Anxiety, Health, Meditation, Mental Health, Stress, Stress Relief

Meditation for Health

When I say “meditation”, what do you imagine? A monk in a tan robe? A hippy with long hair and cut off shorts? A woman in yoga pants and a ponytail? Meditation can be all of those things. The truth is that meditation looks different to everyone. Because, it isn’t something you can see, it is what you feel. Meditation is the state of profound peace that occurs when the mind is quiet, and thoughts are silent. If you just want to see the benefits, jump to the bottom of the page.

Meditation History

The history is more complex than you might think. Different research, books, and schools of meditation refer to the ‘age-old tradition’, but as to how long meditation has been around as practice really depends on your definition.

Looking at meditation, it is speculated that the practice might be as old as humanity itself with the potential meditative capacities of Neanderthals. For example, in India, some of the oldest written records from around 1500 BC talk of training the mind with meditation. Also, Buddhist scriptures dating back to only a few hundred BC are even descriptive of earlier forms of meditation. The Chinese use different terms to describe what we believe as historic meditation practices such as “guarding the middle”, “embracing simplicity” and “guarding tranquility”.

 The truth is, no one knows for absolute certain when meditation officially started. There are so many references across different cultures and religions – including Judaism, Islam, and Christianity – to meditative-like practices, which all seem to have contributed to the practice known widely today.

Much like pinning down how long meditation has been around for, pinpointing where exactly it originates is equally tricky.

Who Invented Meditation?

Do we know who created the art of meditation? In a nutshell, no we don’t. Because the where and when are quite hazy, discovering the who is equally challenging. Some of what we do know, however, indicates a few core people who have been instrumental in spreading the practice of meditation.

The Buddha was a prince who became a monk, philosopher and leader of religion. Some people think that he was the one who started the practice, but he actually sought out help from other teachers to help him learn. So, although he was instrumental in spreading the value of meditation as a practice, the Buddha himself did not invent it.

Lao-Tze  was an ancient Chinese philosopher whose name is essentially an honor title meaning ‘Old Teacher’ or ‘Old Master’. People actually speculate if he was a real person or whether the name is just a collection of philosophers who shared ideas. He is credited as the author of the philosophical system of Taoism.

Dosho was a Japanese monk who, in the 7th century, traveled to China and studied Buddhism. It was during this journey that Dosho learned all about the process of Zen, which he then returned to Japan with. When he returned, he opened his first meditation hall dedicated to the practice of a sitting meditation.

Despite all of the information we have on these historic leaders, we have no idea who actually came up with the idea to meditate.

Modern Meditation

In 1993 Deepak Chopra published his book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, and in 1996 it was featured on Oprah, selling more than 137,000 copies in one day. As more celebrities came forward to praise the practice of meditation in their lives, more books about the how-and-why to meditate began to appear. From there, it really began to take off.

By 2012, there were almost one thousand mindfulness-based programs available across the world. Today, mindfulness and meditation are prolific across Western society with resources and schools – both online and offline – available to help guide you to find a practice that works for you. The research and medical science communities continue to keep studying meditation’s benefits, with more and more studies demonstrating its positive implications for a range of mental and physical conditions.

Meditation Research

I am not going to bore you with tons of research quotes and statistics, but this is one super cool study that I found. In 1955 the first study using an electroencephalogram (EEG) occurred. In the 1960s, some of the first Western research took place at the Menninger Clinic in Kansas, United States, with Swami Rama, a senior Yogi from the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science. The studies were led by an American psychologist called Gardner Murphy and specifically focused on investigating Swami Rama’s abilities to control different bodily functions that were previously thought completely involuntary, such as his heartbeat and blood pressure.

Through the studies, Swami Rama demonstrated the ability to:

  • Produce different types of brain waves on demand – alpha, delta, theta, and gamma
  • The ability to alter his heartbeat radically, including increasing it to 300 beats per minute for 16 seconds and completely stopping it from beating for a few seconds
  • The ability to remain conscious of the surrounding environment while his brain was in the deep sleep cycle
  • The ability to control his skin and internal body temperature

 Insane, right? So, imagine if he could do that, what could you do? Have you thought about using meditation to help control stress? To find a deeper sense of peace? To escape the crazy world?

Benefits of Meditation

Some of the best benefits of meditation can be found in scientific studies. And some can’t. Some are based off of the testimonies of regular, everyday people. Here are the best benefits that I was able to find.

  1.  Research shows that meditation practitioners have 5 times greater clarified gamma output (positive feelings like love, happiness; well-being).
  2. Research has shown reduction in the stress levels and better decision making. This, in turn, leads to higher efficiency at work place in both small and big organizations.
  3. Regular meditation raises school performance (higher academic achievement, less absenteeism, better graduation rates), and that goes for all school levels from kindergarten to college.
  4. Meditating leads to higher brain integration, which in turn sets the basis for mental alertness, original thought and creative problem-solving skills.
  5. Meditation practice brings significant improvement in professional and personal relationships, based on increased happiness and reduced stress.
  6. Mortality rates from various fatal heart conditions were cut by 48% with regular practice of meditation found a key study with patients suffering from cardiovascular disease.
  7. Lower levels of stress mean better sleep, don’t they? Taking up meditation regularly, at least twice
  8. Research shows that meditation practitioners have 5 times greater clarified gamma output (positive feelings like love, happiness; well-being).
  9. Improved functional capacity for patients with various heart conditions / heart failure. Risk of heart disease cut by 30%; mortality from stroke decreases 48%.
  10. Another crucial benefit of meditation is that it reduces blood pressure on average by 7 mm/Hg. It also thus reduces such conditions as heart attack, aneurysm, artery damage, kidney failure etc
  11. Regular Transcendental Meditation practice strengthens the body’s ability to resist disease by boosting immune cells fighting against viruses, bacteria and toxins.
  12. Learning to let the mind calm down in a natural, easy-to-do way helps in growing from frequent temper tantrums into a happy, well-adjusted personality.
  13. Meditation significantly reduces addiction to and use of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. With regular practice, the abstinence strengthens naturally.
  14. Research shows that benefits of meditation include more effective recovery from food addiction, due to lower stress levels. Binge eating, as any other kind of addiction, is largely triggered by stress.
  15. Arguably the single biggest benefit of meditation is a more balanced nervous system and hormonal levels which eliminate any excessive flight-or-fight responses by our body. In other words, meditation has been shown to naturally lead to a calmer life.

Personally, my biggest reasons for using meditation are accepting the way my mind works, controlling my eating habits and increasing the positivity in my life. Happiness can help a person along their health path.

Now, after hearing all of those fantastic bonuses to meditation, what are you waiting for? Have you considered giving it a try? Tell me about your journey.

Meditation is good for your health
Meditation for Health

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