Talking about meditation, I’d like to start with mentioning that meditation as a spiritual practice is considered to be even older than Hinduism which, by the way, is the oldest of five major religions. The roots of meditation travel back to ancient times and primitive hunter-gatherer societies are believed to have discovered meditation. They noticed that their state of consciousness is altered when they are looking at the flames of fire for a long time. The primary purpose of meditation has been for religious reasons but with time it turned out into technique to calm down inner thoughts and cultivate the power of concentration. Now meditation is widely practiced and more and more people start taking courses in order to discover in themselves their own “self-concept, ability to practice patience, and ability to tolerate physical discomfort” and this is due to the fact that “mindfulness meditation practice is concerned with paying attention to arising thoughts and emotions” (Marc B. Schure, John Christopher, Suzanne Christopher, p. 47). It is said that your thoughts and emotions arising during meditation will help you control your mind and concentrate on your inner world. It is also stated that meditation can positively affect the health of people and helps fight with depression and regular stresses.
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To begin with, meditation is considered to be one of the proven alternative therapies. Day by day it is gaining the status of the mind-body medicine, in other words the ability to heal diseases not with the help of regular treatment but with positive thoughts and emotions arising during meditation. It is considered to be a simple but powerful way to balance person’s physical, emotional, and mental states which can benefit everybody. The research which has been conducted by doctors shows that “Regularly practicing meditation, even for just a few minutes each day, can lower levels of stress hormones, decrease high blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, help reverse heart disease, reduce pain, and strengthen immune function.” (Eve Eliot, p. 8). More and more doctors are advising meditation as a method to deal with blood pressure problems, angina, insomnia and other health problems which can be treated without medications. Meditation could be a great discovery for medicine but the most important point here is to believe that it has the ability to heal or to at least help fight stress and depressions which are so numerous in our busy world. If a person has no belief in, so to speak, healing powers of meditation it won’t be able to help him/her and in this case only traditional medicine can be of practical help.
Furthermore, meditation is known as a way to find peace in yourself and your life as well as to reach the furthest corners of your soul and to understand things you have never managed to understand before. Most of people who started meditation courses have only positive feedbacks about this new for them means to discover themselves: “These men and women guided students, like myself, into the depths of the practices, deftly showing how the mat becomes a mirror that reflects the workings of the mind. They explained the belief system that underpins the practices and that, at times, acts like a life-raft when a student is feeling out at sea’. While the daily practice of asana, pranayama and meditation were deeply rewarding, and the study of the texts thought-provoking and inspiring, it was the life stories of these teachers that enabled me to grasp yoga as a means to understand the essence of life.” (Alix Johnso, xiii) Yoga and meditation have been always closely connected because both of them help you feel the things you were never able to feel before and discover to you things which inspire you and help you enjoy such, on the first sight, simple and ordinary things as the blowing of the wind.
However, not everybody is familiar with the fact that meditation most of people speak only positively about can not always be useful. In fact, sometimes it can be a reason of certain physical and mental difficulties causing serious problems with health which can sometimes even lead to a suicide: “A man who had just come down from Kathmandu after completing a thirty-day Tibetan Buddhist meditation course killed himself. I had met him the night before, and we’d had coffee together. I don’t remember what we spoke about, but he was friendly and didn’t appear distressed. But the next day he climbed to the top of the multi-storied Blue Diamond Hotel and leapt off” (Mary Garden, 20). It can be very dangerous to some people because meditation itself can cause mental imbalance thus leading to severe problems with health launching people into psychosis because “during meditation the brain releases serotonin. This may help those with mild depression but too much serotonin can cause, in some, a paradoxical relaxation-induced anxiety. Instead of relaxing during meditation, these people become distressed and may even have panic attacks.” (Mary Garden, p. 20) This does not happen in all instances and does not necessarily mean that before starting meditation courses one has to consult a doctor first. Such things happen mostly because people abuse meditation trying to achieve the desirable results as quickly as possible but when keeping to all instructions and getting into your inner world step by step the meditation is proved to bring only positive results.
To sum it up, meditation, which is a spiritual practice, evolved in ancient times and is widely practiced in the modern society due to its healing powers and ability to help in fighting stress and depressions as well as some of diseases. It also produces a positive affect on the nervous system helping to calm down and to concentrate though negative influence of meditation on the human’s health if it is abused cannot be denied because the studies conducted prove that sometimes meditation can lead to mental and physical disorders. However it does not frighten those people who being in search of new emotions are trying to reach their inner world and discover the things they never knew about them before.
- Alix Johnson. Yoga: The Essence of Life. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2004.
- Marc B. Schure, John Christopher, Suzanne Christopher. “Mind-Body Medicine and the Art of Self-Care: Teaching Mindfulness to Counseling Students through Yoga, Meditation, and Qigong”. Journal of Counseling and Development 86.1 (2008): 47.
- Eve Eliot. “Meditation off the Cushion: Helping Clients Using Mind Training”. Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association 9.4 (2006): 8.
- Mary Garden. “Can Meditation Be Bad for You?” The Humanist. 2007: 20.