Over the past twenty years or so, meditation has gained an increasing acceptance and practice in the West. While still far from being an important part of Western society, the practice of meditation has made significant inroads in the therapeutic and medical community and is winning increasingly broad support in business, educational, and political arenas.
We can say that in United States, meditation has survived its infancy and is well on its way through childhood. The reason for this increasing acceptance is that meditation has proven to be both a practical and effective tool for increasing health as well as happiness. The past twenty years have provided consistent clinical and scientific experience that allows us to draw some strong conclusions about the practice of meditation. In general, we can state with great confidence, based on evidence that the consistent practice of meditation leads to a healthier and more effective human being.
More specifically, those who practice some form of meditation have one or more of the following characteristics: they have lower triglyceride levels; achieve a lower, more stable heart rate; they have lower blood pressure; they have a slower and more stable respiratory rate; they have a more stable galvanic skin response; report fewer psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches, colds, gastric disturbances; take fewer prescription and nonprescription drugs; report lower levels of anxiety and fear; score higher on self-actualization inventories; and have increased capacity for loving relationships.
The preceding describes only a few of the many benefits of meditation. In short, when compared to others who do not practice meditation, or to their state before they began to meditate, those who consistently practice meditation are healthier, happier, and more effective human beings. Clinical experience, scientific research, and the experience of an average person all point to one and the same conclusion: the consistent practice of meditation is probably the most important and effective self-help tool available today for personal health and effectiveness. It is also clear that under the guidance of a competent instructor, meditation can be safely and successfully practiced by almost anyone without any fear of harmful side-effects.
The real question is not whether meditation is helpful, but rather how and why it works. What is it that happens during and as a result of meditation that produces such specific physical and mental benefits and leads to improvement in many aspects of one’s life? The key to answering these questions lies in understanding the relationship between meditation and the emotions. The physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes listed above all reflect a more balanced and harmonious emotional state.