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제 목    Meditation-Times

MEDITATION NATION: It's not just New Age any more. Americans of all kinds are meditating to boost their immune systems and to reduce stress.


Yogis:At the Keck Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, a Tibetan Buddhist undergoes an MRI

Lawyers:Federal Trade Commission attorneys take a break on the Mall in Washington

Prisoners:The Insight Prison Project teaches a class at San Quentin called Mindfulness Meditation: Cultivating the Ability to Make Choices

College Students:At Maharishi University in Iowa, days start with TM

Patients:Abhay Bhaskar, 23, meditates while doctors take a picture of his brain

Seniors:Joane O'Rourke meditates with a small group at The Epiphany Roman Catholic Church in New York City

High School Students:48 Students at a Detroit school take a time-out to meditate



Posted Sunday, July 27, 2003

The one thought I cannot purge, the one that keeps coming back and
getting between me and my bliss, is this: What a waste of time. I am
sitting cross-legged on a purple cushion with my eyes closed in a
yoga studio with 40 people, most of them attractive women in workout
outfits, and it is accomplishment enough that I am not thinking about
them. Or giggling. I have concentrated on the sounds outside and then
on my breath and then, supposedly, just on the present reality of my
physical state—a physical state concerned increasingly with the lack
of blood in my right foot. But I let that pass, and then I let my
thoughts of the hot women go, and then the future and the past, and
then my worries about how best to write this article and, for just a
few moments, I hit it. It looks like infinite blackness, feels like a
separation from my body and seems like the
moment right before you fall asleep, only I'm completely awake. It is
kind of nice. And then, immediately, I have this epiphany: I could be
watching television.

After 20 minutes we stop for a break, which surprises me, since I
would not have guessed that sitting on a cushion is an activity that
requires a break. Before we begin again, our instructor, Sharon
Salzberg, a cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre,
Mass., and the author of Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience,
asks for questions or comments. Four are about breathing. "Breathing
is too complicated for me to concentrate on," one woman complains. "I
mean, breathing must be the most complex thing we do." I briefly
consider waiting outside and mugging the lot of them.

But as pitiably muggable as these people may appear, the latest
science says they've got something on my judgmental self. For one
thing, they will probably outlive me by quite a few years. Not only
do studies show that meditation is boosting their immune system, but
brain scans suggest that it may be rewiring their brains to reduce
stress. Meanwhile, we nonbelievers are becoming the minority. Ten
million American adults now say they practice some form of meditation
regularly, twice as many as a decade ago. Meditation classes today
are being filled by mainstream Americans who don't own crystals,
don't subscribe to New Age magazines and don't even reside in Los
Angeles. For upwardly mobile professionals convinced that their lives
are more stressful than those of the cow-milking, soapmaking,
butter-churning generations that preceded them, meditation is the
smart person's bubble bath.

And they no longer have to go off to some bearded guru in the woods
to do it. In fact, it's becoming increasingly hard to avoid
meditation. It's offered in schools, hospitals, law firms, government
buildings, corporate offices and prisons. There are specially marked
meditation rooms in airports alongside the prayer chapels and
Internet kiosks. Meditation was the subject of a course at West
Point, the spring 2002 issue of the Harvard Law Review and a few too
many locker-room speeches by Lakers coach Phil Jackson. At the
Maharishi University schools in Fairfield, Iowa, which include
college, high school and elementary classes, the entire elementary
school student body meditates together twice daily. The Shambhala
Mountain Center in the Colorado Rockies, a sprawling, gilded campus
that looks like casino magnate Steve Wynn's take on Tibet, has gone
from 1,342 visitors in 1998 to a projected 15,000 this year. The
Catskills hotels in New York are turning into meditation retreats so
quickly that the Borscht Belt is being renamed the Buddhist Belt.
And, as with any great American trend that finds its way onto the
cover of TIME, many of these meditators are famous. To name just a
few: Goldie Hawn, Shania Twain, Heather Graham, Richard Gere and Al
Gore, if he still counts as famous.

But the current interest is as much medical as it is cultural.
Meditation is being recommended by more and more physicians as a way
to prevent, slow or at least control the pain of chronic diseases
like heart conditions, AIDS, cancer and infertility. It is also being
used to restore balance in the face of such psychiatric disturbances
as depression, hyperactivity and attention-deficit disorder (ADD). In
a confluence of Eastern mysticism and Western science, doctors are
embracing meditation not because they think it's hip or cool but
because scientific studies are beginning to show that it works,
particularly for stress-related conditions. "For 30 years meditation
research has told us that it works beautifully as an antidote to
stress," says Daniel Goleman, author of Destructive Emotions, a
conversation among the Dalai Lama and a group of neuroscientists.
"But what's exciting about the new research is how meditation can
train the mind and reshape the brain."  Tests using the most
sophisticated imaging techniques suggest that it can actually reset
the brain, changing the point at which a traffic jam, for instance,
sets the blood boiling. Plus, compared with surgery, sitting on a
cushion is really cheap.

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