Buddhist monks have been doing it for thousands of years. Meditate, that is. And they are the most calm, peaceful and stress-free people I can think of. Yogis have adopted this ancient practice as well, to help balance the mind, body and spirit, as they work on their path towards finding union. Meditation has been praised for it’s ability to tame the mind, thereby eliminating suffering caused by racing thoughts, negativity, and false perceptions, allowing one to experience life with focused attention, compassion and joy. The concept has been thought by many as somewhat fringe. Controlling the mind? Willing away bad thoughts and evil just by sitting cross-legged on the floor with your eyes closed? You have to admit, it sounds a bit like something you would see in a movie. And without cold, hard scientific proof, there was no way to show how meditation actually worked, to measure the success, or to explain why someone felt better after meditating.
Well, thanks to the advancement of research, we now have scientific evidence that meditation does indeed impact brain functions, helping those that suffer from chronic and acute pain, find relief. This comes from a report released by The US Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, who will be using the findings to recommend changes to health care coverage. You can listen to the CBC Radio broadcast of this story by clicking here: CBC.ca
Basically, the panel of researchers looked at studies conducted on meditation, specific to people living with pain, and found that those who meditated saw a decrease in their pain scale score, compared to those who did not meditate. They also saw a decrease in their anxiety score. As Dr. Peter Lin explains in the broadcast, pain is caused by neurons firing in the brain. With the use of MRI scans, they were able to look at the brains of monks while they were meditating, and saw that the monks were actually able to turn on and off parts of their brain during meditation. Skeptics may say that monks are special people, so naturally they would be able to control their brains. Seems like a fair comment. So they applied the same study to a group of university students, as representatives of “average” everyday people. They trained these students on meditation techniques, scanned their brains, and found that their brain functions changed as well. These findings are sure to put meditation more on the forefront of alternative healthcare, now that we have a science way of explaining how it heals us. And from a cost perspective, it is relatively inexpensive compared to drugs, with no side effects. It does, however, require you to set aside time to actually do the meditation. Which can prove to be a challenge for most, given that time can be a rare commodity.
Do you have a regular meditation practice? If your doctor prescribed it as a treatment, would you give it a try?