I have been trumpeting the claims of meditation as well as mindfulness over the past year or so (I recently wrote an article for our UnBound magazine on the benefits as well). For me and many others, the practice has been life-changing. Indeed, at Saybrook University, our Mind-Body Medicine and Psychology programs embrace both of these activities as keys to improving mental health.
Now, with that said, I have occasionally been met with some level of skepticism from friends and colleagues, who at some level assert that meditation practice is “so Bay Area”. Fair enough. The “woo” factor associated with the West Coast is a reputation somewhat fairly earned given that some mind-body practices ride the line between pseudo-science and outright absurdity; practices that have little clinical research to stand on except for the occasional anecdote of personal transformation. While these stories of transformation should not be fully discounted, when it comes to making claims on the benefits of integrative practices and approaches, good research has its place as a means of promoting advances to improving the health of our society.
Meditation and mindfulness are integrative techniques that are a far cry from the extremes of alternative approaches to healthy living. Indeed, today, I was pleased to see in the New York Times two articles: the first touting the benefits of meditating everyday and a full resource guide to meditation, including a simple how-to guide, links to scientific resources, and other helpful articles that point to the power of regular meditation. The longer-term health benefits that may emerge as a result of daily practice are worth exploration.
I will conclude with a quote from Farhad Manjoo’s opinion article (mentioned above) in which he writes about how meditation can be a salve for how we engage with digital technology:
I knew all of this when I first began meditating a year ago, but I was still surprised at how the practice altered my relationship with the digital world. At first, it wasn’t easy: After decades of swimming in the frenetic digital waters, I found that my mind was often too scrambled to accommodate much focus. Sitting calmly, quietly and attempting to sharpen my thoughts on the present moment was excruciating. For a while, I flitted among several meditation books and apps, trying different ways to be mindful without pain.
Then, about four months ago, I brute-forced it: I made meditation part of my morning routine and made myself stick with it. I started with 10 minutes a day, then built up to 15, 20, then 30. Eventually, something clicked, and the benefits became noticeable, and then remarkable.
The best way I can describe the effect is to liken it to a software upgrade for my brain — an update designed to guard against the terrible way the online world takes over your time and your mind.
~ From “You Should Meditate Everyday” by Farhad Manjoo, NY Times, January 9, 2019