We live in an increasingly noisy environment with countless distractions. There is so much environmental noise, mental noise in our modern lifestyles that stillness, quiet and calm focus is become a rarity. All this noise creates a low-level chronic stress on our physical and nervous systems. Chronic stress is a major factor in chronic disease.
What we need more now than ever are tools to help us to be mindful of the present moment, to decrease our stress response and ultimately to be awake and alive to every experience. The Buddhists have studied the nature of the mind for hundreds of years and calls the distracted mind – “the monkey mind”. Meditation is one of those tools that can help us still the mind. It is like a pond which when calm, perfectly reflects back its surroundings (the true nature of reality. If the pond surface is disturbed, the ripples and fluctuations distort the reflection of the surroundings.
There is increasing evidence that meditation is beneficial for our health. Research has shown that it reduces blood pressure, chronic pain, headaches, anxiety and depression. It has also been shown to be effective in boosting immune function, brain function and productivity. It costs nothing and has no side effects.
Scientific studies have shown clearly that something is happening to brain chemistry when people meditate. Functional MRI scans on Buddhist monks have shown that meditation produces long-lasting changes in brain biochemistry in areas involved with attention, working memory, learning and conscious perception.
An article published in January JAMA Internal Medicine journal that reviewed 47 trials looking at the effects of medicine concluded that there was insufficient evidence to recommend meditation as a therapy. However the authors did state that they found moderate evidence that mindfulness meditation alleviates pain, anxiety and depression – the latter two to a similar degree as antidepressant therapy. I will say again – meditation costs nothing and has no side effects. How much scientific evidence to you need for a therapy that has no side effects? The only side effect of meditation is an increasing sense of connectedness, awareness and presence!
I truly believe that a type of meditative practice where we find time and space to be quiet, to observe our mind, to become more present, to reflect, to feel compassion and gratitude is absolutely essential for health and wellbeing. Meditation should be a daily routine just like flossing our teeth! Once you begin to practice, you will begin to feel the benefits. The true evidence is the direct felt experience that you will have of feeling more alive!
There is a growing body of evidence that is showing the measurable benefits of meditation.