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The immediate reason for practicing meditation is to maintain good mental health.
Some Reasons to Practice Meditation
• Sleep better: fall asleep within 5 minutes without sleeping pills. Just practice the meditation while lying down to sleep. Many inmates have said this works in prison and has been the best sleep in their life. It can also help you sleep 10 hours on long trans-Pacific air flights. If you wake up, just put yourself to sleep again using the meditation technique.
• Reduce stress: self-directed calming and increased patience. The meditation practice makes you aware when you are not in a state of calmness.
• Control anger: prison cases, especially use of mini-meditation to avoid violence and recognize anger arising.
• Increase attention: Time magazine report 1/16/06.
Just as important, maintaining good physical health is another reason to practice meditation
• Reduce high blood pressure (Benson at Harvard Medical School) and heart disease (Ornish at UCSF). Heart disease is the number one killer of women and men in the United States, and the death rate for women is almost 50% higher than for men. In 2002, African Americans had the highest heart disease death rate of all races/ethnicities, and around 40 percent of African American men and women have some form of heart disease, compared to 30 percent of white men and 24 percent of white women. Highlights in Minority Health (2/2005)
• Improve cancer remission: meditation is not a cure, but there are published cases of its association with extended life beyond the survival predictions of conventional oncology. FAQ's About Spontaeneous Remission. It could be that the removal of stress from the mind and body makes the chemotherapy more effective, and easier for the body to heal.
There is no incontrovertible scientific proof (which doesn't exist for any "proven" medical treatment, which by most statistical tests still allows for 5% error) that meditation will be effective: it will work for some and not for others. But one will only know if it is effective for her/him if s/he properly practices meditation for an extended period of time, e.g., two hours a day over several months. Meditation should be used as a "complementary" treatment along with prescribed medication, not an exclusive treatment.