The Lance
In-Depth Feature- Meditation
by Courtney Martin

In this modern day and age, the negative effects of stress are unavoidable. People have tried various methods to help cope with stress, everything from exercise and diet to alternative methods like biofeedback. However, the most effective method to deal with stress is not one of these modern methods but rather a 5,000 year-old idea: Meditation. Meditation not only helps reduce the negative effects of stress, but also leads to a better sense of well-being by uniting mind and body.
The basic principles and practices of meditation are rooted in Hinduism, an Asian religion whose followers believe that the soul is eternal and maintains an eternal relationship with God. Hindus believe that because the soul is eternal, it must reincarnate in various forms to retain this everlasting relationship. Thousands of young people flocked to the ideas of Hinduism in the 1970\'s to escape the drug culture of the times.
As the troubled youth of the 1970\'s matures into the professionals of the 1990\'s, the practice of meditation has been incorporated into the medical field and studied for its effect on the body and mind. The physical practice of meditation slows and calms the body, lowering blood pressure and heart rate with the use of deep breathing exercises.
The calming of the body in itself works to fight stress but those who meditate say that meditation also helps to replenish the mind. The mind, along with the body, needs to feel at peace. In the hustle and bustle of the technological age, we often seek out materialistic means of happiness. Some pursue hobbies that like rock climbing that present both physical and mental challenges to satisfy this need while others stretch out in front of the television to relax.
We approach our search for a better sense of well-being on a superficial level instead of dealing with the issues that are the root cause of our pain. We don\'t really understand what happiness is and therefore spend our time and energy trying to get rid of the pain instead of confronting it. If we turn to meditation to guide us through the journey of self-awareness. If an individual is aware of the cause of his pain, he can better understand it and cope instead of letting it determine the course of his life. It is not the actual event that produces a stressful response, but rather how we react to it.
Our reactions to stress, positive or negative, are selfish and block out other points of view. Meditation allows us to step outside the situation, seeing ourselves as the observer rather than the victim, and opens us up to other points of view. By broadening our perspective, we are better able to deal with those responses that are destructive. By doing so, we can learn to recognize emotional pain and not be oppressed by it. This concept is similar to the cancer patient who takes morphine to control physical pain; The drug helps control the pain but the patient is still aware of it.
Meditation has been proven to be both physically and emotionally beneficial, but why hasn\'t this union of body and mind become so popular until recently? As the baby boomers get older, their unorthodox methods of youth have evolved into acceptance as mainstream culture. New developments in science have also forced psychiatrists to re-examine the effectiveness of medicines and have come to the conclusion that there is a limit to what they can do. A conscious effort must be made on the part of the patient as medicine can not cure everything. Individuals are assuming responsibility for their own well-being.
Meditation appeals to educated people and has been very popular and successful in helping the upper classes of American society deals with stress. More recently, as meditation moves into mainstream medicine the lower income classes are also beginning to explore meditation.
Andrea La Fave of the Maharishi Vedic University in Madison says the majority of her clientele are college students who want to develop a higher state of consciousness. "Every human being has the machinery to reach blissfulness. Human consciousness and connection to the body can be developed," says La Fave. "Now, western medicine has the tools to prove it."
La Fave has been practicing meditation for over 25 years.