Animals are very tuned to potential threats. Even this zoned out kitty, if it hears a noise in the back of the room, will point its ears back to pinpoint the sound (which is a deeply ingrained, “startle response” system that humans share with animals). But animals, unlike many humans, resolve threats very quickly–they don’t have the modern cortex that conceptually focuses on the threat (or imagined threats); they’re not capable of obsessing over why things happen and whether they’ll happen again. Their fight or flight responses works well and they’re always capable of fight or flight (or freezing) responses, but theirs is a more balanced system of fear/reaction regulation. Not so, often times, for the less lucky humans. But meditation and mindfulness can help mitigate the effects of stressful ancient brain activity in the modern mind, and decades of research proves it.
In the East, meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, and was used to help deepen understanding of the meaning of life. This is still true today, but in these days, meditation is increasingly a part of the lifestyles of those in the East and the West to reduce stress, increase relaxation, and actually improve physical health.
Meditation Benefits. Meditation today is now increasingly accepted in the mainstream medical world as a complement to traditional Western methods of treatment. Even that vaunted medical institution, the Mayo Clinic, (while acknowledging the caveat that not everyone in the medical field is convinced of meditation’s benefits) has this to say about Meditation:
Meditation and emotional well-being
When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress. The emotional benefits of meditation include:
. Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
. Building skills to manage your stress
. Increasing self-awareness
. Focusing on the present
. Reducing negative emotions
Meditation and illness
Meditation has been shown to help improve illnesses, especially that that are worsened by stress.
“…a growing body of scientific research supports the health benefits of meditation, some researchers believe it’s not yet possible to draw conclusions about the possible benefits of meditation. research indicates that meditation can help combat a wide range of physical ailments, including:
. Anxiety disorders
. Binge eating
. Heart disease
. High blood pressure
. Sleep problems
. Substance abuse
The science if proven, the data is in, and there’s no need to relegate meditation to a stigmatized ritual practiced by people who smell distinctly of pachoulli (not that there’s anything wrong with that!!)
This is a very brief primer on the benefits of meditation. For more detailed information, as well as an interesting history of meditation in the West, please check out this comprehensive PDF from noetic.org: The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation.
Yours in Mental Hygiene,
The Ancient Brain and Modern Mindfulness Team