Meditation is hard. I get distracted very easily. I start noticing every noise, every wrinkle in my socks, and my stomach starts making the loudest noises. When I try to meditate, it feels like I am trying to stop the earth’s rotation—without any success at all, thank goodness. Too bad, because it’d be good for me… especially when I read the news item that follows.
Findings from a study presented this week at an American Heart Association meeting in Orlando, Fla. suggest that transcendental meditation may have real therapeutic value for high-risk people with established coronary artery disease.
After following about 200 patients for an average of five years, researchers said, the high-risk patients who meditated cut their risk of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from all causes roughly in half compared with a group of similar patients who were given more conventional education about healthy diet and lifestyle.
Among the roughly 100 patients who meditated, there were 20 heart attacks, strokes and deaths; in the comparison group, there were 32. The meditators tended to remain disease-free longer and also reduced their systolic blood pressure by five millimeters of mercury, on average.
However, and this is my salvation, I do much better when I try not to meditate. An interesting phenomenon of displacement occurs, whereby by not trying hard to meditate, I end up meditating on the very fact that I am not trying. The benefit? Well, if I am in a quiet place, if I disconnect from the Internet, and I allow my time to be unscheduled at least for a while (say, for twenty-five minutes or so)—and then I try not to meditate… I end up more relaxed. Which is what meditation is supposed to do in the first place, right?