While in the midst of my current blog series on meditation from within the Jewish tradition, the findings of a nine year long medical trial have just been released, suggesting that patients with heart disease are significantly less likely to have a heart attack or a stroke if they have a daily meditation practice.
The BBC reports on the findings here.
While the research used transcendental meditation as the specific form of practice in the study, the basic foundation of mindful breathing meditation is universal to all approaches and traditions. The use of meditation practice as a tool in stress reduction and pain management has been developed and taught most effectively by Jon Kabat-Zinn and you can learn more about his Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society here.
It makes sense that a daily meditation practice would be good for your health. It is a calming and relaxing practice, and it has been shown to lower blood pressure. Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program includes a meditative activity called 'the Body Scan' (which is described in some detail in his book 'Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness'. It involves moving the mind through the different regions of the body, bringing attention to the feelings, and letting the breath flow through each and every part. You are both helping to relax areas of tension, but also breathing in energy that can revitalize the physical self. Kabat-Zinn has found that this technique has helped people with chronic pain.
What was also interesting about the medical study that has just been published is that one of the factors possibly involved in the improved health of the cohort who practiced meditation is not only the positive impact of the meditation itself, but the fact that almost everyone in that cohort was still practicing 20 minutes of daily meditation after 9 years. The cohort in the study whose treatment had involved bringing attention to diet were far less likely to have kept to a healthier regime - it was much more difficult to maintain discipline and change eating habits than to maintain a daily meditation practice.
So, while I will continue to share some of the spiritual insights of meditation practice from a Jewish perspective, its good to know that, whether it be for body or soul, meditation is good for you!
Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz