In recent years thousands of people have participated in studies that confirm the beneficial effects of meditation for stress, depression, managing chronic pain, insomnia and other conditions. Clearly, there are forms of meditation practice that can help people cope with what ails them. But did you know that in some cases meditation can even help people cure what ails them?
A remarkable story of healing
An article published in the Daily Beast called Can Meditation Cure Disease tells of a 37-year-old Tibetan lama who arrived in New York with a gangrenous leg and was told by three different doctors that the leg needed to be amputated as soon as possible. Even though his physicians were certain that if the lama kept his leg the gangrene would kill him, before giving his consent, he spoke with the Dalaï Lama, who told him not to amputate but instead to do certain healing meditation practices.
The story details how, after several months of intensive healing meditation practice, the illness reached a turning point – which was considered medically impossible – and within a year the leg had healed and the lama was walking again.
Over the ages there have been countless accounts of faith-based and prayer-based healing. What stands out here is that the illness and recovery were well-documented and that a team of respected doctors and researchers has been studying the case to try to determine how such a thing could be possible.
One of the researchers, Dr. William C. Bushell, spoke of Tibetan – and yogic – practices involving prana, the subtle circulatory and energetic system of the body sometimes referred to as “the winds.” Bushell is quoted in the article as saying, “It is not entirely clear from a Western science perspective what the winds are, but the scientific evidence suggests to me and others that the meditative process involving winds includes increased local blood flow, metabolic activity, and oxygenation.”
Meditation can transform the mind; mind can transform the body
The area of using meditation for self-healing has been of great interest to brain researchers around the globe. Numerous studies have revealed the relationship between meditation and a healthy brain. It would seem that the brains of long-term meditators are wired a bit differently than those of non-meditators.
Two regions of the brain are responsible for depression, anger, stress and anxiety: the right prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. These regions become overly active when your mind is agitated or you’re upset. The left prefrontal cortex, on the other hand, is associated with feelings of peace, happiness, self-awareness and positivity. This region is activated in the brains of consistent meditators. So is the production of the “happy” neurotransmitter serotonin – in fact, some anti-depressants artificially increase serotonin, and that’s what makes people feel less blue. Clinical studies have also linked production of dopamine with meditation. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that helps create feelings of pleasure and reward (just like chocolate, but without the calories.)
Meditation is believed to influence the sympathetic nervous system, keeping blood pressure, respiration and heart rate in check. When poorly controlled, these are the physical parameters that go hand in hand with feelings of stress and anxiety.
There’s no question that stress and anxiety are linked to a wide variety of maladies, including heart attacks, high blood pressure, digestive issues, sexual dysfunction and insomnia. And science concurs that many forms of meditation help reduce stress, starting with mindfulness, as practiced in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for example, and Transcendental Meditation, as well as relaxation meditation, guided meditations, walking meditation and more.
Taking care of your whole self
Trinlay Rinpoche, a scholar and meditation expert who teaches all over the world, says that meditation is the best way to take care of your self: your mind, body and essence. Meditation not only makes our lives more meaningful, it also offers us a natural healing mechanism. Many ailments begin with an imbalanced or stressed mind and develop in susceptible parts of the body. By working with the mind and learning to better manage the triggers that disturb it, we bolster the body’s natural defenses.
Guided meditation for healing is a great way to release the stress that accumulates in the mind and the tensions that build up in the body. One of the reasons that guided meditation is particularly effective is that you can just relax and enjoy it. The only thing you have to do is try to stay focused. Guided meditation for healing can be found in meditation groups, community settings, audio and video.