spirit, mind, matter

"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." – Ursula K. Le Guin


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Mindfulness in the News: How Negative Thoughts Are Ruining Your Life

I read an amazing article on Psychology Today that I wanted to share with everyone. 

How Negative Thoughts Are Ruining Your Life

This article gives wonderful practical advice for dealing with the idea of an inner critic. You know, that voice that tells you everything bad about yourself. Please take a couple of short minutes to read the article! 

Although the article is not written through the lens of mindfulness, it is certainly present in the strategies given to overcome the inner critic.  Like most mindfulness practices, the article teaches us to start with noticing. We must become the observer who can watch our thoughts, feelings, and emotions and then become aware of how we react to them. 

After we can recognize what we’re doing, we can then step aside and chose not to react, but rather respond with a useful pattern, thought, feeling, or idea. 

Since it’s a given that we all have some sort of inner critic, let’s agree to be aware of the voice of our own critic and cultivate compassion for ourselves and for others. 

Namaste

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Wheel of Awareness with Dr. Dan Siegel

I came across an article on Psychology Today  (under the Neuroscience section) called Mindfulness as Integration by Dr. Dan Siegel. In the article, Dr. Siegel discusses the Wheel of Awareness that can be used to help mindfulness practice.  Please read the article.

 

Dr. Seigel has a few resources online that talk about the Wheel of Awareness.

 

(source)

I haven’t experimented with his method, but I am excited to try. Have you heard of this? Please share your experience!

Namaste


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20 Scientific Reasons to Start Meditating Today: From Psychology Today

I found a wonderful article on Psychology Today that gives us all 20 scientific reasons to start meditating (complete with links to studies)!

Please go check it out at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-it/201309/20-scientific-reasons-start-meditating-today.

 

Here is a teaser copied from the article:

20 Scientific Reasons to Start Meditating Today

New research shows meditation boosts your health, happiness, and success!

I started meditating soon after 9/11. I was living in Manhattan, an already chaotic place, at an extremely chaotic time. I realized I had no control over my external environment. But the one place I did have a say over was my mind, through meditation. When I started meditating, I did not realize it would also make me healthier, happier, and more successful. Having witnessed the benefits, I devoted my PhD research at Stanford to studying the impact of meditation. I saw people from diverse backgrounds from college students to combat veterans benefit. In the last 10 years, hundreds of studies have been released. Here are 20 scientifically-validated reasons you might want to get on the bandwagon today:

 

Here is an infographic the author made:

 

10 Science-Based Reasons To Start Meditating Today (INFOGRAPHIC)

(source)


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Meditation in the News

I found a wonderful recent article on medicalnewstoday.com.  It talks about what researchers found out about the brain during meditation.  I found it fascinating!

Please click here to read the article!

Here are a few key points from the article:

  • Meditation is a common practice believed to help reduce anxiety and stress, as well as boost emotional well-being. But how does the brain function during meditation? And do certain techniques have different effects? A new study may have the answers.

 

  • There are numerous meditation methods; mindfulness, mantra, and guided meditation are among the list. But according to the study researchers, including Svend Davanger, a neuroscientist at the University of Oslo in Norway, all techniques can be put into one of two groups – concentrative meditation and nondirective meditation.

 

  • They define concentrative meditation as a technique that focuses on breathing or on certain thoughts, which in turn, block out other thoughts.

 

  • Nondirective meditation is described as a method that focuses on breathing or on a meditation sound. But during this practice, the mind can wander. The team notes that some modern meditation techniques tend to fall into this category.

 

  • They found that when participants practiced nondirective meditation, they had higher brain activity in areas associated with processing self-related thoughts and feelings than when they were resting. But when subjects practiced concentrative meditation, their brain activity was nearly the same as when they were resting.

 

  • “This area of the brain has its highest activity when we rest. It represents a kind of basic operating system, a resting network that takes over when external tasks do not require our attention. It is remarkable that a mental task like nondirective meditation results in even higher activity in this network than regular rest.”

 

Have you meditated today? 🙂


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Mindfulness in the Workplace

I found this wonderful infographic on Huffington Post. You can read the article that goes with it by clicking here.

 

"Mindfulness Practices To Take Control Of Workplace Problems" by Jeremy Hunter for Mindful Magazine via HuffPost. Click the pic for the author's recommended practices for embracing each of these thorny workplace problems.

Although these deal with office environments, I feel they can also apply to what we encounter every day!

Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness: Pick on of these areas and work it in to your day!


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Your Brain on Meditation

Recently, I came across an amazing article on Psychology Today. The article explains the science behind meditation and how it changes your brain. For  a science nerd like me, I found it fascinating!  I hope you enjoy!

Read it here: This Is Your Brain on Meditation

A few take-aways:

  • “If you were to look at people’s brains before they began a meditation practice, you would likely see strong neural connections within the Me Center and between the Me Center and the bodily sensation/fear centers of the brain. This means that whenever you feel anxious, scared or have a sensation in your body (e.g., a tingling, pain, itching, whatever), you are far more likely to assume that there is a problem (related to you or your safety). This is precisely because the Me Center is processing the bulk of the information. What’s more, this over-reliance on the Me Center explains how it is that we often get stuck in repeating loops of thought about our life, mistakes we made, how people feel about us, our bodies (e.g., “I’ve had this pain before, does this mean something serious is going on?) and so on.”

 

  • “In contrast, if you meditate on a regular basis, several positive things happen. First, the strong, tightly held connection between the Me Center (specifically the unhelpful vmPFC) and the bodily sensation/fear centers begins to break down. As this connection withers, you will no longer assume that a bodily sensation or momentary feeling of fear means something is wrong with you or that you are the problem!”

 

  • “Second, a heftier, healthier connection forms between the Assessment Center and bodily sensation/fear centers. This means that when you experience a bodily sensation or something potentially dangerous or upsetting, you are able to look at it from a more rational perspective (rather than automatically reacting and assuming it has something to do with you). For example, when you experience pain, rather than becoming anxious and assuming it means something is wrong with you, you can watch the pain rise and fall without becoming ensnared in a story about what it might mean.”

 

  • “In the end, this means that you are able to see yourself and everyone around you from a clearer perspective, while simultaneously being more present, compassionate and empathetic with people no matter the situation. With time and practice, people do truly become calmer, have a greater capacity for empathy and find they tend to respond in a more balanced way to things, people or events in their lives.”

 

The article is a bit heavy on the science side but I think it can be very helpful to read articles like this because it validates our practice and time spent. If you’re new to meditation, I have written a series of posts that can help you get started with setting up a practice. You can click the tab at the top of the page.

For the yoga teachers out there, if you’re starting to interject a few moments of meditation into your classes, many students find it helpful to hear a few tidbits of recent research. Don’t be afraid to share a few specific points with your students.

Be well!

 


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Stop, Breathe & Think App

My best friend told me about an app she has started using for meditation. I tried it out, and I love it!  If you’re looking for a good app to enhance your meditation practice, I encourage you to check out Stop, Breath & Think.  I’ve only seen it as an Apple app, but it might be available for Andriod.  What I love about it is that it allows you to track your feelings, moods, and emotions and then gives you specific meditation practices that can work with your current experience.  I have really enjoyed weaving the new ideas into my own practice.  Even better, it’s free!

 

Check it out: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/stop-breathe-think/id778848692?mt=8

The companion website is http://stopbreathethink.org/

Stop, Breathe & Think: A New Meditation App To Boost Compassion And Creativity | via FastCoCreate

Do you have any meditation apps that you really enjoy? Please leave a comment and share!

 


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Positive Psychology

A few years ago, I was listening to a Tara Brach podcast  and she shared a story about the founder of positive psychology. I found a version of the story here and will share it below. Please click the link of you want to read more about it and see other articles like it.

The moment took place in my garden while I was weeding with my five-year old daughter, Nikki. I have to confess that even though I write books about children, I’m really not all that good with children. I am goal-oriented and time-urgent and when I’m weeding in the garden, I’m actually trying to get the weeding done. Nikki, however, was throwing weeds into the air, singing, and dancing around. I yelled at her. She walked away came back and said,

“Daddy, I want to talk to you.”

“Yes, Nikki?”

“Daddy, do you remember before my fifth birthday? From the time I was three to the time I was five, I was a whiner. I whined every day. When I turned five, I decided not to whine anymore. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And if I can stop whining, you can stop being such a grouch.”

Out of the mouths of babes, right?

This story makes me think. It doesn’t make me think about how I’m being a grouch, of all the things that describe me, grouch isn’t really one of them. However, there are a lot of habits and thinking patterns I have that don’t serve me or serve the world. What I loved about this story is the fact that it’s a reminder that we all have the power to create our own life. We have the power. Yes, there are certain life circumstances that create specific conditions that we must deal with, but we have a CHOICE in how we react.

Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness: Let’s watch our patterns, thoughts, and beliefs to see if we can make a different choice that will better serve us, our loved ones, and the world.

Today will be great  Positive psychology series by schalle on Etsy, $25.00


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Establishing a Meditation Practice Part I: Laying the Foundation

This week begins a week-long series about establishing a meditation practice. I decided to write about this because many of my friends have been asking for advice on how to start meditating and different techniques for meditation.

In my experience, establishing a meditation practices has six steps.

  • Laying the Foundation
  • Nurturing our Experience
  • Learning Gateways to Presence
  • Practicing the Process
  • Deepening the Journey
  • Tasting the Fruits

Today, I am going to talk about Laying the Foundation. In my opinion, there are two main roots in meditation. The first is what we intuit and the second is what science tells us.

What we Intuit:

Take a few moments to reflect using the meditation below:

Think about a time where you felt deep peace.
Imagine all of the sensations (what do you see, hear, and feel?)
Take a mental snapshot of the moment and set it as an anchor.
Stay with the moment and bring a gentle awareness to your breath.

We know this deep peace is possible in moments and most of us would like that peace to carry-over into other areas of our lives.  I always have loved the quote, “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It is to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. (unknown).”

So, we intuit that this peace is possible. Our bodies know it, our minds know it, and our heart knows it.

What Science Tells Us:

The second root in our meditation foundation is to look outside ourselves and see what science tells us about meditation. I think that honoring science and research is a wise tool to rely on when one is beginning a meditation practice. Our human conditioning is that we understand science. I also think that arming ourselves with information is useful for when meditation gets “hard” or we aren’t “feeling” it, yet. Knowing that science validates our experience can help us when our faith in the process is forming.

Here are just a few things that I’ve found.

Benefits of Meditation:

increases social connectedness (1)
improved sleep (2)
lower blood pressure (3)
lower levels of stress (4)
improved focus (5)
fights anxiety (6)
fights depression (7)
regulates emotions (8)

Studies Cited:

1. Hutcherson, Cendri A.; Seppala, Emma M.; Gross, James J.
Emotion, Vol 8(5), Oct 2008, 720-724. doi: 10.1037/a0013237

2. Division of Geriatric Medicine, Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 3615 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA

3. Herbert BensonCorresponding author contact information, a, b, Bernard A. Rosnera, b, Barbara R. Marzettaa, b, Helen P. Klemchuka, b
a Thorndike Memorial and Channing Laboratories, Harvard Medical Unit, Boston City Hospital, 818 Harrison Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02118 U.S.A.
b The Departments of Medicine and Preventive Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, U.S.A.

4. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Lowers Psychological Distress In Medical Students, Steven Rosenzweig, Diane K. Reibel, Jeffrey M. Greeson, George C. Brainard & Mohammadreza Hojat
pages 88-92

5. Davina Chan and Marjorie Woollacott. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. August 2007, 13(6): 651-658. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.7022.

6. Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders, Am J Psychiatry 1992;149:936-943.

7. John J. Miller, M.D.a, Ken Fletcher, Ph.D.a, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.Corresponding author contact information, b
a Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
b the Stress Reduction Clinic, Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

8. Lutz A, Brefczynski-Lewis J, Johnstone T, Davidson RJ (2008) Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise. PLoS ONE 3(3): e1897. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001897

Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness: Think about why you started meditation, or why you want to start meditating. Honor the two roots of the foundation. Sit for a few minutes and find that peaceful place that you know exists.

yoga art watercolor print - BREATHE