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The Heart of the Matterby Dr John Andrews

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Dr. Peter Nixon is a celebrated cardiologist who unique approach to heart disease can be sensed from the title of his August ’93 paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine: "The Broken Heart and Counteraction by SABRES." SABRES is an acronym for the factors he finds most important in healing the heart, and includes sleep, stillness, awareness of breath and self-esteem. He finds that awareness is the key to remedying these issues.

     At Dorchester High School in Boston, Massachusetts, urban teenagers are being taught a "peaceful state of mind " through meditation as a way of helping them cope with the increasing stresses of life in this age group. In a pioneering research program, Harvard cardiologist, Dr. Herbert Benson, is finding that the results of meditation are an increase in self-esteem and a change in the “locus of control” from the outside to the inside – i.e. they are taking more note of how they see themselves and less in how others see them.
     In 1984 the commander of the US War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was deemed in perfect health. He was a non-smoker who exercised regularly, had a normal cholesterol and had just passed a treadmill test for heart disease. Three weeks later he had a heart attack. Mayer Friedman, one of the most renowned names in cardiology, was called in.
     As a result of Friedman’s work on this group, today the best and brightest officers are learning to meditate, to become aware of their hostility. Anger and hostility are now known to lie at the root of so much heart disease. As one report describes it, “by changing old habits and beliefs they can transform every aspect of their lives.”

     The way meditation can prevent heart attacks becomes clear from the following:
     When an individual falls down clutching his or her heart, we call it a heart attack. This happens to about a million Americans a year and kills half of them. At autopsy some 25% of the hearts have either a blood clot blocking blood to the heart or a large chunk of dead heart muscle, incapacitating the heart pump and precipitating death.
     What is really fascinating is that at autopsy the other 75% don’t have anything! – except minor changes associated with high doses of stress hormones. …. If someone dies during such [an attack] what will be found at autopsy? Hurt feelings? A wounded ego? Anger? Fear? Obviously not.
     As Osho puts it in Yoga: The Alpha and Omega, Volume 9: “Response means now you are not reacting mechanically. You contemplate, you meditate; you give a gap to your consciousness to decide. You are the deciding factor. Somebody insults you: in reaction he is the deciding factor: somebody insults you – that is not primary, that is secondary. You think over it; you decide whether to do this or that. You are not overwhelmed by it. You remain untouched, you remain aloof; you remain a watcher.”
     In the U.S. alone, cardiovascular disease kills one million people a year and costs some $117 billion. Given that meditation is virtually cost free and risk free, expect to hear more of this in the near future.

For more on self-esteem and meditation see:
...Dynamic Meditation as a Mirror: A Study in Self Esteem

...Back for more articles

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