Thursday, July 28, 2011

Do Atheists Meditate?

Whist listening to the 23rd episode of the ArdentAtheist, Suzanne Whang asked the question, “do atheists meditate?”  Well, sure, why not?  

When you think of meditation, you might imagine New Age spiritual (Deepak Chopra) silliness.  And, although, that silliness is where I was introduced to meditation, it doesn't mean that it has to continue to exist with that stigma attached.

Meditation has been recognized for years, by many in the medical community, as an effective means of relieving stress of all kinds.  The practice entails the use of breathing techniques, conscious muscle relaxation and (the hardest part) the act of trying to clear the mind.  Through regular practice, those who meditate have been shown to have a marked reduction in anxiety and pain (I've had the same personal success), although the mechanisms were little understood.  That's changing now.

Last semester, I was instructed to write a research paper on any topic and I chose meditation as the subject.  What was really amazing to me was that there was truly research being done on this topic, and while it is still in its infancy, there have been studies that show that meditation has the potential to change the physical and neural structures of the brain.  For more information, please check out the Lab for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Harvard’s Lab of Meditation Research headed by Sara Lazar.
There are many types of meditation to choose from, i.e. compassion meditation, mindfulness meditation, etc.  Each apparently affects the brain in its own way and produces different results.  I personally suggest the study of meditation because it works for many and the really cool thing is that science is beginning to find out why this is so.  No faith or superstition needed.  =)

No comments:

Post a Comment