Updated 12:00 PM ET February 28, 2001
By Amy Stanton
The State News
Michigan State U.
(U-WIRE) EAST LANSING, Mich. -- It's been called a psuedo-medicine waste of money by some, while others proclaim it a healing art.
Whether it is good medicine or a waste of time, enthusiasts and skeptics alike have to agree on one thing: meditation is growing in popularity.
Michigan State University freshman Beck McNabb said she is the kind of person who will try anything twice.
But in the two times she tried meditating, she said she is not convinced that it does anything.
"I wouldn't put any money on it or invest stock in it," McNabb said.
But just because it didn't work for her, McNabb doesn't discount it for others.
"If people say it helps them relax or feel more in touch with themselves, there is nothing that I can do but believe what they have to say," she said.
"I can see how it might have emotional benefits for the right kind of person. I just don't think there are any medical or biological benefits."
Meditation has been around for thousands of years.
Equally as long, it's been used in some religions as a method to focus on life.
Now, experts say, the practice of meditation is becoming a trend hitting the Western world and is growing in popularity.
In turn, it's becoming more readily available.
Denise Green, director of the Center for Health Humanities and Well Being at Sparrow Hospital, 1200 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing, said the procedure she practices, known as "mindful meditation," is about being fully aware of the present.
"Sometimes people walk through the world in a blur," Green said. "A lot of people are living in the past or projecting into the future."
"Meditation can help a person concentrate their energy in the now."
"Meditation is about connecting with your own sense of the divine and a greater being," she said.
The popular way of meditating is done sitting down.
But Green said there are other ways that are becoming more popular.
"Most people sit in a comfortable, relaxed but alert manner," she said. "But there is also walking meditation where people can walk through a garden or the woods, any sort of peaceful setting."
She said some people like to close their eyes, while some focus on an object like a flower or candle.
And focusing attention away from things that are going on around you is one of Green's most important tips for meditation.
"When you find your mind is wandering, you bring your attention back to your focal point," she said. "Over time you notice what is going on in your mind and you find out more about yourself."
MEDICINE FOR THE BODY AND SOUL
As the popularity of meditation has spread around the world, it has also developed as a medical practice used in procedures ranging from stress relief to preparation for a surgery.
"It can also reduce blood pressure and helping with correct breathing techniques," Green said.
Actually, meditation is now being taught and also offered as a medicinal service.
Healing Pathways, 4700 Ardmore Ave. in Okemos, offers hypnosis, therapeutic touch and other services including meditation, said Kathleen Deeds who owns the business with two other women.
Deeds said meditation plays a large role in the business, and the number of patients using the procedure for medical purposes continues to grow.
Many of the people who come to Deeds are people who say their doctors have given up on them and medication is not helping their condition.
"They are ready to try anything," she said.
One woman with multiple sclerosis who was using a walker came to Deeds when she was told by a doctor there was nothing more that could be done for her medically.
And Deeds said the results she saw were amazing.
"She hasn't used her walker since," she said. "And doctors say they are amazed she is walking, let alone being able to stand and move at all."
Deeds says she has also treated car accident victims whose conditions were so bad, they weren't able to participate in physical therapy.
Meanwhile, meditation can also be used as a calm-down technique prior to surgery, she said.
"The calmer you are and the less blood flow you have, the quicker your recovery is going to be," she said. "There is a shorter healing process which can mean a shorter stay in the hospital."
Meditation also has a place in Tibetan and Buddhist religions, Deeds said. She said even Rosary beads that Catholics use during prayer can be considered one form of meditation.
Even something as simple as taking a bubble bath and lighting some candles can constitute meditation.
"It takes all our worries away and allows us to think about something else," Deeds added.
This relaxed form of meditation is something many people do, whether or not they call it meditating.
Communication senior Jayme Lincoln said between classes, work and other responsibilities she has, she needs to take the opportunity to treat herself to something she doesn't often have time for.
"A lot of times I just take some time to relax and enjoy not having to worry about anything," Lincoln said. "I love listening to music and looking through old pictures, but sometimes I just sit with nothing going on to bother me. It's great."
STRESS RELIEF AND WELL-BEING
There are others who agree with Deeds and Lincoln, saying meditation can offer both medical and emotional benefits.
Joseph Warren, director of the Center for Inner Awareness, 1012 N. Washington St. in Lansing, said meditation is a great stress-reducer.
"Meditation can reassert control as a way of dealing with the situation," Warren said, adding that meditation allows a person to take control of their life in alternative ways. "It keeps you from being tossed around in an emotional sea."
Although the popularity of meditation is something that goes in waves, Warren said people who feel they need it won't have a problem tracking it down.
But the increased popularity could be a dilemma, he said, noting that many choose to take part in the practice to heal major wounds.
That's a mistake, Warren said.
"It should not just be a fix to get through the crisis," he said. "If you really want to gain the benefits, it requires dedication to re-orienting your life."
Chemistry sophomore Sarah Purol said the process of changing your life would require extreme dedication but she thinks the benefits are short-term.
Purol said she has tried meditating and there have been times it has worked for her and times it hasn't. She said she likes to sit in silence and concentrate on one specific thing in her life.
"When I think of meditation, I think of relaxing and trying to come to an inner peace. Anytime you can become more in touch and more aware of yourself is great," she said.
PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH?
Most people who teach meditation techniques also take part in the practice themselves.
Dr. Marina Levine, who teaches a class at Sparrow Hospital, 1215 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing, said she recognizes there are definite benefits gained from meditation.
The emotional benefits of using meditation for medicinal purposes are what Levine said prompted her to start her focus group.
However, meditation usually doesn't take a person's pain away, Levine said, but instead helps them manage it and accept what they are going through.
Levine said her students learn to let go of their fears and thus learn more about themselves: "They find an inner-capacity for healing where they can build on the strength they already have."
And most experts agree the most important aspect for people who turn to meditation is to be dedicated to getting the results they are looking for.
"The best thing a person can do is to pay attention to what they are doing," Levine said. "Everything we do seems to be on the run and we miss some of the most important experiences in life.
"Be aware of life because there is not a quick fix."
(C) 2001 The State
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