[Does meditation help maintain good heath? Personal whinge at getting a bad cold. ]
Practically every Vipassana meditator feels that meditation is healing both mentally and physically. If that is so, why have I been battling a terrible cold for the last few days? As illnesses go, colds do not rank highly; I could not even get a day off school when I was younger for a bad cold. So shouldn’t a meditator be able to ‘fight it off’ ?
While I believe that meditation makes you more healthy, the scientist in me points out that there is not much real research in this area. Most of the research into the effects of meditation revolve around stress indicators. Are meditators as a group less likely to fall ill, or to get colds? From the communities I have lived in I’d have to say not. In fact, monks often seem to be more sickly than lay people, and I would attribute a good part of the reason to lay people having jobs which demand attention, distracting away from self indulgence. But proper research needs to be carried out. Are the kind of people that would become meditators in the first place, more susceptible to illness ? Does the assertion “It would have been worse without the meditation” really hold up?
More importantly is how do you use meditation to battle illness, or more specifically, a cold? Most people have claimed at some point to be ‘fighting a cold’. Well, how exactly do you do that? I would say from a vipassana standpoint, it is a case of maintaining careful mindfulness. Especially around the tension that builds up around the nose and throat, such as when exposed to excessive draughts or air conditioning. This is how it feels anyway. It feels as if going outside with your hair wet, having cold or damp feet, or being blasted by excessive air-conditioning (as on night coaches going up country) starts the cold off. If this is so, meditation should certainly be able to help. On the other hand science tells us that the cold is caused by a virus, that is spread from carrier to carrier. If this is the case, meditation should be of little use.
Two things are certain.
- Meditation reduces the fear and loathing reaction to illness that is the norm; meaning meditators have an easier time of illness mentally/spiritually
- Proper research needs to be conducted into this area, before we can make confident assertions.
The other big reminder is to make use of your healthy time while you have it.