Lyn W. Freeman
In these times of chronic stress, it is often our cognitive processes—what we think, our interpretation and reinterpretation of events—that fuel the biochemical responses that can impair or improve our health. Meditation offers the opportunity to quiet our minds, to rest from the constant "marathon" of thinking, and to provide an opportunity to restructure ingrained and often unconscious emotional response patterns. This chapter introduces you to four different meditation approaches and explains how meditation can contribute to improved health and a higher quality of life.
There are four forms of meditation that have received attention from researchers. These forms are: transcendental meditation, created by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; Herbert Benson's respiratory one method; clinically standardized meditation, developed by Carrington and others; and mindfulness meditation, a Buddhist form of meditation.
Meditation essentially induces a deep state of restfulness and elicits different physiologic responses, depending on the method and the length of time one meditates. Oxygen consumption, heart and respiratory rates, and electrical skin resistance are lowered; hormone levels are modulated; and electroencepholographic patterns are altered, modulating alpha and theta brain wave patterns.
Meditation can be described as a wakeful, hypometabolic state. Mechanisms that may explain meditative effects include the blank-out phenomenon—rhythm, desensitization, balancing cerebral hemispheres, and reorganizing mental constructs.
Meditation has been reported to reduce health care costs, strengthen immune function, modulate mood states of anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, reverse some components of car‐ diovascular disease, reduce the frequency and duration of epileptic seizures, improve coping skills for chronic pain, and lower the rates of substance abuse.
Meditation is contraindicated for some persons, including those with a history of schizophrenia or psychosis and those that are hypersensitive to meditation. In some healthy persons, meditation may unveil traumatic memories or emotions.