listened to another non-meditation audiotape. The people listening to the meditation tape had greater reduction in frontal EEG beta activity which is consistent with increased relaxation.

These findings have led some researchers to describe meditation as the fourth major state of consciousness after ordinary waking, dreaming, and deep sleep.

Further studies have shown that with continuous  practice these benefits of increased relaxation not only last for the meditation session but much after. Yet do these physiologic changes translate to health benefits? Undoubtedly, yes! Medical benefits of meditation are an intense area of research under the field of alternative medicine.
The findings show that meditators have:

  • 50% reduction in inpatient and outpatient medical care utilization
  • 87% reduction in hospitalization for heart disease
  • 55% reduction in hospitalization for cancer
  • 70% fewer medical problems over 40 years of age
  • 12 years younger in biological age compared to chronological age

For the sake of our body – we must gear up our minds with meditation.