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Meditation - Meditation 2010
Written by Frank Mangano   
Friday, 07 January 2011 02:31

Pain is pain and sometimes, you feel like you cannot do anything about it.  Conditions such as arthritis and low back pain can significantly affect a person’s quality of life.  When pain strikes, you may find that curling up in bed, or remaining immobile, or popping that pain-relieving pill may be your only solution.  But that is not the case.

There are a lot of natural ways available for you to deal with the pain – minus the side effects, of course.

So how does one deal with pain?  Nature has provided us with a lot means to help alleviate something as disturbing as pain.  Examples include:

  1. Eating pineapple.  This fruit contains the enzyme bromelain which helps reduce the inflammatory processes happening inside the body. It does not cause stomach upset and heart problems that are typically associated with over-the-counter medications.

  2. Acupuncture.  This has been used decades and decades ago as a form of treatment for pain.  Although nobody really knows how it does that, but acupuncture is said to trigger the release of ‘feel-good’ hormones known as endorphins, stimulates the production of natural morphine and other chemicals known to eliminate pain.

  3. Herbs.  Examples of helpful herbs are ginger, Boswellia and white willow bark can also help reduce pain by reducing inflammation.

  4. Tai Chi.  A study conducted on arthritis sufferers revealed that arthritics who perform tai chi reported moderate improvement in pain levels as well as a good sense of well-being.

  5. Zen Meditation. Zen meditation differs from other forms of meditation as it typically requires a person to silently pay utmost attention on one’s breathing and posture, with eyes remaining open.  This is to be done in a quiet place, with the individual calmly dismissing any form of thoughts as soon as it pops up.  Essentially, Zen meditation would ask you to “think about nothing”.  Practicing Zen meditation has been associated with reduced pain sensitivity.

How Zen Meditation Relieves Pain

A researcher from the University of Montreal, Pierre Rainville, together with his colleagues, conducted a study with the goal of determining how Zen meditators are able to achieve lower sensitivity to pain. Previous studies have shown that people who practice Zen meditation are less sensitive to the feelings of pain, and Rainville, senior author of the recent study, reported how in the Pain journal.

With the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers revealed that even though the meditators were conscious of the pain, the painful sensation was not processed in a specific area of their brain that is responsible for memory formation, reasoning and appraisal.  The researchers believe that the meditators can actually feel the pain, but the process is cut short, thus, the stimuli is not interpreted and is not perceived or labelled as painful.  The researchers’ observations could have an influence on the management and treatment of patients suffering from chronic pain, who are day-by-day struggling with the functional and physical impacts of debilitating conditions such as back pain and arthritis.

These observations were made after 13 Zen meditators were exposed to a heat stimulus in order to elicit pain.  Functional MRI’s were carried out to the brains of the meditators while the research team gathered subjective reports of pain perception.  When the results were compared to 13 other non-meditating participants, the researchers discovered that those who were very experienced in Zen meditation  reported lower responses to pain and have shown lesser activity in the particular brain parts that are associated with memory, emotion and cognitive processes – the hippocampus, amygdale and the prefrontal cortex.

Joshua Grant, one of the authors of the study, expressed his optimism that their findings have the potential of paving the way for newer and fresher insights into the functions of the mind and the brain.  He said that the results of their study poses a challenge to the present concepts related to mental control, which is perceived to be accomplished by increasing cognitive effort or activity.  The researchers suggest that passive self-regulation is possible as long as the person turns off certain brain areas, specifically those that are normally involved in pain processing.  Grant is a doctoral student at the University of Montreal.

Rainville added that the results of the study implies that people who practice Zen meditation may possibly possess an ability that is related to training to extricate some higher brain processes while feeling the stimulus.  Such ability poses profound and widespread implications for the regulation of emotion and pain, and cognitive control.  This typical behaviour is in harmony with the Zen mindset as well as with the concept of mindfulness.

What Zen Meditation Can Do for You

Aside from the mentioned benefit of Zen meditation in dealing with pain, there are a plethora of health benefits that one can derive from the practice.  The mental benefits are obvious – it helps reduce stress levels, promotes better sleep, encourages positive thinking, improves ones concentration, helps develop an openness to life, clears the mind of useless “clutter”, and it enhances a person’s relationship with his own self and with other people.

A study published in the PLoS ONE journal revealed that Zen meditation helps in the treatment of people suffering from major depression, anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

However, you may be surprised to know that the benefits of Zen meditation are not solely confined to the mental and emotional well-being – it apparently helps with the physical health as well.

  • Zen meditation is said to help enhance the immune system.  A healthy immune system will make the person less predisposed to contracting conditions such as the common cold, flu, and infections.

  • Practicing Zen meditation is also said to help lower a person’s cholesterol levels.  Hypercholesterolemia, or excessive blood cholesterol levels, is a major risk factor for the development of often fatal conditions such as atherosclerosis, heart diseases, and stroke.

  • It also helps reduce high blood pressure.  This is very beneficial for people whose high blood pressure remains uncontrolled since this would help prevent cardiovascular-related events which, again, may prove to be fatal.




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