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Meditation

Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances:

  • Aggression, analytical meditation, applied relaxation, audio-visual relaxation training, autogenic training, awareness, Ayurveda (Sanskrit), Benson's relaxation response, Brahmakumaris Raja Yoga meditation, breath meditation, breath of fire, breath therapy, breathing awareness meditation program (BAM), Buddhism, Buddhist meditation techniques, Buddhist psychology, Chi Kung (Chinese), concentration, concentration meditation, contemplation, dialectical behavior therapy, guided imagery, guided meditation, Hinduism, hypnosis, Jainism, Jungian, kapalabathi (Sanskrit), Lamrim (Tibetan), laughter meditation, loving-kindness meditation, mantra (Sanskrit), mind-body medicine, mindfulness, mindfulness meditation, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), movement meditation, moving meditation, naming, om (Sanskrit), Omkar meditation, placement meditation, pranayama (Sanskrit), prayer meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, Qigong (Chinese), relaxation, relaxation response, relaxation techniques, Sahaj yoga meditation, Sahaja yoga, Samadhi (Sanskrit), samatha (Sanskrit), segmented breathing, Sikhism, single-pointed concentration, sitting meditation, stabilizing meditation, Tai Chi (Chinese), Taiji (Chinese), Taoism, thoughtless awareness, TM®, tonglen (Tibetan), ton-len, Transcendental Meditation®, transpersonal psychology, Vairochana's posture, vipassana (Sanskrit), visualization, yoga (Sanskrit), zazen (Chinese), Zen (Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit), Zen Buddhism, Zen meditation.
  • Note: This monograph does not fully address other forms of mental and relaxation disciplines, such as autogenic training, biofeedback, distant healing, imagery, prayer, qigong, relaxation therapy, tai chi, visualization, and yoga (see separate monographs for these modalities).

Clinical Bottom Line/Effectiveness

Brief Background:

  • Various forms of meditation have been practiced for thousands of years throughout the world, with many techniques originating in the world's spiritual traditions. The most prevalent forms of meditation are associated with Hindu, Buddhist and Judeo-Christian origins, although many other philosophical and religious systems including, but not limited to, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, New Age, Sikhism, Taoism, and Bahá'í, have their own approaches to meditation. In modern times, many forms of meditation are widely employed, often outside of their original philosophical, religious, and cultural contexts, such as in clinical medicine (1). There are several recognized certification programs for meditation instructors. Widely accepted credentialing and licensure for meditation instructors, however, are currently lacking. Some religions and spiritual organizations have their own specific requirements for formal training and credentialing.
  • Meditation has been variably defined, though it is generally considered to involve the temporary suspension of conscious thought through deliberate regulation of attention. A common goal is to attain a state of "thoughtless awareness" of sensations and mental activities. This intent distinguishes meditation from other forms of mental relaxation, which (generally) do not seek to abnegate the stream of consciousness. Meditation is often popularly perceived, however, as any activity through which a person's attention is focused on a repetitious thought, word, or mantra. Techniques that make use of constant repetition of syllables, visualizations, or other thought forms, but do not achieve thoughtless awareness, are sometimes described as "quasi-meditative."
  • Meditation is one of the most widely used forms of complementary therapy, particularly as a palliative for chronic illness. Available meditation research is generally of low-to-modest quality, but tends to support this intervention for the reduction of stress and pain, and improving quality of life in a variety of medical conditions. Numerous theories have been advanced as to potential mechanisms of action. It has been suggested that meditation reduces activity of the sympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for the "fight or flight" response), engendering lower heart rate and blood pressure, slowed breathing, and muscle relaxation. Multiple studies of Transcendental Meditation® have noted decreased metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and oxygen consumption. Changes in blood flow to the brain and in brain wave patterns have been reported, as well as alterations in hormone levels. Decreased lactic acid levels have also been reported. Despite these findings, no mechanism has yet been firmly established. Further study is required.

Technique

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Precautions/Contraindications

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Mechanism of Action

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History

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Evidence Table

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Evidence Discussion

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Products Studied

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.