Scientific Study: Meditation and Pain

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39211

    Scientific Study: Meditation and Pain


    I wrote on another thread today ...

    [In] this sitting wholely as what is, just as all is way of Shikantaza ...

    ... we do not sit to feel good after Zazen nor to move forward. Sunny days are sunny, rainy days are rainy. Piercing this is truly moving forward.

    Sitting is the total manifestation a Buddha's Smile that sweeps in both feeling good or not, smiles and tears, sometimes being "in the grove" and aches & pains, a Peace of One-Piece that holds both the peaceful and not.

    Please have a look here at some of these ...

    That does mean, however, that there are no benefits to the "Way of No Benefits"! :shock: Here is one spotted today, although research confirming this has been coming out quite a bit the last few years ...

    By the way, the article discusses teaching new meditators to focus on the breath or a mantra. Here, at Treeleaf, Taigu and I emphasize "open spacious awareness, focused on everything and nothing at all." I discuss the differences in approach ... and ultimate lack thereof ... here.


    My feeling is that the real effect of the sitting is both the general concentration which results and the "just letting it go" of the "sore bottoms and anxious thoughts". What is more, our way is about much more than just transcending 'physical' pain ... but also about the angst and existentiail suffering (dissatisfaction with this life/world/self 'as it is') that is common to most human beings. For that dis-ease, sitting with/as 'just what is' and open, spacious awareness is a powerful medicine.

    Gassho, J

    Meditators can concentrate the hurt away
    Volunteers felt less pain while practicing mindfulness By Daniel Strain

    If a tree falls on you in the forest while you’re meditating, does it still hurt?

    Well, yes. But maybe not quite as much as it would if you weren’t meditating, researchers from North Carolina and Wisconsin report in the April 6 Journal of Neuroscience. Individuals who practiced mindfulness meditation, or samatha, during a pain experiment reported much less discomfort than they did in earlier, meditation-free sessions. Samatha, the team says, flipped switches on or off in diverse regions of the brain underlying attention, expectation and even the awareness of thoughts themselves.

    Getting hit by a tree limb will hurt, but it won’t hurt everyone in the same way, says study coauthor Robert Coghill, a neuroscientist at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. The conscious mind, which is informed by personal experience and context, is an expert at deciding which sensations to take note of and which to ignore. “All the time we’re hanging out, our brain is being bombarded with all sorts of information,” he says. “But we let it go.” A falling tree is more jarring than the tickle of a forearm hair, but meditation may help people to similarly let “ouch!” and “yowza!” reflexes go.

    In the study, Coghill and his colleagues prodded 15 volunteers with a hot poker of sorts, then used MRI to watch their brains respond to the hot but humane torture. Subjects found the 49? Celsius pulses, on average, 57 percent less unpleasant and 40 percent less intense while meditating as opposed to resting normally.

    Study coauthor Fadel Zeidan, himself a meditation practitioner for over a decade, taught the newbie subjects mindfulness meditation. In just four 20-minute sessions, the dilettantes got a crash course in how to focus their attention on their breathing without becoming derailed by sore bottoms or anxious thoughts.

    Meditation, often associated with tranquility, in fact lights up parts of the brain like a Christmas tree. The anterior insula, for instance, which lies in a deep fold on the side of the brain and has been associated with sensing heat, cold and pain, shined bright in the meditation experiments. This region may also preside over the awareness of thoughts themselves, says Zeidan, a cognitive neuroscientist also at Wake Forest. If you’ve ever suppressed the desire to honk your horn rudely in traffic, you may have your anterior insula to thank. “The meditators were able to take a step back from their thoughts and look at them for what they were,” he says.

    Parts of the thalamus, on the other hand, flicked off during meditation. The thalamus filters the endless trains of sensory signals arriving to the brain from the body. Meditation could, then, ensure that fewer ouch-inducing signals reach the conscious mind in the first place.

    This study illustrates what a powerful pain reliever psychology can be, says Donald Price, who researches pain and the placebo effect at the University of Florida in Gainesville. In some cases, changing a patient’s outlook on pain can be just as soothing as certain doses of morphine. But, he admits, most doctors and nurses don’t have the time to turn the lights down low and lead meditation sessions.

    Rolling meditation into the hospital setting will take time, suggests Susan Smalley, director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. Few studies, including this one, have looked at the health impacts of meditation using controlled, clinical-style studies. Still, she hopes it’s only a matter of time before meditation becomes a regular activity for most Americans. Few people, she notes, wore seat belts when they first came on the market. “Now everyone wears them,” she says. “I kind of think mindfulness and practices like that are at that early stage.” ... _hurt_away
  • Shokai
    Treeleaf Priest
    • Mar 2009
    • 6391

    Re: Scientific Study: Meditation and Pain

    _/_ Arigato gozaimasu sensei
    Yowza, I will now sit to enjoy the 'scenery of life' along the "ZZ" line :shock:
    gassho, Shokai

    仁道 生開 / Jindo Shokai

    "Open to life in a benevolent way"


    • Saijun
      • Jul 2010
      • 667

      Re: Scientific Study: Meditation and Pain

      Hello friends,

      I always thought that it was less about making the hurt go away and more about, as Peter O'Tool channeling T.E. Lawrence said, "not minding that it hurts."

      However, I can see how in some instances that is much easier said than done.


      To give up yourself without regret is the greatest charity. --RBB