In an earlier post on failed efforts at self-improvement, Crabby mentioned she had tried meditation. And tried meditation. And tried meditation.
Here's what would happen: Crabby would be fully concentrating on her mantra, candle, color, breath, left big toe, or whatever. But at the same time, she would also be narrating a running commentary on her efforts to do so. "See, I'm really filling my mind with this lovely blue vase. I am appreciating every aspect of it but goddamn it, I'm also thinking about thinking about the blue vase. Does that mean it doesn't count? Blue Blue Blue, goddamn it I'm still thinking!"
Meditation people might insist Crabby was not "really" focusing on the blue vase if there was all that room left in her consciousness to narrate her thinking process, but she swears she really was doing both at the same time.
It did not help Crabby that she must have read a few dozen magazine pieces featuring skeptical non-meditators who would have all the same complaints for the first session or two. But by the end of a week they all managed to attain some sort of blissful nirvana and were laughing (gently) at their old skeptical selves. (Crabby hopes at least some of them were just on deadlines and needed a happy ending and were totally lying about it).
Anyway, despite years of frustrating sessions of not-quite-meditating, Crabby always felt it was a worthwhile pursuit. Perhaps not for her--there's only so much energy she has for self-improvement, and attempted meditation has used up way more than its share. But for other people at least, it seemed clear meditation was a Great Thing.
Everyone seemed to agree that meditation had major physical and mental health benefits. Experts from both East and West; ancient traditions and modern medicine; those advocating spiritual practice and those rejecting any sort of organized religion all seemed to say the same thing: "Yeah, Crabby, you should be meditating."
Well, now comes a study that would seem to let Crabby off the hook, guilt free. Here is what the Yahoo news headline said: "Meditation Won't Boost Health: Study."
So since meditation won't boost her health, Crabby need not feel the slightest twinge of guilt for abandoning her pursuit of it, right?
Well, no. At least Crabby isn't convinced yet that she's off scott free. (And by the way, who the hell is Scott?)
First off, most health headline writers who don't have their heads up their asses would have stated the study results more accurately. Crabby refers you for further reference to "Therapeutic Value Of Meditation Unproven, Says Study."
There is a big difference in saying that "Meditation doesn't improve health," versus "no one has yet been able to prove meditation improves health."
And reading further, Crabby isn't even sure this is the case either. Plenty of evidence seemed to suggest health benefits, but the researchers who took a closer look at 813 previous studies didn't like them.
According to this summary in Science Daily, though the researchers found some evidence that "certain types of meditation reduce blood pressure and stress," and noted that "among healthy individuals, practices such as Yoga seemed to increase verbal creativity and reduce heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol," they said no firm conclusions on the effects of meditation could be drawn. "Existing scientific research is characterized by poor methodological quality, and does not appear to have a common theoretical perspective."
This is such a far cry from "Meditation Won't Boost Health: Study," that it makes Crabby want bonk Yahoo News on it's virtual head with a meditation pillow or a pretty scented candle. Though she suspects that's not very Zen of her.
Other recent studies have been all good news for meditators. Crabby doesn't know if these were included in the Big Debunking Study or not, but she'll let readers decide for themselves what they think.
This University Of Wisconsin meditation study found that meditation increased immune function, as well as activation in the left frontal region of the brain--which is associated with lower anxiety and a more positive emotional state.
Another study found that meditation seemed to increase grey matter in the brain.
And finally, this study on meditation and attention showed that meditation could increase subject's ability to attend to incoming visual signals sent a short time apart. The subjects were thus able to learn to enhance their "attention capabilities."
None of this is likely to convince Crabby to return to meditation anytime soon--she truly does suck at it. But what about you all? Do you meditate? Have you tried? Do you think it's good for you?