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Van Tuyle !

Loyd Van Tuyle
Peter Barr
Contemplation and Action
15 January 2015
The How and Why of Meditation and Contemplation
Meditation is an ancient practice that persists today for a reason- it has been proven
through not only its persistency, but also through a number of scientific studies, performed by the
likes of Bessel Van der Kolk, The University of Westminster, and James Achor that testify to the
beneficial effects that meditation or contemplation can have on a person. Meditation, upon first
glance to some persons, could be seen as an exercise in futility, especially in a socioeconomic
ecosystem where time is money and to expend ones precious time in contemplation is to waste a
precious resource. After all, a person could be doing things that bring them more instantaneous
joy, such as watching Television or playing a new video game, rather than trying something they
are unfamiliar with. However, meditation has been shown to meaningfully contribute to health
and wellness among its practitioners in ways that are not only physically measurable, but also
beneficial to the outlook and demeanor of those who choose to engage in such an activity.
The process of focus is an essential part of meditation. In his essay on the Ancient
Christian Practice of the Centering Prayer, Basil Pennington describes how the meditator would
focus on one word to find god within their own self:
1. Be in faith and love to God, who dwells in the center of your being.
2. Take up a love word and let it be gently present, supporting your being to God in faithfilled love

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3. Whenever you become aware of anything, simply, gently return to the Lord with the use
of your prayer word. After twenty minutes let the Our Father (or some other prayer) pray
itself. (Pennington 248).
This focus on the love word allows one to center themselves (hence its title of the Centering
Prayer) in order to find the spirit within themselves. It is by focusing on this love word one
disconnects from their perceived world, the world of needs, into a world of consciousness
(Pennington 254-255).
The focus required in the centering prayer is also used when creating a work of art, which
Gabe Bergado shows in his article, Science Shows Art Is Doing Something Amazing to Our
Health, is capable of transformative effects on a humans physical health. Gabe Gerardo
presents multiple studies in the article, notably one conducted by the University of Westminster,
that found that stress levels, measured in a hormone called cortisol, were lowered by almost half
in a group of males that had recently visited an art gallery (Chow, Fredhoi 31). These beneficial
outcomes are increased, Bergado states, when one is actually producing art. He also notes that a
decrease in cortisol can help alleviate symptoms of stress, namely anxiety. He attributes this
decrease in stress to the focus required to interpret, or make art.
Focus can not only relieve stress, this focus can help alleviate symptoms of trauma or
even aid in the process of healing after cancer. In a podcast entitled Restoring the Body: Yoga,
EMDR, and Treating Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk describes how the meditative process of
yoga helps connect the minds and bodies of the traumatized so that they feel more agency over
their lives. He states I'd say the majority of the people we treat at the trauma center and in my

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practice, have cut off relationships to their bodies (Tippet 2014). Through the practice of Yoga,
Bessel treats Traumatized patients to reconnect to their bodies.
Healing factors of meditation were also recorded according to an article by Alberta
Health Systems Services entitled Study Shows Clear New Evidence for Mind Body
Connection. The study described how breast cancer support groups were not only beneficial to
the mental states of patients, as previously believed, but also quantifiably beneficial to the
process of cell aging, a process measured in Telomere Length (Alberta Health Services)
Shawn Achor details further the benefits to a happier outlook by way of contemplation in
his TED Talk The Happy Secret to Better Work. He states that Your brain at positive is 31
percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You're 37 percent better
at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis
when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed. (Achor 10:30) He argues that this
happiness is not achieved through success, but that our success is facilitated by our state of
presence and happiness. When discussing ways to improve overall happiness, the slide behind
him lists meditation, exercise, journaling, random acts of kindness, and counting things you are
grateful for as ways to increase a persons presence in the moment and thus their happiness
(Achor 11:11).
Meditation has been shown to produce results, but there are many ways to achieve this
meditation. One could produce or view art of various media, they could practice yoga, center
themselves in prayer, or even just practice an outlook that emphasizes positivity and present in
your daily life. Through whatever avenue one decides to approach meditation, the benefits are
palpable enough to consider this relatively simple practice as part of ones daily routine. Whether

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your goals are to heal from sickness, cope with trauma, relieve stress or simply be happier,
meditation is a practice that not only aids in these efforts, but also one that produces a mindset
that allows us to view the world more positively, a result that many of us could use in a world
that has so much for us to be stressed, traumatized, and sick over.

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Work Cited
Basil Pennington, Centering Prayer: An Ancient Christian Way of Meditation, in The
Experience of Meditation: Experts Introduce the Major Traditions, edited by Jonathan Shear
(Saint Paul: Paragon House, 2006), 245-257, print (pdf).
Gabe Bergado, Science Shows Art Is Doing Something Amazing to Our Health,
art.mic, December 15, 2014, online article with several links to research publications that you
should inspect: http://mic.com/articles/106504/science-shows-that-art-is-having-fantastic-effectson-our-brains-and-bodies
Chow, Angela. Fredhoi, Catherine. Journal of Holistic Healthcare Volume 3 Issue 2 May
2006 29 Normalisation of Salivary Cortisol Levels and Self-report Stress by a Brief Lunchtime
Visit to an Art Gallery by London City Workers." Journal of Holistic Healthcare 3.2 (2006):
29-32. University of Westminster. Web.
Bessel van der Kolk Restoring the Body: Yoga, EMDR, and Treating Trauma, On
Being with Krista Tippett, July 11, 2013, audio podcast, 51:27: http://www.onbeing.org/program/
Alberta Health Systems Services, Study shows clear new evidence for mind-body
connection, press release for a study published in the journal Cancer, November 3, 2014: http://
Carlson, L. E., Beattie, T. L., Giese-Davis, J., Faris, P., Tamagawa, R., Fick, L. J.,
Degelman, E. S. and Speca, M. (2015), Mindfulness-based cancer recovery and supportiveexpressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer
survivors. Cancer, 121: 476484. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29063

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Shawn Achor, The happy secret to better work, Ted Talk, May 2011, video, 12:17: