Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live faithfully...in the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Science uncovers a meditation surprise

Psychology Professor Kenneth Pargament wondered if the nature of a mantra would affect the quality of the meditation experience. To test this he had two different groups of people meditate. The first group was given a spiritual 'mantra' to repeat over and over, such as "God is Love" while the second was given a meaningless mantra, such as "Grass is green." To his surprise, he found that those meditating with a spiritual mantra were able to keep their hands in a bucket of ice water twice as long as those using the secular mantra.

This discovery was disturbing to some in the scientific community who, while acknowledging that value of meditation in lowering blood pressure and offering other physical benefits, had insisted that the value of meditation was simply in the act of clearing one's mind - that any mantra would work as the content to focus the mind and prevent distraction.

But the finding of Pargament's study indicate that the content of meditation is a critical piece of meditation's effectiveness. Why do you think this is the case? Is meditation nothing more than a mental/physiological way of slowing breathing to lower blood pressure? Or is it possible that by invoking one's awareness of truths regarding God's character by meditating on truth's revealed in Scripture the meditator is grounding him/herself in the Source of Life, the same source which we're told will give life to our mortal bodies.

I always find it interesting when the scientific world runs into these kind of surprises.

1 Comments:

At 1/2/07 11:58, Anonymous benmc. said...

Now that just makes me want to do more experiments. What does the person's belief about God have to do with the success of the mantra? What if Richard Dawkins, prominent atheist and author of the God Delusion, were asked to do that, would "grass is green" work better for him? And if so, what if we didn't know the content of one's belief and then used this test to determine whether you really believed God was love or not? Would this be a spritual polygraph? At some point it would have to break down.

What's really interesting is that if you keep on asking these questions you end up either with an experiment that doesn't work or a God who has to obey what you tell him to, who wouldn't be God at all. So there's obviously a limit to this kind of experiment.

Yet it sure is provocative!

Hooray for science, Ben

 

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