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Meditation

Meditation has been practiced in many cultures for thousands of years. It focuses and calms the mind, clearing it of memories of the past and thoughts or worries of the present and future. The secular form of meditation, without new age overtones, can have many physical benefits. The goals of religious meditation, however, extend far beyond the physical health benefits. Higher human function of the body, mind and spirit is a desired part of many religions of the world, including Christianity.

 

There are hundreds of meditation techniques, most of which fall into one of two categories: concentration and mindfulness. During concentrative meditation, attention is focused on a single sound, word or on one's own breathing to bring about a calm and tranquil state. This focus on slow deep, rhythmic breathing allows your mind to become tranquil, yet fully aware.

During mindful meditation, the mind becomes aware of, but does not react to, the wide variety of sensations, feelings and images tied in with a current activity. By sitting quietly and allowing the images of your surroundings to pass through your mind without reacting to or becoming involved with them, you can attain a calm state of mind.

Much research has been done on transcendental meditation (TM). TM brings about a state of deep relaxation in which the body is totally at rest, but the mind is totally alert. Studies show that meditation, especially TM, is effective in controlling anxiety, enhancing the immune system, and reducing conditions such as high blood pressure. Meditation has also been used successfully to treat chronic pain and control substance abuse.

Harvard researcher Dr. Herbert Benson has done much of the research associated with the effects of TM. His book, The Relaxation Response, topped the bestseller lists in the mid-1970s, and is still widely read today. Dr. Benson concluded, based on his research that meditation acts as an antidote to stress. The body's physical response to stress is well-documented; when a real or imagined threat is present, the human nervous system activates the "Fight or Flight response," whereby the sympathetic nervous system fires. This increases the heart rate, respiratory rate, elevates the blood pressure, and increases the body's oxygen consumption.

The Fight or Flight response has a purpose. If we were in danger and needed to run away quickly to escape or needed the strength to fight off an offender, we would be better able to do so with the chemicals released by the Fight or Flight response. The response is effective when activated occasionally. But if activated repeatedly, the effects of the Fight or Flight response are harmful to the body, with the possibility of disastrous results. Our lives in the twentyfirst century have become extremely stressful; we encounter a high level of stress on a daily basis. The cur- rent epidemic of hypertension and heart disease in the Western world is a direct response to that high stress level.

The effects of meditation counter those of the Fight or Flight response. Research has shown that meditation decreases the heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure, resulting in decreased oxygen consumption. So many studies have replicated these findings that they are not in dispute in the scientific community. Finding such agreement throughout so many different studies is a phenomenon in itself.

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Dr. Jill Waggoner
Charlton Medical Group
3450 West Wheatland Road
Physician Offices II, Suite 340
Dallas, Texas  75237

T 972.217.3007

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Desoto, Tx 75213

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