Zen meditation reduces pain
A recent study conducted at the Universite de Montreal discovered what many practitioners of this centuries-old practice already know: Zen meditation helps reduce pain.
The goal of the study, according to the researchers, was to determine whether people trained in Zen meditation perceived pain differently than people who did not practice it. Previous studies have shown that people who have chronic pain can be taught to cope with their pain using Zen meditation. However, this was the first study with the goal of finding out how or why meditation might have an impact on the perception of pain.
A total of 13 Zen meditators and 13 non-meditators participated in the study. The Zen practitioners had a minimum of 1,000 hours of practice. The pain test consisted of a computer-controlled heating plate being intermittently pressed against the calves of the subjects at varying temperatures.
Zen practitioners had much lower pain sensitivity, even when they were not meditating, than non-practitioners. When the Zen practitioners did meditate, they reduced their breathing rate to 12 breaths per minute, which coincided with reduced pain, compared with 15 breaths for non-practitioners.
Overall, those who practised Zen meditation experienced an 18 per cent reduction in pain intensity. So while previous studies have shown that Zen meditation has a positive impact on the emotional aspects of pain, this study found that the sensation of pain itself is positively affected as well.
Another recent study from Emory University neuroscientists noted that Zen meditation may help treat anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, obsessive/compulsive disorder, and depression, among other mental illnesses.
The ability of Zen meditation to effectively deal with pain or any of the other challenges mentioned lies with the fact that practised Zen meditators have an enhanced ability to control their mind’s focus and prevent it from distractions.