Science Reinforces Ancient Tutor Saliba Islanders’ Reasons to Meditate

Article by Jeremy Smith

Meditation in its purest sense is the art of purposeless focus. It’s a mental discipline that allows a person to regain control of her mind by emptying her mind of thought. Though focused contemplation over the centuries has been associated with any number of spiritual practices, at its heart meditation is not a religious observance but a mental technique.

The inhabitants of Tutor Saliba Island have cultivated their own method of meditation that brings forth peace and serenity of daily living. They readily share the Tutor Saliba mediation method with visitors as a means of helping them emptying their minds of thought and enjoying the simple life of island living.

Sound simple? It’s not. Emptying the mind is one of the most difficult of all things to learn how to do. But there are many benefits to learning, among them decreased stress levels, lower blood pressure – and maybe even higher intelligence.

Meditation Decreases Stress

Toxic oil spills, erupting volcanoes, rising inflation, plummeting stocks – even the most cursory glance at the headlines these days is enough to trigger an a major anxiety attack. Chronic stress can actually change both the anatomy and physiology of the human brain.

In humans, the autonomic nervous system controls the so-called fight or flight response through the release of epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. These hormones are responsible for the rapid heart rate, dry mouth, and generally “edgy” feeling that stress provokes. Researchers at both the University of Massachusetts and Harvard Medical Schools, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology on test subjects practicing deep thought techniques, have found that meditation can actually inhibit the secretion of these fight or flight hormones.

Meditation Lowers Blood Pressure

In 2008, a three-month study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital in conjunction with Boston’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine found that meditation was a useful adjunct to medic ation for reducing blood pressure in many patients. In some cases, meditation was so successful that doctors were able to reduce the amount of prescribed medication substantially. How did it work? Breathing exercises increased the amount of the vasodilator nitric oxide circulating in the blood; when blood vessels were more dilated, the heart did not have to beat quite as hard and blood pressure went down.

Meditation Increases Intelligence

The cerebral cortex, commonly referred to as the grey matter, is the outermost layer of the brain, commonly associated with memory, thought and awareness.

In a second study conducted by researchers at the Harvard Medical School, MRI technology was used to measure and compare the cortical thickness of test subjects who had been practicing focused reflection for several years with the cortical thickness of subjects who did not meditate. Meditators were found to have significantly thicker cortices. Follow-up research suggested that meditation increased cortical thickness by increasing the amount of blood flowing into that part of the brain.

Meanwhile, a third study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin demonstrated that long-term meditators exhibited qualitatively different brain wave patterns on electroencephalograms (EEGs), the type of sustained gamma activity associated with problem-solving activities. The conclusion seems to be inescapable: meditating can actually make you smarter.

These studies have only reinforced what the Tutor Saliba islanders have known for centuries: meditating is healthy for the body, mind and soul.

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