Meditation and Cancer
There is much research to suggest meditation helps reduce the effects of cancer on the body, controlling the rate at which cancerous tumor cells can multiply and cause damage to the body.
One therapist I met told me of a trial using meditation for children with leukemia.
The children visualised two types of cells. One was called the "good cells/guys" the other the bad "cells/guys". They would imagine these cells taking a particular shape and form - whether circular, oblong, or some other shape it really did not matter how they saw them. Each group would be represented by a colour, such as pink, blue, red, or yellow but never green. In colour healing, green is not used since it stimulates growths such as tumors just as in nature everything that is green is growing.
The children would be guided into a relaxing state, visualise their two different groups of cells and see them coming together in battle with the "good cells/guys" winning. Another example would be where the two groups come together and instead of seeing them in battle they would blend together in peace and harmony with a golden healing light surrounding them, cleansing and regenerating healthy vital cells. Both approaches worked. They discovered that with these specific meditations applied daily the children began to recover and get well. Children do not question things like adults do; they found these exercises fun and playful, and it gave them opportunity to use their imagination, have fun and relax at the same time.
A leading Australian doctor and psychiatrist, Dr Ainslie Meares, MD, FRANZCP, DPM, researched the benefits of meditation for treating cancer.
Dr Meares suggested that cancer begins with a maladaptive response, either psychological or physiological, earlier in life, which has become established. Successful meditation, he claimed, would carry the patient back to the state that existed prior to this maladaptive response. Only then can a healthy adaptive response become established which leaves no foothold for cancer in the body.
That is, meditation allows a form of ablation or 'wiping the slate clean'.
This occurs as meditation reduces the level of anxiety and the patient undergoes an atavistic regression of mental functioning, which is accompanied by a similar regression of physiological function. Dr Meares believed his patients returned to their earlier life and experience (atavism), clearing away their past maladaptive responses, thus enabling the normal homeostatic mechanisms of the body to re-establish healthier, adaptive response patterns.
Neuroplasticity and Meditation
It has recently been discovered that the brain has the ability to change its structure and function, strengthening and expanding circuits that are frequently used and weakening and shrinking those that are rarely engaged. This flexibility in the brain is what is called 'neuroplasticity'.
The Dalai Lama saw a brain operation when he visited an American medical school and he asked the surgeons a startling question: Can the mind shape brain matter?
Over the years, he said, neuroscientists had explained to him that mental experiences reflect chemical and electrical changes in the brain. "When electrical impulses zip through our visual cortex, for instance, we see; when neurochemicals course through the limbic system we feel."
The Dalai Lama had put his finger on an emerging revolution in brain research. In the last decade of the 20th century, neuroscientists overthrew the dogma that the adult brain can't change. To the contrary, its structure and activity can morph in response to experience, an ability called neuroplasticity.
The discovery has led to promising new treatments for children with dyslexia and for stroke patients, among others.
Since the 1990s, monks and lamas had volunteered for studies of how meditation alters activity in the brain. The idea was not to document brain changes during meditation but to see whether such mental training produces enduring changes in the brain.
One kind of brain wave grew exceptionally strong: gamma waves. Scientists believe they are a signature of neuronal activity that knits together far-flung circuits - consciousness, in a sense. Gamma waves appear when the brain brings together different features of an object, such as look, feel, sound and other attributes that lead the brain to its eureka moment of recognition.
Research here continues to show us how meditation can be a powerful tool to access the deep recesses of our mind.
Understanding brain waves
Alpha waves are those experienced in a pre-sleep state promoting changes to the autonomic nervous system creating relaxation and calmness. Daily meditation at the alpha level reverses the roles of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems allowing the dominant sympathetic nervous system the chance to relax and "lie low" to the normally secondary parasympathetic nervous system.
The alpha state allows blood pressure and heart rate to decrease, reduces stress hormones and creates a state of peacefulness.
Theta waves help open the "third eye" enabling you to access clairvision faculties and gain illumination and wisdom. Here you experience a deep sense of relaxation, stimulate creativity and generate clarity for problem solving and improving memory. Theta waves are present when you perform automatic tasks like cleaning your teeth, brushing your hair or getting dressed.
Gamma waves indicate intense focus. They increasing more during meditation and often weaken during normal brain activity. Regular meditation allows gamma brain waves to strengthen in the left prefrontal cortex of the brain, a phenomenon often associated with reduced anxiety, fear and depression.
Delta waves are slower and experienced during deep sleep allowing access to the unconscious mind. They could help explain why newly learned skills are best integrated when we "sleep on them," since they are associated with a person's ability to integrate newly learned tasks.
Meditation reduces cortisol
Meditation can help reduce cortisol and major stress hormones. This is a great advantage when you wish to lose weight since when you are exposed to ongoing stressful situations over a long time cortisol is increased leading to "middle age spread".
Now you can see how beneficial meditation would be for weight management!
It is something I encourage everyone to do in conjunction with dietary and lifestyle changes. It is not always about pumping away at the gym each day! Quite the contrary! Meditation can help you stay trim and lose weight!
Meditation can be used to retrain your brain since it has the power to mould and shape your mind to install the changes you want. A technological way to meditate involves specially prepared sounds and music, usually electronic. These give rise to alpha brain wave patterns, a pre-sleep state flowing down to the theta pattern of memory, dreams and deep meditation and, finally, to delta wave patterns of dreamless sleep and the collective unconscious.
Listening to prepared CDs of sounds on a daily basis alters your moods, helping resolve emotional upheaval by producing a calm relaxed state by synchronising the two hemispheres of the brain. It is considered that the Einsteins and Da Vincis of this world have minds working in this manner utilising more of the brain's capacity and employing whole brain thinking.
There are many different styles of meditation. Some people enjoy the discipline of chanting, others prefer silence just focusing on the breath, or open eye candle meditation. Yet others enjoy guided healing journeys such as creative visualization. The most important thing is that you choose a style of meditation that you like and find comfortable. All meditations will work positively for you particularly with regular daily practice.
Lyn Craven is a Practitioner of Naturopathy, Bowen Therapy and Energy/Reiki Therapist and Corporate Health Consultant. Lyn has written articles on a variety of topics and runs a private practice located in Bondi, Sydney. Lyn has recently created a Meditation CD for Anxiety, Stress and Self Healing. She can be contacted on 0403 231 804 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Read Part One of this series by Lyn Craven "Why Meditation Works": http://novamagazine.com.au/article_archive/2015/2015-11-why-meditation-works.html
Lyn Craven is a practitioner of Naturopathy, Bowen Therapy, Energy/Reiki therapist, meditation teacher and Corporate Health Consultant. She is also a health researcher/writer and has produced a meditation CD assisting people to manage anxiety and stress. She runs a private practice in Sydney and can be contacted on +61403 231 804