Researchers often select Zen meditation
to study, because it is exceptionally basic. One concentrates on
correct posture and breathing and keeps coming back to those two areas
whenever distracted by thoughts, memories or sensations.
A University of Pennsylvania study published in the journal Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
showed that meditating as little as 30 minutes daily improves focus and
mental performance. Participants were tested for speed and accuracy at
computer tasks. After eight weeks of meditation training, participants
improved their ability to stay alert, to focus and to prioritize tasks.
The authors suggest that even though such contemplation utilizes
minutes from busy schedules, it actually saves time by making
individuals more efficient.
Researchers from Montreal were aware of
previous studies showing that teaching chronic pain patients to
meditate was beneficial. They wanted to determine if Zen meditation
lowered sensitivity to pain in those who were not chronic sufferers.
Writing in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, they reported meditation produced an 18 percent reduction in pain, when skin was exposed to increasing levels of heat.
One of the most remarkable findings in this area was published in the journal NeuroReport.
Magnetic resonance imaging showed the practice of Zen Buddhist
meditation actually produced more gray matter in the cerebral cortex.
Researchers found that meditation seems to slow age-related thinning of
the frontal cortex. The authors suggest that yoga and other forms of
meditation are likely to produce similar results.
Meditation has been practiced for
centuries in many parts of the world. Its devoted practitioners have
long believed in its benefits. Now science has provided hard evidence
that the rewards are authentic.