MeditationMeditation is considered to be the single most powerful self-help tool that assists recovery from disease and leads to a life of maximum health.

A long history

by Graham Clouston

The earliest written records of meditation being practiced come from China and are dated around 5000 BC. In India, meditation appeared around 1500 BC, and in the West, in Greece, about 750 BC. Whilst associated primarily with Eastern cultures and religions, meditation is a widespread and long-lasting phenomenon.

Meditation 6Until the early 1960s meditation in the West was largely the domain of spiritual seekers.
Most meditation was taught and practiced within the context of either a Hindu yogic, Sufi, Buddhist or Taoist framework. Then came the Age of Aquarius. The Beatles went to India, met the Maharishi and brought Transcendental Meditation ™ back to the West. Meditation then became widely practiced.

Meditation 7From the 1960’s innovative doctors and psychologists began to realize that meditation had specific therapeutic applications. This coincided with the beginnings of “mind-body
medicine”. The twenty-first century has seen a series of breakthroughs in neurological research, in the field of neuroplasticity, supporting the use of meditation and mindfulness as a therapy.

Mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness developed alongside of meditation. Mindfulness is the ability to live in the present moment. It is a Buddhist meditation technique and has been used for over 3000 years.

Mindfulness and the teaching of it as a stand-alone technique is a recent phenomenon. Meditation and mindfulness are regarded as one practice.

There are some 6000 published scientific studies on meditation. Some interesting results are:

 Meditation produces high levels of melatonin in the body helping us sleep. Adequate sleep is vital, being the time that the immune system repairs cells and cleans out the body.
 Meditation decreases the density of your brain areas associated with stress and anxiety and increases brain matter in the areas associated with empathy and memory. Decreasing stress boosts your immune system. As meditation is a stress reliever it is also an immune booster.
 Meditation leads to a calm and clear mind.

 The more you meditate the more virus antibodies you produce. This is important for virus linked cancers e.g., HPV has been linked to cervical cancer. (Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are a group of common viruses spread through skin to skin contact.)
 Meditation significantly increases telomerase activity in immune cells. Telomerase is commonly known as the anti-aging enzyme because it allows cells to live longer. Meditation results in immune cells living longer – useful in dealing with cancer.
 Meditation can change gene expression, allowing the body to turn healthy genes on and potentially unhealthy genes, such as oncogenes, off.
 Meditation has been shown to assist with healing.
 The practice of meditation commonly leads to the deepening of one’s spiritual connection.
 Meditation (along with diet, exercise, social Support and a strong spiritual connection) is an element of Mind Body Medicine.

Different techniques

Meditation 1There are differing techniques in meditation. Essentially however, the objective is to still the mind. This can achieved by a process of mindfulness-based stillness meditation where we learn to–

 relax the body
 calm the mind
 progress, using mindfulness, into the deeper stillness of meditation.

It can also be achieved by using a mantra based technique, similar to that used in Transcendental Meditation ™. Typically a two word mantra is repeated for twenty minutes each morning and evening.

To improve your health, if you are not already doing so, learn to meditate and meditate daily.

(Graham has meditated for over 30 years and teaches meditation at the Cancer Society in New Plymouth.)