As the nation embarks on a top-down overhaul of health care, a simple movement with the potential to improve wellness is quietly growing from the ground up.

It's called "mindfulness meditation," an outgrowth of the West's fascination in recent decades with eastern Buddhist philosophy.

Slowly but surely, experts say, the medical establishment is opening its doors to meditation as research continues to reveal its potential health benefits.

Many of the nation's hospital systems have come around to offer classes in mindfulness meditation as well as mindfulness-based stress-reduction programs.

Scientific research indicates that mindful meditation may reduce stress-related illness, boost the long-term health of the body's cells and enhance one's sense of well-being. It also has been found to contribute to pain relief, alertness, memory and cognitive performance.

The practice is spreading from area medical centers to community centers, from prisons to programs for parents of autistic children.

Its benefits are being tested in workplaces such as Google, veterans' post-traumatic stress disorder programs and attention-deficit disorder clinics.

                                                       —Cynthia H. Craft, Sacramento Bee



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