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Meditation Goes Mainstream

Quiet contemplation gains ground as treatment aids in certain ailments.

Jowsey says those patients who have been training in meditation and then return for medical appointments weeks later respond favorably. “They report decreased anxiety and an improved quality of life,” Jowsey says. Like many other health care professionals experimenting with meditation, Jowsey would like to see more research, but the improvement she’s seeing in her patients is enough for now.

Try it for yourself

There are multiple ways to practice mindful meditation, including tai chi and yoga. Here are a few.

  • Sit or lie comfortably, noticing the breath as it goes into the lungs and following it with your mind as it goes out. Then “watch” any thoughts that float into the mind, acknowledge them (“Oh yeah, there’s the worry about paying the electric bill.”) and let them float on by without making any judgment. This is difficult for everybody, especially at first. Forgive yourself.
  • Walking meditation. “Watch” your breath as it goes in and out and be aware of each footfall, counting the steps if you want to. Again, notice your thoughts but don’t latch onto them.
  • Body scan. Always breathing deeply, sit or lie comfortably and bring awareness to the tips of the toes. Work your awareness gradually, inch by inch, to the top of your head. This can take 10 minutes or longer. Again, watch your thoughts. Acknowledge stray ones, then let them go.

 

Resources

Books

Jon Kabat-Zinn. Any, but particularly Wherever You Go, There You Are (Hyperion, 2005).

Thich Nhat Hahn. Especially Be Free Where You Are (Parallax Press). Hahn is a foremost Buddhist teacher and meditator, and his books are full of kindness and good ideas.

See also guided meditation CDs from Kabat-Zinn.

Web resources

Kabat-Zinn’s Center for Mindfulness has information on stress reduction and meditation.

The Mayo Clinic has a video that guides viewers through a meditation session.


Linda Greider writes about health issues. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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