Psychological Self-Help

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1185
"there is so much to do," "you probably aren't meditating right," "it is
a waste of time," "you may think of something dreadful," etc. Continue
for a month before you decide if it is worthwhile. 
Effectiveness, advantages and danger
The method is as old as recorded history, so it has withstood the
test of time. It also illustrates the human tendency to avoid testing the
effectiveness of mystical processes. Recently, there have been more
scientific studies. In general, the combination of meditation, the
accompanying philosophy, and the suggestion-placebo effects seems
to yield these results: relaxation, better self-control and self-
evaluation, more confidence in self-control, reduction
("desensitization") of frightening ideas and concerns, and greater
awareness of internal and external stimuli (Shapiro & Zifferblatt,
1976). But... 
When David Holmes (1984) compared the effectiveness of
meditation with simple resting, he found no significant differences!
Subjects relaxed (as measured in several ways) equally well using
meditation or relaxation. Furthermore, experienced meditators became
just as physiologically aroused in stressful situations as did
nonmeditators. That is not shocking, except that meditators would like
to believe their method is best. There is no magic method. 
Meditation's long association and similarity with religion makes it
just as hard to evaluate as religion. The belief that meditation provides
a sense of oneness and communion with everything in the universe is
based on the beliefs and testimony of millions of Hindus and Buddhists
and other practitioners. How do you challenge that? Perhaps, the inner
peace and tolerance of all things, claimed by so many from meditation,
can be scientifically demonstrated eventually. (On the other hand, the
value of tolerance, when it is tolerance of ignorance, injustice and
problems, has to be questioned.) We, as a society, should demand
more hard evidence from our soft sciences. Like religion, the promise
of so much is both meditation's strength and its weakness. Just don't
expect it to cure physical diseases or provide long-distance messages.
These can be better accomplished by modern medicine and a
telephone. 
Additional readings
Bloomfield, H. H., Cain, D. T., & Jaffe, D. T. (1975). TM:
Discovering inner energy and overcoming stress. New York:
Delacorte. 
Forem, J. (1975). Transcendental Meditation. New York:
Bantam. 
Goleman, D. (1991). The meditative mind. ??? Goleman also
has an audio cassette, The Art of Meditation. 
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