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Meditation vs. quiet thinking
Does the use of disciplined meditation techniques produce greater physiological benefits than just sitting quietly? This question is hard to answer with scientific precision, because states of mind and spiritual effects are hard, or impossible, to measure. A decade ago, in a report called In The Mind's Eye, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed the evidence about meditation and concluded that meditation may be "a complex and powerful system" that lies beyond scientific analysis. Its benefits are hard to prove which doesn't mean they don't exist.
Still, science has tried to analyze meditation. Research has shown, among other things, that people who practice TM have lower blood pressure after meditating. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to be useful in treating insomnia, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, and premenstrual syndrome, as well as in helping control drug abuse.
But in some other studies comparing meditators to control groups who simply sat quietly, the control groups achieve the same beneficial results. Other forms of relaxation training (for instance, techniques of progressive muscle relaxation) may be just as useful in reducing blood pressure and emotional stress.
If you already meditate and find it helpful, you should certainly continue. It's not for everybody and yet, you need no special education or qualifications if you feel inclined to learn. Some hospitals and clinics, as well as YMCAs, now offer meditation workshops. So do some community groups, synagogues, and churches. Check the Yellow Pages, or ask around. It cant hurt to learn, unless your teacher tries to persuade you to ignore medical advice for treating illness.
If you don't want to meditate but would like to relax, find a few minutes each day to be alone without any distractions at all. For some people, lying or sitting quietly, taking a long walk, or listening attentively to music whatever works to produce a feeling of serenity may be as good as meditation.