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Thread: The Science Behind Mindfulness

  1. #1

    The Science Behind Mindfulness

    (If posting links like this is considered spam, please let me know, or feel free to take it down.)

    I've come across a website that's really changed my perspective on zazen, and practice in general.
    It is written by a fourth year medical student who highly values meditation, and has attempted to explain the unexplainable reality that is the brain to us mere mortals.

    Go ahead and have a look, if this sounds interesting to you!

  2. #2
    Hi Alex,

    Thank you for the post. My personal belief is that many of the health and scientific studies on many forms of meditation (including Zazen) have been a bit overblown and methodologies of the studies are often open to question (sampling groups too small, meditation results more ambiguous than the headlines etc.). As I often say, "Zazen will not fix your bad tooth. You need a dentist for that. The most Zazen will do is make you one with the throbbing pain, and teach you the emptiness of getting a filling". Zazen will not make one "happy happy raise the roof happy" all the time 24/7, although one will know a great Peace and Boundless Joy about sometimes being happy and some days being sad.

    That being said, I do believe that Zazen reduces stress, makes us happier, much more at home in daily life, right At Home in a world that sometimes seems far from home. It might not cure heart disease (not so long as we keep eating chips), but it may have beneficial effects and (should one have a bad ticker) make one more at one with the experience of that. It lets us transcend mortality even as we remain oh so mortal! All that stress reduction must have some good effects and, anyway, sure makes life experiences (like going to medical school for the fellow on that blog) a tiny bit easier (although it won't provide the answers to your final exams, and you still need to crack the books for that). I am sure that Zazen ... with its emphasis on letting life be, Gratitude and Foregiveness, not buying into our harmful thoughts ... would be helpful to a great degree for any manner of syndromes such as depression (especially the kind centered on overthinking negative thoughts), addictions and the like (although one should, hand in hand, seek professional help with those which may be more important than the Zafu alone). I am sure it would help with a psychosomatic or stress based syndrome as may be the stomach pains the man was having in the essays before he began meditating.

    This week the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released a massive meta-analysis on the effectiveness of meditation (variously defined) for a number of healthcare applications.

    The conclusion of the study will not surprise those who have studied or practiced meditation for any length of time: meditation is a mixed-bag, in terms of definitions, applications, and outcomes. The generalization that meditation is basically a good thing, is supported by the study. However, the truism that meditation doesn’t help with everything is also clearly reinforced. As the authors state in their brief abstract of the 400+ page paper:

    Meditation programs, in particular mindfulness programs, reduce multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress. Stronger study designs are needed to determine the effects of meditation programs in improving the positive dimensions of mental health as well as stress-related behavioral outcomes. (p.viii)


    Our review shows that there is moderate strength of evidence that mindfulness meditation programs are beneficial for reducing pain severity, and there is low to moderate strength of evidence that mindfulness meditation programs may lead to improvement in dimensions of negative affect, including anxiety, depression, and perceived stress/general distress. Otherwise, much of the evidence was insufficient to address the comparisons for most of the questions. There were also too few trials of mantra meditation programs to draw meaningful conclusions. There may be many reasons for this lack of evidence. (p 136)
    In any case, someone with a health or psychological condition should seek medical and professional advice and not rely on Zazen or other meditation alone.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-22-2014 at 10:24 AM.

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