Researchers at Miami and Ohio State universities are carrying out a research to determine the benefits that victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may derive from Tibetan meditation.
The researchers are studying a test group in Columbus, Ohio, to determine the use of an ancient technique in tackling a modern problem.
The research, which started in November, will continue for two years.
Tibetan monk Geshe Kalsang Damdhul of the Institute of Higher Buddhist Dialectics in Dharamsala, India, will assist as a meditation instructor.
"Participants are being taught specialized meditation techniques and will be guided through meditation for a period of six weeks," said Deborah Akers, Miami visiting assistant professor of anthropology.
Based on the results of the study, a new means for treating victims of PTSD and combat soldiers returning from war or victims of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, can be determined.
"This project charts new ground, bringing a holistic perspective to the treatment of PTSD," said Akers.
She added that though meditation has been used in a variety of therapeutic settings in the West for reducing stress and coping with pain, its application in the treatment of mental illnesses like PTSD has not been extensively explored.
"Whereas in the West treatment of PTSD may require years of prescription medicine and counseling, the Tibetan approach has been successful within one to two years by focusing on the spiritual connection between the mind and the body that seems to allow the patient to process the trauma more effectively," said Akers.
"Moreover, unlike Western medical therapies, meditation is free and can benefit individuals who cannot afford extensive therapy or medicine over long periods of time. The Tibetan approach is empowering, as it offers PTSD patients an alternative and less invasive form of therapy and enables them to participate in their own treatment," she added.
The project grew from a Miami U. summer field school program, 'Peoples and Cultures of Tibet', conducted in Dharamsala, the residence of the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, the Dalai Lama, and location of the Tibetan government in exile.
During the field school, Akers and Miami students learned about how Tibetan monks minister to political prisoners and victims of torture who suffer from PTSD.
"The PTSD research project and the summer field program in Dharamsala exemplify Miami University's continuing interest in South Asia," Akers concluded.