It’s one of the core beliefs of RTC that the mind can influence the body even down to the cellular level. Yet when I make that assertion, sometimes people are skeptical. I suppose they imagine I’m saying that you can give a direct order to one particular cell and expect it to salute, and immediately obey orders to the letter. “You! Cell Number 2233165-B! Over there in the pancreas. Yes, you. Give me ten push-ups! Yes, that’s it. Well done.”
Of course it doesn’t work quite like that. That we can influence our body’s cells is obvious. When you run, your heart beats and pumps more oxygen. Your blood cells are oxygenated accordingly. When you fast, your fat cells are used up as an alternative fuel. When you see someone attractive, changes on the hormonal level happen across the board. Sit and meditate and physiological changes occur in your body, and changes to your body are changes that affect the cells that make up your body. That simply and obviously goes without saying.
Yet some remain skeptical that the changes resulting from deliberate meditative practice can produce physical changes for the better. All I can say in reply is that reputable studies have shown, and continue to show, that that is indeed the case.
For instance? Consider the effects of meditation on telomere length, a key marker of the aging process.
From a study done at the University of California at Davis:
“Positive psychological changes that occur during meditation training are associated with greater telomerase activity, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the University of California, San Francisco. The study is the first to link positive well-being to higher telomerase, an enzyme important for the long-term health of cells in the body.”
From a paper on the United States National Institutes of Health web site:
“To the extent that meditation mitigates stress-related cognitions and propagation of negative emotions and negative stress arousal, a longstanding practice of mindfulness or other forms of meditation may indeed decelerate cellular aging.”
Or take CNN:
“So far the studies are small, but they all tentatively point in the same direction. In one ambitious project, Blackburn [Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, 2009 Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology or Medicine] and her colleagues sent participants to meditate at the Shambhala mountain retreat in northern Colorado. Those who completed a three-month course had 30% higher levels of telomerase than a similar group on a waiting list.
“A pilot study of dementia caregivers, carried out with UCLA’s Irwin and published in 2013, found that volunteers who did an ancient chanting meditation called Kirtan Kriya, 12 minutes a day for eight weeks, had significantly higher telomerase activity…
“…a collaboration with UCSF physician… Dean Ornish, also published in 2013, found that men with low-risk prostate cancer who undertook comprehensive lifestyle changes, including meditation, kept their telomerase activity higher than similar men in a control group and had slightly longer telomeres after five years.”
One could extend the list, but why bother? When Nobel Prize Winners and National Institutes of Health confirm the benefits of meditation on the cellular level, one would imagine the issue to be closed. Yes, meditation helps, heals, strengthens cells! It’s old news — and good news for the old!
The question for RTC is not whether meditation helps. Clearly it does. The question is how (so that we can meditate more effectively and efficiently), and also whether meditation on a specific cellular goal can help a person better reach that goal.
On the face of it, it would seem so. After all, don’t our bodies in so many ways simply respond in specific ways to our specific commands? Tell your hand to scratch your nose and it will. There are documented cases of hypnosis where people are told to experience burning sensations on specific parts of their bodies, and the cells in those specific areas exhibit burns. If applying focused awareness to a particular area of cells can give such vivid and intense results, is it not reasonable to assume that a “cellf” awareness geared at optimal health can give equally vivid results?
Unfortunately command over other aspects of our body aren’t always as immediate or as obvious. And that isn’t surprising. We can’t see or judge many of the changes we may desire. Who can take his or her blood pressure to exactly 85 on command? (Answer: someone with a good amount of practice with a biofeedback device. But not everyone owns a biofeedback device.)
Yet, if meditation has positive cellular effects across the board, is it really important to focus on one particular health benefit as opposed to another? If meditation helps in every way, surely that will include the way in which we are especially interested. Reaching a specific blood pressure number, say, may not be as important as reaching a healthy one. And the practice of meditation clearly assists in that.
In my own experience, RTC meditations that directly address specific health issues have had a positive impact on those issues. Nonetheless I would be hard put to say that it had a positive effect on only those issues. Mediation, like sunlight, seems to spread its life-giving rays in a multitude of directions.
The literature suggests that the RTC meditator will benefit if his or her guided meditation has one particular focus, and it seems there will be beneficial effects if the meditation has no focus at all other than the pure experience of the meditative state. Which will give you the best results? For the moment the jury is out.
But why choose? Do both!