Meditation is a term encompassing a broad range of practices adhered to by millions, if not billions, of the world’s population. There are many different definitions it goes by, for example Dr.’s Walsh and Shapiro of the American Psychology Association in their article in the American Psychologist Journal April 2006, entitled,”The Meeting of Meditative Disciplines and Western Psychology: A Mutually Enriching Dialogue,” they state that,”Meditation is now one of the most enduring, widespread, and researched of all psychotherapeutic methods.”
The Path to Enlightenment
Whilst the famous 6th century Indian scholar Siddhartha Gautama more commonly known as ‘Buddha’ described it as being “The Path to Enlightenment,’ Meditation became a practice that by the 12th Century BC had spread out to be incorporated into Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Taoism, Christianity and countless other religious practices.
In the more modern times, meditation has seen a revival by the ‘Hippie’ movement of the 60’s and 70’s, which drew heavy influences from Indian mystical traditions that have meditation as one of its core values. More recently the New Age spiritual movement and secular institutions such as the American National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and various universities, medical research centers, hospitals, health & fitness clubs and medical practices around the world, have promoted meditation to the general public as a means to enhance mental balance, alleviate stress and to treat a host of health ailments.
Meditation and Brain Patterns
Meditation has been the focus of many scientific and medical studies in recent years. According to an article in Science Daily on the 10th November 2005 entitled, ‘ Meditation Associated With Increased Grey Matter in The Brain,’ the authors reiterate that, “Meditation is known to alter resting brain patterns, suggesting long lasting brain changes… researchers from Yale, Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows meditation also is associated with increased cortical thickness…changes were found in areas of the brain that are important for sensory, cognitive and emotional processing.”
According to an article by Marc Kaufman for The Washington Post dated 3 January 2005, entitled, “Meditation Gives Brain a Charge, Study Finds,” Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at The University of Wisconsin’s new $10 million W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior found that, “…the longtime practitioners showed brain activation on a scale we have never seen before…their mental practice is having an effect on the brain in the same way golf or tennis practice will enhance performance…it demonstrates that the brain is capable of being trained and physically modified in ways few people can imagine.”
Meditation and Physical Reality
Research on meditation is starting to show that people in meditative states are able to affect physical reality in ways that were previously thought impossible. In the 1970’s a group of social scientists in America studied the effect of small meditation groups on various social factors such as crime rate and terrorism and found that small groups of people could positively impact these negative social occurrences. This research has been dubbed the ‘Maharishi Effect’. Although various attempts to debunk it as ‘pseudoscience’ have been made it has nonetheless yielded significant results.
The potential benefits of meditation have such far-reaching implications that the scientific, medical and social institutions worldwide have taken a serious approach to it. There is no one method of doing meditation with potentially millions of different approaches taught throughout the world but the core principles are all the same; find a quiet place to sit, close your eyes and still your mind.
A simple search online or in your local bookstore on ‘How to meditate’ will produce results; it is up to to yourself to find which way suits you best!
Walsh, Roger; Shapiro, Shauna L. American Psychologist, Vol 61(3), Apr 2006, 227-239. “The Meeting of Meditative Disciplines and Western Psychology: A Mutually Enriching Dialogue.”
Catherine Kerr, Rachel Wasserman Jeffery Dusek, Herbert Benson and Metta McGarvey, Harvard; Douglas Greve, Brian Quinn, Bruce Fischl, Michael Treadway and Scott Rauch, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Christopher Moore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ScienceDaily. Nov. 10, 2005. “Meditation Associated With Increased Grey Matter In The Brain.”
Marc Kaufman, The Washington Post, January 3, 2005, Page A05. “Meditation Gives Brain a Charge, Study Finds.”
Maharishi University of Management