I’ve been meaning to write about the topic of “stress” for a while. Considering that this month marks the highest levels of stress I’ve had to face in the last few years, it seems like a good time to start. I’ve even established a new category: “health” where I’ll be filing these posts. It just so happens that Jonathon Delacour recently wrote a post on “pressure” as well, so maybe there is something in the air. The election results certainly didn’t do much to relieve global stress levels!
Anyway, today’s post is fairly short, and it is just to point to this article about research done by Herbert Benson, who has been studying Tibetan g Tum-mo meditation for 20 years.
In a monastery in northern India, thinly clad Tibetan monks sat quietly in a room where the temperature was a chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a yoga technique known as g Tum-mo, they entered a state of deep meditation. Other monks soaked 3-by-6-foot sheets in cold water (49 degrees) and placed them over the meditators’ shoulders. For untrained people, such frigid wrappings would produce uncontrolled shivering.
If body temperatures continue to drop under these conditions, death can result. But it was not long before steam began rising from the sheets. As a result of body heat produced by the monks during meditation, the sheets dried in about an hour.
Attendants removed the sheets, then covered the meditators with a second chilled, wet wrapping. Each monk was required to dry three sheets over a period of several hours.
… The researchers also made measurements on practitioners of other forms of advanced meditation in Sikkim, India. They were astonished to find that these monks could lower their metabolism by 64 percent. “It was an astounding, breathtaking [no pun intended] result,” Benson exclaims.
To put that decrease in perspective, metabolism, or oxygen consumption, drops only 10-15 percent in sleep and about 17 percent during simple meditation.
You can see footage of these monks if you go to this page, and scroll down to the segment titled “Just Relax.” (You can even go faster if you use the menu to select the section which starts with the words: “This is northern India…”). The whole show is worth watching, and I intend to write more about it later. I just wanted to start the series off with something fun. The point of course is that even simple meditation can help humans avoid many of the negative effects of chronic stress. More later!