Meditation: Does It Help?

Ever since the late 1960s, the idea of meditation—the kind that focuses on a "mantra" or secret word—has been held out as a key to both inner knowledge and outward calm. The Beatles, the famous British rock group, were at the forefront of this movement, signing on as followers of an Indian guru, but soon they were followed by people from all walks of life.

"Transcendental meditation" is marketed as a shortcut to nirvana: Pay a fee, receive top-secret instruction, and you can "bliss out" without drugs.

Or, consider the words of Tibetan Buddhist icon the Dalai Lama, who declared, "If every eight-year-old in the world is taught meditation, the world will be without violence within one generation."

However, it turns out that this is likely inaccurate. It seems people can meditate all day long, but it's not going to end violence, at least, according to one recent scientific study.

Scholars from Massey University in New Zealand, Britain's Coventry University, and Radboud University in the Netherlands say, "Our analysis suggests that meditating is likely to have a positive, but still relatively limited effect in making individuals feel or act in a substantially more socially connected, or less aggressive and prejudiced way." Translation: You might feel better after meditating, but it's not likely this will translate into lasting change in one's character.

The scientists analyzed 22 studies they found useful, winnowed down from nearly 5,000 such studies over the years. The ones that made the cut had enough academic rigor to render the results useful for analysis, they said.

What they found wasn't encouraging, according to Farias, as quoted in a Coventry University news release: "Most of the initial positive results disappeared when the meditation groups were compared to other groups that engaged in tasks unrelated to meditation. We also found that the beneficial effect of meditation on compassion disappeared if the meditation teacher was an author in the studies. This reveals that the researchers might have unintentionally biased their results."

Farias added, "None of this, of course, invalidates Buddhism or other religions' claims about the moral value and eventually life-changing potential of its beliefs and practices. But our research findings are a far cry from many popular claims made by meditators and some psychologists."

So is there a way of meditating that can influence one's life for good? There is, but you won't read about it in this study.

The answer is found in the first two verses of the first book of poetry in the Bible, Psalm 1: "Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful," it begins. "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night."

And in Isaiah 26:3, we read, "You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You." (NKJV)

Pastor Doug explains how we each can find the "missing peace" in our lives. Click here to read this article, because it talks about the right kind of meditation, and how focusing on God and His Son, Jesus, can lead you to that perfect peace.

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