Meditation: Are Scientists Missing the Point?

Meditation: Are Scientists Missing the Point?
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It's no secret that scientists are abuzz about the benefits of meditation. Thousands of researchers, academics, and practitioners subscribe to a Mindfulness Monthly Newsletter that catalogues the almost daily publication of scientific journal articles on meditation. Dr. Rick Hanson's book Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom -- which analyzes neuroscientific findings of meditators -- has been translated into 25 languages and sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

Meanwhile, evidence piles up that meditation works with an unbelievable array of conditions and ailments. The American Heart Association recommends it for preventing heart disease and stroke. It has been found to help treat psoriasis, diabetes, insomnia, and (are you ready for this?) it may even help prevent the common cold. More pressingly, a just-published meta-analysis in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found meditation to be as effective as medication in treating those with depression or anxiety disorders.

Interestingly though, the JAMA study found mixed evidence that meditation helped the positive dimensions of wellness. Basically, meditation made people feel better, but did it make people feel well? That question remains unanswered. But, maybe the scientists are missing something.

Perhaps, it is that some things inherently elude scientific observation. Spirituality is one of them. Maybe meditation, rather than being a clearly marked road to wellness, is more of an open door -- an invitation toward a greater sense of meaning, purpose, and connectedness. Science, always demanding answers, might have missed a deeper and more fundamental question. What is beyond suffering? What is my connection to this world? Who am I deep down?

I don't claim to know the answers, but I might have an idea of where to start.

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