Imagine being able to rid yourself of a host of medical or psychological maladies without drugs or psychotherapy. Imagine being able to turn back the clock naturally, without taking drugs and hormones. You can practice anti-aging medicine with non-invasive medical meditation. These are proven effective in one of the most overlooked forms of therapy available today. With each passing day, you age. Every morning perhaps you notice a sign-a wrinkle here, a gray hair there, an ache, a pain or a little bulge somewhere. While you see the visible signs of aging on the surface of your body, beneath the skin there are telltale signs as well. Physiological studies have shown that your cardiac, pulmonary, musculoskeletal and brain functions are also declining as you become older. As time passes, minor damage mounts up and cells, organs and systems begin to wear out.
One of the first systems that wears out is the endocrine system, the glands that secrete hormones. Many researchers believe, that the primary reason we deteriorate as we age is due to the degeneration of the endocrine system. Furthermore, the function of the immune system generally follows the function of the endocrine system. For example, the production of critically important hormones, such as growth hormones, begin to drop off around age 30. The implications of this growth hormone decline are very disturbing; HGH is vitally important in helping you feel energetic, to repair your muscles and other tissues and to retain strong immunity.
Other endocrine glands are especially vulnerable to aging. The pineal gland, which produces the sleep hormone melatonin, quickly declines with age, until it generally becomes calcified and completely dysfunctional in most elderly people. It is believed that this decline contributes significantly to the increase in sleep disorders that occurs with aging. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant and free-radical scavenger, so the decline of the pineal also contributes to an overall decrease in health. Meditation strengthens the pineal gland.
Similarly, the extremely important steroid hormone, DHEA, drops off considerably with time and this decline causes innumerable problems. DHEA helps protect the body from stress and is vitally important for maintaining a good mood, a normal sex drive, a stable body fat ratio and a high level of energy. DHEA is also important to protect against the ravages of the stress hormone cortisone, which when elevated can lead to a decline in immunity, memory loss and accelerated aging.
Unbalanced stress in your life also causes the hypothalamus, a gland thought of by many doctors as the “brain’s brain,” to decline in function. As the hypothalamus declines it becomes far less adept at perfectly responding to minor imbalances. Sometimes it calls for the production of too few hormones and sometimes too many. In effect, it loses its elasticity and flexibility. Moreover, this degeneration triggers dysfunction of the rest of the endocrine system, which causes damage to the body and the mind. Fat clings to the abdomen. Skin loses its suppleness. Memories fade. Viruses go unopposed. Eye muscles lose their focus. Immunity wanes. Sex drive declines. Aging runs rampant.
Aging though is not the only problem caused by the decline of the endocrine system. The same factors that cause aging reduce quality of life and health in young people. You don’t need to be old to have poor immunity, impaired eyesight, low energy, depression, insomnia, decreased sex drive, poor muscle tone, hypoglycemia, obesity, muscle pain, impaired cognitive function or any other of the many problems associated with endocrine decline. These problems are more prevalent among the elderly but are absolutely common among young people. Unfortunately, many of them appear to be increasingly common among younger patients. Two of the most obvious are depression and obesity, which are now at their highest rates in history among the young. Remember, old age doesn’t suddenly swoop down at 60; aging starts early, especially if you subject your body and brain to one physical and emotional assault after another.
By now I imagine you are ready for some good news. There is a powerful mechanism that can ameliorate the ravages of aging and confer youthful vitality-at any age. That mechanism is meditation. Meditation is the true anti-aging medicine because it activates our body’s own natural anti-aging healing force. Beyond that, it is easy to do. There is no cost and it is totally free from dangerous side effects, which have been potentially attributed to some drugs and hormones.
Medical meditation directly rejuvenates the hypothalamus, the pituitary, the pineal and other endocrine glands. Think of it as endocrine exercise. In addition, medical meditation is also the single most effective counter measure against stress. Moreover, medical meditation is specific for ailments, including those associated with aging such as change of life issues or menopause, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cardiovascular disease and stroke, among others.
Let’s now scientifically assess meditation. According to the Office of Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health, 1994 Omnibus 25-Year Report on Meditation, the research indicates that meditators achieve the following biological reactions: marked reduction in oxygen use; notably lower secretion of stress hormones; increase in immune factors, including blood leukocyte production; and calm brain wave activity.
Meditation has also been shown to produce the following general medical benefits:
* reduction of anxiety
* reduction of chronic pain
* lowered levels of cortisone
* increase in cognitive function
* reduction of substance abuse
* lowered blood pressure
* improvements in post traumatic stress syndrome
* reduction in the use of medical care and hospitalizations.
In a fascinating study on meditation, published over a period of years in three different medical journals, we find that when a group of researchers measured biological age (how old a person is physiologically rather than chronologically), determinants of blood pressure, vision and hearing were all improved for age with meditation. Those practicing meditation for five years were physiologically 12 years younger than their non-meditating counterparts. Even the short-term participants were physiologically five years younger than the controls.
An even stronger study on aging and meditation was conducted by researchers at Harvard and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. This study analyzed elderly people who were introduced to meditation. In short they showed numerous beneficial changes and ultimately lived longer on average than patients in the control group that did not practice meditation. The positive results were noted to endure when a follow-up study was conducted more than 10 years later.
Medical meditation is also very specific to distinct medical problems. A recent study conducted at the Mind Body Medical Institute, through the Israel Deaconess Hospital at Harvard, showed the heightened specificity of medical meditation in that by changing one of the tools of meditation, increasing activity could be directed to different parts of the brain.
Medical meditation is so specific because it balances and regenerates the body’s ethereal and physical energies, forging an extraordinary healing alliance. The five unique attributes that endow this type of meditation with tremendous power are special postures and movements, exact positioning of the hands and fingers, particular mantras or sounds, specific breathing patterns and a unique focus of concentration. The combination of those elements can change your entire profile of endocrine, neurotransmitter and hormone secretions, easing you into a calm, healing, anti-aging state.
Recently I was asked by a patient, “What’s the most important thing I can do to protect my health, now that I’ve turned 50?” 1 told her the most important thing she could do was to start each day in a positive way, what I call “wake up to wellness.” In our accelerated society today we have been programmed to believe that the best part of waking up is coffee in our cup. There is nothing supremely healthful or anti-aging about taking a drug, albeit from a natural plant, cooking it in water and drinking it to give ourselves a stimulating rush so we can jump right back into the stress cycle which has proven so detrimental to our health. The best part of waking up is to take some time for ourselves in the morning, while our hormones are rising, to bring balance to our endocrine system, strengthen our nervous system and stimulate our cardiovascular system so that we can set our mind, body and spirit right to enjoy a great day.
Many of my patients say, “I’ve tried to meditate and gave up because of all the thoughts going through my mind.” Don’t let this stop you. The emergence of these thoughts is one of the most important aspects of medical meditation. The thoughts represent a release of energy from the subconscious mind to the conscious mind. Each time it happens, accept it. I have been meditating for 25 years and this happens every single day. It’s very easy. Simply, when otherthoughts come in your mind, start all over again.
If you accept this, meditation will take you to what I call the “Fourth State.” The Fourth State is elevated above the other three common states of mind: the wake state, the sleep state and the dream state. The Fourth State is the transcendent or bliss healing state. It creates the sacred space in which all healing and anti-aging physiological effects occur. Moreover, recent research has shown that with time and patience you will tap into a part of yourself known as the spirit. When you forge this alliance of body, mind and spirit, wonderful things begin to happen. You are healthier, happier and more whole as a human being. When medical interventions are needed, the results are enhanced.
As we go forward in our lives and come to a fork in the road, let’s choose the natural way. Meditation is our most potent form of natural, anti-aging medicine. Meditating is easy to learn. To be ready, all you need are comfort, quiet, a meditative tool such as a mantra and a meditative attitude.
Go to a private place by yourself or with another meditator where you won’t be interrupted.
Allow 10-20 minutes for meditation and stick with it. You can look at your watch on occasion but don’t set an alarm, because it might startle you and ruin your relaxation.
Sit down on a comfortable mat, cushion or chair and try to relax every muscle in your body from bottom to top. Close your eyes and breathe deeply.
To help stop your internal dialogue and health calm down, silently repeat a word or mantra. It can be religious or philosophical, as long as it makes you feel good. When thoughts intrude, just say, “Oh, well” to yourself and start all over.
Adopt a calm, passive attitude, a neutral mind in which you don’t judge yourself or others.
After you finish, sit quietly for a couple of minutes and try to carry your calm, anti-aging, meditative attitude into your daily activities.
By Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., author of Brain Longevity, The Pain Cure, and Meditation as Medicine. His website is www.meditation-as-medicine.com
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