brain imageA form of Buddhist meditation is being used to successfully treat patients with depression in Korea. The practice of ‘mindfulness’ which is integral to Buddhism and meditation enables patients to become more self-aware within the context of their environment.

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A recent intensive meditation research project has established a number of important benefits to mental acuity, health and aging. The co-operative project – conducted by Clifford Saron, a neuroscientist at the University of California at Davis in conjunction with the Shambhala Mountain Center, a Buddhist Meditation Retreat located in Northern Colorado – involved a total of 60 experienced meditators, 30 of whom took part in the project while the remaining 30 acted as controls.

shambhala meditators imageThe project was conducted over a period of 3 months. Participants underwent two group training sessions and five or more hours of individual practice every day. The participants ages ranged from 21-70. Behavioral and physiological measurements of both the meditators and the controls were conducted on three occasions: before commencement; halfway through the program; and again at the end.

Results of the research project are still being processed, but emerging analysis suggests that the effects go right down to the chromosomal level, affecting general health and longevity.

The article below by Wray Herbert appeared in the Huffington Post

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New Meditation Research: Putting the ‘Om’ in ‘Chromosome’

The Shambhala Mountain Center sits nestled among the remote lakes and pastures of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, where for four decades it has offered instruction and retreat to serious students of meditation and yoga. Starting in February 2007, it became a scientific laboratory as well. The center began hosting the Shamatha Project, one of the most rigorous scientific examinations of meditation’s effects ever undertaken. The Project is now beginning to yield its insights, and from early reports it appears that this ancient practice delivers benefits that go all the way down to the chromosomal level.

Many claims have been made over many years about the effects of meditation on health and well-being, but rarely have these claims been put to the test. Under the direction of Clifford Saron, a neuroscientist at the University of California at Davis, the Shamatha Project enrolled 60 experienced meditators in a three-month study. Half were randomly selected to receive intensive training and practice in meditation over the spring months of 2007, including two group training sessions and five or more hours of individual practice every day. Those who were wait-listed for the actual retreat served as controls — an essential part of the rigorous experimental design that distinguishes the Project from previous meditation studies.

At three points in the three-month study — before, halfway through, and at the end — Saron and his many colleagues took a battery of behavioral and physiological measurements of both the meditators and the controls, who ranged from 21 to 70 years old. They have been crunching the data and analyzing the results, which are now emerging in peer-reviewed journals.

For example: Those who intensely practiced meditation got better at visual perception, and as a result their attention improved. UC Davis psychological scientist Katherine Maclean (now at Johns Hopkins) had all the volunteers perform a difficult visual discrimination task on a computer screen — watching a parade of identical lines go by and spotting the slightly shorter lines that appeared occasionally. This 30-minute task is not only visually demanding; it’s incredibly boring as well. But as reported recently in the journal Psychological Science, the meditators’ increased visual acuity also freed up their limited cognitive firepower for vigilance; and their sharpened attention led to improved performance on the task. This improvement lasted for five months after the retreat was over.

That may not be all that surprising, since focus and attention are what meditation is all about. Less expected is the recent finding that intense meditation may also have anti-aging effects. Tonya Jacobs, a scientist at UC Davis’s Center for Mind and Brain, has just reported (on-line in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology) that meditators show improved psychological well-being, and that these improvements lead to biochemical changes associated with resistance to aging at the cellular level. Specifically, an analysis of meditators’ white blood cells showed a 30 percent increase in an enzyme called telomerase, a chemical essential to the long-term health of the body’s chromosomes and cells.

The scientists emphasize that meditation does not lead directly to cellular health and longevity. Instead, the practice appears to give people an increased sense of meaning and purpose in life, which in turn leads to an increased sense of control over their lives and to less negative emotion. This cascade of emotional and psychological changes is what regulates the levels of telomerase, the anti-aging enzyme.

Positivity appears to be the link between meditative practice and a variety of health benefits. In a study scheduled for publication in the journal Emotion, UC Davis psychological scientist Baljinder Sahdra is reporting that meditation leads to a decrease in impulsive reactions — another health improvement linked to psychological positivity. Impulsivity has been tied to an array of health problems, including addictions and other risky behavior.

It’s well known that stress — and distress — lead to poor health, including a decline of telomerase and its healing properties. What hasn’t been known — and what these studies are beginning to document — is the exact order of psychological and physiological events in this chain and, what’s more, that this chain of events can be reversed.

Wray Herbert

A new study by a group of scientists has shown that Mindfulness Meditation can reduce the intensity and unpleasantness of pain.

The scientists used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure response to pain in fifteen volunteers. A pain rating scale was used to determine the level of pain reduction.

The volunteers underwent two MRI sessions — one before a four day mindfulness training and another afterwards. Adverse response to pain was significantly reduced while meditating, and this was confirmed by the subjective observations of the participants and also by observed changes in brain activity revealed by the MRI scans.

The pain was induced by applying a heat probe to volunteers legs. While meditating, there was an average 40% reduction in level of pain experienced, plus a 57% reduction in the unpleasantness of applied pain. This was also reflecting in MRI brain activity.

After analysis of test results, the scientists concluded that “meditation engages multiple brain mechanisms that alter the construction of the subjectively available pain experience”

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Another example of how meditation is finding its way into all kinds of mainstream activities where previously it would not even have been considered. The times are certainly changing, when PTST is treated with meditation rather than drugs and indifference. This article by Michael Patrick Brewer, a veteran and PTST sufferer who now attributes much of his recovery to regular meditation, is from the Tucson Citizen.


Filmmaker and Producer David Lynch has a been a devotee of Transcendental Meditation for decades. He now wants returning veterans to have the experience of the noted stress-reduction benefits of TM.

The David Lynch foundation is donating $1 million in grants to teach the meditation technique, known as TM, to the active-duty, veterans and their families. There is a ton of documentation showing the profound remedial benefits to those suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

I have practiced TM regularly since I was initiated in the program in 1972, and can testify to the immediacy of its calming effects and the contribution it affords to access a seeming infinite source of psychic energy.

I too suffered from PTSD following my service in the Marine Corps in Vietnam.  There is no question that my healing pilgrimage, that is perennial, is aided by the daily practice of meditation and prayer.

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How yoga in prisons could cut overcrowding

Meditation is finding its way into all kinds of unexpected places. Does this represent a shift in thinking by prison authorities, or is it just a way of keeping inmates under control? Either way, it can only be beneficial in the long term. The article is from the Christian Science Monitor – another good sign.

prison inmates practising yogaEarlier this year the Supreme Court ruled that state of California prisons were so bad as to be inhumane, violating the 8th amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment.

The reason? Overcrowding. California must to reduce its prison population by 30,000 prisoners, according to the ruling.

Overcrowding is a perennial issue in US prisons in no small part because the recidivism rate is remarkably high. In 1994 the largest study of prisoner recidivism ever done in the United States showed that, of nearly 300,000 adult prisoners who were released in 15 different states, 67.5 percent were re-arrested within three years.

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Oprah Winfrey has taken up Transcendental Meditation. It’s clear from Oprah’s history that she has long been a seeker after spirituality. She has sought it in many places. It was Oprah who first brought Eckhart Tolle into worldwide prominence, and she has interviewed many people who are, in one way or another, involved in some form of spiritual movement. In this article she joins the many meditators of Fairfield, Iowa, the location of Maharishi University, for a group session.
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Dr Charles Tart Ph.D imageCharles T Tart Ph.D. is internationally known for his psychological work on the nature of consciousness (particularly altered states of consciousness). In his article That word “Meditation” he makes an important point: to answer the question ‘what is meditation?’ you need to consider the context in which the word is used. [read more…]