Meditation and Health: An Annotated Bibliography

Article excerpt

Meditation is clearly moving into the mainstream. Evidence of this is the August 4, 2003, cover story in Time magazine, which explored the research on the physiological and psychological aspects of meditation. Since then, numerous stories have been published on the scientific findings relating to the benefits of meditation. Recent research conducted by scientists at the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin at Madison demonstrated that meditation activates the part of the brain that is associated with positive emotions. (1) A study released in March 2004 by the Medical College of Georgia found that two fifteen-minute meditation sessions daily (one at school, one at home) helped teenagers lower their blood pressure. (2) This study also reported other favorable outcomes for the teens who meditated, including decreased absenteeism and a reduction in behavioral problems. Meditation is becoming more common in American classrooms. Some middle schools in Detroit have practiced meditation for more than six years. (3) A recent article in Barron's highlighted a plan by parents to propose that transcendental meditation be offered in New York City public schools. (4)

Interest in this topic is likely to grow as meditation increases in popularity. The number of adults in the United States who meditate on a regular basis has doubled in the past ten years, and is estimated to total ten million. (5) This column focuses on meditation research, specifically on studies that have been done linking meditation with improved physical health and increased mental well-being. There is growing evidence that meditation, used as a mind-body medicine, is effective alone and as a complement to allopathic medicine in relieving stress, pain, and other physical and mental conditions. The scope of the article includes spiritual and secular meditation, including breathing practices, mantra meditation, Buddhist mindfulness, Qigong, and other forms of meditation. Researchers in medicine, psychology, and sociology became interested in meditation during the twentieth century, and research has flourished, especially in the past three decades. As meditation research has evolved, the standard of research has become more rigorous. The author has focused on scholarly rather than popular works on the topic. Among the resources included are books, review articles, Web sites, and organizations. Haynes's column will assist public, academic, medical, and seminary libraries interested in meditation.

Haynes has been a reference librarian in the Indiana University-Bloomington Main Library Reference Department since 2000. She provides library instruction and research assistance in many disciplines and coordinates library services for the campus' distance students. Her previous library experience was in acquisitions and cataloging. She is active within the Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS) of the Reference and User Services Association, serving most recently as editor of "Messages from MARS," the section's newsletter. She has also served on the MARS Executive Committee and the MARS Publications Committee. Haynes has also been active in other ALA divisions. A meditator, she has studied and practiced several different types of meditation.--Editor

   Meditation is a state of heightened mental
   awareness and inner peace that
   brings mental, physical, and spiritual
   benefits. It is a useful self-help technique
   and can be practiced without adherence
   to any religion or philosophy. (6)

Meditation has almost as many definitions as there are writers, scholars, and practitioners in the field. For many of us, the term conjures up images of people in loose robes sitting for hours in lotus position, eyes closed, in silence. Meditation can also be practiced while walking, engaging in exercise, chanting, working in the garden, or sitting at one's desk. It can be solitary or accomplished in a room full of fellow practitioners. …