In last 2 blogs, I discussed about stress, how it is at the root of all common lifestyle diseases, can it be useful for our health? Main theme of the blogs was that you cannot do away with ill effects of stress but we can change our mindset towards stress so that we can use it to our benefit. But this is also post stress event. But can we prevent stress, in first place.
We understand that stress is a response. We are habituated or on autopilot for stress response. The moment, we dislike something or feel something beyond control, our automatic response is to get irritated, stressed and avoid that issue. Can we go to root of this response making system? If we can change this mechanism, we can attempt to solve this problem. Our response making system is result of nurture (upbringing) and nature (our DNA). In other words, it is an operating system of our body. Can we change our operating system? Can we change habit of our mind to react to some stimuli in negative way? So, the real question is can we make permanent changes in our thinking system?
Actually, the answer is there in our ancient scriptures, practices but as usual we ignored it and now it is coming back in westernized, researched avatar i.e. meditation.
It is said that meditation is a magic pill for all major lifestyle related problems arising out of stressed mind like indigestion, immunity issues, blood pressure, diabetes and cardiac diseases. I am in no way trying to suggest to do away all medication but certainly meditation will help to avoid problems in first place or to resolve problems with help of medicines. Only medicines are not going to help. If you feel that you will tackle these lifestyle related diseases just by popping pills you are mistaken. Medicines work mainly on symptoms but to deal with the root of problem you need something else i.e. meditation.Meditation (Dhyan) is gift of india to the world. Our Bhagwad Gita has complete section VI on Dhyanyog. Patanjali’s ashtang yoga deals with dhyan, dharna, samadhi as limbs of ashtang yoga. Gautam Buddha and his disciples have been following these practices over
2500 years. However, over period of time it lost its relevance to common people and became ritual only for sadhus to attain spiritual development. You must be wondering how this age-old technique can be master key to resolve current lifestyle related issues.
First organized attempt to attract common people to meditation was done by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in western world. There are thousands of centres around the world teaching his Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique. He reiterated that meditation should not be restricted to sadhus and yogis but should be used by common people. He encouraged scientific research into TM.
Dr Herbert Benson did research on meditators of TM. He was pioneer of body mind research focusing on stress and bodies response to stress. He coined term relaxation response as scientific alternative to meditation. Relaxation response is opposite reaction to fight or flight response. He observed that relaxation response reduced metabolism, breathing rate, heart rate and brain activity. He explained that regular practice of relaxation response can be effective treatment for wide range of stress induced disorders in 1960s and 70s.
Dr Jon Kabat Zinn studied buddhist meditation techniques on mindfulness and adapted them and developed stress reduction program. He created structured 8-week program called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The course helps patients deal with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness techniques. Research showed effect of MBSR techniques in treatment of psoriasis, pain, anxiety, brain function and immune function.
Mindfulness meditation appears to bring about favourable structural changes in brain. These days in psychotherapy there is an extensive use of mindfulness techniques. Substantial research is underway to understand effect of meditation.
As technology is progressing, newer areas are being subjected to research and the results are mostly encouraging.
In India, various organizations like “Art of living”, Siddha Samadhi Yog (SSY), Kriya Yoga, Isha Yoga etc are promoting meditation. But there is religious/ spiritual link attached to it. I feel that there is lot of suffering faced by human beings on account of lifestyle diseases, we should use this tool to alleviate this suffering first, spiritual development will automatically follow. There is need to spread meditation for dealing with modern life style issues. I am going to do my part. If anyone is interested to know more about it I will be more than happy to share whatever little experience I have.
It seems that human beings have got old tool in new structure to deal with life style issues faced on day to day basis. Again, the key is “practice”. In next part I will deal with “My affair with meditation”. Please log in to understand practical issues faced in practice of meditation.
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