Opportunities 4 mindfulness

For most of us, a typical day begins when we get out of bed, wash, and then start our activities. At some point, we get a bite to eat, walk somewhere, and talk to someone. Often, by the end of the day we find ourselves stressed out and physically exhausted. It doesn’t have to be that way!

Everyday activities can be an opportunity for a meditation moments; bringing mindfulness, clarity, and peace into your day while energizing yourself and reducing stress.

A study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition found: “Brief meditation training reduced fatigue, anxiety, and increased mindfulness. Moreover, brief mindfulness training significantly improved visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning.”

These brief mindfulness meditations can be done anywhere or anytime …well using common sense. Just like you should not text and drive I would not meditate and drive either.3-17-09-goldfields.jpg

Here are two examples of how to add meditation without taking time out of your schedule.

  1. When you get up in the morning, you usually wash. Let’s use washing your face for our first meditation opportunity. Feel the temperature of the water on your hands. Focus on the temperature as you add a little soap. Notice how the suds feel on your hand. When a thought comes in, think of it as someone else’s phone ringing. You hear it, but you don’t have to answer it. Next, feel your soapy hands or the washcloth on your face. Focus on that sensation as you wash your face. Next, feel the rinse water on your face — how does it feel? Is it too cold? Too hot? Just right? If your mind wanders, there is no need to judge, just go back to focusing on the feeling of the water on your face. As you towel off, feel the sensation of the air on your face. It’s that simple, you just meditated.
  2. As you go about your day, you are most likely waiting in line or in traffic, so take a moment to breathe. Everyone has to breathe, and there is no way the person in front of you in the coffee line will know you are meditating! Sense the breath coming in and out of your nose or mouth. Don’t worry about thoughts; you know what to do, think of your thoughts as someone else’s cellphone ringing. Some people like to label their thoughts as “thought” and then let them go. The important thing is returning to sensing your breath coming in and out of your body. You will feel your shoulders relax and your patience returning

most authentic thing about us

The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.  -Ben Okri

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Meditation Reduces Anxiety

Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have identified the brain functions involved in how meditation reduces anxiety.

The team wrote in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience about how they studied 15 healthy volunteers with normal levels of everyday anxiety. They said these individuals had no previous meditation experience or anxiety disorders. J0145020.JPG

The participants took four 20-minute classes to learn a technique known as mindfulness meditation. In this form of meditation, people are taught to focus on breath and body sensations and to non-judgmentally evaluate distracting thoughts and emotions.

“Although we´ve known that meditation can reduce anxiety, we hadn´t identified the specific brain mechanisms involved in relieving anxiety in healthy individuals,” said Dr. Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow in neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study. “In this study, we were able to see which areas of the brain were activated and which were deactivated during meditation-related anxiety relief.”

The researchers found that meditation reduced anxiety ratings by as much as 39 percent in the participants.

“This showed that just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can help reduce normal everyday anxiety,” Zeidan said.

Fadel and colleagues were also able to reveal that meditation-related anxiety relief is associated with activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which are areas of the brain involved with executive-level function.

“Mindfulness is premised on sustaining attention in the present moment and controlling the way we react to daily thoughts and feelings,” Zeidan said. “Interestingly, the present findings reveal that the brain regions associated with meditation-related anxiety relief are remarkably consistent with the principles of being mindful.”

MP900430798.JPGHe said the results of this neuroimaging experiment complement that body of knowledge by showing the brain mechanisms associated with meditation-related anxiety relief in healthy people.

Scientists wrote in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in November 2012 about how meditation has lasting emotional benefits. They found that participating in an eight-week meditation training program could have measurable effects on how the brain functions, even when someone is not actively meditating. The team used two forms of meditation training and saw some differences in the response of the amygdala, which is the part of the brain known to be important for emotion.

Meditation may physically alter regions of the brain

Harvard researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital reported that the practice of mindfulness meditation can physically alter regions of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. 260291_10151674843907518_1073142538_n.png

The study, to be published in January 2015, in “Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging” indicates that the brain’s gray matter may change as a result of meditation.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” said Sara Lazar, the study’s senior author. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Researchers measured MR images of participants brains during the eight-week “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” program, conducted by the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. Participants spent an average of 27 minutes in meditation during the program. The program was delivered through recorded audios and guided meditations.

Compared to measurements on MR scans of a control group who did not participate in the program, the participants’ brains showed an increase in gray-matter density in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the region of the brain associated with learning, introspection, memory and awareness.There also was a decrease in gray-matter density in the amygdala, the region associated with anxiety and stress. However, the Insula, a region of the brain thought to be associated with self-awareness according to earlier research, remained unchanged, and the researchers hypothesize that participants may have to meditate for longer periods of time before any change is noticed in this region.

str.jpgIt has been noted that meditation can reduce stress but according to Britta Hölzel, one of the authors, “Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”

The researchers believe that these findings of physiological change can pave the wave for a better understanding and treatment of stress-related disorders. The study was supported by the BBC, National Institutes of Health and the Mind and Life Institute.

Meditation and creative thinking

Certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking, even if you have never meditated before. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and Dominique Lippelt at Leiden University, published in Mindfulness.

Long-lasting influence

The study is a clear indication that you don’t need to be an experienced meditator to profit more from meditation. The findings support the belief that meditation can have a long-lasting influence on human cognition, including how we conceive new ideas. Besides experienced meditators, also novices may profit from meditation.

Different techniques, different effectsmeditation-1.jpg

But the results demonstrate that not all forms of meditation have the same effect on creativity. Test persons performed better in divergent thinking (= thinking up as many possible solutions for a given problem) after Open Monitoring meditation (= being receptive to every thought and sensation). The researchers did not see this effect on divergent thinking after Focused Attention meditation (=focusing on a particular thought or object.)

Setup of the study

40 individuals participated in this study, who had to meditate for 25 minutes before doing their thinking tasks. There were both experienced mediators and people who never meditated before. The study investigated the influences of different types of meditative techniques on the two main ingredients of creativity:

  • Divergent thinking Allows for many new ideas to be generated. It is measured using the so-called Alternate Uses Task method where participants are required to think up as many uses as possible for a particular object, such as a pen.
  • Convergent thinking Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is a process whereby one possible solution for a particular problem is generated. This is measured using the Remote Associates Task method, where three unrelated words are presented to the participants, words such as ‘time’, ‘hair’ and ‘stretch’. The participants are then asked to identify the common link: in this case, ‘long’.

Lorenza S. Colzato, Ayca Szapora, Dominique Lippelt, Bernhard Hommel. Prior Meditation Practice Modulates Performance and Strategy Use in Convergent- and Divergent-Thinking Problems. Mindfulness, 2014;

Yoga & Depression

From an article on the Yoga International web site:
Anyone who has suffered from depression understands how deep, abiding sadness or worthlessness can infiltrate and affect every aspect of our being. Our psychological makeup, physical health, mental outlook, and even our ability to interact with friends and family and be present to the world around us can get shaken to their core. Why? Because we identify with and attach ourselves to things that will inevitably change. As our feelings and other symptoms of depression persist, we have an increasingly difficult time imagining a life in which we break free from their spell and avoid “becoming” them.
Yoga teaches us that we aren’t our feelings or our symptoms but live in multidimensional relationship with them. 1472891_10151996608469691_438298404_n.jpg

One way to grasp this paradox is to picture the Self (purusha or pure, undifferentiated awareness) as pervading all nine interlocking and interdependent spheres of influence without being any one of them. See More here.
https://yogainternational.com/article/view/yoga-for-depression-an-integrated-practice

What is Mindfulness ?

Mindfulness is a concentrated state of awareness that can help us see and respond to situations with clarity and without getting carried away by emotions or the constant chatter in our heads. Mindfulness enables us to:

· Better manage tension and stress

· Enhance objectivity, mental focus

· Communicate and make decisions more effectively

· Improve productivity

· Quiet’s noise in the mind

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Meditation

Meditation is the tool we use to cultivate mindfulness. With meditation, you intentionally pay attention to a particular object as a way to strengthen concentration. There are thousands of meditative techniques: Tai Chi, yoga, focusing on the breath and using a mantra are all examples. People often think that meditating “correctly” means clearing all thought from the mind. This is a myth. The mind never stops thinking – it’s when we get caught up in our thoughts that we lose mindfulness. By witnessing thoughts, allowing them to pass, and returning to your chosen object of focus, you can actually build the muscle of concentration. Think of meditation as a fitness routine for the mind.

Are there other benefits to mindfulness?

In addition to boosting brain power, numerous research studies have shown significant physical benefits including:

· Reduced blood pressure

· Lowered cholesterol levels

· Enhanced immune function

· Reduced headache, migraine, back pain

· Improved respiratory function

Mindfulness does not require a particular set of beliefs in order to learn and practice – it is a quality of mind, accessible and available to all.

Mindfulness allows us to live every moment fully without the filters of bias, judgment or emotional reaction.

Mindfulness helps the body cope with physical challenges such as headaches, back pain and even heart disease.

Mindfulness keeps us from reacting too quickly – it helps increase the gap between impulse and action.

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