Jul 20, 2007

The Benefits of Meditation

What are the benefits of meditation? To find out, you could simply ask people who regularly meditate. One of them happens to be Mr Wang.

And Mr Wang would tell you: “Based on my personal experience, meditation sharply improves concentration. It makes you smarter. You will understand things faster, and become more creative. You will even become wise. Furthermore, meditation brings you happiness. Therefore I encourage you to meditate.”

Whereupon the skeptical might say: “Well, Mr Wang, how do you know this? Have your claims been verified in any double-blind experiment? And if so, I insist that the double-blind experiment be replicated by other scientists. Make sure that the sample size is good and please do your statistical analysis properly. Otherwise I shall not believe your ludicrous claims.”

Mr Wang would reply: “Oh well. If you don’t believe me, you could go ask other people who meditate regularly. Based on their personal experience, they would probably tell you the same things as I have. In fact, some old people say that meditation helps them to stay alert and think as sharply as much younger people. And why would they lie to you? Anyway, the effect of meditation is something you can easily verify for yourself. Just try it three times a week, for about 20 minutes each time. And you will see.”

Whereupon the skeptical would say: “Nonsense! Do you actually expect me to trust my very own experience? Show me evidence, in the form of a scientific paper published in a scientific journal! And not just any scientific journal, but a peer-reviewed scientific journal. And not just a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but a top-tier peer-reviewed scientific journal. And make sure the scientists come from world-class academic institutions like Yale, MIT or Harvard Medical School! Anything less will be totally unacceptable to me!”

And then Mr Wang would say: “Eh, you think I very free ah? I give you good advice, if you don’t believe, then don’t believe lah. Like I owe you money, liddat. Throughout the history of mankind, people have known about the benefits of meditation for THOUSANDS of years, not as if it’s a DAMNED BIG secret or what. Is it my fault that modern science is so slow in catching up? Next time you want to know anything, don’t ask me lah, go and google for the answer yourself! Duh.”

Meditation found to increase brain size
Mental calisthenics bulk up some layers
By William J. Cromie

People who meditate grow bigger brains than those who don't.

Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found the first evidence that meditation can alter the physical structure of our brains. Brain scans they conducted reveal that experienced meditators boasted increased thickness in parts of the brain that deal with attention and processing sensory input.

In one area of gray matter, the thickening turns out to be more pronounced in older than in younger people. That's intriguing because those sections of the human cortex, or thinking cap, normally get thinner as we age.

"Our data suggest that meditation practice can promote cortical plasticity in adults in areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being," says Sara Lazar, leader of the study and a psychologist at Harvard Medical School. "These findings are consistent with other studies that demonstrated increased thickness of music areas in the brains of musicians, and visual and motor areas in the brains of jugglers. In other words, the structure of an adult brain can change in response to repeated practice."
.... Link.

11 comments:

angry doc said...

Wow. Talk about synchronicity...

http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2007/07/meditate-on-thi.html

Mr Wang Says So said...

I agree with you, Angry Doc. As I said in my post, science is very slow in investigating meditation and it does not surprise me at all that the available scientific research is, as a whole, quite woefully inadequate.

ethan said...

Hello Mr Wang,

Where could I learn more on how to mediate?

Anonymous said...

i see a straw man...

moomooman said...

That was as funny as I ever known wang to be.

Finally something I read and smile from this site. Hardly got chance to smile here. Mostly, I leave here with a headache.

sgblogs.com said...

I'm sure anything that involves doing nothing will help improve concentration.. hehehehehe

meditator said...

It should be common sense to anybody who has common sense that meditation is beneficial. It follows directly from the definition of meditation.

Meditation, at its most fundamental, is defined as a training of the mind to concentrate e.g. basic Buddhist concentration meditation goes like this: you breathe in and out, concentrating on the sensation of the air passing in and out of your nostril. If you get distracted and start thinking about some other thing, you try to get back to concentrate on the breathing. Or if you prefer, you can concentrate by fixating on a blue (or whatever colour) disc (or whatever shape) etc. The object doesn't matter, since it is merely a tool to train your mind to concentrate.

Is it not common sense that after some diligent training of the mind to concentrate, the mind will indeed be able to concentrate better?

And if you can concentrate better, then obviously "It makes you smarter. You will understand things faster, and become more creative. You will even become wise".

But wait, why should anyone be bothered even if it does not lead smartness/ creativity/ bigger brain etc? Isn't a mind that is better able to concentrate on whatever task on hand, a good enough benefit that warrants one to start meditation asap, without bothering whether there are even greater benefits to it?

Mr Wang Says So said...

The creativity element is interesting to me because I am involved in one particular genre of the arts

(yes, people, apart from work; family; blogging; meditation; and about 20 other things, I am also involved in the arts)

and I have found that in the periods of time where I am meditating regularly, the creative ideas come much more quickly ...

... and (because I know my own artistic style best), are REALLY creative for me (ie represent a change from my old style, or to put it another way, is not just my same old brain reapplying a same old idea in a different context.

This is not a matter of concentrating better or not. In fact, the creative ideas come when I hold myself in a state of no-mind (you, as a meditator, will know what I mean).

Christopher Ng Wai Chung said...

Scientists who wish to examine the experiments formed around meditation should look no further than this book by Daniel Goleman. The fella who wrote that famous book on Emotional Intelligence.

http://www.amazon.com/Meditative-Mind-Daniel-Goleman/dp/0874778336/ref=pd_bbs_5/105-0705770-2446057?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1184983207&sr=8-5

I believe that a body of evidence exists to confirm the benefits of meditation. It is'nt particularly dramatic but it's known to lower blood pressure.

Regards

mohit said...

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Anna Houck said...

Very good example of what meditation can do to a person. Can you tell me please How you prevent difficulties from meditating?