In the Mind-Body Connection spirit of this site and blog, invited guest contributor Shielagh Shusta-Hochberg, Ph.D. offers a post on Healing Through Meditation.
Research has identified a mechanism by which mindful meditation affects the body at the molecular level, altering activity of genes that control inflammation (a precursor of disease), increases our ability to deal with stress, lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke, relieves chronic lower back pain and aids in cancer therapy. The RIPK2 and COX2 genes, which increase inflammation, were found to be less active in people practicing meditation than in test-subjects. The researchers noted that these genes are being studied as targets for many inflammation-reducing medications. Meditation has also been shown to produce changes in the brain’s structure. People who have meditated for many years have more gray matter than non-meditators.– Joan
Healing Through Meditation
Shielagh Shusta-Hochberg, Ph.D.
Meditation is an ancient practice that has become very mainstream over the past few decades. Celebrities extoll its virtues, doctors recommend it for patients, therapists urge clients to try it, and libraries, community centers and health clubs offer classes in meditation along with yoga, tai chi, and aerobics. Chances are you know someone who practices meditation. Perhaps you yourself already meditate. If so, you already know the benefits. If not, perhaps reading this will inspire you to try meditation or return to it if you left it.
Meditation’s History and Variations
There are many forms of meditation: Loving Kindness (metta), Insight (vipassana,) Calm Abiding (shamatha), Concentration (dhyana), Mindfulness (sati), Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR), chanting, Zen parables (koans), Transcendental Meditation (TM), and quite a few others. Meditation comes to us from India where it was practiced in the earliest Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
Yogic meditation was studied about 2,500 years ago by a rich, Indian prince by the name of Gautama Siddhartha who left his life of affluence to seek enlightenment. After wandering through parts of India, China, Nepal and Tibet and studying with teachers he hoped could enlighten him, he followed an ascetic path of self-denial and neglect of the physical self. He came to believe in time that asceticism was a mistaken self-imposed suffering.
Gautama eventually found the state of enlightenment he sought by sitting still and quiet for many months in what we now call a meditative state, seated beneath a tree which became known as the Bodhi tree or tree of awakening. As one who achieved enlightenment, he became known as The Buddha. Having realized the enlightenment he had sought, The Buddha searched out past teachers and fellow ascetics to share what he had learned and urge them to live accordingly if they would. Many joined him and continued to share the message after his death. Many millions have followed his teachings, and millions around the world follow them today.