Is it possible to treat chronic pain with meditation; replacing the need for narcotics? What is involved with an effective meditation process that can reduce or eliminate pain? Meditation is a mind and body practice used for increasing calmness, focus, relaxation and overall well-being. Meditation involves slow, regular breathing and sitting quietly for at least 15 to 20 minutes. A study published in Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology magazine found that five months of daily meditation may help one’s brain stay calm during sudden pain. The researchers concluded that meditation may not numb people to sudden pain, but it may change how the brain responds to that pain.
“People who consistently practice meditation can help decrease their pain or make it more bearable,” says Dr. Kathy Gruver, who has written three popular books on health and who received a PhD in Natural Health.
“We are living in an age where there has been an alarming growth rate of stress,” says Mario Orsatti, Co-Director of the David Lynch Foundation’s Center for Leadership Performance. “Over the past decades, our medical community has become increasing aware that the majority of all diseases are either caused or complicated by stress. Over the past 50 years, some very insightful, open-minded people in research and medicine saw the potential of meditation and have spent substantial resources studying its effects and benefits, and publishing their findings in prominent medical journals.”
The American Heart Association concluded that the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique is the only meditation practice that has been shown to lower blood pressure and recommends that TM be considered in clinical practice for the prevention and treatment of hypertension.
TM is essentially the classic mantra practice of India presented in a contemporary format, easily accessible to Westerners. Mindfulness meditation is also growing in popularity. “People should find a practice of meditation that resonates with them,” says Orsatti. “There are a wide variety of meditation practices with the major categories recognized by science. Meditations that involve ‘focused attention,’ in which the practitioner would most commonly use a an object of concentration to bring a wandering mind back, again and again, ‘open monitoring or mindfulness,’ maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, and those that involve ‘automatic self-transcending’—the practice of effortlessly experiencing the inward flow of awareness for heightened awareness and deep rest” are all effective practices.
“People are beginning to realize that although they are exercising their bodies more, they need to ‘exercise their minds’— to bring a healthier, vibrant, resilient state to their mind,” says Orsatti. “They should find a practice that they can do regularly. Our foundation has chosen TM for the projects we fund for those suffering from extreme stress, like urban school children, veterans with PTSD and women recovering from the trauma of domestic violence, because TM provides trained teachers and personalized instruction over a period of time.”
“Reducing stress through the practice of meditation can result in significantly improving the quality of life of those who have chronic pain,” said Orsatti who has been teaching the Transcendental Meditation technique since 1973 when he first introduced TM to inner city school students. At the David Lynch Foundation, his organization funded about 500,000 children to learn TM with remarkable results with even NBC Nightly News featuring their success.
“More and more people are turning to meditation and mindfulness for healing benefits,” says Gruver. “And the bottom line is that there are no negative side effects. Skeptics can continue to be skeptical but if they open their eyes to the proof they have to at some point acknowledge the benefits.”
“Learning a practice like TM inevitably leads to a whole host of benefits,” adds Orsatti. “TM is like watering the root of a tree—when we meditate, we nourish all the many aspects of our life holistically—our mind becomes more vibrant and less anxious, our body becomes freer from the negative influences of stress, and our behavior becomes naturally and spontaneously more cordial and loving. And these benefits grow stronger as one continues to practice TM regularly over time.”
“Many people are disenchanted with Western medicine and the short amount of time you get to see your practitioner simply to leave the office with a set of initials and a prescription for a pharmaceutical,” says Gruver. “They are looking for a way to be in control. Meditation has gone through many cycles where it has become popular and then dropped out of focus. This time I think it’s here to stay. There is so much research and mainstream attention today that I think that we all have to acknowledge the benefits of this practice. We also have to remember that there are many ways and methods of meditation and not just one effective way to practice it.”
There are many ways to effectively learn the practice of meditation today from attending classes at the Transcendental Meditation® founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, online classes, apps, YouTube, CDs audiobooks, etc.