Science of Meditation and the Body


            As we progress with time we see how
a large number of individuals everywhere throughout the world that have
benefitted enormously from meditation. Overall,
everyone that has been involved and experienced meditation can tell you that it
has changed them in a lot of ways both spiritually and mentally. However, even
though meditation does benefits you spiritually and mentally, this isn’t the
only way it can help improve your well-being. Besides seeing improvements
mentally and spiritually, you will gradually see that meditation also increases
your physical health. This paper examines the science of meditation and its
impacts on the human body. Through multiple studies we
will look at how Buddhist meditation practices have enhanced the livelihood of
people’s bodies physically, psycologically, internally and externally.

and Health

. “Bodhidharma is the 28th Patriarch
of Buddhism in a line of descent from the Buddha via his disciple Mah?k??yapa,
Buddha’s successor after his death” (The Buddha) Bodhidharma was a spirited
teacher who wanted all Buddhists, monks or people in general to make their best
effort in this lifetime. Since he didn’t like the idea of earning virtues from making
donations he acknowledged that everyone has Buddha-nature and encouraged each
and every one to be Awaken. “Awakening is uncovering to the reality that has
always been and by doing so one must experience the Four Noble Truths which is the
process of understanding and experiencing suffrage” (The Buddha) Besides being
known as the father of Zen Buddhism, he well know today as symbol of
determination, willpower, self-discipline, and the concept of Awakening.

In Buddhism, physical pain or illnesses
is always going to be a part of life no matter what. Buddha would look at this
idea as suffrage. From getting old to eventually dying, pain and illnesses are
things that are hard to avoid which to some degree causes us to suffer. This
doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t relieve our pain through professional help like
medical resources, but if we continue to suffer, we should accept, acknowledge,
and mindfully endured it. Branching
off of Buddhist traditions, through avoidance and tolerance pain and illness
can create a path that helps the development of a healthy mental state. Meaning
that it isn’t the overall concept off being sick, but rather how we respond to
it that has spiritual value in the Buddhist tradition. This establishes the
idea of dualism because it separates how our body and mind perceives pain. Another
way to handling illnesses and health related issues is to look at the fact that
the body and mind are consistent with one another and dependent with one
another. Meaning that the body is really important and if kept in great health
can and will boost your spiritual and mental state. With that being said
however, meditation practices, which is a center piece of the Buddhist
traditions, are composed to some degree to avoid and address physical and
mental illness as well


Dogen Kigen is known for being Japans
greatest Zen Master. On his path to becoming a Zen Master her discovered the
higher truth of Buddhism which was that enlightenment
is inherent in all beings from the beginning. Dogen called the path of
practice-enlightenment “the buddha way.” It is the path of all awakened ones of
past, present, and future. The
central concept of this teaching is Zazen. Zazen is where all understanding
derives from while meditating in a sitting posture. Dogen teaches us a defined
way of doing zazen by following certain guidelines to incorporate in your
everyday activities. Guidelines
such as what and how we eat to how we present ourselves are some essential
ideas of encountering the life of the awakened ones. The guidelines offered by
Dogen using teaching from zazen untimely contributed to people living a
healthier life and lifestyle.


            Zen meditation is a spiritual
practice that promotes awareness and presence through the undivided engagement
of the mind and body. When one engages in Zen meditation, there is a three-step
procedure that is highly encouraged for people to follow: adjusting your body, your
breathing, and your mind. When we talk about adjusting the body, the change of
the body intends to set up one’s mind-body so that one can feel a sense of
being free. One
way to achieve this is by changing what you eat, doing physical exercise, and
avoid doing things that go against nurturing a healthy mind-body. “Also in
adjusting the body we recognize two sitting postures: the lotus-posture and the
half-lotus posture that contribute to helping one calm the mind” (Wilkinson 31)
Either one of these positions will help ease the body and clear the mind.

            Second practice is the adjustment of
breathing. A
big portion of benefits derived from the practice of Zen meditation are because
of the practice of breathing.   “Zen breathing is a shift from unconscious,
involuntary breathing to conscious, voluntary breathing” (Wilkinson 31) This
means that Zen meditation is a way of regulating the unconscious-autonomic
order of our being. This
exercise helps connect one’s mind-body to positive energy helping get rid of
the negative and toxic energy. “Zen breathing has a way of naturally increasing
the positive correlation between the activity of the autonomic nervous system
and emotion” (Kato 127) “Neurophysiologically, it just
so happens that the center where breathing is regulated and the region where
emotion is generated coincide with each other” (Kato 127) This exercise helps connect one’s
mind-body to positive energy helping get rid of the negative and toxic energy. This
means that the conscious of breathing psychologically effects the pattern of
how one generates emotion.

            Last and final practice is adjusting
the mind. Once the first two practices are covered the last step is to adjust
the mind. This means that we consciously move ourselves into a state of
meditation. Meditation conditions people to sit with their self and
psychologically isolate themselves from the outside world. “With this, one
enters into an internal world of psyche” (Strick 1478).
Once an individual tries
to enter the world of psych?, a lot of things start to pop up in the persons
meditative awareness. These
things are usually stuff that has negatively affect a person over their life,
or things that someone has consciously tried to suppress over time because of
the trauma it has caused.  “A
psychological reason that a person experiences these acts of refreshed
suppressed memories is due to the fact that the person has lowered the level of
conscious activity, by assuming the meditation posture, and doing the breathing
exercise” (Strick pg1479) As an individual continues these practices they come
to experience the concept “no mind” which means “there is no conscious activity
of the mind that is associated with ego-consciousness in the everyday standpoint”
(Strick pg1479) In other word, no-mind is a free mind that is not delimited by
ideas, desires, and images. Helping one remove themselves from cognitive


Since we have revealed some historical
context in Buddhism and broke down the key practices in Zen reflection we will
take a look at how these practices have added to enhancing people groups mental
state and physical state (internally and externally). Presently we concentrate
on the impacts of different reflective practices on three markers of internal physical
wellbeing, one marker of external wellbeing, and one marker of mental wellbeing.
For the internal physical health, we will look at the immune system activity,
cardiovascular health and pain perception. For the external physical health
portion, we will look at how meditation effect the Epigenetic Clock. For our
final marker we will look at the mental health aspect such as emotional
regulation and psychological state. For each, we summarize the literature
linking the health-related indicator to meditative practice.

The first internal physical marker we
will discuss is the immune system. Studies conducted in the past have proved
that Zen meditation helps improve the immune system of the body. One of the
studies conducted evaluated adults with previous meditation experience over a 3-month-long
course to see the effects of meditation training on telomerase activity in
immune cells. Epel explains, “telomerase is an enzyme that maintains the
protective “end caps” on DNA that promote genomic stability and prevent
mutation; higher levels of telomerase are linked to lower levels of stress and
better health” (Kok 33) In another study done to show the direct impact of the
immune system individuals where put through an 8 weeks of mindfulness-based
stress reduction (MBSR) training, which involves open monitoring and focused
attention practices similar to the practices seen in Zen meditation. “The
ending results showed a greater rise in antibody titers in response to the
influenza vaccine for adult meditators” (Kok 33). Why is this important? This
is important because your less prone to becoming really sick if you get minor
infections or other illnesses like a cold or the flu.

Likewise, Practicing Zen mediation also helps
other conditions that could affect your heart like lowering your blood
pressure, helping decrease your heart rate, and improving the flow of blood
through out your body. All these factors contribute further towards having a
healthier and proactive cardiovascular system. Aside from making you feel like a you
did when you were in you prime, improvement in your cardiovascular stem has
numerous of other health benefits.. “In a meta-analysis of the effects of
meditation on adults diagnosed with hypertension was more effective than
progressive muscle relaxation in producing a clinically significant reduction
in blood pressure” (Kok 34). Why is this important? Because since the heat is
the most vital organ in our body and helps in many other functions of the body
like circulatory system we need it to be healthy to honestly live.

Lastly, pain perception. Zen
meditation helps cut down on our pain and how sensitive we are to it. This doesn’t mean that meditation
makes people invincible to pain because that is unrealistic, but Zen meditation
teaches people how to manage and handle to overall idea of pain.  People don’t complain about the pain because
the managed to deal with it in a more dignified way. A variety of meditation
practices have been studied as treatments for pain, both chronic and acute. “In
a meta-analysis of 22 studies of open monitoring practices as a treatment for
chronic pain, the decrement in self-reported pain intensity for open monitoring
was comparable to the effect size of standard treatment” (Kok 36). “In two
studies that compared the pain perception of people who practiced meditation
for more than 10,000 hours of their lifetime practice and participants naïve to
meditation, the long-term individuals reported to feeling less pain in response
to a pain stimulus administered while engaging in open monitoring meditation” (Kok
37). Why is this important? Because since naturally our body isn’t fit to be in
a painful state especially for long period of time having something like
mediation is convenient because it one: helps reduce pain that we feel, but
also provides a more natural way of doing so.

Now we dive into how meditation
effects the body externally. We all know that no matter what there is always
going to be the idea of getting old. As much as we wish we can stay “forever
you” we all have to accept that getting old is a process of life, but what if
there was a way to make that process just a little bit slower? Meditation-based
stress reduction interventions have increasingly become a focus of scientific
interest to promote healthy aging. In Zen meditation,
we talked about adjusting our breathing. Adjusting our breathing becomes a form
of controlled breathing. Controlled breathing brings down the rate of
respiration your body produces because you intake less oxygen. So when we
meditate regularly we slow down our aging process because you decrease the rate
on amount of oxygen you consume.
Recent studies have suggested that meditation has beneficial effects in stress
and age-related neuroplastic changes, mood and cognitive disorders that all are
generated from aging. “Molecular mechanisms involved in the aging process, such
as inflammation, immune and epigenetic pathways (Chaix 212), as well as
telomere maintenance (Chaix 212), are also sensitive to contemplative practices”
Uniquely, by regulating your breathing process, you take many years off your
body both physically and mentally.

Given the well-characterized effect
of meditation practice,
long-term meditators have shown slower rates of epigenetic aging. Side note:
Visually speaking when we look at people that have adopted Buddhism as their
main form of “religion” generally speaking we can look at them and see the
effect of meditation hands on. Even though there have been a lot of satire and
stereotypes based around this there definitely is some truth behind Why is this
good though? Because no one wants to be old or feel old and helping reduce that
can make for aging faster internally and externally, but also providing a
higher self-esteem. it.

Last subject manner, emotional
regulation and psychological state. Studies
done on the mental health of people showed that when you meditate regularly you
activate the left prefrontal cortex of the brain will lowering the activity
done in the right. The
left cortex is what causes people to feel positive feelings like happiness,
peace, and tranquility. Therefore, when you increase the amount of activity its
get you are actually using it to relieve negative things like stress or even
bigger problems like depression. Also,
for people who have be diagnosed with things such as anxiety meditation helps
lower the regularity of panic attacks a person has.  “It also helps increase the production of
serotonin, a hormone which can cause depression, insomnia, obesity, headaches,
etc. if not secreted in adequate quantities” 
 (Virtbauer 75)  “A
recent review of psychotherapeutic approaches to mindfulness found that
mindfulness meditation was associated with improved emotion regulation,
decreased rumination, and decreased emotional reactivity to negative stimuli” (Virtbauer


The teachings of Buddha have founded
a lot of concepts that attributed to helping people live a better life. For
many years and years to come one of the most beneficiary practices is Zen
meditation. If it wasn’t for Zen master such as Bodhidharma and Dogen can we
say that we would have discovered these practices and used them as a form to
reconstruct and rejuvenate our bodies? As we become knowledge about these
practices we do not only see them performed by cultures that primary initiate
in Buddhism. These practices have been seen all over the world and being
adopted in to places such as eastern and western traditions. Why? Because it
has help one universal thing that a lot of people have in common. Health.
Although we don’t all experience the same things in regard to health we all
know that the possibilities of experiencing something is 100% And because
studies done based around this we are able to see that through multiple studies Buddhist
meditation practices have enhanced the livelihood of people’s bodies physically
(internally and externally) and psycologically.