Meditation has always been a kind of “therapy” for the mind, bringing calmness and serenity into stressed-out modern lives. But now researches are discovering what can only be called the “miraculous” healing powers of meditative states, which are now being prescribed in hospitals around the country to heal everything from psychological disorders to stomach and heart disease.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has been leading cutting edge research on meditation for over 20 years. The results of decades of research on meditation are in, and far from being a mystic practice, meditation is now being considered by researchers and medical practitioners as the great panacea of our time.
Dr. Zinn’s speech starts at the 4 minute mark. Here is a breakdown of his lecture:
25 minutes: “We must cultivate the domain of being, in order to not be overwhelmed by all the doing and the performing.”
Dr. Zinn describes meditation as a state of being rather than an action or activity. You are not trying to do or accomplish anything. You are not even trying to get rid of the thoughts in your mind or attain enlightenment. You are simply trying to be present, to be mindful of what is happening in your body. When you become mindful of your breathing, you can take it deeper, and by eventually holding your entire being in your awareness, you can change the way your mind and body react to stress.
46 minutes: Dr. Zinn gives an example of Guided Meditation.
“Let the idea that, ‘oh now we’re going to do something special’, drop. As soon as you plant that seed, now we’re going to do something special, then you’ll be on the lookout for something special.”
1 hour 14 minutes – “Science is 99% failure… You’re looking for that 1%.”
As in the pursuit of scientific truth, so in the search for our own truth do we fail most of the time. But failure isn’t really a failure at all, because as Dr. Zinn says, everything you need is already inside of you. You don’t need anything else. Dr. Zinn always begins therapy for any patient with the idea that “there is more right with you than is wrong with you.”
Then comes the truly incredible discovery: That in simply being mindful of our own selves, we can actually begin to participate in the re-creation of our selves. 1 hour 24 minutes – “Brain structure is actually changing.”
It turns out that our minds, habits, behaviors, and even our personalities are “plastic”. They are flexible, and they can change. One of the extraordinary finding related to this plasticity is that mindfulness can actually impact our genes in ways that counter the aging process. Forget about the Hollywood kind of plastic – this is true self-malleability.
Elizabeth Blackburn, the nobel prize winning scientist who discovered telomerase, is now researching the effects of mindfulness meditation on the function of telomerase and the length of telomeres. Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes, and they deteriorate over time, which negatively affects gene expressions and is one of the signs of aging. Telomerase is an enzyme that protects telomeres from deterioration. Blackburn and her researchers have found that increased stress decreases the length of our telomeres, while meditation INCREASES the length of your telomeres, which seems to be a reversal of the aging process.
1 hour 29 minutes: “It’s not about shutting off the toxic thought stream, it’s learning how to hold it differently… That affects your telomeres, and that affects gene expression in your body, up-regulating and down-regulating hundreds of genes… your whole body is really plastic, and the more you tune the mind and the body together, the more you participate in your own health and well being.”
The medicine of the future is participatory medicine. Your body knows how to heal itself, and if you learn to hold stress differently, you can activate the body’s self healing rhythms. Meditation is a practice that has extraordinary potential for the human race – it can heal psychological problems, pain, depression, medical conditions, gene expression, and even aging; it can help children perform better in school and help people in general be kinder to one another – yet it is achieved by doing nothing out of the ordinary at all. You already have everything you need to be your best self. It is just being mindful of those things.
This is truly a mindfulness that can heal the world.