Meditation: A In-Depth Look

In-Depth Feature- Meditation by Courtney Martin

In this modern day and age, the negative effects of stress are
unavoidable. People have tried various methods to help cope with stress,
everything from exercise and diet to alternative methods like biofeedback.
However, the most effective method to deal with stress is not one of these
modern methods but rather a 5,000 year-old idea: Meditation. Meditation not only
helps reduce the negative effects of stress, but also leads to a better sense of
well-being by uniting mind and body.
The basic principles and practices of meditation are rooted in Hinduism,
an Asian religion whose followers believe that the soul is eternal and maintains
an eternal relationship with God. Hindus believe that because the soul is
eternal, it must reincarnate in various forms to retain this everlasting
relationship. Thousands of young people flocked to the ideas of Hinduism in the
1970\'s to escape the drug culture of the times.
As the troubled youth of the 1970\'s matures into the professionals of
the 1990\'s, the practice of meditation has been incorporated into the medical
field and studied for its effect on the body and mind. The physical practice of
meditation slows and calms the body, lowering blood pressure and heart rate with
the use of deep breathing exercises.
The calming of the body in itself works to fight stress but those who
meditate say that meditation also helps to replenish the mind. The mind, along
with the body, needs to feel at peace. In the hustle and bustle of the
technological age, we often seek out materialistic means of happiness. Some
pursue hobbies that like rock climbing that present both physical and mental
challenges to satisfy this need while others stretch out in front of the
television to relax.
We approach our search for a better sense of well-being on a
superficial level instead of dealing with the issues that are the root cause of
our pain. We don\'t really understand what happiness is and therefore spend our
time and energy trying to get rid of the pain instead of confronting it. If we
turn to meditation to guide us through the journey of self-awareness. If an
individual is aware of the cause of his pain, he can better understand it and
cope instead of letting it determine the course of his life. It is not the
actual event that produces a stressful response, but rather how we react to it.
Our reactions to stress, positive or negative, are selfish and block out
other points of view. Meditation allows us to step outside the situation,
seeing ourselves as the observer rather than the victim, and opens us up to
other points of view. By broadening our perspective, we are better able to deal
with those responses that are destructive. By doing so, we can learn to
recognize emotional pain and not be oppressed by it. This concept is similar to
the cancer patient who takes morphine to control physical pain; The drug helps
control the pain but the patient is still aware of it.
Meditation has been proven to be both physically and emotionally
beneficial, but why hasn\'t this union of body and mind become so popular until
recently? As the baby boomers get older, their unorthodox methods of youth have
evolved into acceptance as mainstream culture. New developments in science have
also forced psychiatrists to re-examine the effectiveness of medicines and have
come to the conclusion that there is a limit to what they can do. A conscious
effort must be made on the part of the patient as medicine can not cure
everything. Individuals are assuming responsibility for their own well-being.
Meditation appeals to educated people and has been very popular and
successful in helping the upper classes of American society deals with stress.
More recently, as meditation moves into mainstream medicine the lower income
classes are also beginning to explore meditation.
Andrea La Fave of the Maharishi Vedic University in Madison says the
majority of her clientele are college students who want to develop a higher
state of consciousness. "Every human being has the machinery to reach
blissfulness. Human consciousness and connection to the body can be developed,"
says La Fave. "Now, western medicine has the tools to prove it."
La Fave has been practicing meditation for over 25 years. As a "young,
stressed out college student", La Fave heard about the benefits of meditation
through a friend before organizations like the Maharishi Vedic University were
available. After her first session she felt deeply settled and was hooked.
La Fave says the ultimate goal of meditation is to "transcend thought
all together. When