Meditation, defined as the emptying of the mind of thoughts, or the concentration of the mind on one thing, in order to aid mental or spiritual development, contemplation, or relaxation, is a practice that has been widely used for centuries, and has been scientifically proven to benefit a wide range of physical, mental, and emotional ailments.
Because of the vastness of this topic, I feel that it is necessary to break it into three articles.
- Benefits of meditation
- Different types of meditation
- How to meditate.
This first article will explain the claims made about meditation, scientific studies that either validate or disparage such claims, and the eastern vs. western view on meditation.
There are many physical and psychological benefits associated with meditation. Benefits include:
- Reduction of stress and depression
- Reducing cholesterol
- Making changes to the brain physically or mentally
- Lowering blood pressure
- Spiritual enlightenment
These claims have inspired numerous scientific studies, that have for the most part, validated the majority of these claims. The practice of meditation in a general sense should be something that is easy to accept, based on the knowledge of cortisol production, and how reducing stress affects your body.
Prior knowledge on these topics conclude that: Stress is a natural process that allows for rapid mobilization of the bodies resources in times where it is perceived that one’s life is in danger. This was very useful in primitive times, however its use has degraded considerably in our current age. We no longer have to worry about a saber tooth tiger attacking us in our sleep, however stress still is prevalent in our life’s, and while occasional stress is necessary when the body is in physical danger, chronic stress causes many physical ailments, and is a serious problem in our world.
Cortisol is the hormone that is linked to stress, it thickens the blood, and as a result chronic stress has been linked to increased blood pressure. Serotonin is produced when one meditates. This neurotransmitter calms the body down, cortisol production decreases, the blood thins, and therefore lower blood pressure is the result.
It is common knowledge that meditation calms those practicing it down, and as a result lowers stress. It is not common knowledge however, that prolonged stress has been scientifically proven to harm people in a variety of ways. If someone lowers the intensity of their stress by using meditation, the symptoms of the ailments caused by stress would also decrease.
There is also the spiritual implications of meditation that have not yet been addressed. It is not easy to scientifically prove the spiritual claims made about something, and meditation is no exception. It is true however that meditation spans generations, and, depending how you look at it, is prevalent in almost all societies, religions, belief systems, and cultures around the world.
In a spiritual sense, meditation is defined as either looking outward or inward for a particular result, whether it be spiritual enlightenment, or guidance on a particular situation. Therefore it can be concluded that all religions practice some form of meditation, whether it be prayer, intention setting, or meditation itself. This is putting a label on a wide variety of spiritual practices, which in most cases is not encouraged, and therefore I am not going to claim that this statement is true.
When comparing the western view on meditation to the eastern view, one can see vast differences in the mindset of the practitioners. In the west, meditation is viewed as a symptom resolver, something that will fix this, this, and this. This is tremendously different than the eastern view, which is the attainment of spiritual enlightenment, and the elimination of suffering.
Yes, there is enormous scientific evidence supporting the theory that meditation does in fact reduce or remove said symptoms, however, it is the mindset that you associate the meditation with that defines the benefits for a particular individual. This means that those practicing meditation for the purpose of spiritual enlightenment will receive spiritual enlightenment, and those practicing meditation to reduce or remove a particular symptom, will see nothing more than the reducing or removing of that symptom.
*Disclaimer: This post is the product of my personal opinion based on prior research done online, as well as my personal experience with Meditation. There may very well be logical fallacies with the content of this post, and I am open to suggestions on how to resolve such fallacies. Please do not assume that the content of this post is absolute truth, and I encourage those interested to do their own research on the topic.*
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