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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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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The Power of Play

When was the last time you played? If you have children, you may have played with them (really, accompanying them in their play) but I’m talking about the last time YOU played; the last time you engaged in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose. Play is where children can work out complicated life situations in a safe environment. Think about how children play at different professions. Children try on doctor, teacher, fireman, and police officer. Play gives them the freedom to explore the world around them.

Recently, there has been an influx in research on play. A quick Google search can bring up hundreds of articles and studies that have been written over the past few years. I came across one wonderful one from The Huffington Post, The Importance of Play: It’s More Than Just Fun and Games.  I encourage you to read it!   In an article in USA Today, it discusses how play increases creativity, lowers stress, and helps us adapt to new situations and circumstances.

I know, it’s hard for adults to wrap their minds around playing. We have all of these daily obligations that get in the way of playing.  Perhaps it’s time to think about how we can work play into our daily lives through yoga and meditation.

Yoga is an easy place to play. You step on to your mat and set an intention to remain open, flexible, and curious to what may arise in your practice.  For me, playing in yoga involves experimenting with modifications of asana, trying new arm balances or balancing postures, or experimenting with new ways to connect one asana to another. It keeps my practice fresh and helps me stay unattached, and at ease.  Even when I’m practicing Ashtanga yoga, with a more specific asana sequence, I can still maintain a spirit of play and curiosity. Living in the moment, instead of believing past stories or worrying about the future prohibits a playful spirit.

In meditation and life, play can look very much the same. We can incorporate the elements of surprise and curiosity in to our daily lives! Instead of thinking about how the traffic is going to be miserable on your way home from work, you can take a playful approach with wondering how many new blooming trees you will see on your way home. Instead of having the same Wednesday night dinner, you can add a new seasoning or spice, or even sit in a new place at the table. Changing little elements in your daily routine and watching how you respond with a sense of curiosity can awaken new energy and life.

In his book, The Buddha Walks Into a Bar, Lodro Rinzer says, “The less we buy into our set version of how things should be, the more we can be available to things as they are.  When we are able to do this, our lives are not a battle, but a playground for us to enjoy (page 10).”

We get this one life. Let’s make it amazing!

Would you not like to be able to do what this little one is doing, being soooo playful and no cares in the world because momma polar bear is close by.


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Thoughts on Breathing, Worth Sharing!

I’ve mentioned before that I love reading about meditation and mindfulness in the news. I think that it’s amazing that it’s starting to become more mainstream. This is good news for the world.  As I was searching for more articles and research, I came across this wonderful infographic and article  from Huffington Post.

The article is called How Changing your Breathing Can Change Your Life.

I have been lucky enough to experience these benefits in my own life! Focusing on breathing is one of the easiest ways to start a meditation practice. It requires no special equipment, no prior knowledge, nothing! You only need a few minutes.  Set a timer, if you’d like, for any amount of time you would like to try it. Even just a minute or two is beneficial, but you might find that the longer you sit, the more relaxed you feel.  As you inhale fully, feel the lungs and belly expand. As you exhale, feel the lungs and belly contract. Notice the different feelings and sensations you experience as your breathing slows and regulates.  When thoughts creep in, as they are known to do, simply notice them “thinking” and allow them to pass through you, keeping the focus on the in and out of your breath.

Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness: Take a few minutes to really focus on your breathing.


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Complaining Mind

I read an interesting article at Psychology Today Online called Don’t Give Away Your Power: The Hidden Cost of Complaining. I encourage you to click the link to read the full article.  I won’t repost it here, but I will share some of the points that stuck out to me and how they relate to mindfulness.

From the Article:

  •  I’d complain, and by complaining define myself as a victim, giving away my power to other people in my life. Chronic complaining only confirmed my sense of learned helplessness.
  • The opposite of learned helplessness is hope, recognizing our personal power. Hopeful people ask “What can I do?” There’s a whole literature on hope theory, showing that people with high hope are happier, healthier, and more successful (Snyder, 1994)
  • Hope means setting a goal—asking, “How would I like it to be?”…“What can I do to get there?”; and actively building agency or motivation—taking better care of ourselves, using positive self talk, and surrounding ourselves with positive, supportive people (Feldman & Dreher, 2011).
  •  You cannot change the past but you can act strategically, determine what you can do, then focus on those areas of your life where you can make a difference.

This article stuck out to be because I see chronic complaining in, not only myself, but in many interactions I have with others.  Think about it, there is complaining about traffic, waiting in lines, and complaining about work or school. So much complaining, and thus, so much time spent thinking about ourselves as a victim.

What if we stopped complaining?

What if, just for today, when we heard complaining thoughts enter our head, we said, “I see you, complaining mind, and I’m choosing not to believe you and the content of what you are saying.”  Then, if we wanted to move deeper, we can ask ourselves what we can do to change the situation or our reaction to the situation.

Let’s try that, just for today. You don’t have to sign a contract!

Stop complaining and enjoy life

Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness: Watch for Complaining Mind. When you notice it, call it out, and make a choice to foster hopeful thoughts.  Reclaim your power and let go of complaining.

 

 


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Meditation and Mindfulness in the News and a Short Meditation Practice

While I love reading spiritual books and articles, I must confess that my inner scientist really loves to see meditation and mindfulness in the news.  The quotes, practices, and feelings I get appeal to my emotional/sensing side but my cerebral side loves to see what scientists are saying about meditation and mindfulness.

I thought I’d take an opportunity today to share an article with you. Below, you will find the title, link, and a few interesting quotes from the article so you can get the gist and decide if you would like to read more.

We Need To Take Meditation More Seriously As Medicine
Read more: We Need To Take Meditation More Seriously As Medicine | TIME.com http://ideas.time.com/2014/01/17/we-need-to-take-meditation-more-seriously-as-medicine/#ixzz2uPMLShIL

 

  • The problem? Many of us conflate meditation with yoga or other types of complimentary medicine, overestimate the time it takes to meditate effectively, and discount the neurological evidence that mindful focus improves brain functioning.

 

  • …he reviewed 47 clinical trials involving more than 3500 participants with mild anxiety or depression, and found that those who practiced mindful mediation saw a 5-10% improvement in anxiety symptoms and a 10-20% reduction in depressive symptoms compared to placebo groups—on par with the effects other studies have shown for anti-depressants in similar populations.

If you believe that you don’t have time to meditate, I encourage you to challenge that belief and find 5 minutes to give it a try. 

You can find a 5 minute meditation below this image. 


I have dabbled with this for years. I want to get more serious about making this a practice in my life.

5 Minute Meditation:

Set a timer, or put on a calming piece of music with a set time so you don’t worry about taking too long.

  • Sit or lay down comfortably.
  • Place your attention on your breath.
  • As you inhale, feel the the expansion of the breath in your chest and belly.
  • As you exhale, feel the chest and belly deflate.
  • Repeat, saying “rise, fall,” or “in, out,” “notice, allow,” “have, peace,” or praise, God,” whatever 2 words make you feel at ease. There is no right or wrong!

When thoughts enter your mind, notice them, and watch them leave. Having thoughts while you meditate is completely normal. It’s not wrong or bad, and it doesn’t make you “bad” at meditation- it makes you human. It’s not the thoughts that are the problem, it’s judgement and attachments to the thoughts. So, notice the thoughts and say, “ah, thinking- there is a thought,” and give it permission to be there or leave, and maintain focus on your breath.

Sometimes, my mind is so busy that I can hear myself chattering away in my mediation. I try to hear that chatter as background noise and bring my attention to the breath. For me, it’s a great indicator of my mindset for the day. If I notice I’m having a particularly “chatty/thinking” day, I can set an intention to slow down and be extra mindful of my reactions and responses.

Try it and see!