As at how Buddhist meditation practices have enhanced

 

            As we progress with time we see how a large number of
individuals everywhere throughout the world have benefitted enormously from
meditation. With each having their own story to tell they can describe their experiences
and tell you how meditation changed them vigorously by lifting them to an
alternate plane spiritually and mentally. However, although there is no doubt
about the fact that mediation has its spiritual and mental benefits, that is
not all that meditation can do to and for you. Besides spiritual and mental
improvements, you can expect to see an increase in your physical health as well.  This paper examines the science of meditation
and its impacts on the human body. Through multiple studies we will look at how
Buddhist meditation practices have enhanced the livelihood of people’s bodies
physically, psycologically, internally and externally.

Buddhism and Health

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Bodhidharma was an
energetic teacher who called all Buddhists, monks or lay people to make their
best effort in this lifetime. He was opposed the idea of earning merits by
making donations. Instead, he affirmed that everyone has Buddha-nature and
encouraged each and everyone to Awaken. Bodhidharma is the 28th Patriarch of
Buddhism in a line of descent from the Buddha via his disciple Mah?k??yapa,
Buddha’s successor after his death. Besides being known as the father of both
Zen Buddhism and Shaolin martial arts, he remains today as a prime symbol of
determination, willpower, self-discipline, and Awakening.

For
Buddhism, physical suffering is an inescapable part of life. From old age and
death, sickness is unavoidable and causes us to suffer to some degree. This
doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t relieve pain through accessible medical resources,
but if we continue to suffer, it should be accepted, acknowledge, and mindfully
endured. Inside the Buddhist tradition, physical pain and
illness can provide an occurrence to the development of healthy and alluring
mental states including avoidance and tolerance(Site) Meaning that it isn’t the
overall concept off being sick, but rather how we respond to it that has
spiritual value in the Buddhist tradition. In his lessons, the
Buddha censured any type of self-mortification and abuse of either the body or
mind. Underlying
this way to dealing with wellbeing and illness is Buddhism’s view that the body
and mind are interrelated and interdependent. Hence, the
body is a significant instrument whose great wellbeing is basic for boosting
spiritual development. With that being said however, meditation practices, a
center piece of the Buddhist traditions, are composed to some degree to avert
and address physical and mental illness as well.

Zen
Meditation

            Zen
meditation is a spiritual practice that promotes awareness and presence through
the undivided engagement of mind and body
When one engages in Zen meditation, Zen recommends that its meditators
follow a three-step procedure: adjusting body, breathing and mind. When we talk
about adjusting the body, the change of the body intends to set oneself up (one’s
mind-body) such that one can accomplish an ideal condition of being free. One
way to accomplish this is by changing eating habits, engage in physical
exercise, and avoid behaviors that go against nurturing a healthy mind-body
condition. Also in adjusting the body we recognize two sitting postures: the
lotus-posture and the half-lotus posture that contribute to helping one calm
the mind.

            Second practice is adjustment of
breathing. The benefits of Zen meditation are closely tied to the practice of
breathing.  Zen
breathing is a shift from unconscious, involuntary breathing to conscious,
voluntary breathing. This means that Zen meditation is a way of regulating the
unconscious-autonomic order of our being. This exercise has the effect of
infusing one’s mind-body with fresh life-energy and expelling a negative toxic
energy out of the practitioner’s system. Zen breathing has a way
of naturally heightening the positive correlation between the activity of the
autonomic nervous system and emotion. Neurophysiologically, it just so happens
that the center where breathing is regulated and the region where emotion is
generated coincide with each other. This means that the conscious breathing
psychologically affects the pattern of how one generates emotion, and at the
same time it also has a neruophysiological effect on how the autonomous
activity of the unconscious is regulated(site)

Last
and final practice is adjusting the mind. Once the first two practices are
covered the next is to adjust the mind. This means that consciously moving to
enter a state of meditation. Meditation trains one to sit with theirself
and psychologically isolate themselves from the external world. With this, one
enters into an internal world of psyche(Site). Once an individual  tries to enter the world of psych?, a lot of
things start surfacing in the field of the persons meditative awareness. These
are mostly things of concern that have occupied the practitioner in the history
of his or her life, or things the practitioner has consciously suppressed for
various reasons. A psychological reason that the practitioner experiences these
various things is due in part to the fact the practitioner has lowered the
level of conscious activity, by assuming the meditation posture, and doing the
breathing exercise. As an individual continues these practices they come to
experience the concept “no mind” which mean “there is no conscious activity of
the mind that is associated with ego-consciousness in the everyday standpoint”
(site) In other word, no-mind is a free mind that is not delimited by ideas,
desires, and images. Helping one remove themselves from cognitive negativity.

Effects
of Meditation

            Now
that we have uncovered some historical context and gone of the main idea of Buddhist
practices in meditation we will look at how these practices have contributed to
helping improve peoples mental state, physical state, internally and externally.
Now we focus on the effects of various meditative practices on three indicators
of physical health: Immune system activity, cardiovascular health and pain perception, mental health such as emotional
regulation and psychological stat and conclude the Epigenetic
Clock . For each, we first summarize the literature linking the health-related
indicator to meditative practice, then suggest potential psychological
mechanisms of action that might drive the effects of various meditative
practices.

To
start of with the immune system studies conducted in the past have proved that
Zen meditation helps improve the immune system of the body. And a better
immunity means that you fall sick less often due to minor infections and
ailments like common cold, flu, bad throats, etc. Adults with previous
meditation experience were recruited for a 3-month-long study on the effects of
meditation training on telomerase activity in immune cells. Telomerase is an
enzyme that maintains the protective “end caps” on DNA that promote genomic
stability and prevent mutation; higher levels of telomerase are linked to lower
levels of stress and better health (Epel, 2009). In a more direct measure of
immune functioning, 8 weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
training, which involves open monitoring and focused attention practices,
predicted a greater rise in antibody titers in response to the influenza
vaccine for adult meditators relative to participants in a wait-list control
group (Davidson et al., 2003).

            Likewise, Cardiovascular health. Practicing Zen
meditation also helps lower the heart rate, improve blood circulation, and
lower blood pressure all of which also contribute further towards a younger and
healthier looking and glowing skin. Besides making you look and feel younger,
improved blood circulation has numerous other health benefits. In a
meta-analysis of the effects of meditation on adults diagnosed with
hypertension, transcendental meditation, a form of focused attention involving
chanting a personalized mantra, was more effective than progressive muscle
relaxation in producing a clinically significant reduction in blood pressure,
but was not more effective than a health education program (Ospina et al.,
2007).

            Pain perception. Zen meditation helps reduce pain and
also sensitivity to it. It is not that those who meditate do not feel the pain.
They do because they are human after all. But Zen meditation teaches them how
to cope up with it and they do not dwell on it much due to which they can deal
with pain in a more dignified manner. A variety of meditation
practices have been studied as treatments for pain, both chronic and acute. In
a meta-analysis of 22 studies of open monitoring practices as a treatment for
chronic pain, the decrement in self-reported pain intensity for open monitoring
was comparable to the effect size of standard treatment (Veehof, Oskam,
Schreurs, & Bohlmeijer, 2011).

There
have been fewer studies of the effect of meditation on acute pain, and the
studies that exist have focused on open monitoring practices such as
mindfulness (Zeidan, Grant, Brown, McHaffie, & Coghill, 2012). In two
studies comparing the pain perception of long-term meditation practitioners
(more than 10,000 hours of lifetime practice) and participants naïve to
meditation, the long-term practitioners reported less pain in response to a
pain stimulus administered while engaging in open monitoring meditation (Grant
& Rainville, 2009; Perlman, Salomons, Davidson, & Lutz, 2010). Brief
mindfulness training may also be effective in reducing feelings of acute pain.

Studies
and researches conducted on the topic have proved that meditating regularly
‘activates the left prefrontal cortex while diminishing activity in the right
prefrontal cortex of the brain’. Since the left frontal cortex is associated
with positive feelings like calmness, happiness, serenity and peace, meditation
acts as a great stress buster. It has also helped many people find a solution
to problems like depression. By lowering the stress levels,
meditation helps lower the frequency of panic attacks. It also helps increase
the production of serotonin, a hormone which can cause depression, insomnia,
obesity, headaches, etc. if not secreted in adequate quantities.

Improvements
in emotion regulation may work as a mechanism of action for mindfulness
meditation by decreasing emotional reactivity to negative events and speeding
recovery from stress, leading to improved cardiovascular functioning. Because
mindfulness training involves focused attention as well as open monitoring, however,
it is unknown whether it is open monitoring, focused attention or both that
influence emotion regulation. A recent review of psychotherapeutic approaches
to mindfulness found that mindfulness meditation was associated with improved
emotion regulation, decreased rumination, and decreased emotional reactivity to
negative stimuli (Davis & Hayes, 2011). One study compared the effects of 7
weeks of mindfulness meditation, relaxation meditation, or a waitlist control
on emotional reactivity to unpleasant pictures and psychological well-being.
While both meditative practices led to increases in well-being relative to the
waitlist control, only those in the mindfulness training condition showed
decreases in emotional reactivity to unpleasant pictures (Ortner, Kilner, &
Zelazo, 2007).

Zen
meditation brings down the body’s rate of respiration due to which you consume
lesser oxygen if you meditate regularly. The process of aging, which depends
upon the rate at which you consume oxygen, helps you take many years off your
body simply by regulating your breathing process! Meditation-based
stress reduction interventions have increasingly become a focus of scientific
interest to promote healthy aging. Recent research suggests that meditation has
beneficial effects in stress and age-related neuroplastic changes, and mood and
cognitive disorders (Davidson and McEwen, 2012; Acevedo et al., 2016; Luders,
2014). Molecular mechanisms involved in the aging process, such as
inflammation, immune and epigenetic pathways (Black and Slavich, 2016; Kaliman
et al., 2014), as well as telomere maintenance (Epel et al., 2009; Alda et al.,
2016), are also sensitive to contemplative practices. However, it remains
unexplored whether meditation experience modulates the rate of the epigenetic
aging. Given the well-characterized effect of meditation practice on stress
reduction (McEwen, 2016), we tested the hypothesis that long-term practitioners
would show slower rates of epigenetic aging than age and sex matched controls

Conclusion

Most
of us these days are beset by postural problems, most of them caused by long
hours spent in front of the computer screen or driving a car. Zazen helps you
improve your posture, as Zen meditation helps you strengthen your back muscles.
This helps you while walking as well as while sitting. This makes the body
stronger, more flexible and more toned by aligning the muscles of the spine and
also those around it. It also helps to fortify the abdominal muscles. A
stronger core thus helps protect the back from both pain and strain. Besides
this, an improved posture improves the overall strength of the body, making you
look more graceful and taller.