Is Meditation Healthy?
By Joyce Choe MD, MPH
Have you noticed that Eastern meditation is becoming very popular? It can reportedly improve stress management, anxiety, and attention span.1 Some believe that it helps with addictions and may even help them develop character traits like kindness. It is so popular that many health practitioners and coaches are promoting this practice for mental clarity, improvement of health and wellness, and inner peace.
Does research support some health benefits of eastern meditation? I believe that it does to some degree, but is that the most important question? If you are considering using Eastern meditation to achieve your health goals, perhaps you would want to consider the mechanism by which it works.
I believe that you will find that there is another form of meditation that is even more powerful and works in a manner that is safe for the mind and spirit.
Eastern meditation will cause a slowing in general brain activity and causes the frontal lobe in particular, to go “offline.”2,3 This is similar to the slowing of frontal lobe activity that occurs in hypnosis. Indeed, those who are familiar with the principles of both meditation and hypnosis have pointed out the similarities between the two in purpose, practice, and effect on the brain. In an article in Psychotherapy Networker, Michael Yapko compares the commonalities of Guided Mindfulness Meditation (GMM) and clinical hypnosis.
“Both GMM and clinical hypnosis use suggestive methods to elicit beneficial, nonvoluntary responses…that can’t simply be willed.” In both practices, the purpose is to be able to detach oneself from their experience to some degree. According to this paradigm, “The ability to detach oneself from one’s thoughts—externalizing angry or self-destructive thoughts by seeing them, for example, simply as ‘clouds passing in the sky’—has great therapeutic potential as a critical step in building impulse control, frustration tolerance, and reality-testing skills.”4
The purpose of these practices is to detach the person from their experience so that they are no longer as affected by volatile emotions or addictions. Increasingly, hypnosis and meditation are being recommended to manage impulsive behavioral issues, low frustration tolerance, and addictions.
What relevance does this have to you and your health and why does it matter if you use eastern meditation or hypnosis to improve addictive behavior and other health concerns?
The frontal lobe of the brain is one of the most important aspects of our humanity—it is the seat of our spirituality, morality and will power.
I believe that it is an area that is under constant attack. 1 Peter 5:8 states that, we should “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Using hypnosis or meditation–which disable the frontal lobe–will incredibly handicap the mind and body and will cause you to be vulnerable to the power of Satanic suggestion. (Luke 11:24-26?) The frontal lobe is where we have insight, judgement, and willpower and these play an important role in having right thoughts and good decision-making skills and are extremely important for having a successful health journey.
When we engage in hypnosis or eastern/mindfulness meditation, we give control of our minds to the suggestions of another entity. We thus put ourselves at risk of being significantly influenced and even possessed by spiritual entities other than the Creator God.
The results may not be seen immediately, but will greatly and negatively impact true spiritual, mental, and emotional growth.
While Eastern meditation brings the focus within to look at self, Biblical meditation puts the focus upward and outward on a great Creator God. We believe that it is through this focus that we can become transformed into His image. Eastern meditation focuses inward to achieve a state of enlightenment, or a state of truly understanding self and the world.5 Christians focus their minds on the Source of all light and understanding and believe that as they truly see Him, love will shape their minds and characters and transform them into His image. 2 Corinthians 3:18.
Do you have questions on how to meditate? Isaiah 26:3 states that God will keep us in perfect peace when are minds are focused on Him, because we trust in Him. Psalms 119:15 states that the psalmist meditated on God’s law and His ways. In Psalms 119:97 and 148, the psalmist meditated on God’s promises. In Psalms 143:5 and 77:10-12 the psalmist meditated on the mighty works of God. Apparently, as we meditate on God and His character as revealed in His creation, His law, and how He works in our lives, we fall in love with Him more and more. And as couples who spend much time together start looking alike, we start looking more and more like the Person we love.
We may not realize it, but many of us can be morose in our thinking and hard on ourselves for past mistakes. While it is actually a healthy thing to feel pain when our hearts are convicted of sin (Romans 2:4 states that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance), we don’t want to get stuck in sadness and pain. 1 John 1:9 states that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It is not God who causes us to get stuck in the pain of past failure. Rather than focusing on these past regrets, it is much more productive to focus on the mercy, love, and compassion of God. This is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy as advised in the Bible, “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”. 2 Corinthians 10:5.
For those who are desperately struggling with addictions and emotional issues and want to try eastern meditation or hypnosis, consider what your end objective is. Do you really want to shut off the frontal lobe and dissociate from your thoughts, or do you want to optimize the seat of your spirituality and will, find the source of your pain, and give your burdens to the One who can recreate you from the inside out?
“If you don’t know how to do this, you can begin by praying specifically to the Creator God; He will know that you are trying to speak to him; He’s the One who has been trying to reach your heart all of your life. “Whatever the problem, wherever you find yourself today, there is Someone who illuminated and brought life to this earth with the words, “Let there be light”. He can do the same in your life today!
1 Gu, Jenny et al. “How Do Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy And Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Improve Mental Health And Wellbeing? A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Of Mediation Studies”. Clinical Psychology Review, vol 37, 2015, pp. 1-12. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2015.01.006.
2 Kjaer, Troels W et al. “Increased Dopamine Tone During Meditation-Induced Change Of Consciousness”. Cognitive Brain Research, vol 13, no. 2, 2002, pp. 255-259. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/s0926-6410(01)00106-9.
3 Yip Kok Tho. http://www.meditation-mindyourbrain.com/419370807. Accessed July 24, 2019.
4Michael Yapko. What Mindfulness Can Learn from Hypnosis. Psychotherapy Networker. https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/564/what-mindfulness-can-learn-from-hypnosis. Accessed July 24, 2019.
Joyce Choe is a board certified ophthalmologist living in the Pacific Northwest. She is passionate about learning how diet and lifestyle choices affect chronic disease and how to use safe and natural remedies to further promote healing. This article was originally published on dr.joycechoe.com. Reposted with permission.