He, who in autumn recalls a troublesome but by no means hapless life;
Who, smiling at his youth, recalls those old roads and pilgrimages,
Whose common goal had always been hidden,
By other goals nearer by.
For him the thought of feasts and festivities is far distant as is also
The pleasure in glory and in honouring applause.
For him, seeking quietude is the more immediate task;
To extinguish oneself and go out into the woods,

Like that Indian king,
To confront, in simplicity and reverence,
The laws of the gods.
(Hermann Hesse)

Originating from the latin word ‘meditari’, meaning ‘to heal’, this age old practice combines (generally) stillness with alertness – defined as, for example, ‘restful alertness’ or ‘hypometabolic wakefulness’. It appears to radically slow the ageing process. Research Findings:- The three markers of biological ageing are: –

  • Blood Pressure
  • Near-point vision
  • Hearing Threshold

These typically decline with age, however they all improved with long-term Transcendental Meditation practice. 2,000 regular meditators were compared with a group of 600,000 people over a 5 year period. Research focussed on their utilization of medical care. Meditators showed:-

  • 87% less heart disease
  • 87% less nervous system disease
  • 55% less tumour-related disease
  • 30% less of all infectious disease
  • overall utilization of medical care was 50% less

Meditators (Transcendental Meditation), with under 5 years practice were found to have a biological age 5 years younger than their chronological age. Those with over 5 years were up to 12 years younger. Significantly, meditators in the over 65 age group showed the most improvement in health categories (e.g. heart disease, cancer) when compared with control groups.

(Research is the work of:- Dr. Steven Sommer, Senior Lecturer, Department of Community Medicine, Monash University, Victoria.)

Mind – Body Medicine

Stress is certainly a significant contributor to high rates of cardiovascular disease, morbidity and mortality. A 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association article has stated:

“The mind-body” connection appears to be helpful in reducing BP…It has been studied in patients with HT and (patients) can use techniques from various traditions. It depends on what appeals to each patient, yoga or transcendental meditation or tai chi, but teaching them to breathe seems to have beneficial health effects, especially in patients with HT.”

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is by far the most researched standardized meditation technique for stress reduction.

Robert Schneider et al conducted the first RCT for hypertensive Afro-Americans to show that TM can be effective in reducing blood pressure. Vernon Barnes then showed that a reduction in vasoconstrictive tone may be the underlying mechanism of lowering blood pressure.

Changes in the levels of stress-related neurotransmitters such as cortisol, catecholamines and serotonin have also been found to occur during or after TM. Eisenberg et al revealed the effectiveness of the relaxation response for milk HT in his study of cognitive behavioural techniques for HT. This was confirmed by a meta-analysis concerning non-drug treatment for HT in 1994.

There also seems to be a therapeutic role for qi gong exercises in hypertensive individuals. Several retrospective studies have claimed that combining qi gong practice with antihypertensive drug therapy results in decreased incidence of stroke and mortality, and the ability to reduce the dosage of pharmaceuticals.
(Journal Source – Page 22 “Complementary Medicine” May/June 2003)

Meditation is an intrinsic part of the healing armory of Traditional Chinese Medicine. There is a veritable smorgasbord of techniques and practices. I recommend clients approach meditation eclectically and experience various styles, in an effort to discover a practice befitting the individual’s temperament, lifestyle and energy levels.

It is not necessarily for everyone (nothing is really), but everyone requires some form of personal practice to break ‘stress cycles’.

Much, much more to come…..