The researchers gave 298 participants a survey that asked about their experiences practicing meditation, the Alexander Technique (a method for improving posture, balance, coordination, and movement), the Feldenkrais Method (a form of somatic education that seeks to improve movement and physical function, reduce pain, and increase self-awareness), and classical ballet. The participants also answered psychological exams related to various elements of wisdom, such as empathy and anxiety.
The team found that individuals who practiced meditation had characteristics associated with wisdom more often than the other groups. The types of meditation being practiced include vipassana, mindfulness, and Buddhist. The researchers also found that participants who practiced ballet had the lowest levels of wisdom, but with consistent practice of ballet individuals scored higher on measures of psychological traits typically associated with wisdom.
“The link between ballet and wisdom is mysterious to us and something that we’re already investigating further,” said Patrick B. Williams, lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Chicago’s Department of Psychology. Williams plans to monitor practitioners of both meditation and ballet for months and years to study the results over a longer period of time.
Williams also said that he believed this study to be the first to look at the possible link between physical practices and the cultivation of wisdom. Howard Nusbaum, professor of psychology, is a lead investigator in a research project on somatic wisdom. Nusbaum believes that understanding wisdom will lead to greater insights.
“As we learn more about the kinds ofexperiences that are related to wisdom, we can gain insight into ways of studying the mechanisms that mediate wisdom. This also lets us shift from thinking about wisdom as something like a talent to thinking about it as something more like a skill,” he said.
Williams stressed that the research was not looking to establish a causal relationship between wisdom and the four practices. “We hope our exploratory research will encourage others to replicate our results and look for other experiences that are linked with wisdom, as well as the factors that might explain such links,” Williams said.
The benefits of meditation have slowly been recognized by Western medicine as more studies confirm what many cultures have known for thousands of years: Meditation is a powerful tool. In November 2015, a study found that adolescents who undergo a mindfulness meditation program may see improvements in memory. In April, Anti-Media reported on another study that confirmed the healing power of mindfulness meditation. The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) may be just as effective as pharmaceuticals when it comes to preventing chronic depression relapse.
Meditation has also been used to help former soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In September 2014, Truth In Media spoke with Heather Linebaugh about her experience with United States Air Force from 2009 until March 2012. Linebaugh worked in intelligence as an imagery analyst and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program in Iraq and Afghanistan. Linebaugh has suffered from PTSD and now works to promote natural treatments such as cannabis, yoga, and meditation.
The consistent practice of meditation can help one establish a balanced mind. By maintaining a balanced mind and learning to use meditation as a tool for peace and clarity we are helping promote a more compassionate world. If more people opted to begin meditating on a regular basis it is likely we would see an increase in wise, compassionate, and awakened minds.