Mindfulness through Meditation by Dr. Chris Jackson, PhD, DOM

In my recent article entitled “Our Society's Distorted Perception: Normal Physical Function” one topic I explored was the root of psychological and behavioral disorders, which can be found in physical dysfunction. A relationship with biochemical neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), and acetylcholine was discussed, yet I did not expand into another important area, the relationship of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) to the stress response (fight or flight) and the sympathetic nervous system. The opposite response is what we know as the parasympathetic response, which has been coined the relaxation response.

The Relaxation Response, a book by Herbert Benson, was one of the early entries into the field of wellness based on the work of Benson and others at the Harvard Medical School department of physiology. The teams found that meditative thought could lower the frequencies of brain waves to those correlated to deep relaxation (alpha, delta, and theta waves), while lowering metabolic rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and heart rate.

Systematic study of self-reports suggests that an individual’s belief systems, expectancies, and assumptions exert a strong influence on his/her state of well-being. Thus, shifting our belief systems can aid in expansion of our consciousness, contribute to the overall well-being of human beings, and move us forward on a path to wellness. Due to neuroplasticity, our ability to grow existing neurological pathways and to generate new neurological pathways, we can make these shifts through the practice of mindfulness and repetitive practice of positive affirmations.

WE ARE VERY POWERFUL. We control these supercomputers known as our brains, because we can mold our own thoughts at a very rapid pace. Hundreds of thousands of biochemical reactions happen within our bodies in response to a single thought! We also can meta-cognate, that is we can recognize our own thoughts as they are generated and decide to think differently. We can tap into a non-local awareness, a heightened state of consciousness that is available to us for the asking.

We have learned from quantum physics that we are all connected to the universe and each other through our fundamental energetic signatures, our surrounding and conjoined electromagnetic fields. Additionally, it is my belief that we are all connected with a universal source that fuels our growth spiritually, vibrationally, energetically, and physiologically. Through meditation and other mindfulness practices we have a route to tap into this universal source while balancing our personal energetic beings and addressing the effects of stress. In meditation we are able to look inward and quiet the outside world, and all of its stressors. We may acknowledge the sounds and other distractors, but we are not focused on them. The hum of a noise may actually be used to help one focus on a single tone rather than the swirling thoughts that keep circling back around.

Although short-term stress may be useful since it activates a sympathetic response, natural killer (NK) cell activity and general immune activity, chronic stress (a distressed condition) leads to the levels of glucocorticoids (cortisol) being increased via the HPA. Elevated cortisol may lead to a reduction in the number of white blood cells (through apoptosis – programmed cell death) and reduce their functionality. Chronic stress-induced cortisol elevation may also reduce the release of chemical messenger cytokines, affecting immune system efficiency, thereby resulting in lowered immunity, increased inflammation, metabolic syndrome, and a more rapid aging process that influences the progression of both physiological and psychological, and/or cognitive disorders.

Our saving grace, the relaxation response, which can be induced by way of a calming parasympathetic nervous response when we meditate, helps us find inner peace and move toward a quieting of the mind. The more we are able to go inward in meditation the further we move toward the naturally relaxed rhythm of our being, allowing us to detach from the incipient stressors of our overworked and overwhelmed society.

© July 2017 by Dr. Christopher Jackson, PhD, DOM