— Nathuram

The Buddha advises that we should concentrate on normal inhaling and exhaling without getting attached, for example, without thinking we like this and we do not like that. Just be neutral. Sounds easy indeed! This meditation can be done by beginners also. It is claimed that this meditation is a stress buster, brings tranquility and mental peace and provides resilience in stressful times to deal calmly with the situation. Let us now examine whether it is some kind of mumbo jumbo, like other fads in modern times. In other words, does it prove itself efficacious?

In January, 2016 issue of Biological Psychology, fascinating results of a study conducted by a team of psychologists led by lead author Dr Lori Hasse, a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego were published. The study focused on why some people seem to have more resilience under stress and untoward events. Stress leads to physiological and psychological responses. Stress response is necessary to deal with a situation. But it gets easily out of control. Remaining in a heightened arousal undermines physical and mental performance. Our bodies should respond to danger and worries, but stress response should dissipate as soon as possible afterwards. This is where resilience comes in—rapidly return to normal physically and mentally. Why some people are resilient ? To find answer listen to your bodies. Researchers of this study had been examining how 48 healthy male/female adventure racers and elite special operations soldiers develop resilience in face of frequent and often extreme physical and emotional demands of their jobs . These volunteers were made aware of danger about to close their mask.

They immediately went in panic. But despite heightened awareness, the flow of messages from those parts of brain to areas that intensify bodily arousal was fairly slight. That is brains of these volunteers closely monitored the beginnings of bodily panic, but dampened the response. They experienced the stress, but did not overreact. It is called resilience. Resilience is about body awareness, NOT rational thinking, said Dr Martin Paulus, Science Director, Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma and senior author of this study.

Dr Hasse concluded that internal communications with our bodies can be improved upon by spending a few minutes daily in focused breathing. She said quietly pay attention to inhaling and exhaling without otherwise reacting. Over time this exercise should teach you to have a change in breathing when anxious, but be less attached to that reaction, which may help to improve your reaction in a stressful situation.

Fascinating findings which will open the door for more neurological research in this area.

Homage to the psychiatrist/ psychologist/ physician,

About the Author
Nathu Ram Verma was educated at Rajasthan and Harvard Universities. He was a University Fellowship holder at Harvard. He was in Indian Foreign Service, 1962-96, and during the career he was Ambassador to several countries. He is now an essayist and author of several books containing philosophical essays.

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