My mother, like most women of 75, has a few health problems. She is a little heavy, she has cholesterol plaque in her arteries, her high blood pressure sometimes gets out of control and she has trouble sleeping. After losing heart over traditional mainstream medicine at some point, she decided to try something alternative – something holistic. She chose meditation. A half-hour session twice a day, each day. It’s not like it was easy for her to take the time out, running her florist’s shop as she does. But she just decided to go for it. That was five years ago. Today at 80, she has been regular with her transcendental meditation all this while.
So how does it actually help her? Did she actually gets her blood pressure or her cholesterol down? She certainly has. She only takes a small dose of blood pressure medicine now, much less than what she used to, and her blood pressure is completely normal for her age. And she’s managed to lose about 50 pounds too. As much as they tried before, she never managed to do it. There have been lots of studies into the logic behind meditation. Some of them have been more credible than others. The most credible ones were conducted by the National Institute of Health in accordance with all accepted standards of research. The least credible ones were commissioned by the Maharishi University, an establishment that has a great deal invested in the success of transcendental meditation.
A study at a venue as respected as the American Heart Association has found that transcendental meditation actually has real tangible benefits for people like my mother who are at great risk of a heart attack, people with long-standing coronary problems. The study didn’t just happen on that finding; they followed about 200 subjects for years and found that the people who were at high risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Half of them were subjects who were merely given the traditional advice about changes to their diet and their exercise habits. The other half, were 100 subjects who regularly meditated; of all the subjects who meditated, only 20 had heart attacks or strokes later in life. In the other group, there were more than 30. In general, the meditators dropped their blood pressure by five points, and had fewer complaints and diseases in general.
The encouraging thing about meditation is that it doesn’t need any special ability, education or attitude to be successful. The subjects in the study hadn’t even passed high school, and didn’t make more than $10,000 a year. All that meditation needs is, that you look inside, and help your body relax, loosen its stresses, and aid the body in cutting down on the production of stress hormones. One thing no one really understands yet, is why it is that lower levels of stress hormones should make you healthier. But as long as it works this way, and is easy to achieve, we could go along, and wait for the day that they find out why it works. From what we know now though, work it does.