Meditation feels good
Merely a couple decades ago meditation was seen as a strange, New Agey thing. But times have changed quite a bit, and these days wherever we look we can see meditation being discussed: in academia, medicine, corporate settings, healthclubs, and even in public schools.
Some of the most famous meditation teachers and researchers were Sixties and Seventies dropouts from renowned American universities. Dissatisfied with the status quo, they travelled to Asia and other remote areas of the world to research other approaches to understanding and developing the human mind. Though many came back loaded with interesting teachings, new questions, and powerful experiences, their former professors where not especially interested. Not at first, anyway. But these pioneers piqued the interest of some famous celebrities and many other seekers, and their findings slowly made their way into the culture and into respectability.
Today Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and colleagues from other disciplines can look back at rich careers, decades of successful work. The former pioneers are now nearly retired. They give talks, write books, and share their experience and their knowledge with thousands of followers and students.
In the last two decades the number of research projects in the field of relaxation and meditation has dramatically increased. And especially with the help of the new disciplines within the neuroscience, surprising findings are now showing up on a daily basis.
Just to mention a few of the now scientifically proven benefits of meditation: deeper relaxation; better concentration and depth of breath; lower breathing rate, lower pulse frequency, and lower blood pressure. Meditation can support prevention and recovery from disease; cause positive changes in the brain and immune system; raise our wellbeing; relieve the suffering of difficult emotions; and slow down the aging process. And there are many, many more benefits that are yet to be found! It appears that science is starting with the physical, and gradually making its way to the cognitive, the ethical, and the psychological. (Maybe one day, the spiritual?)
According to research…
So how and why do meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation affect us so strongly? Meditation research has especially taken off since medical assessment methods have been able to measure, map, and picture what’s happening in our brain and within our nervous system. If you’d like to look deeper into this, you can find some resources below.
- Overview of the benefits of meditation
- Another list of basic benefits of meditation
- Nobel Prize-winner Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn on aging and meditation
- A TED talk by neuroscientist Sara Whitney Lazar, Ph.D. about beneficial effects of meditation in relation to our brain
- Dr. Daniel Siegel offers a beautiful talk about mindfulness and integration