Anna Maltby, Huffington Post: “I’m terrible at trying to meditate — I can never shut off my brain or sit still!” Sound familiar? You know practices like mindfulness meditation are good for you, but they just seem so counter to our 20-tabs-open-at-a-time lifestyle that it’s hard to imagine where to start. We asked Marianela Medrano, Ph.D., a licensed professional counselor and member of the American Counseling Association, for help. Let’s start National Relaxation Day off on a good foot, shall we?
1. It’s not about saying “om” over and over again.
Unlike some types of meditation, you don’t have to say a mantra or try …
Intimacy and autonomy are independent dimensions, and it is their combination that counts.
The qualities in each category, imperfectly summarized by a single word, characterize both types of individuals and, more importantly, states of mind we all transit:
- Integrated – Comfortable and skillful with both closeness and agency; able both to carry others in her heart while pursuing her own aims, and to be completely authentic in the most intimate moments; symbolically, “you” and “I” are about the same size.
- Engulfed – Highly connected, but not free to act or express himself fully; giving up “me” is price to be “we;” unnecessarily dependent; clutching, beseeching, placating; could resist encouragement to be more independent; “you” are big and “I” am small.
- Isolated – Strong sense of personal desires but weak connections with others; a solitary captain with a firm hand on the rudder; could be prickly about bids for closeness or seeming infringements on her prerogatives; “you” are small and “I” am big.
- Adrift – Dissociated from both others and oneself; unresponsive and passive; alone in a boat with no direction; “you” are small and “I” am small.
Of these four, the Integrated mode of being clearly brings the most benefits to you and to others, it is the best foundation for personal growth and spiritual practice, and it involves the most complex forms of neural regulation. To feel safe in the deep end of the pool of intimacy, a person needs to be able to speak her own truth and be comfortable with closeness.
Niagara-On-The-Lake Town Crier: Mindfulness and meditation.
These two topics are appearing in many health articles these days.
Do you know what they are?
They are wonderful practices that can improve your health.
Scientists are evaluating and have proven that by using these practices you can change and experience many health benefits.
Here is a definition of what mindfulness is: paying attention to the present moment, experiencing it with open curiosity and willingness to not judge but just observe. When we do this we open our brains to looking at things differently. In today’s world we are always being told to look for improvement …
Ravi Pradhan, República: In the past decade, a very exciting new approach has started to attract the attention of educators and parents in the US. An umbrella term to describe these approaches is “social and emotional learning” or SEL.
In fact, the US Federal Government and private foundations have funded several pilot grants all over the country.
SEL is seen as a relatively low-cost, secular, science-based approach that generates the following kinds of results across age, sex, income levels, and ethnic backgrounds in schools:
- Reduces stress, anxiety, negative behavior, and bullying.
- Increases calmness, relaxation, self-awareness, self-control, and empathy.
- Improves focus, attention and self-awareness …
Chavie Lieber, Racked.com: Cruise through the posh Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood, and you’ll drive past all the hot spots: the local farmers’ market, a smattering of spinning studios, a boutique coffee shop—and a new trendy meditation spot, Unplug.
Four months ago former Glamour editor Suze Yalof Schwartz opened Unplug, imagining it as a “modern meditation studio” where guided classes are easy, soothing and accessible.
“I want Unplug to be the Drybar of meditation,” Yalof Schwartz told Racked. “There needs to be a place to just pop in and meditate, not take eight-week programs that cost $1400 and are in the middle of nowhere.” …
Debra Black, TheStar.com: Reporter Debra Black attends a six-day silent retreat, where she practices yoga and mediation and tries her best to live in the moment.
“When we relax the breath, the mind temporarily becomes relaxed. The breath is free from greed, hatred, delusion and fear. Relaxing the breath, breathe in. Relaxing the breath, breathe out. The joy arises naturally.” Bhante Gunaratana, The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English.
It is odd to eat in silence. I’ve lined up for today’s lunch — miso mushroom soup; cold vegetarian rolls of rice noodles, cabbage and avocado; and fresh fruit — without uttering a …
Do you want to be calmer, happier, and experience more freedom from stress? Mindfulness has been clinically proven to reduce stress, promote feelings of wellbeing, and improve mental and physical health.
The next Power of Mindfulness online course starts September 2, 2014. It’s a four-week meditation course that’s accessible 24 hours a day, every day of the week, wherever you are. All you need is an internet browser. You can even participate on an iPad or other mobile device.
The convenience makes this perfect for people who don’t have meditation classes nearby, or who work irregular hours or who can’t travel because of illness, childcare arrangements, etc.
The course is web-based, and involves readings, guided meditation MP3s that were specially recorded for this course, a discussion forum, and email exchanges with the teacher, Bodhipaksa.
Weaving together the latest scientific research with ancient Buddhist wisdom, this four-week course provides a comprehensive introduction to living mindfully. It’s not just about the skills of meditation. You’ll also learn how to take what you learn into action. This course gives you the tools to gain more insight into yourself, and be more at ease and content through life’s ups and downs.
For more information, or to register for the course click here to go to the online store.
Hal Arkowitz and Scott O. Lilienfeld, Scientific American: Mindfulness meditation can help alleviate depression and possibly anxiety.
In a typical mindfulness meditation session, a person sits on the floor, eyes closed, back straight and legs crossed, his body positioned to facilitate his inner experiences. For 10 to 15 minutes, he observes his thoughts as if he were an outsider looking in. He pays particular attention to his breathing, and when his mind wanders to other thoughts, he brings his attention back to his breath. As he practices, his mind empties of thoughts, and he becomes calmer and more peaceful.
Meditation has long been used for …
Liat Clark, Wired: Different types of meditation illicit different types of physiological response, and can vastly improve cognitive skills.
A team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) explored four types of meditation practiced by Buddhists, from two main branches of the tradition, Vajrayana (Deity and Rig-pa) and Theravada (Shamatha and Vipassana). From each tradition, one style of meditation was designed to relax and another to arouse the senses.
The Singapore team points out in a paper published in PLOS ONE that prior research has focused on Theravada meditation mainly, and its ability to induce relaxation and heighten alertness. Coauthors Maria Kozhevnikov and …
The Buddha taught the Six Element Practice as a way of challenging our assumptions of our own separateness and permanence. In this practice we reflect on the various “elements” that compose our being (solid matter, liquid, energy, gas, space, and consciousness itself) and see how each is a flow, rather than something static. Through this practice we come to see that every aspect of our being is in a permanent state of flux, and that we are nothing more or less than the universe become conscious of itself.
The practices on this CD will help you to:
- let go of limited views of yourself
- feel a greater sense of awe and wonder
- experience a greater sense of connectedness
- find a sense of peace and stability in an ever-changing world
Bodhipaksa, who leads these meditations, has been practicing the reflection on the Six Elements for over 20 years. His gentle guidance will help you to access deeper levels of tranquillity and calm.
This CD contains two tracks:
1. The Development of Lovingkindness (15:36)
The Six Element Practice should be entered into from a state of healthy appreciation, and it’s traditional to begin with a short period of metta bhavana, or development of lovingkindness.
2. The Six Element Practice (46:16)
In this insight meditation practice we reflect in turn on the elements Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space, and Consciousness, noting how each is an ever-changing process flowing through us. The practice helps us to see and appreciate the reality of our interconnectedness with the universe. It liberates us from a limited view of ourselves and helps us to see that we are nothing less than the universe become conscious of itself.
Total Running Time 61:52
The 6 Elements can also be purchased as an MP3 download.
David Mochel, The Huffington Post UK: Huffington Post, Forbes, New York Times, Bloomberg News, The New Yorker, The Guardian, Business Insider — articles on mindfulness are everywhere these days. It is difficult to avoid some mention of this ancient practice in the media. While it is most directly linked with Buddhism, the practice of using your attention on purpose and accepting external and internal events has been taught by the Stoics of Greece, as well as contemplatives from Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and many other faiths. The body of scientific evidence pointing to the physiological, psychological, and social benefits of this practice is large and …
Thaddeus Pace, Scientific American: We live in an increasingly stressful world. There’s an aspirational sense things should improve with time, witness the U.S. War on Poverty or the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. But in the last 50 years, many risks, perceived and real, have grown worse: extreme weather, violent conflict, economic dislocation, poverty (especially for children), abuse and domestic violence. Traumatic and chronic stress affects millions. Many become sick and marginalized because of it; others manage to survive and thrive. What explains the difference?
“Resilience” is a popular answer these days. But it’s a buzzword in danger of losing its meaning through overuse. As …
Paige Burkes, Simple Mindfulness: I’ve noticed lately that I’m having a harder time focusing for more than a short period of time. My brain is telling me that it needs some quiet time to rest and ponder issues. Unfortunately, my monkey mind doesn’t like the idea of sitting still and being “unproductive.”
My True Self is telling me that, by skimming over everything, I’m missing something – deeper meanings, real connections and more important messages.
Although my monkey mind continues screeching, my True Self is calm, whispering a little louder each day. I’ve learned the hard way (too many times than I’d like …
Q: So today I had a “bad moment” – got stressed and upset about a work situation. My first thought was to let go of the negative thoughts that were running in my brain by actively taking in the good. Then I wondered if that meant I was running away from (ignoring or more importantly trying to change) the negative feelings in my mind/body, which seemed counter to mindfulness.
A: My take, take it with a bucket of salt:
- Mindfulness is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
- Mindfulness itself is sustained attention to something, typically with some meta-cognitive awareness of the quality of one’s attention. Mindfulness itself is morally neutral. A burglar could be very mindful. If people want, they can add other qualities to the mindfulness, such as an attitude of acceptance and friendliness toward the objects of attention, such as toward whatever may pass through the mind.
- Mindfulness itself does not try to change the objects of attention. But mindfulness is not necessarily the only thing happening in the mind! If one likes, one could add some effort, hopefully wise, to change the objects of attention. A person could be mindful of her stress and negative thoughts for a while; then she could both be mindful and make an effort to shift what is in her mind; finally, she could be mindful of the results of her efforts.
- As you can see, a certain set of presumptions have grown up around mindfulness in the past few decades that actually are additions to the original idea, notably the original idea promoted by the Buddha 2500 years ago. In particular, people talk as if an explicit stance against working with the contents of awareness is innate feature of mindfulness, and it is not. I recommend ready my paper, the Noble Eightfold Path for more on this.
- Mindfulness itself is always helpful. And sometimes it is useful for a person to drop any effort to shift contents of awareness in any direction whatsoever; sometimes this kind of “choiceless awareness” alone helps negative thoughts release.
- But often mindfulness alone is not enough. A lot of crud fills the mind, and it persists because the brain is a physical object that does not tend to change unless something changes it (in effect, Newton’s First Law). When you appreciate how embodied we are, and how much the brain is a learning organ that builds structure that it maintains unless it is actually changed, you get very interested in effective and efficient effort. Since neurons that fire together, wire together, keeping negative material in awareness can actually deepen its hold upon you.
- In essence, there are two great elements in psychological healing, everyday well being and effectiveness, personal growth, and spiritual practice: being with and working with (in Buddhism: Right Mindfulness and Right Effort). These are the two great wings that help us fly.
Each wing has strengths. And the wings work together: mindfulness improves our efforts, and it takes skillful effort to be stably mindful.
- Then you can make a free and wise choice, moment by moment, as to what will do the most good for oneself, or one’s client: lean toward pure mindfulness, or lean toward mindful efforts. Both are beautiful, and help us fly.
Kestrel Slocombe, Wisdom Publications: Whether we are doing something good and worthwhile with our lives or not, time never waits but keeps flowing. Not only does time flow unhindered, but correspondingly our life too keeps moving onward all the time. If something has gone wrong, we cannot turn back time and try again. In that sense, there is no genuine second chance. Hence, it is crucial for a spiritual practitioner constantly to examine his or her attitudes and actions. If we examine ourselves every day with mindfulness and mental alertness, checking our thoughts, motivations, and their manifestations in external behavior, a possibility for …
Suzanne Moore, The Guardian: Why are we trying to think less when we need to think more? The neutered, apolitical approach of mindfulness ignores the structural difficulties we live with.
Most of what is wrong in the modern world can be cured by not thinking too much. From psoriasis to depression to giving yourself a “competitive advantage” in the workplace, the answer touted everywhere right now is mindfulness. Just let go for few minutes a day, breathe, observe your thoughts as ripples across a pond, feel every sensation around you. Stop your mind whirring and, lo, miraculously, everything will improve “at a cellular …
(Emotional) life is great when we feel enthusiastic, contented, peaceful, happy, interested, loving, etc. But when we’re upset, or aroused to go looking for trouble, life ain’t so great.
To address this problem, let’s turn to a strategy used widely in science (and Buddhism, interestingly): analyze things into their fundamental elements, such as the quarks and other subatomic particles that form an atom or the Five Aggregates in Buddhism of form, feeling (the “hedonic tone” of experience as pleasant-neutral-unpleasant), perception, volitional formations, and consciousness.
We’ll apply that strategy to the machinery of getting upset. Here is a summary of the eight major “gears” of that machine – somewhat based on how they unfold in time, though they actually often happen in circular or simultaneous ways, intertwining with and co-determining each other.
The point of this close analysis, this deconstruction, is not intellectual understanding or theory, but increasing your own mindfulness into your experience, and creating more points of intervention within it to reduce the suffering you cause for yourself – and other people.
This will be more real for you if you first imagine a recent upset or two, and replay it in your mind in slow motion.
- What do we focus on, what do we pick out of the larger mosaic?
- What meaning do we give the event? How do we frame it?
- How significant do we make it? (Is it a 2 on the Ugh scale . . . Or a 10?)
- What intentions do we attribute to others?
- What are the embedded beliefs about other people? The world? The past? The future?
- In sum, what views are we attached to? -> Mainly frontal lobe and language circuits of left temporal lobe.
- Upsets arise within the perspective of “I.”
- What is the sense of “I” that is running at the time? Strong? Weak? Mistreated?
- Are you taking things personally?
- How does the sense of self change over the course of the upset (often intensifying)? -> Circuits of “self” are distributed throughout the brain.
- We all have vulnerabilities, which challenges penetrate through and/or get amplified by (moderated by inner and outer resources).
- Physiological: Pain, fatigue, hunger, lack of sleep, biochemical imbalances, illness.
- Temperamental: Anxious, rigid, angry, melancholic, spirited/ADHD.
- Psychological: Personality, culture, effects of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. -> Depending on its nature, a vulnerability can be embodied or represented in many ways.
- Stimuli are interpreted in terms of episodic memories of similar experiences.
- And in terms of implicit, emotional memories or other, unconscious associations. (Especially trauma)
- These shade, distort, and amplify stimuli, packaging them with “spin” and sending them off to the rest of the brain. -> Hippocampus, with other memory circuits.
- The feeling tone of “unpleasant” is in full swing at this point, though present in the previous “gears” of survival reactivity.
- In primitive organisms – and thus the primitive circuits of our own brain – the unpleasant/ aversion circuit is more primary than the pleasant/approach circuit since aversion often calls for all the animal’s resources and approaching does not.
- Aversion can also be a temperamental tendency.
- The Buddha paid much attention to aversion – such as to ill will – in his teachings, because it is so fundamental, and such a source of suffering. -> Involves the limbic system, especially the amygdala.
- The body energizes to respond; getting upset activates the stress machinery just like getting chased by a lion.
- Sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight).
- Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
- All this triggers blood to the large muscles (hit or run), dilates pupils (see better in darkness), cascades cortisol and adrenaline, increases heart rate, etc.
- These systems activate quickly, but their effects fade away slowly.
- There is much collateral damage in the body and mind from chronically “going to war.”
- Emotions are a fantastic evolutionary achievement for promoting grandchildren.
- Both the prosocial bonding emotions of caring, compassion, love, sympathetic joy . . .
- And the fight-or-flight emotions of fear, anger, sorrow, shame.
- Emotions organize, mobilize the whole brain.
- They also shade our perceptions and thoughts in self-reinforcing ways.
Loss of Executive Control
- The survival machine is designed to make you identify yourself with your body and your emotional reactions. That identification is highly motivating for keeping yourself alive!
- So, in an upset, there is typically a loss of “observing ego” detachment, and instead a kind of emotional hijacking – all facilitated by neural circuits in which amygdala-shaped information gets fast-tracked throughout the brain, ahead of slower frontal lobe interpretations.
- With maturation (sometimes into the mid-twenties) and with experience, the frontal (especially prefrontal) cortices can comment on and direct emotional reactions more effectively.
Kellye Whitney, Talent Management: It might be time to reconsider the power of mindfulness to counteract some of the common issues often encountered at work, according to author Sharon Salzberg.
Even the best jobs cause stress, but meditation may be a tool people can use to mitigate its effects.
In her latest book, “Real Happiness at Work,” meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg says workers can use mindfulness and meditation to improve their work lives.
Salzberg, who is also co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, has also written other books, including “Real Happiness” and “Love Your Enemies.” She said it’s …
Michael Taft, Huffington Post: I love espresso. But I remember sometimes “waking up” suddenly and finding myself right in the middle of a shuddering caffeine meltdown. I’d been writing on my laptop at a coffee shop, focused on work. Starting out with a latté early in the morning, I’d just kept ordering and drinking triple-espresso drinks all day long while happily typing away. This caffeine intake had all been in the background, unconscious, until my slapping heartbeat and thundering jolts of anxiety crashed violently into the foreground. I would stop then, but I — and my friends and partner — were left to cope …
Step one – Accepting that this human life will bring suffering – is pointing us in the direction of truth. Ask yourself what are you avoiding? What are you hiding from? Most human beings are avoiding suffering. Most human beings are hiding from suffering underneath a veneer of coping mechanisms.
This step acknowledges the different types of suffering we can experience. Most commonly the suffering of ageing, sickness and death. We can not avoid any of these truths, we can not hide from these truths either. So we may as well face them gracefully.
How we may ask? We do this with kindly acceptance. Acceptance is in the present moment. When suffering arises; if we can be present with it, if we can face it, if we can welcome it as a good friend, there will be no suffering. Just acceptance of whatever is arising. ‘All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident’ says Arthur Schopenhauer. Sadly many of us are violently opposing it with our addictions, habitual behaviour of blame, self pity and distraction.
Many of us are too impatient. We want to run from the sensation of suffering. And when we do, we create mental suffering. We self medicate. We give ourselves misguided compassion. But in the end this duct taping over suffering peels off and we can spiral down into a deeper pit of suffering.
When we understand that suffering is just a physical sensation and not a mental event, we can begin to liberate ourselves. Once we give suffering form, we give rise to blame, self pity or distraction (which are all aspects of addiction) we give it life, and become a prisoner of our mind.
Suffering is universal, nobody can escape it. It is the first noble truth: ‘The truth of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, unsatisfactoriness). ‘Oh this is so pessimistic’ you may be saying. Beware, you have just gone into hiding, you are avoiding this universal truth. Be aware of what you do after reading this blog. Have awareness of wanting to distract yourself with a stimulant, some food, a drug, or by turning on the tv. I’m not judging this behaviour, just reminding you that no matter how many times you distract yourself from the truth, ageing, sickness and death will haunt you. It’s not going away. So if you want to wake up to the truth. Explore this first step in detail. With vigilance, and patience. You will discover the joys of life, while accepting that nothing will give you everlasting satisfaction. Not even your addiction of choice to help cope with the woes of life.
It’s possible to be free of addictions with out a struggle. When we practice diligently, second by second, moment by moment, it’s possible for disinterest to arise in things that once gripped us in the hell of addiction. We do not always have to identify as the alcoholic, the addict, the gambler or by any other label. We can, if we practice this first step, begin to loosen the bondage of addiction. If you are in the throes of addiction, you are hiding from the truth, the truth of how things really are. You are avoiding seeing things as they really are. We all need to come out of hiding whether addicted or not, and face the truth of this life. We do it with metta (loving kindness), ksanti (patience) and mudita (compassion).
Where there is faith there is no fear. Be well. Here are some questions to help you make friends with the truth.
- How does physical suffering manifest in my life?
- How does psychological suffering manifest in my life?
- How does existential suffering manifest in my life?
- What type of suffering am I hiding from?
- What am I avoiding in my life?
Step one pages 25 to 42.
Eight Step Recovery is out now: Eight Step Recovery – Order your book now
Or try a free sample – For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email: [email protected]