Today we are seeing the emergence of meditation and yoga as a day to day aspects of our modern life. Many young people are turning towards this system of mental control as a means of attaining higher awareness. They are finding that it helps them to gain more out of life and to overcome the vacuum that has been caused by the impact of modern life.
It has been found that the effects of meditation are the exact opposite of those caused by stress. It has also been found that the effects of meditation are an antidote to the effects of stress, illuminating the disease-causing negative spiral effects of certain lifestyles. This negative spiral is a vicious circle in which stress causes discomfort and disease arid this disease causes more stress and so on.
It is a fact that most people are unaware of having stored tensions within. If you think you have no tensions then you are one of these people. Every person has some tension whether it be physical, emotional or mental. Lack of awareness has allowed these tensions to accumulate. It is because we move about through life in a kind of dream state not fully awake and yet not fully asleep, that they can manifest and cause disease.
Accumulated stress has led to the following: psychosomatic disease, anxiety, frustration and depression; dissatisfaction; decreased the ability of the individual to utilize his fullest capabilities of mind and body; emotional imbalance; mental imbalance and loss of clear thinking; inability to form rewarding and mutually gratifying interpersonal relationships; inability to make decisions, plan effective and work efficiently. This is reflected in the following statistics:
The above situation is frightening in terms of its huge proportions and the cause is not being eliminated, but is increasing more and every day. Drugs do not solve the problem of stress and anxiety, they only remove the overlying symptoms. Drugs also compound the problem by interfering with the natural pattern of sleep and shutting off the vital REM sleep pattern, which is essential to releasing stress. When this pattern is inhibited by drugs, symptoms become worse and the unsuspecting sufferer can become addicted.
Up to now there was very little for doctors to choose from in terms of techniques and possibilities of effecting a cure for this vast mental unrest. Now meditation is becoming more widely known and better understood as a result of increasing amounts of scientific investigation. It can therefore be employed to remove anxiety and the effects of stress by removing the deeply submerged stresses of the mind.
Experiments have shown that meditation has the following effects:
The rate of formation of blood lactate was shown to decrease in Wallace and Benson's study of meditation. Its removal from the body during meditation is four times as great as that found when just lying down and resting on one's back, and three times faster than its removal in sleep.*5
Part of this is accounted for by the relaxation of arterioles, allowing more blood to wash out the wastes. There are ramifications here for the treatment of high blood pressure. This correlates with the subjective feeling of muscle relaxation reported by meditators.
Thus meditation appears to be a unique state which allows greater rest and recuperation from the effects of stress than normal rest such as sleep etc. Wallace and Benson state that:
"There is good reason to believe that the changing environment s incessant stimulations of the sympathetic nervous system are largely responsible for the high incidence of hypertension and similar serious diseases that are prevalent in our society.
In these circumstances the hypometabolic state representing quiescence rather than hyperactivation of the sympathetic nervous system, may indicate a guidepost to better health. It should be well worth while to investigate the possibilities for clinical application of this state of wakeful rest and relaxation."*6
David Orme-Johnson, psychologist at the university of Texas, USA, demonstrated that there is an improved autonomic nervous system stability and therefore resistance to stress among people practicing meditation regularly.*7 He used a GSR to record individual al reactions to stress, in this case a loud noise. The greater the movement of the needle on the GSR, the greater the anxiety. Meditators were found to have less response to external stimuli in terms of stress reaction. At the same time their heart and breathing rate decreased, indicating increased parasympathetic activity in the autonomic nervous system and thus more relaxation.
There are two main types of personality as defined by medical science:
Labile people are more likely to get high blood pressure, asthma, ulcers, migraine, etc. Drugs used in their treatment may have uncomfortable side effects and remove the symptoms without getting to the root cause. They do not really offer long term cure in the majority of cases. Meditation offers long term cure for psychosomatic disease when combined with drugs for the acute condition, because the whole autonomic nervous system is rebalanced, and the mind and body can rest, recuperate, regenerate and relax.
Meditators report increased health and mental well being, along with decreased numbers of colds, allergies and headache. Therefore the therapeutic use of meditation is now being closely evaluated. Researchers such as Kelly and Gellhorn (1973) have found that increased sympathetic stimulation leads to hypertension through increased liability of the autonomic nervous system. K. K. Datey et al. have shown that through the use of shavasana, a yogic meditative or relaxation technique, high blood pressure can be effectively managed.*8 The drug requirements of successful individuals were brought down to as much as 25% of the original dose, white the blood pressure was brought to a normal level.
Thus both mind and body benefit from the use of meditation. The number of techniques available is enormous, and you must choose the correct one if you are to get the best result. With continued practice, however, the results are bound to come.