Meditation for Migraines?

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. are reporting meditation may help with migraine relief.

“Stress is a well-known trigger for headaches and research supports the general benefits of mind/body interventions for migraines, but there hasn’t been much research to evaluate specific standardized meditation interventions,” said Rebecca Erwin Wells, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study published in the online edition of the journal “Headache.”

The study assessed the safety, feasibility and effects of a standardized meditation and yoga practice known as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in adults with migraines. Using a group of 19 adults randomly assigned to two groups, and 10 received 8 weekly classes on MBSR training, and instructed to practice 45 minutes on their own at least five additional days per week, while the other nine received standard medical care.

Researchers evaluated participants before and after the trial period using objective measures of disability, self-efficacy and mindfulness, and also maintained headache logs throughout the trial to capture the frequency, severity and duration of their migraines.

“We found that the MBSR participants had trends of fewer migraines that were less severe,” Wells said. “Secondary effects included headaches that were shorter in duration and less disabling, and participants had increases in mindfulness and self-efficacy and a sense of personal control over their migraines. In addition, there were no adverse events and excellent adherence.”

Specifically, the MBSR participants had 1.4 fewer migraines per month that were less severe, and they were significantly shorter compared to the control group.

Future studies with larger sample sizes are planned to further evaluate the impact and mechanisms of this intervention in adults with migraines, Wells said.

“For the approximate 36 million Americans who suffer from migraines, there is big need for non-pharmaceutical treatment strategies, and doctors and patients should know that MBSR is a safe intervention that could potentially decrease the impact of migraines,” he said.

Jack Kornfield Shares His Thoughts on 2012

The rumors are still circulating about what this year will bring and what the Mayan calendar is really predicting about December 21, 2012. During our interview with best-selling author and Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield for the March 2012 issue of Elevated Existence, we asked him to share his thoughts on the year.

“It’s so mysterious and far away to understand how the Mayans saw this eternal turning of time, but to whatever extent there is something to learn from it,” he explains. “We are in 2012. It’s not something coming at the end of the year. There are grave economic problems, continuing injustice, warfare, racism, and division of the world. There is also grave ecological problems and climate change. So we are in it.”

One of the most important things we need to understand is that the solution to our problems is more than just technology and science, he says. We also need to change the human heart, which is the source of racism, warfare, greed and hatred.

“Just as we develop changing technologies, these must be married by a change in consciousness,” he notes. “We can’t feel ourselves as separate tribes and individuals, as if we didn’t interbreed with the rainforest, as if the salt water of the ocean didn’t flow through our blood, as if we didn’t all have one ancestor in Africa, or as if the universe hadn’t given birth to us out of what in Buddhist psychology is called this web of interdependence.”

While there is tremendous suffering in the world, Kornfield also sees a tremendous call for the transformation of consciousness. “Whenever things are truly difficult, people have to rely on their spirit to get them through. It’s not just this time, but I think back to my mother and my grandparent’s generation, living through the depression and war. They too had to find the strength of spirit.”

However, now with the global interconnection of the Internet and so much more, he believes we are being called to make an even bigger change – to shift from beliefs of separation and fear to the truth of our interwoven lives, he notes. “It’s really necessary now, and I’m very hopeful.”

He also believes, as Ghandi did, that it’s a false division to separate the transformation of spirit with the transformation of the world and politics, and he explains a story Thich Nhat Hanh told about those who were crowded on the Vietnamese refugee boats.

“If everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough to show the way for everyone to survive,” he says. “So someone on the lifeboat of the world has to be that beacon of steadiness and compassion, and be mindful and free of heart. As you do that, it changes all you touch.”

We can each have an impact on the world in this way, as everyone has a gift to contribute. His advice? “The say in Zen there are only two things – you sit and you sweep the garden. And it doesn’t matter how big the garden is,” he notes. “Find ways to establish mindfulness of breath and body, and be mindful of your own humanity. Develop loving-kindness, and then take the sitting part of the practice out and tend to the garden of the world.”

For the full interview with Jack Kornfield, see the March 2012 issue of Elevated Existence Magazine.