Meditation – Among Professionals

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2004
Many professional people, among them scientists and academics, practice meditation. This month Ankerberg and Weldon explain what they hope to gain by using Eastern style meditation techniques.

Meditation – Meditation Among Professionals

Many professional people, among them scientists and academics, practice meditation. For example, Roger Walsh, who has both the M.D. and Ph.D. and works in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior in the College of Medicine at the U.C. Irvine campus, is a committed student of Buddhist vipassana (“mindfulness”) meditation and the spiritistically inspired A Course in Miracles.[1]

Deane Shapiro also has impressive academic credentials and was recipient of a Kellogg National Fellowship to study meditation. He has served on the faculty of the University of California and the Stanford University Medical School, and he is president of the Institute for the Advancement of Human Behavior. He is the author of Precision Nirvana: An Owner’s Manual for the Care and Maintenance of the Mind, and an editor of Meditation: Self-Regulation Strategy and Altered States of Consciousness.[2]

Together, Walsh and Shapiro edited Meditation: Classic and Contemporary Perspec­tives.[3] This text has over 700 pages containing 60 chapters by 30 authors. It includes almost all Eastern Asian systems now practiced in the West, involving dozens of methods and techniques. Their bibliography is extensive (over 600 items), including many articles relating to empirical studies and interacting meditation with psychology, psychiatry, bio­chemistry, psychophysiology, the neurosciences, and more.

Yet elsewhere Shapiro states that “the most promising future meditation research may lie in the model of a personal scientist, using ourselves as subjects—and combining the precision of Western phenomenological science with the vision of Eastern thought and practice.”[4] In part, he is referring to the field of Transpersonal Psychology, the so-called “fourth” school of modern psychology, behind psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and humanistic psychology. According to Walsh, in “A Model for Viewing Meditation Research,” apparently the “large majority” of transpersonal psychologists meditate. “The number of Westerners who have learned to meditate now number several million, and surveys of transpersonal psychologists suggest that the large majority are involved in some form of this practice…. One of the long-held goals of transpersonal psychology has been an integration of Western science and Eastern practice.”[5]

The research bibliography on meditation compiled by Steven Donovan and Michael Murphy also illustrates the large impact that meditation is having in our culture. Murphy is a former psychologist and well-known cofounder of the New Age Esalen Institute. The bibli­ography concerned research data on meditation from 1931 to 1983 and contained 776 English language entries. This was not a bibliography of the religious, philosophical, or metaphysical literature on meditation; it dealt with scientific research only.[6]

What does all this mean? It means that Christians can no longer afford the luxury of being uninformed about meditation. Because most people see meditation merely as a form of relaxation, this has masked its true nature and sparked the interest of researchers who would ordinarily avoid the occult. Clinical psychologist Gordon Boals, who has taught at Princeton and Rutgers universities, points out:

Viewing meditation as a relaxation technique has had a number of consequences. One result has been to make meditation seem more familiar and acceptable to the Western public so that subjects are willing to learn and practice it and researchers and psychotherapists are interested in experimenting with it. Another outcome is that therapists have been able to find a variety of ways of using it as a therapeutic technique. If meditation is relaxation, it should serve as an antidote to anxiety.[7]

However, as we will see, New Age and related meditation is far more than a relaxation technique and its goals encompass far more than anxiety reduction.

Notes

  1. Roger Walsh, “A Model for Viewing Meditation Research,” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychol­ogy, vol. 14, no. 1, 1982, pp. 69,81-82.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Deane Shapiro, Roger Walsh, ed., Meditation: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives (New York: Aldine, 1979).
  4. Roger N. Walsh, et. al., “Meditation: Aspects of Research and Practice,” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, vol. 10, no, 2, 1978, pp. 128-29.
  5. Walsh, “A Model for Viewing Meditation Research,” p. 69.
  6. Michael Murphy, Steven Donovan, “A Bibliography of Meditation Theory and Research, 1931- 1983,” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, vol. 14, no. 2, 1983, pp. 181-229.
  7. Gordon Boals, “Toward a Cognitive Reconceptualization of Meditation,” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, vol. 10, no, 2, 1983, p. 146.

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