In Profile: Benefits of Meditation

Find out some of the ways in which science has discovered how meditation can help the health and well being of the body and mind. Thanks to our friends at Osho News for giving us permission to re-publish these fascinating articles.

Finding peace through meditation

Finding peace through meditation

“In a recent article in TIME magazine, it was reported that “Researchers led by Tonya Jacobs of the University of California-Davis compared 30 participants at a meditation retreat held at the Shambhala Mountain Centre in Colorado with matched controls on a waiting list for the retreat. Participants meditated six hours per day for three months. Their meditation centred on mindfulness – for instance, focusing solely on breathing, in the moment – and on loving kindness and enhancing compassion towards others.”

Now here comes the stimulating scientific explanation: “After the three-month intervention, researchers found that the meditators had on average about 30% more activity of the enzyme telomerase than the controls did. Telomerase is responsible for repairing telomeres, the structures located on the ends of chromosomes, which, like the plastic aglets at the tips of shoelaces, prevent the chromosome from unravelling. Each time a cell reproduces, its telomeres become shorter and less effective at protecting the chromosome – this, researchers believe, is a cause of aging. As the chromosome becomes more and more vulnerable, cell copying becomes sloppier and eventually stops when the telomeres disintegrate completely. Telomerase can mitigate – and possibly stop – cell aging.”

Of course the researchers are cautious as the subject is complex and don’t want to commit just yet. Elizabeth Blackburn, a study author who has won a Nobel Prize for her previous work on telomerase said, “Something about being on a retreat for three months changed the [amount of] telomerase in the retreat group. We didn’t prove that it was meditation [that caused the change]. A lot of things happened during the retreat. But the interesting thing was that the changes we saw tracked quantifiably with the change in people’s psychological well-being and outlook.”

Osho News, 29 January 2011

Osho News

Sara W Lazar

“Sara W. Lazar, PhD is an Associate Researcher in the Psychiatry Department at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School. She is a Board member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy and contributing author to Meditation and Psychotherapy.

Sara’s life changed course when she discovered yoga and meditation while recovering from a running injury. That was 12 years ago and now she is a cutting edge researcher in the field of neuroscience. She’s focusing on the effects of meditation on the brain. “While in grad school I started practising yoga and meditation, and found it to be incredibly helpful. I was less stressed, more focused and it really changed my perspective on a lot of things. I decided I would rather do research on meditation than on bacteria, so after I got my PhD, I found a lab that was willing to train me in neuroscience and let me do a small meditation study.” “

Osho News, 24 January 2013. This link includes Sara’s TED talk on the subject.

 

Osho News

Buddhist Monk Matthieu Ricard

Reported widely by various media, Matthieu Ricard, a French Tibetan Buddhist monk was declared the happiest man on Earth by a group of scientists at the University of Wisconsin.

In 2009, neuroscientist Richard Davidson wired up the French monk’s head with 256 sensors as part of a research project on hundreds of advanced practitioners of meditation.

The scans showed something remarkable: when meditating on compassion, Ricard’s brain produced a level of gamma waves linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory that were never even reported before in neuroscience literature. Furthermore, the scans also showed excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex, giving him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity. They discovered his brain produces a level of gamma waves never before reported in the field of neuroscience.

A former molecular geneticist who left his life and career behind to discover the secrets of Buddhism, Ricard is now a prominent monk in Kathmandu’s Shechen Monastery. He divides his year between isolated meditation, scientific research and accompanying the Dalai Lama as his adviser on trips to French-speaking countries and science conferences. He is passionately speaking on the reason why meditation can alter the brain and improve people’s happiness in the same way that lifting weights puts on muscle.

“It’s a wonderful area of research because it shows that meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree but it completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are,” he told AFP recently.

He addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos at the height of the financial crisis in 2009 to tell gathered heads of state and business leaders it was time to give up greed in favour of “enlightened altruism”. Ricard sees living a good life, and showing compassion, not as a religious edict revealed from on high, but as a practical route to happiness:

“Try sincerely to check, to investigate,” he said. “That’s what Buddhism has been trying to unravel – the mechanism of happiness and suffering. It is a science of the mind.” “

By Bhagawati, Osho News, 4 December 2012

2 responses to “In Profile: Benefits of Meditation”

  1. Paige says:

    An interesting collection of articles. I think that the likes of yoga, massages and meditation can contribute to good health. After all, doesn’t stress and worry lead to health problems? The practices are thousands of years old and have a long history of success. However, realistically, how many people can afford to take out six hours a day to devote to these practices? Is this what is required for the methods to be beneficiary to a person’s health?

    • Sarita says:

      Please read my June Newsletter on meditation and all will be revealed on the subject you are enquiring about….

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