The
Science of Meditation and the Body

 

 

            As we
progress with time we see how a large number of individuals everywhere
throughout the world that have benefitted enormously from meditation. With each
having their own story to tell they can describe their experiences and tell you
how meditation changed them vigorously by lifting them to an alternate plane
spiritually and mentally. However, although there is no doubt about the fact
that mediation has its spiritual and mental benefits, that is not all that
meditation can do to and for you. Besides spiritual and mental improvements,
you can expect to see an increase in your physical health as well.  This paper examines the science of meditation
and its impacts on the human body. Through multiple studies we will look at how
Buddhist meditation practices have enhanced the livelihood of people’s bodies
physically, psycologically, internally and externally.

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Buddhism
and Health

. Bodhidharma is the 28th
Patriarch of Buddhism in a line of descent from the Buddha via his disciple
Mah?k??yapa, Buddha’s successor after his death (Site) Bodhidharma was a spirited
teacher who commended all Buddhists, monks or lay people to make their best
effort in this lifetime. Since he was opposed to the idea of earning merits by
making donations he acknowledges that everyone has Buddha-nature and encouraged
each and every one to be Awaken. Awakening is uncovering to the reality that
has always been and by doing so one must experience the Four Noble Truths which
is the process of understanding and experiencing suffrage. Besides being known
as the father of Zen Buddhism, he remains today as a prime symbol of determination,
willpower, self-discipline, and Awakening.

For Buddhism, physical
suffering is always going to be a part of life no matter what. From old age and
death, sickness is unavoidable and causes us to suffer to some degree. This
doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t relieve pain through accessible medical
resources, but if we continue to suffer, we should accept, acknowledge, and
mindfully endured it. Inside the Buddhist tradition, physical pain and illness
can provide an occurrence to the development of healthy and alluring mental
states including avoidance and tolerance(Site) Meaning that it isn’t the
overall concept off being sick, but rather how we respond to it that has
spiritual value in the Buddhist tradition. In his lessons, the Buddha censured
any type of self-mortification and abuse of either the body or mind. Underlying
this way to dealing with wellbeing and illness is Buddhism’s view that the body
and mind are interrelated and interdependent. Meaning that the body is a
significant instrument whose great wellbeing is simple for boosting spiritual
development. With that being said however, meditation practices, which is a center
piece of the Buddhist traditions, are composed to some degree to avoid and
address physical and mental illness as well.

Zen
Meditation

            Zen
meditation is a spiritual practice that promotes awareness and presence through
the undivided engagement of mind and body (site) When one engages in Zen
meditation, there is a three-step procedure that is highly encouraged for
people to follow: adjusting body, breathing and mind. When we talk about
adjusting the body, the change of the body intends to set oneself up (one’s
mind-body) such that one can accomplish an ideal condition of being free. One
way to accomplish this is by changing eating habits, engage in physical
exercise, and avoiding behaviors that go against nurturing a healthy mind-body
condition. Also in adjusting the body we recognize two sitting postures: the
lotus-posture and the half-lotus posture that contribute to helping one calm
the mind (site)

            Second
practice is the adjustment of breathing. The majority of benefits composed from
Zen meditation are closely tied to the practice of breathing.  Zen breathing is a shift from unconscious,
involuntary breathing to conscious, voluntary breathing (site) This means that
Zen meditation is a way of regulating the unconscious-autonomic order of our
being. This exercise has the effect of bringing together one’s mind-body with
fresh life-energy and exposing negative and toxic energy out of the ones system.
Zen breathing has a way of naturally increasing the positive correlation
between the activity of the autonomic nervous system and emotion( site) Neurophysiologically,
it just so happens that the center where breathing is regulated and the region
where emotion is generated coincide with each other(site)This means that the
conscious breathing psychologically affects the pattern of how one generates
emotion, and at the same time it also has a neurophysiological effect on how
the autonomous activity of the unconscious is regulated.

            Last
and final practice is adjusting the mind. Once the first two practices are
covered the next is to adjust the mind. This means that we consciously move to
enter a state of meditation. Meditation conditions one to sit with their self
and psychologically isolate themselves from the external world. With this, one
enters into an internal world of psyche(Site). Once an individual tries to
enter the world of psych?, a lot of things start surfacing in the field of the
persons meditative awareness. These are mostly things that have negatively
impacted the history of someones life, or things the individual has consciously
tried to suppress over time for various reasons. A psychological reason that a
person experiences these acts of refreshed suppressed memories is due to the
fact that the person has lowered the level of conscious activity, by assuming
the meditation posture, and doing the breathing exercise(site) As an individual
continues these practices they come to experience the concept “no mind” which
mean “there is no conscious activity of the mind that is associated with
ego-consciousness in the everyday standpoint” (site) In other word, no-mind is
a free mind that is not delimited by ideas, desires, and images. Helping one
remove themselves from cognitive negativity.

Effects

Since we have revealed
some historical context in Buddhism and broke down the key practices in Zen
reflection we will take a look at how these practices have added to enhancing
people groups mental state and physical state (internally and externally).
Presently we concentrate on the impacts of different reflective practices on
three markers of internal physical wellbeing, one marker of external wellbeing,
and one marker of mental wellbeing. For the internal physical health, we will
look at the immune system activity, cardiovascular health and pain perception.
For the external physical health portion, we will look at how meditation effect
the Epigenetic Clock. For our final marker we will look at the mental health
aspect such as emotional regulation and psychological state. For each, we summarize
the literature linking the health-related indicator to meditative practice.