Books: Prescribing Health, as reviewed by Pranada Devi
Western medicine, existing outside of an Eastern context that includes a more holistic understanding of health through Ayurveda, has a unique position when it comes to understanding the value and power of meditation for human health. Because meditation was relatively unknown to the West before the 1960s, its power in a medical setting has needed to be proven, studied and documented in accordance with today’s scientific method. Now that meditation has been mainstream for a generation, there are ample test cases to study its effects.
The Transcendental Meditation method, introduced to the West (and the world) by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1960s, has been practiced by all walks of life. After four decades, its effect can now be studied extensively in a medical context. That is what Prescribing Health: Transcendental Meditation in Contemporary Health Care offers. David F. O’Connell and Deborah L. Bevvino have curated an extensive collection of studies demonstrating the positive effects of this meditation technique in relation to cardiovascular health, diabetes, anxiety, depression, addiction and childhood disorders. The studies also look at the potential of Transcendental Meditation (TM) as a preventative approach and one that addresses societal issues such as aging, prison rehabilitation and collective health.
I don’t have a background in TM, but have an interest in meditation in general. I will note though that the advantage of carrying out these studies on TM in particular is that it is an effective control for how meditation techniques may otherwise vary from group to group. With a single specific meditation technique being studied, a variable is eliminated.
Similar work has begun in studying the effects of the Integrated Amrita Meditation, a meditation technique introduced by the spiritual leader Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi in the past two decades. Studies are already indicating reduced levels of adrenaline and cortisol in the blood after practicing this meditation technique. It will be interesting to see the more extensive body of work that arises after it has been around for longer, as has happened for Transcendental Meditation.
A thick and well-footnoted tome, Prescribing Health is not a how-to for people who seek to address their health issues through meditation. What it is, however, is a significant resource for those who work or are interested in the health care field, and would like to learn about the great power meditation has to support wellness in ways not fully understood by modern Western medicine. It brings together a large body of medical work, and seats TM into both the Western and Vedic contexts. Those who would like to be able to recommend meditation to their patients or clients will be able to point to the studies in this book as evidence to bolster their case.
Pranada Devi is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She is the Managing Editor of Parvati Magazine, and serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects. She is the editor for Parvati’s new book “Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie”, which has sold out out its first two printing runs.