Some new and well-done research is out showing the impact of meditation on dedicated practitioners in the Buddhist tradition. You can see the whole study here.
This study interviewed 60 practitioners in Zen, Tibetan, and Theravada traditions over time. (Note: this isn't about "mindfulness" or occasional meditators.)
Part of what's interesting about this research is that it focuses not only on benefits but also on challenges for those of us on the Way.
For example, many people at some point in their practice experience MORE anxiety, shame, self-doubt, fatigue, and apathy. People with a history of trauma often found themselves having a trauma response, especially in retreats.
This is where many people lose their wish to keep practicing. It's also where the help of a teacher and a supportive community are critical
However, these dedicated practitioners also reported greater focus, clarity, joy, motivation, and care for others over the longer term. They also spoke of a shift in their sense of self as being more connected to others and the universe, and less focused on personal shortcomings. Many reported an overall sense of well-being that they attributed to their practice, and an ability to respond skillfully in the midst of difficult situations.
That sounds pretty good, eh?
Now, I'm glad this research is being done. I suppose it's important to "prove" this stuff scientifically. Though I have to say I have some resentment that science is the most privileged way of knowing in our culture. These are things dharma teachers and practitioners have known for centuries! Not exactly "breaking news" for many of us.
If you'd like to do your own "research" on the impacts of meditation, we have a day-long retreat coming up on September 17 in Oakland, please join us!
And of course, there is always our super sweet Sunday evening sangha. It's two periods of meditation, plus a community conversation. All health care practitioners are welcome!
We need all the steadiness, focus, and compassion we can get to live in these difficult times.
Megan Rundel is the resident teacher at the Crimson Gate Meditation Community in Oakland, CA..