There is an interesting discussion to be found at http://iidb.infidels.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=239361 all about the differences between meditation, self-hypnosis and day dreaming.
In this scientific age we have to experiment and prove that things work before the professionals will take things on board. The monks of Kathmandu and 10 million westerners who meditate every day will sware to the positive results they get from focusing the mind.
Professor Kathy Sykes of Bristol University has known for a long time that she needed to find time in her frantic days and schedules to set aside 30 minutes for just lying and listening to music, or she would become grumpy, tired and unable to concentrate.
Kathy Sykes realised recently that she was in fact practising a crude form of meditation. Scientist that she is she began to study the subject and discovered that there is growing evidence that this ancient practice can make people healthier, and happier. It may even increase life span, alter brain structure and change personality.
Tonight on BBC 2 here in the UK she presents her findings in Alternative Therapies: The Evidence. You may be able to see this during the next week by going to the BBC website and using the iPlayer facility to see repeats of programmes.
The scientist of course look for physical proof that things work and they have found that there are indeed changes occurring in the brain of people who meditate.
Prefontal Cortex: Associated with emotion. More active in meditators.
Anterior Cingulate Cortex: More active in meditators suggesting they have greater mental wellbeing.
Somatosensory Cortex: Thicker in meditators improving attention span
Auditory Cortex: Thicker in meditators improving the processing of sound
Of course you have to consider that people with these brain characteristics are more likely to meditate. So what is being studied now is whether there are changes in the brain recorded in people before and after learning meditating techniques.