Benefits of Meditation for Physical and Mental Health Part 2
About the benefits of meditation for physical and mental health, history of the exercise, definitions and explanations.
Recharging Yourself through Meditation
With the explosion of Western interest in meditation came, inevitably, the scientists. They moved meditation into the laboratory, measured it, tested it, computerized it, and they found that the meditators were right. Meditation really did things for its advocates.
They were more relaxed. Galvanic skin response, which is higher when you are relaxed, has been known to quadruple during meditation, whereas it only doubles during a full night's sleep. Meditators have lower anxiety levels, so they become more tolerant. Their reaction times are faster, and their senses seem to be more alert. Oxygen consumption goes below sleep levels; the heartbeat and entire metabolism seem to slow during meditation. There is also evidence that meditation increases ESP scores and, perhaps most significant of all, it has helped drug users to get off drugs.
Of course these tests cannot be said to be typical of all meditators, or of all types of meditation. Some produce results very different from others. When a clicking sound is repeated near us, most people react sharply the 1st few times, then adapt to it by "tuning it out." In one test Zen meditators, who generally practice the awareness-of-environment type of meditation, did not adapt to the sound at all. They continued to react to each click as they did to the 1st. On the other hand, yoga meditators, given the same test, did not even react to the 1st click, presumably because much yoga meditation involves turning inward and tuning out the senses.
Much has been made of the connection between meditation and the alpha waves of the brain. Experienced meditators can usually emit strong alpha waves, and alpha from some parts of the brain does seem to evoke feelings of peace. However, some practitioners of Kriya yoga, who meditate on visions of deities, have been found to emit very fast beta waves, rather than the expected slower alpha. Thus not all meditation involves alpha, and it is certain that not all alpha waves involve meditation, so much research remains to be done in this area.
Exactly why meditation has the effects it does is not known for certain. It is suspected that in Western society people have become overintellectualized. The conscious mind rarely stops ticking, let alone pauses to try to commune with the subconscious. In meditation it is trained to quiet down, to tune out all external and internal noise. Then it can become aware of what is coming from the subconscious, enabling conscious and subconscious to work together in closer harmony, with less internal friction and consequently less stress. Beginning meditators, once they have mastered the basic techniques, may find themselves over-whelmed with long-forgotten memories, often very emotional ones. Obviously this can be deeply disturbing, and those who stop meditating because of this may report that meditation is harmful or frightening. However, when these experiences have been worked through and accepted into consciousness (as in psychoanalysis), the meditations become very peaceful. Patience is the key.
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