Friday, February 06, 2009

Zen goes mainstream

Being self-employed, I now have to purchase my own health insurance. Ah what joy! But that's not the point of this post. As part of my health plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield, I receive a periodic magazine (hmmm... a periodical?) called Choices. The point of the magazine is to give you tips on a maintaining a healthly lifestyle, since if you stay healthly, your health insurance provider makes more money. You pay them, and they can just keep the money.

As a health insurance provider, it is in their best interest that they keep their customers as healthy as possible. After all, they are a business and businesses want to optimize their revenue. So, it was nice to see in this current issue of their magazine that they make some mention of the health benefits of Zen meditation and Buddhist philosophy. They don't actually use the words Zen or Buddhism (probably to avoid scaring off their readers) but the advice is definitely the same.

An article on avoiding or reducing stress lists "3 tools to try" to manage stress and all three have direct correlations to Zen/Buddhist ideas:

1) "Short-circuit the stress system" by deep breathing or meditation. The article goes on to describe various breathing and mediation techniques.

2) "Challenge your thoughts. Your thoughts are what create your feelings... Treat your thoughts as hypotheses, not fact." Again, this is a Zen philosophy.

3) "Be in the moment." This item also provides a quote from a doctor at Harvard Medical School who says, "In Western culture, we're always way in the past or way in the future." Sound familiar? That's a portion of my favorite Buddhist saying. (See the sidebar on the right for the complete quote.)

It's nice to see the health benefits of the Zen/Buddhist philosophies are starting to make it into the mainstream.