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Meditation, Transcendental Meditation - Mind Body Therapy and Alternative Therapy

More and more doctors are prescribing meditation as a way to lower blood pressure, improve exercise performance in people with angina, help people with asthma breathe easier, relieve insomnia and generally relax the everyday stresses of life. Meditation is a safe and simple way to balance a person's physical, emotional, and mental states. It is simple; but can benefit everybody.

Meditation is not just for yoga masters sitting cross-legged on mountaintops in the Himalayas. It's a flexible approach to coping with stress, anxiety, many medical conditions and the day-to-day "static" that robs us of inner peace. Today, the Pittsburgh International Airport boasts a large meditation room featuring a quiet ambiance, comfortable furniture and paintings of clouds. What better place than one of the nation's largest, busiest airports for a refuge from all the hustle and bustle?

The Taoist sage Chuang-tzu referred to meditation, which the Chinese simply call 'sitting still, doing nothing', as 'mental fasting'. Just as physical fasting purifies the essences of the body by withdrawing all external input of food, so the 'mental fasting' of meditation purifies the mind and restores the spirit's primal powers by withdrawing all distracting thoughts and disturbing emotions from the mind. In both physical and mental fasting, the cleansing and purifying processes are natural and automatic, but the precondition for triggering this process of self-rejuvenation is emptying body and mind of all input for a fixed number of minutes or days. Taoists believe that only by 'sitting still, doing nothing' can we muster sufficient mental clarity to focus fully on the difficult task of taming and training the two aspects of temporal mind that govern our lives - the mind of emotion and the mind of intent.


The use of Meditation for healing is not new. Meditative techniques are the product of diverse cultures and peoples around the world. It has been rooted in the traditions of the world's great religions. In fact, practically all religious groups practice meditation in one form or another. The value of Meditation to alleviate suffering and promote healing has been known and practiced for thousands of years.

Of the religions that use meditation, perhaps Buddhism, practiced widely in eastern and central Asia, is the best known. To Buddhists, the practice of meditation is essential for the cultivation of wisdom and compassion and for understanding reality. Buddhists believe that our ordinary consciousness is both limited and limiting. Meditation makes it possible to live life to the full spectrum of our conscious and unconscious possibilities.

In spite of its rich history and traditions, it is only during the past three decades that scientific study has focused on the clinical effects of meditation on health. During the 1960s, reports reached the West of yogis and meditation masters in India who could perform extraordinary feats of bodily control and altered states of consciousness. These reports captured the interest of Western researchers studying self-regulation and the possibility of voluntary control over the autonomic nervous system. At the same time, new refinements in scientific instrumentation made it possible to duplicate and substantiate some of these reports at medical research institutes. Health care professionals who were often dissatisfied with the side effects of drug treatments for stress-related disorders embraced meditation as a valuable tool for stress reduction, and today both patients and physicians enjoy the health benefits of regular meditation practice.

Herbert Benson, M.D., a professor at Harvard Medical School, describes the meditation experience as the "relaxation response." He discovered by studying various yogis and longtime meditators that the meditation process counteracted the effects of the sympathetic nervous system-the one that wants to fight or flee. Whereas the sympathetic system dilates the pupils and gets the heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure up, the parasympathetic system, activated when we meditate, does just the opposite. Muscle tension decreases, blood pressure drops, and for some extraordinary practitioners, even temperature and basal metabolism rates drop during a prolonged meditation. Oxygen needs of the body are reduced when you are in a highly relaxed state, and brain waves change from the busy beta-waves to the blissful alpha waves.

Next Topic: What Is Meditation?


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