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Even before the advent of allopathic medicine sometime around 400 AD, health care providers have known that meditation, and positive imagery can result in sometimes astounding physical changes. For instance, it is fully documented that Tibetan, and Buddhist monks can deliberately slow their heartbeat low enough to almost induce a catatonic state. Hindu yoga masters can endure unbelievable pain, with little or no apparent damage to their tissues. Walking on hot coals, laying on beds of nails, and other seemingly impossible feats are accomplished regularly, with no trickery involved. The Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures learned very early on that meditation can be used to facilitate healing, and they incorporated it into their healing systems of Ayurveda, Qi Gong, and Chinese Medicine. They have been using it for thousands of years. Since none of these people are extinct, and are, in fact, thriving in the modern world, most with limited access to western medicine, one might think there was something to it.
Since the 1960s, the western world has become more interested in alternative healing techniques, especially those that incorporate non-physical methods, such as meditation, reiki, and other positive imagery systems. Hundreds of studies have been completed at research facilities all over the world, with many published in the most prestigious peer-reviewed publications in the world, such as Psychology Today, the International Journal of Neuroscience, the American Journal of Physiology, and more…. The National Institute of Health has awarded over $26 million in research grants, to over 200 research facilities over the last 40 years, and the amount is increasing every year. The amazing thing about these studies is that the results of all of them were consistently positive.
Let’s look at a few studies and learn more about benefits of meditation.
A 2005 study conducted at the Massachusetts General Hospital found that people who meditated regularly had thicker areas of the brain associated with attention, and sensory perception. In 2009, a study conducted at Aarhus University in Denmark found that gray matter was denser in people who meditated, especially in the areas that control cardiac-pulmonary functions. Even short-term meditation can result in significant physiological changes. A 2010 study conducted at the University of Oregon found that physiological changes in the brain can occur in as little as 11 hours. There are several dozen more studies that all point to the same thing; that meditation not only can address emotional issues, memory, control pain, and such…but also help the body to control vital functions such as blood pressure, blood sugar, etc…, and to help the body heal itself from injuries, and control diseases like diabetes, fibromyalgia, lupus, and more…. The results are indisputable.
Studies would seem to indicate that meditation works by reducing the functions of various parts of the brain, namely the frontal lobe, which is the most highly evolved part of the brain. This controls reasoning, planning, and self-awareness. During meditation, this part of the brain apparently goes ‘offline’ and allows the other more primitive parts of the brain to take over, and then the frontal load ‘resets’ itself. Other parts of the brain also have reduced function during meditation, such as the thalamus, parietal lobe, and reticular formations. These are responsible for processing sensory information from the outside world, and orienting itself in time and space. The “fight or flight” responses are circumvented. This seems to have the effect of allowing the brain to allocated more resources to healing, and systemic enhancement, much like shutting down some programs on your computer, defragmenting the hard drive, and rebooting it.
If you are interested in improving your life, getting healthier, and being happier, it appears that meditation may be a very good place to start.
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Meditation Experience is Associated with Increased Cortical Thickness: Sara W. Lazar, Catherine E. Kerr, […], and Bruce Fischl
The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter: Eileen Ludersa, Arthur W. Togaa, Natasha Leporea, Christian Gaserb
Short-term meditation induces white matter changes in the anterior cingulate: Yi-Yuan Tanga, Qilin Lua, Xiujuan Gengc, Elliot A. Steinc, Yihong Yangc, Michael I. Posner
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