Last Friday there was an op-ed piece in the Wall St. Journal (subscription req’d) by W. Scott Gould, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs about the possible benefits of meditation in dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Here is a key passage:
“David Lynch and Norman E. Rosenthal pose a challenge for the [DVA]: “If a simple, low-cost technique like TM can substantially alleviate the suffering of even some of the thousands of veterans afflicted with PTSD, how can we afford not to give it a try?” In fact, Transcendental Meditation has received substantial attention at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health. Indeed, meditation and other forms of complementary and alternative medicine are already used at VA to help veterans suffering from PTSD. We have embarked on a series of clinical investigations to evaluate all forms of meditation, TM among them.”
Think about this for a second: a federal bureaucracy like the DVA is seriously considering meditation as a beneficial technique for people with PTSD. Seems perfectly reasonable to me, except that I predict a large scale amount of entrenched resistance.
Nevertheless, meditation has been on my radar for a long time. I’ve practiced it on and off over the years, and always wondered (when I stopped practicing) why I didn’t keep it up. It’s clearly beneficial to me, and it doesn’t require anything more than time and committment.
About a year ago I saw a documentary called The Dhamma Brothers and it made me realize that I was wasting a valuable (and easily accessed resource) by not meditating every day. So I started again, and have mostly kept it up (I miss a day or two here and there, but I try not to obsess about it).
Here is a synposis of the film, which is not overly-hyped. It’s true, and it’s powerful to see how meditation changed these people who are in jail for having committed some seriously horrendous crimes:
“An overcrowded, violent maximum-security prison, the end of the line in Alabama’s prison system, is dramatically changed by an ancient meditation program. It becomes the first maximum-security prison in North America to hold an extended Vipassana retreat, an emotionally and physically demanding program of silent meditation lasting ten days and requiring 100 hours of meditation.”
There is no doubt that the meditation program changed some of these violent men, and awakened them to the power of inward reflection. The meditation program wasn’t easy. Basically, it was a lot like solitary confinement, but without the punitive external force. The difficulty was inward, and it’s one that all of us (even those of us who are not in prison) face.
Meditation has been scientifically proven many times to be beneficial. Anyone who has practiced it for a significant time can experience the benefits first hand. And, yet we all encounter resistance. Why is that?
No one can supply an easy answer. Or at least not one that makes the problem go away. The fact remains that it’s not easy to block out the external world and go into your thoughts. It never has been, and it never will be. But, there are benefits there for those who try—even those who are incarcerated or beseiged by wartime trauma.
So meditation is something that will always be on my radar. And I am curious to see how many other people are curious about it too.