Culture is a funny thing: In some places, you're considered a little weird if you meditate... in others, you're weird if you don't.

Most people here in the West never even consider it at all -- but maybe you should, because a growing body of evidence finds that this practice of the mind can have a major impact on the body, including a serious boost in heart health.

In fact, it works so well that researchers from Harvard University and Justuc Liebig University say it's time for mainstream docs to start working meditation into their clinical practices as a treatment for some of our most common -- and overmedicated -- conditions, especially hypertension.

While no one has been able to pinpoint how meditation can accomplish so much with so little, the study in Perspectives on Psychological Science breaks the effects down into four key components: attention regulation, body awareness, emotion regulation, and sense of self.

Sounds to me like it's as mysterious as ever, at least to Western science. In any case, I'm more interested in what it does rather than how it does it -- because it's downright astonishing.

In one recent study on cardiovascular health, the researchers said meditators got so many benefits that it was as if they had been given some powerful new drug.

In that one, the patients who practiced a popular form of meditation were 50 percent less likely to suffer from heart attack, stroke or even death from any cause during that study period than non-meditators.

Powerful new drug? Big Pharma can only wish it had a med this safe and effective!

Another recent study found that meditation can improve concentration and focus, while other studies have found that the practice can slash levels of stress, anxiety, depression and anger while improving memory and cognition and boosting immune system function.

Learning meditation can get pricey -- there are expensive courses and fancy retreats you can take. But it doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg to get a new look inside your mind.

In fact, it can even be free. Visit your local library and check out a few books on the subject -- you'll learn everything you need to know to get started.