By: Caitlin Millett, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
Meditation is an ancient practice dating back at least three millennia. It’s a fundamental component of many Eastern religious traditions and belief systems including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism, to name just a few.
The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices meant to clear the mind and build compassion and kindness. It may also ease some health issues, such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and stress. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a component of the National Institutes of Health, notes that:
“Meditation may be practiced for many reasons, such as to increase calmness and physical relaxation, to improve psychological balance, to cope with illness, or to enhance overall health and well-being.”
Due to its purported benefits, recent decades have seen increased interest and additional funding for research on meditation and mindfulness. Moreover, mindfulness has reached an almost fad-like status in the Western world due to its potential positive effects on health.
In December, Penn State Hershey Medical Center offered a free seven-week class to learn meditation. Similarly, the Penn State Hershey University Fitness Center recently held their first ever meditation sessions. But for most of us, especially those of us in the sciences, the question still lingers- is there data supporting the benefits of meditation?