Published: September 7, 2014 00:34 IST | Updated: September 7, 2014 00:34 IST September 7, 2014
Updated: September 7, 2014 00:34 IST
Meditation as immunostimulant
The Hindu Many neuroscientists believe the best way to fight stress is through meditation. Photo: V.V. Krishnan
Its practice has now become simpler and more scientific
That meditation causes neurobiological changes in a person is an empirically proven fact. There is evidence that the human mind influences both susceptibility to and resistance to disease. Mental and physical processes constantly interact and influence one another. Some major universities have recognised the value of contemplative practices, which have therapeutic effects.
Today we know it is not just the food we eat that changes our biology; the thoughts we think do that too. The assumption that diet and exercise could produce a perfect body is no longer valid; we now know stress produces cortisol and epinephrine, which are immuno-suppressants that nullify every benefit derived through every other means. Stress is the No. 1 epidemic of our times, and it causes chronic illnesses. Your interaction with the world and with yourself produces metabolites that interact with the body and change your biological parameters.
Many neuroscientists believe the best way to fight stress is through meditation. It has now become simple and scientific, and it will soon go mainstream.
Meditation, in a nutshell, is becoming aware of your body and your breath, with no thoughts. Then, the body’s homeostasis, the self-regulating and self-repairing mechanism, is activated since healing hormones fill the body. Thoughts can heal us, also kill us. A bout of depression can wreak havoc with our immune system. Falling in love can boost it. Despair and hopelessness raise the risk of a heart attack and cancer. Joy and fulfilment keep us healthy. Different states of consciousness produce different degrees of body chemistry. The line between biology and psychology cannot really be drawn. A stress which is only a wisp of thought releases the same flood of destructive hormones as the stress itself. Nothing holds more power over the body than the beliefs of the mind.
Since subjective ruminations produce objective repercussions in clear violation of the laws of thermodynamics, since reductionist philosophy and the mechanistic model of our conventional medicine cannot explain origins of many diseases, the fight between classical physics and quantum physics, especially on the medical science front, has come into the open. It will take some time for the dust to settle.
The discovery of telomere, an enzyme associated with aging, by Elizabeth Blackburn won her the Nobel Prize. Telomere is at the end of our chromosomes, like the end-cap of a shoe lace. Its role is to protect the chromosomes from degradation — which means it protects genes from degradation since genes are enclosed in chromosomes. Telomere degrades with age.
Dr. Elizabeth’s studies, with Dr. Dean Ornish of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, revealed that meditation increases the length of telomere. When telomere becomes short and falls apart, cells cannot replicate anymore — which is what we call death. So, acceleration and deceleration of aging depends on telomere. It gets stronger during meditative practices.
Mitosis and apoptosis (cell division and cell death) processes have revealed that every week we have a new stomach, every month a new skin lining, and every three months we have a new skeleton. Except for some cartilage and pieces of bones, almost 98 per cent of our body is recycled annually. Every 10 minutes we have a different brain structure because every thought alters it. As a result, our body is a process rather than a structure. It is a river and not a rock. It is a verb and not a noun.
One prominent quantum physicist said during a lecture in the U.S. that three years earlier when he went there he had carried with him the same suitcase but not the same body because the suitcase has a longer shelf-life than the body. Another quantum biologist said during a speech that no person can step into the same river twice.
Humankind has learnt so much over the past 15 years than it has learnt in all of its history. Maybe one day science will explain why we fall in love, and why we are moved by poetry. Let’s wait for that day to arrive.