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21 Mar

Meditation Contemplation

Meditation isn’t something we normally cover here at MDA, but we’re always looking for easy, safe and affordable ways to enhance total health. With that in mind, a meta-analysis out of the University of Kentucky caught our attention recently and got us pondering the meditation question.

The meta-analysis evaluated nine randomized, controlled trials using Transcendental Meditation as a primary intervention for hypertensive patients. The practice of Transcendental Meditation was associated with approximate reductions of 4.7 mm systolic blood pressure and 3.2 mm diastolic blood pressure. The study’s lead author, Dr. James W. Anderson, professor of medicine at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, said that blood pressure reductions of this magnitude would be expected to be accompanied by significant reductions in risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease—without drug side effects.

via Science Daily

As we’ve said before, a meta-analysis isn’t a study in itself. Because nothing new is being tested, a meta-analysis often doesn’t garner the same attention or fanfare. However, a meta-analysis can be especially useful for an area that claims a great number of studies but includes few that are well conducted and deemed reliable. The water can at least be made a little less muddy as researchers hone in on the studies that can truly tell us the most. In this case, researchers at the University found nine studies that met their eligibility requirements, although study quality still ranged considerably.

Still, with an enormous hypertension rate (1 out of 3 adults in this country), it’s good to see some investigation of alternative, cheap, and side effect free therapies. Now, frankly, we could use more of it.

While this study highlighted the effectiveness of Transcendental Meditation, other forms of meditation have been linked to positive results as well. A collaborative study involving researchers from Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Massachusetts General Hospital used magnetic resonance imaging to measure relative differences in cortical thickness between twenty well trained Buddhist Insight meditators and matched controls. Based on their assessment, meditation was associated with thicker measurements of the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula regions. The differences between the groups were most dramatic in the older subjects. Researchers used this finding to suggest the possibility that “meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning.”

Clearly, there’s a long way to go in researching the effectiveness of meditation practices. Yet, the picture looks very promising, and the proposed benefits are impressive: decreased blood pressure, lower stress response, relief or reduction in chronic pain, stronger immune function, enhanced concentration, improved sleep quality, and more. If meditation can be an effective addition to healthy lifestyle changes, consider the overall difference that could be made in the lives and well-being of millions of people every year. We agree that there’s more to be done, more to be studied and scrutinized, but looking at these possibilities, it’s hard not to wonder why we aren’t doing more to research and apply these therapies for the people who could potentially use them the most.

What do you think? Send us your thoughts.

HaPe Gera Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Yoga and Breast Cancer Connection

10 Things You Can Do Today to Feel Better Tomorrow

Face It: Massage Points to Do Yourself

10 Forgotten Stress Relief Tips

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  1. After trying meditation off and on for a number of years, I’ve been meditating more regularly lately. Having that in my life has felt good, and meditation has been helpful with stress management.

    Food Is Love

    Huckleberry wrote on March 21st, 2008
  2. Mind-Body connection is key to health…just look at what too much stress does…brings health down. So reasonable to say that a peaceful mind brings a positive balance to the health of the body.

    With that being said simplicity and awareness are what I try to live daily. You don’t have to wear an orange robe, shave your head, chant things and sell flowers at the airport to meditate. You can just go outside and just watch things and let the mind quiet down. Doing nothing is the hardest thing for most people.

    My 2 favorite books on this subject are “Awareness” by Anthony DeMello and “The Power of Now” by E Tolle. “Wherever you go, there you are” is also another good read.

    Mike OD - IF Life wrote on March 21st, 2008
    • I’m 16% into The power of now and it has already made an impact.
      As a student and a brutal over thinker I appreciate the idea that my thoughts are not me (my self). Thoughts and consciousness are not the same thing.

      Bjarki Sigurjónsson wrote on July 18th, 2013
  3. Meditation is great. Transcendental Meditation is a scam. You have to go to their expensive seminars to learn how to do it. These are the people who claim to levitate, but all they do is hop around in lotus position. I’m sure there are some benefits to TM, but it comes along with too much hype.

    Meditation groups that dispense real knowledge are usually free, accepting only donations. A book by a reputable teacher can also get you started if there aren’t any groups around.

    Sasquatch wrote on March 21st, 2008
  4. Dr. Dean Ornish used meditation as part of his overall method of reversing cardiac diaease without surgery, what, 30 years ago!

    Dr. J wrote on March 21st, 2008
  5. I see someone has mentioned “Whereever You Go, There You Are” above. It’s by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and if you are looking for well documented, scientific trials proving the efficacy of meditation, you can’t go wrong with his two other books – “Coming to our senses” and “Full Catastrophe Living”. He’s an MIT trained physician and has worked pretty much throughout his career on the integration of meditation into allopathic medicine.

    I’m currently reading “Coming to our senses” and there are details of a variety of trials carried out by him and others. He’s very optimistic about the integration of the two disciplines in the future. It’s an inspiring read.

    Danny wrote on March 22nd, 2008
  6. as someone who has lived in Zen, Thera and Benedictine monasteries i will state unapologetically that meditation as a word is pure and utter gibberish;its paying attention and nothing more and anyone who says otherwise is doing nowt but misunderstanding(hows that for arrogant?!) and also using it as a status mongering word i.e. i meditate.
    BTW it’s no more efficacious biochemically/biopsychologically(cortisol adren, noreadren secretion) to meditate than to lay on ones back.
    One would do better to pay attention to diet and exercise and then ones biochem is anchored in, on and AS the present and thus the word meditation has no meaning.
    Please adopt best Southern Indian accent and repeat ‘Ones Life, Ji, Becomes a meditation !’

    simon fellows wrote on March 23rd, 2008
  7. It isn’t nice to call something a scam just because they charge for it, we do live in a capitalistic society. The original reason for charging was to ensure that it (TM) was recognized as a valued skill and the original charge was “one weeks wages”.

    Saraj wrote on March 24th, 2008
  8. Many critics consider Transcendental Meditation a cult led by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. For an alternative view of the TM Movement, readers may be interested in checking out TM-Free Blog,, or my counseling site,, where individuals recovering from Transcendental Meditation and similar groups will find helpful information.

    John M. Knapp, LMSW

    John M. Knapp wrote on March 26th, 2008

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