Yes, there was a time when meditation and yoga were scorned upon as "hippie" or "new age" fads. But over and over again scientific studies have shown that meditation improves everything from heart health to study habits to forgiveness! Why wouldn't everyone want to learn meditation as a life skill? It would cut down the cost of medications, hospitalizations, surgeries, therapy needs, medical costs... Heck, everyone would be healthy! And maybe even nicer to each other.
Woman practicing Zen meditation.
Scientifically Proven Benefits of Meditation
I'll just do a quick sweep of some of the medical and scientific findings on the physiological, physical, and psychological benefits of meditation, just of studies in the last 5 years...
Meditation lowers heart rate. Stress has a major impact on disease, and meditation has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety in study after study by lowering oxygen consumption, heart rate, blood pressure, blood cortisol levels, and galvanic skin response (GSR).... all physiological measurements of stress that are disease preventing. Though meditation affects other physiological functions, just the big five I cited, if not controlled, are factors in heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's, diabetes, cancer, asthma... and many more conditions.
Meditation has been shown to alleviate or possibly prevent psychological, learning, and sleep disorders: you won't find many practiced meditators with these conditions. Meditation reduces fear, anger, and other strong emotions that are at the root of many psychological disturbances.
By enhancing focus, meditation is an excellent therapy tool for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHA or ADD), not to mention it's a great practice for anyone in college, or otherwise wanting to learn, to work, even... to listen to music without having interference from thoughts and feelings that have nothing to do with what you want to experience.
Just this month, two studies showed that people who practice Zen Meditation are less sensitive to pain because they have thicker gray matter in their brains. This was observed by MRI. One researcher points out that anything that reduces loss of gray matter has potential for conditions, like stroke or dementia, to improve.
How Meditation Might Pay For A Public Option
So, if all of us who want health insurance practiced meditation, there would be fewer sick people. Fewer people needing drugs for physical or mental health conditions, fewer students needing to take pills that make them smarter or calm them down, fewer sleeping pills, fewer pain pills, fewer addictions... fewer needs for health care.
Those receiving medication or medical care would combine them with meditation practice and would get better faster or would have a better quality of life and, therefore, demand less from the health care system.
The 'Public Option' would not only pay for itself, it would reduce all insurance costs, if people were not getting sick. All employer-supported insurance policies would cost less if all employees were required to practice meditation. It's not that hard....
Learning To Meditate
There are dozens of popular meditation techniques, but the two most popular are Zen meditation and Transcendental Meditation (TM), and those techniques have been selected by most researchers to use as techniques in their studies. At the most basic levels, the differences have to do with posture and focus. Neither of them, as you will practice them, has anything to do with religion.
One of the easier Zen positions: (Image:smilebigtoday.com)Zen meditation requires that your body be aligned with gravity, so formal and exact sitting positions are part of the meditation experience. In TM you can sit in a chair or lie down to practice meditation. In basic Zen your concentration is on the rhythm of your breathing; in TM, you observe your own thoughts as they pass into and through your mind. Personally, I prefer Zen meditation because a single focus is easier for me, and if I allow myself to sit in a chair or lie down, I might fall asleep. (Sleep is not meditation, although you may practice a special meditative exercise to get to sleep.)
Though there are very advanced stages of meditation of Zen and TM, simply practicing the most basic levels of meditation will dramatically alter your life, if you adhere to them. There are plenty of meditation classes offered by community, college, hospital, and private organizations. But, if you're like me, you want to get started right away, so here's a list of websites below that will give you a jump start.
Zen Meditation: LearnToMeditate.com, Wiki How (The You Tube video on this page is a must!), Zen Mountain Monastery, How To Meditate
Transcendental Meditation: TM.org, TMEducation.com
Medical information was acquired from several studies heading down this Google Scholar Search for two pages, plus Science Daily, NaturalNews.com