What is meditation?
Meditation is a focused state of inner absorption whereby the individual consciously relaxes their mind to achieve a deeper state of awareness and inner calm.
Why is it important?
Meditation has recently begun to be scientifically studied, and the health benefits are varied, including improved psychological and physical well being. It is becoming apparent that meditation rejuvenates us in a way that is not completely clear at present.
What research has been done into the subject of meditation?
Meditation research has primarily used long-term meditators, who have actually changed the physical structure of their brains. Neuroscientist Sara Lazar has found that cortical thickness, which decreases with age, was thicker in the brains of those who meditated regularly.
Some experienced meditators have also been found to be able to control physiological processes such as heart rate, skin temperature, and skin conductance. During a study with monks at Harvard University, the experienced meditators were actually able to dry cold wet towels placed on their backs just by raising their body temperature.
Research with the Transcendental Meditation (TM) institute have also yielded positive results with over 600 studies verifying the physiological benefits of meditation. Meditation is now believed to improve brain functioning, reduce stress, enhance mental focus, and increase happiness.
There have also been recent studies using meditation with children, especially those with ADHD and similar hyperactivity disorders, of which they responded extremely positively to a program of meditation.
How is meditation demonstrated?
Meditation is usually done in an upright position, and there is usually a point of focus to still the ‘mental chatter’ of the conscious mind. This could be focusing on a candle, focusing on the breath, or focusing on an inner mental image.
Can you practise meditation?
Meditation is now widely practised in the West and is becoming a viable remedy for psychological and even physical ailments. Meditation is fast becoming a tool for general well being, and its popularity is now becoming recognised both within psychology and mainstream medicine.