You are able to achieve pain-relief through Meditation – even to a greater extent than by taking Morphine. That is the apparent conclusion of one study conducted by the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina, as reported in today’s Daily Telegraph. The meditation technique is referred to as “Focussed Awareness,” which as far as I can make out is more or less identical to the Hong Sau technique of Kriya Yoga. The study appears to indicate that the act of meditation causes a change in brain activity – parts of the brain involved in feeling pain show decreased activity, whilst other parts involved in pain-coping mechanisms are stimulated.
Now I don’t wish to belittle the work of the scientists themselves, but I will just point out that the Daily Telegraph is not exactly improving on its reputation for up-to-the-minute scientific reportage. It only took me two minutes on Wikipedia to find out that there have been studies indicating that meditation is effective for pain relief dating back to 1985, and this is quite apart from numerous public demonstrations of Yogis doing the old needle-through-the-cheek-routine. Nevertheless it can be argued that the present-study constitutes a valid attempt to peer-review the meditation-as-analgesia theory.
[Update: when I was trying to find the details of the study, I found out that the exact same scientists had conducted the exact same research at the University of North Carolina in 2009. I do hope that it is not actually the same study – it would mean the Daily Telegraph is either recycling old news stories, or has taken two years to publish these guys’ press release!]
If meditation-as-analgesia gained widespread clinical use, presumably that would mean cost savings in terms of less money spent on painkilling drugs. Hey! Perhaps this might even solve the current* NHS funding crisis – one can but hope.
* I say “current” – but honestly, when was it otherwise?