Articles on meditation in newspapers and magazines, by and large, are remarkably superficial and under-researched. But they do seem to be increasing in number. USA online publication the Huffington Post, for example, has been running something of an avalanche of stories on meditation and its health benefits for several years now.
The Brisbane Courier Mail had a short piece “Which meditation method is for you?“, on January 30th. The entire amount of information on research into meditation was its opening sentence: “Meditation is known for managing stress, but studies show that regular practice can be a powerful healing tool.” That’s it – subject covered!
The rest of the piece was short paragraphs under 5 headings: “Vedic meditation, Primordial sound meditation, Guided meditation, breathing meditation, Walking meditation”. Pretty dumbed-down, but far from the worst piece I have ever seen. At least it did not say anything blatantly wrong or misleading.
Far more interesting was “Should Schools Teach Kids to Meditate?” in The Atlantic magazine on January 27th. It describes several pieces of research carried out at US universities. It referred to the recent study at Johns Hopkins that found that ” just eight weeks of meditation training was as effective as medication in treating depression, anxiety, and pain”, and also other neuroimaging studies carried out on people learning or practising meditation.
Then the story got into some examples of research on school children taking part in stress management programs that include meditation. Substantial, beneficial changes in circulating stress hormones were found in one study, and significantly improved academic grades in another.
And then the main part of this article was about the Headstand program in some US schools, to “empower at-risk students to combat toxic stress through yoga, mindfulness, and character education.” The article is quite an in-depth piece on how this program developed, what is toxic stress, and what results the program is getting. And it certainly sounds pretty impressive.
In Victoria I came across one or two teachers who were doing some meditation with their students, but never heard of any widespread program. I don’t know about in NSW. In the 1990s I was invited to teach students at a Melbourne, eastern suburbs high school. It was the period a few months before final exams in Year 12. Once we dealt with the issue of a class in which only 50% of the kids wanted to be there, it went really well. A number of kids got into it with great enthusiasm and stated that they would have melted down under the pressure of exams without the help of the meditation they learned.
I tried to encourage the teacher who invited me in to organize something for staff, but there wasn’t the will to make that a priority. Incidentally, the writer of the above-described article in The Atlantic was formerly a teacher. She left teaching due to stress that seemed to have no solution. She later took up meditation, and believes that if she had found meditation while still a teacher it would have enabled her to stay in the profession and deal with the stress, and be a better teacher.
And that article also leaves me feeling hopeful that we may see better journalism, more frequently, about mindfulness, meditation and such holistic pursuits, in all forms of media publications.
NOTE: Short, introductory courses in Meditation for Health, run by McRae Health, are described on our Classes page