meditation stinks!

good headline, huh? i think it’s better than yahoo’s: “meditation won’t boost health: study

but basically i’ve done the same as yahoo: quickly scan an article, then write a pithy headline.

does it reflect what actually happened? welllll ….

when you take the time to read the yahoo article, you see that the researchers say there is no good scientific evidence that meditation has health benefits, and that more, better controlled studies should be undertaken to study the matter.

darn, that’s too long for a headline. plus the concept is just a tad more complex. see, that’s why “meditation stinks” is so much better.

but if you’ve read so far, let’s just do some kindergarten philosophy here:

there is no good evidence that X works
does not equate
X does not work

come to think of it, this is even pre-kindergarten, pre-preschool, pre-toddler: one-year-olds have already figured out that just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. (outside of pre-toddlerhood, in philosophy, failure to understand this would be referred to as the burden of proof fallacy.)

it turns out, by the way, that the researchers are not averse to meditation:

“at this point, we cannot conclude at all that meditation doesn’t work,” researcher maria ospina told on tuesday. “but we cannot conclude that it works, either.”

the university of alberta team examined more than 800 english-language comparative studies. the most common themes were how meditation affects hypertension, other cardiovascular diseases and substance abuse.

five main categories of meditation were involved in the studies:

* mantra meditation
* mindfulness meditation
* yoga
* tai chi
* qi gong

overall, the low-quality studies suggested that qi gong and zen Bbuddhist meditation helped lower blood pressure, while yoga reduced stress.

they also hinted that both yoga and mindfulness meditation worked equally well at cutting anxiety in patients with cardiovascular diseases.

thanks, CTV, that’s more like it.

it’s too bad that yahoo’s irresponsible headlining prompted at least one rant against research.

so – until further notice and further studies, i’ll keep meditating, and keep supporting science that is well done and reporters who discuss science responsibly and intelligently. both ot these – meditation and science – are some of the greatest, most precious treasures the human animal has come up with so far.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

more posts that discuss meditation

driving meditation
metta, and that includes the internet
open hearts
the 12 steps – buddhist fashion
five energizers

(this post was included in the 5th carnival of truth)

12 thoughts on “meditation stinks!

  1. ms. em

    Infantile Illogical Imbalanced conclusions. The triple ‘I’! Ergh!

    If meditation doesn’t really do anything, why is it reinforced in every eating disorder program and every eating disorder recovery book I’ve read?

    If yoga isn’t helpful, why do so many people become yoga instructors in recovery from eating disorders?

    ACT therapy devotes chapters to mindfulness and the importance of meditation.

    I could go on and one, but I’ll leave it at…

    thank you posting this.

  2. Maya

    I, too, am saddened that the headlines are misleading and direct us toward a statement (ie meditation doesn’t help) that is not necessarily true.

    And I recognize that there are certainly reasons to doubt the way that some of the studies were designed–small control groups, working with those who have meditated for many years without considering how their lifestyle choices may have increased their ability to concentrate/have low blood pressure/reduce angry moments, etc. But as you say, doubting a study’s design or results is not the same as doubting the benefits of meditation.

    I do, however, think that there is a tendency to be mindless about reporting on mindfulness. A recent article in the NY Times carried a photo of kids sitting with eyes closed at their desks and the first sentence mentioned using Tibetan singing bowls in the public classroom as a cue for mindfulness training. Yikes. This is precisely why people continue to see mindfulness as a religious pursuit instead of a secular health or education-oriented skill that can increase our ability to focus in all areas of life.

    But mindfulness teachers are just as much to blame as journalists for this perception. By clinging(!) to the concept of meditation as the only path to greater mindfulness, meditation teachers are inadvertently creating a huge barrier for the milions of people who are interested in awareness but not necessarily likely to embrace meditation.

    We don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater–we need to encourage people to develop MINDFULNESS in whatever way works for them.

    And the more headlines we read about meditation “not working”, the more likely these millions of people are to dismiss the notion of meditation altogether.

    We can do our part by emphasizing that meditation can certainly work but that it is MINDFULNESS that is beneficial. Celebrate the fact that we have some wiggle room to create our own mindfulness practice, and release our grasp on meditation as the only “right” way.


  3. isabella mori

    i guess part of the problem is that it is not easy to study a subtle and yet wide-ranging activity such as meditation with research instruments that are generally geared to studying more measurable effects.

    the other difficulty is that meditation means different things to different people. for example, i can think of a number of people who would say that yoga, tai chi and qi gong cannot be equated with meditation, and others who would say that contemplative prayer, a form a christian meditation, should definitely have been included in the study.

    the next thing for me to do is to read the original article!

  4. Pingback: Carnival of Truth #5

  5. Nneka

    I came across your article in the Carnival of Truth. Coincidentally, I’m now running a series on meditation. The first question I’m tackling is what is it.

    One of your readers mentioned mindfulness above and that was the second question I got (the one I’m attempting to answer.)

    I think there’s a significant difference between mindfulness and meditation. I also think that meditation is a spiritual pursuit and mindfulness just makes sense in any endeavor. To be completely conscious of the actions we take is a great step towards knowing the “Universe” and ourselves.

    In Spirit,

    BTW, I would like to use this article as the springboard for one of the questions, is that okay?

  6. isabella mori

    i think the connection between mindfulness and meditation is quite complex. not everyone would say that meditation is a spiritual pursuit. some people see mindfulness as mostly embedded in the zen and/or vipassana traditions.

    i have spent many years studying and some years teaching meditation and am still confounded as to the common thread. it has something to do with intent and focus, that i know. beyond that …

    will go over to your site and see what you’re up to there, and of course would be happy to have you use this article as a springboard.

  7. isabella mori

    patricia, your comment reminds me of what the buddha said, “don’t believe me, find out for yourself.” best case scenario, one wouldn’t believe them – one would read them and draw their own conclusions from it.

  8. Pingback: on blogging and research » change therapy - isabella mori

  9. Pingback: food addiction: another case of “duh” science » change therapy - isabella mori

  10. Pingback: Meditation Q&A: Does It Work?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *