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BENEFITS OF MEDICINE MEDITATION
In the past 25 years there have been more than 50,000 research papers and books published on the subject of the the biological and psychological benefits of meditation. We are beginning to develop a medical art of meditation.
The subject of meditation benefits with respect to major disease conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and HIV-AIDS are extensively presented in the Empowered Care book. Here our focus will be primarily on two subjects:
1. How anxiety and stress disturb hormonal balance and how meditation restores hormonal balance and strengthens the immune system, strengthening the life force.
2. How meditation is an important pain and anxiety management medicine.
Our era has been characterized as an age of anxiety. Extensive research has shown that many biological and psychological problems are directly caused by long-term anxiety and stress. Anxiety causes an overproduction of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, suppressing important biological functions in order to shift energy into muscle systems for a “fight or flight” reaction. Anxiety and stress, with accompanying hormonal imbalance, have been proven to be primary factors in the weakening of health and the cause of various immune-deficiency diseases.The widespread chemical treatment of anxiety has resulted in additional biological and psychological problems. But, as clinical research has shown for more than 30 years, if anxiety is the problem, meditation is the answer.
Self-calming meditation is observed to directly reduce adrenaline and cortisol secretion, restoring hormonal balance in general and normalizing immune system function. In addition meditation produces elevated levels of the major hormones melatonin and DHEA, and endorphins, powerful pain-relieving, pleasure-causing agents secreted by the nervous system.
The fact that meditation produces elevated levels of melatonin, the hormone secreted by the pineal gland located at the center of the brain, was first disclosed by research conducted at UMMC (Kabat-Zinn, 1995). The pineal gland has drawn the attention of human insight for a long time. In the 17th century, Rene Descartes, in his famous Treatise of Man, called the pineal gland the seat of the human psyche, the principal location of self-awareness. In sacred literature more than 2,500 years old, the Vedas of India described the pineal gland in the context of the energy body:
“The [pineal] gland was portrayed as one of the seven chakras, or centers of vital energy, which are arranged along the central axis of the body. The pineal gland was thought to be the supreme or crown chakra…the ultimate center of spiritual force” [Reiter, 1995, p.131].
While these insights are inspiring concerns for people interested in meditation, the current worldwide interest in melatonin, evident in the presence of hundreds of research papers and books on the subject, is focused on its biological benefits, particularly concerning tis remarkable effects on the human immune system. Melatonin many be the most potent and versatile antioxidant. It directly stimulates interleukin-2 activity that in turn stimulates the increase of all the various cells of the immune system, in a pervasive optimization of immune function, and directly restores and increases T-helper cell production in bone marrow. As a result, it has been used as a therapeutic agent in cancer and AIDS therapy.
Melatonin is known to have a calming effect, bringing contentment and improved mood. In stress-inducing times, which tend to cause detrimental imbalances, melatonin is renowned as a sleep aid. Especially when produced naturally to elevated levels, itmakes normal sleep and rest possible even in challenging situations. Together with DHEA, serotonin, and endorphines, raised levels of melatonin is an important reasonwhy meditationbrings healthy calming balance.
DHEA, produced in the adrenal glands, just above the kidneys, is the most plentiful human hormone and is essential for health. Like melatonin, it tends to diminishin the body as people age. Increased levels of life-enhancing DHEA in older meditation practitioners was one of the first biological benefits of meditation to be observed.
Like melatonin, DHEA has a variety of health-increasing benefits. It is an immunity enhancement agent that has been proven to be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lupus and other disorders. DHEA stimulates the production of monocytes (T-cells and B-cells), potent immunity bio-chemicals that cause the production of other immune system agents. T-cells (white blood cells produced in the bone marrow) produce two powerful immune system agents—interleukin-2 and gamma-interferon—intelligent defense agents that help maintain health.
DHEA is good for the bones, muscles, blood pressure, vision and hearing. It is the substance from which the male and female hormones are developed. It's probably the essential reason that kindney chi is an important concern in Chinese medicine.DHEA contributes to vitality and youthfulness.It's a mood elevator that makes people feel and look better. It enhances brain biochemistry and growth. Anxiety and stress lower normal DHEA levels in the bloodstream, while meditation elevates DHEA levels.
Meditation is also known to increase levels of endorphins, a set of peptides secreted throughout the nervous system that have very strong pain-relieving and pleasure-inducing effects, similar to morphine. Of these powerful chemicals Deepak Chopra writes:
“Thus the brain [and nervous system in general] produces narcotics up to 200 times stronger than anything you can buy…with the added boon that our own pain-killers are non-addictive. Morphine and endorphins both block pain by filling a certain receptor on the neuron and preventing other chemicals that carry the message of pain from coming in, without which there can be no sensation of pain, no matter how much physical provocation is present” [Chopra, 1990, p.62].
These three vital biological substances stimulate immune system strength and personal feelings of well-being. They are good for disease prevention, recovery, and maintaining health.
Meditation and Pain Management
With the mindfulness meditation method used at the University of Massuchusetts Medical Center, more than 20,000 people have learned to distinguish between mind and awareness. As they learn to expose mind to awareness, they learn to see how the mind dwells on anxiety and fear and burns up energy, limiting ability and reserves. With mindfulness meditation they learn that they’re capable of staying in the present moment, even while experiencing high levels of pain, and they save energy. They see that their mind likes to make a big deal about the pain, creating the experience of suffering. They see that for healthy reasons they can stay in open awareness and avoid mind’s creation of suffering.
People practicing mindfulness meditation see that they can develop fearlessness and gain energy by distinguishing between pain sensations and what the mind is doing with them. They avoid letting their mind agonize and waste energy. They see that they have a choice to prevent distress and build courage and inner strength in the process. They learn that staying with present-moment pain naturally releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, which then increase the ability to stay present. And people find freedom in awareness.The more one is present with the sensation, the higher the endorphin levels and the greater the freedom from fear.
Calm Healing (MG3) is mindfulness meditation based on breathing vital energy. It is a treasure of meditation science applied in medical practice as awareness-based energy breathing. It is based on knowledge of inseparable energy body and physical body dynamics. The biological and pain management potential of this practice should add to to the benefits of meditation in medicine.
With psychiatric and pain management drugs costing over a hundred billion dollars a year, for health as well as financial reasons we need to turn to the great resource we have in meditation science. We need to advance the use of meditation as a medical art.
This web site is not intended to be a substitute for medical help.