Meditation...One Size Fits All?
In our fast paced, on-the-go culture, a meditation practice can offer moments of calm amidst the chaos, moments which can grow into a lifestyle of greater attention, awareness, and peacefulness. As stressful lives have led to an increase in stress-related illness, the healthcare industry has gravitated toward integrating contemplative practices such as meditation into care plans for those with new or chronic illness. This occurrence is supported by years of research into the effectiveness of using meditation as a tool for stress reduction, chronic illness risk reduction, and for balanced emotional and spiritual health. As western medicine becomes better at understanding the gifts of meditation, it is clear that meditation is an effective adjunct therapy for many physical, emotional, and spiritual illness states.
In using meditation as an aspect of integrated medical care, however, we must be careful to match the meditation style to both the personality and the symptom set of the client. Though meditation skills in general are appropriate for almost all populations, using meditation clinically involves more than a one-size-fits-all approach. Using an evidence-based scientific approach to meditation has taught us that meditation changes the neurophysiology of the brain, changes the parts of the brain that are "on-line" and functioning, and changes brain wave activity in the brain. These changes, of course, are reflected in the body. So, how these practices are taught and applied, among other factors, can determine the outcome. This is important in setting where a particular outcome is desired, where others may not be. Different goals require different techniques.
Fortunately, we know a lot about how different meditation techniques affect the body and the brain. And we know a lot about how different symptoms and illnesses present in the body and the brain. With the combination of clinician experience, medical history, and the client's own wisdom, specific meditation techniques can be matched to best meet the needs and goals of the client. Mindfulness Meditation may be the right fit for one client, Focused Awareness Meditation more effective for another, while Compassion Meditation best matches the needs of yet a different client.
Research does indeed suggest that even relatively brief and general meditation training can have an impact, but this same research indicates that the popular impression that "meditation" or "mindfulness" is good for everything or everyone is a bit of a fallacy, especially when used in clinical settings. Clinically, meditation should not be guesswork. Rather, it should be used with specificity regarding the client's own goals, their physiology, and how different meditative techniques impact the brain and body. When meditation training is matched to the individual client, it has the potential to reduce stress, reduce chronic illness symptoms, and open the door to experiences of joy, wonder, curiosity, and peace.
If you are interested in learning about how meditation can be effective for your life and health goals, you can make an appointment to begin your journey with Katie Winnell RN, BSN, NC-BC. Katie is a licensed RN, Board Certified Nurse-Coach and Health Educator with credentials in Clinical Meditation and Imagery.