Category Archives: Meditation
Changing the way your genes express themselves, coaxing you to actually understand yourself, and finally letting you really relax: Meditation is well worth getting familiar with.
By: Drake Baer
At the start of the monsoon season two summers ago, I was sitting cross-legged in a humid classroom in in the foothills of the Himalayas. As an aside to her laughing explanations of contemplative life, our teacher was telling us that just as Arctic people have many words for snow, Tibetans have a rich vocabulary for mental actions–and among all those words for ascertaining and understanding, the Tibetan word for meditation is göm.
Göm, she says, translates most directly as familiarization. Not stillness or clarity or insight or any of the other transcendental yearnings that I had heaped upon my meditation practice, but a simple becoming-familiar-with-ness. Just as you come to know neighborhoods by wandering around them, people by talking to them, or darkened guesthouse rooms by stumbling into their furniture, you become familiar with your mind by sitting still with it.
What is it to become familiar? A sort of intimacy, and with that, a sort of vulnerability; The sociologist Brené Brown writes of how people insulate themselves from their experiences for fear of the shame they’d feel for feeling the way they feel. The practice of meditation, then, is a becoming familiar with these layers of feeling the way that you feel in the same way you get to know a friend: like those little Russian matryoshka nesting dolls, you get to know an identity layer by layer.
What meditation does for you
Interestingly, the modern Western tradition of objective research is increasingly corroborating the ancient Eastern tradition of subjective research into meditation–and the results are as intuitive as they are fascinating, as intriguing as they are motivating.
We’re usually not very good at reporting on our experiences: We’re more racist than we care to admit; we’re all sure we’re plenty popular; and if we think we’re good at multitasking, at least we aren’t the worst. But experienced meditators are adept at introspection: As the authors of one study on the topic conclude, “the simplest interpretation … is that subjects with greater meditation experience may provide more accurate reports of mental experience.”
But perhaps even more profound than that, a Massachusetts General Hospital study found meditation changes your gene expression. How? While when we experience stress, we usually have the tense mobilization of fight-or-flight response, people with a little meditation training are able to instead bring to mind what psychologists call the relaxation response to stress, allaying anxiety and hypertension.
Meditation isn’t “just relaxing,” co-author Dr. Herbert Benson told Atlantic writer Lindsay Abrams. Instead, when you begin to mediate, you start to have “a specific genomic response that counteracts the harmful genomic effects of stress.” The genes associated with inflammation turn off; the genes involved in energy metabolism and other functions turn on.
And these microscopic changes have macro effects.
How meditation translates into work
As we’ve discussed, cultivating a meditation practice can help you become a better leader and more creative–it worked for Disney.
So how to begin? Therapist and meditation teacher Ron Alexander once gave us a place to start:
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, or in a straight-backed chair with your feet on the floor, or lie down. If seated, close your eyes gently; if you lie down, keep your eyes slightly open.
Set an alarm for between 12 and 20 minutes.
Focus on your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils or on the rise and fall of your belly.
When thoughts, feelings, or sensations arise, don’t try too hard to push them away. Acknowledge them, but then refocus on your breathing.
And after enough hours of on-the-cushion familiarization, you gain a hard-to-articulate skill.
Study: How Yoga Alters Genes
As reported in the journal, Mindfulness, a study of university students in California found those who practiced meditation scored better on tests, and those who meditated before classes focused better and concentrated longer, the UK Telegraph reported.
With just six minutes of meditation before a test, students showed better results, according to Jared Ramsburg, a University of Illinois doctoral student who co-lead the study. In one experiment, the meditation even predicted which students passed and which students failed the quiz.
The research found meditation training worked better on freshman students, who may have more difficulty concentrating. “This data from this study suggest that meditation may help students who might have trouble paying attention or focusing,” said George Mason University, Virgina, professor Robert Youmans, who co-lead the study with Ramsburg. “Sadly, freshmen classes probably contain more of these types of students than senior courses because student populations who have difficulty self-regulating are also more likely to leave the university.”
Researchers also believe taking long walks in the morning to plan out the day could have the same positive effects as meditation. “Basically, becoming just a little bit more mindful about yourself and your place in the world might have a very important, practical benefit – in this case, doing better in college,” Ramsburg said.
Here’s a small study of what will be a wall-sized Mandala with glints of Refracted Light:
And this is what happens when you use small scissors to fold and cut lots and lots of thickly folded
I upgraded to new fancy titanium blades with molded handle scissors at Utrecht Art Supplies and found out they’ve been bought by Blick. Hmmmm…
Here’s the study for the show title. I’m still working on my “SELF” (HA!):
Down to the wire, now, my friends. I’m curious to see if I’ll pull this all off.
See how it all comes together starting June4th at Mind Unwind Gallery with the opening Artwalk June 13th and Closing June 28th. See more Sacred Shadow Studio updates and read the Artist Statement.
Study examines meditation’s potential to improve recovery after cancer treatment | University of Minnesota
Pat Rudolph had never pegged herself as the meditation type. Yet here she was in a weekly, two-hour mindfulness meditation course with a dozen strangers.
“I’ve never laid still for 20 minutes in my life,” Rudolph thought when she enrolled in a Masonic Cancer Center study looking at the potential of mindfulness-based therapy to ease stress and anxiety in cancer survivors. “And I’m usually uncomfortable in a group. I was the biggest skeptic in the class.”
The study, led by oncologist and Masonic Cancer Center member Anne Blaes, M.D., aims to determine whether mindfulness meditation, combined with reflection and peer support, can quantifiably improve health for patients in the first few months after treatment.
“Patients who’ve gone through cancer treatment have more chronic conditions, more depression and anxiety, more general medical problems,” explains Blaes, an Eastern Star Scholar and Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health Scholar. “Finishing chemo and radiation, they go through this whole new phase. We tell them, ‘Congratulations, you’re done! Come back in three months!’ And there’s a real letdown in terms of anxiety, depression, fear of the unknown.”
For many patients, it’s the first time the diagnosis is truly sinking in, Blaes adds—just as the support network is evaporating.
The anxiety and depression patients face can be intense, even crippling, and often the last thing they want is more medicine, she says. “They come in and ask, ‘What can I do? I don’t want another pill.’”
So Blaes is measuring whether, and to what extent, mindfulness meditation techniques affect depression, anxiety, sleep quality, sexual function, and immune response. It’s part of her ongoing effort to explore the promise of complementary medicine to enhance the healing process for cancer survivors.
The study is supported largely by the Hourglass Fund, founded by cancer survivor and motivational speaker Ruth Bachman to advance research in integrative cancer care.
Study participants attend eight weekly, twohour classes in which they learn mindfulness meditation techniques, practice at home daily, and complete reading and reflection assignments. The course also includes a full-day retreat.
Not long into the course, Rudolph, a breast cancer survivor, began feeling noticeably more relaxed.
“I could sleep better at night,” she says. “This calms you enough to get the rest you really need; you rest more deeply.”
Moreover, the peer support proved invaluable, Rudolph says, and the group still meets regularly. The exercises Rudolph learned also have been “hugely effective” for helping to treat her lymphedema, a common after-effect of breast cancer surgery that causes fluid buildup in the body.
And Rudolph, the skeptic, continues to use the meditation techniques. That’s the intent behind the course, and if the study bears fruit, Blaes hopes to advocate for more widespread, accessible use of mindfulness meditation courses for cancer survivors.
“Survivors know the limitations of Western medicine. I [often] send patients to health psychologists, but I’m not there—and the psychologist isn’t there—when they wake up at 2 in the morning. They need tools they can use at home.”
Nine months ago a seed was planted. Ok people, not THAT kind of seed. I didn’t do any baby making, but I did start a journey that has changed my life for the better, similar to how becoming a mom made me see the world a bit differently.
Back in September of 2012 I took my first meditation class at a local center in my town. I’d always been intrigued by meditation but was nervous to take the first step and attend class. Turns out there was not a single thing to be nervous about considering every person I have met that practices meditation is incredibly welcoming and nice.
The type of meditation that I practice isn’t just breathing meditation, it’s contemplative too. Over the past nine months I’ve thought a lot about how my state of mind at any given point impacts how I see the world. I’ve meditated on how dangerous anger can be, how the most important thing I can do is to show others kindness (even those who provoke and challenge me) and I have increased the depth of my compassion for others.
I’ve experienced a dramatic drop in my anxiety level and I feel like I’ve healed some relationships in my life that were difficult, not because the other person changed anything, but because I now fully understand that I have the ability to change situations solely based upon the way I think. Powerful stuff peeps!
Naturally, practicing meditation has impacted how I parent my 2-year-old daughter. Here are a just a few of the revelations I’ve had since beginning my practice.
I have a lot more patience than I thought.
Mom, if you’re reading this, pick your jaw up off the floor. This has been a surprising revelation. I have not been known within my family as someone who has a lot of patience but I’ve found that meditation really helps me stay in the now (as cliché as that term is). Most of the time I’m able to resist getting agitated when my toddler doesn’t do what I ask, throws a tantrum or doesn’t want to eat dinner. Taking the time to breathe and remember that my goal is to be kind in all of my interactions, including with my little girl, helps me show more patience instead of just getting immediately upset. As a wonderful consequence, I don’t yell anymore.
I’m not perfect, and that’s ok.
And that brings me to this little revelation; it’s ok to not be perfect. I sometimes refer to myself as a recovering perfectionist. Before meditation, if I felt like something wasn’t done to my very high standards I had to fix it immediately (including craft projects with my kid) or I would have a high level of anxiety. What I now understand is that my thoughts create my world and as I am moving towards a more peaceful state of mind, I don’t really care if my daughter rips a hole in the project we’re working on — I’ll just tape it up and move on (as opposed to throwing it out and starting again!). I have a more relaxed attitude about some things but admit that it’s hard to shake my perfectionist tendencies. Just part of the journey, I suppose.
I am not my body
Ah yes! You know those stretch marks on my stomach and the baby weight I haven’t lost yet? Guess what? That doesn’t define me! Because I’m not my body, I’m more than my body and you are too. How liberating is that? Thank you meditation!
Pre-baby I was more judgmental than I ever imagined.
Before I became a mom I use to judge other parents (I hate to admit that but it’s true). I didn’t realize just how judgy I was until I had my own kid who doesn’t always act like a perfect little angel. Just the act of becoming a mom helped me reduce my judginess but meditation has opened my eyes to the importance of universal compassion. The truth is we don’t really know what’s in anyone else’s mind other than our own and judging others makes it hard to feel kindness and love for them. And as I stated above, showing kindness to people is one of the most important things in life.
Just like meditation, parenting takes perseverance.
With meditation, it takes time to fully reap the benefits. You have to (gently) keep at it, doing your best to put the meditations into practice in daily life. Motherhood is just like that. We just have to keep plugging along, doing our best each day with faith that our efforts will pay off in the long run.
From my meditation cushion to you, keep calm and mother on.
“Guiding Rage into Power” — GRIP is a program in California’s San Quentin prison that uses meditation to help inmates address the root causes of their behavior.
The creator of the program tells correspondent Kate Olson that even though they are in prison, they are nevertheless part of a community, and they are learning not to create violence but to resolve it.
Meditation: “It’s Not New Age nonsense”
By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.
In meditation research the news keeps getting better and better:
“Previous studies have reported changes to the brain while people practise [meditation, yoga and prayer] activities, but a new study shows for the first time that gene activity changes too. [...] “It’s not New Age nonsense,” says Herbert Benson of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He and his colleagues analysed the gene profiles of 26 volunteers – none of whom regularly meditate – before teaching them a relaxation routine lasting 10 to 20 minutes. It included reciting words, breathing exercises and attempts to exclude everyday thought.”
An 8-week course of meditation of this kind resulted in a change of gene profile:
“The boosted genes had three main beneficial effects: improving the efficiency of mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells; boosting insulin production, which improves control of blood sugar; and preventing the depletion of telomeres, caps on chromosomes that help to keep DNA stable and so prevent cells wearing out and ageing.”
Plus there was a decrease in the activity of “a master gene called NF-kappaB, which triggers chronic inflammation leading to diseases including high blood pressure, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease and some cancers.”
Furthermore: “by taking blood immediately after before and after performing the technique on a single day, researchers also showed that the gene changes happened within minutes.”
So, I ask you, why not sit down for a few minutes to settle down your mind? The news doesn’t get any better than this! With news like this, this whole business of meditation is now really a matter of mental hygiene. Indeed, what if we – as a culture, as a civilization, – framed the matter of meditation as a matter of hygiene? Chances are you brush your teeth every day. Why not scrub your mind of “everyday thoughts” every day too?!
Ref: Meditation Boosts Genes That Promote Good Health, Andy Coghlan, New Scientist, May 2, 2013
By Mary MacVean
March 30, 2013
If meditation sounds intriguing, you can try it out — in as few as 10 minutes a day — without leaving your office.
“I’d say there’s quite a range [of styles],” says Mark Coleman, a longtime teacher. “Sitting. Stillness. Movement. Yoga, tai chi, chi gong. Ones that cultivate the heart, mind and awareness and clarity. Concentration meditations — mantras. Various New Age meditations that focus on energy. Once you choose, you have to give it some period of time to evaluate.”
There are many free or low-cost downloads available and classes at meditation centers, universities and such sites as Kaiser Permanente, which offers meditation programs for members and employees.
Rachel Donaldson, senior behavioral health educator at Kaiser, says all sorts of people are attracted to the class, including those who get headaches, feel anxious or have insomnia. “We try to make it comfortable for people,” she says, by explaining it’s not a religion, telling people they don’t need to sit cross-legged and enabling them to “stick their toe in the water” with an easy entry such as mindful eating.
James Gimian, publisher of the new Mindful magazine, likens the status of meditation to that of yoga a couple of decades ago, moving from the margins of life to gaining an estimated 20 million U.S. practitioners.
Andy Puddicome, a former Buddhist monk and founder of the meditation nonprofit Headspace, says he wants people to integrate mindfulness into ordinary activities. “That’s ultimately where we need to bring it, in the midst of everyday life. It’s a great opportunity to learn to be mindful when you are chopping the vegetables or gardening. Eating, clearing up, making a cup of tea.”
In her memoir, “Blood, Bones and Butter,” the New York chef Gabrielle Hamilton describes a life busy beyond imagining. But when she prepares food, she says, her mind becomes “free to sort everything out. I have never once finished an eight-hour prep shift without something from my life — mundane or profound — sorted out.”
UCLA’s Diana Winston tries walking meditation on the way from the parking lot to her office in Westwood. “When I am harried or rushed, it’s trying to maintain an awareness and have compassion for myself when I screw up.”
3 Ways Meditation Can Make You a Better Leader
Running a business can be an emotional roller coaster ride, and it’s easy to get caught up in worries about the future or frustrations with the past. Meditation helps to center you in the present moment, making the trials of entrepreneurship more manageable and the lifestyle more sustainable.
“It’s so easy to get swept up in thinking of your marathon as a series of sprints,” says Lodro Rinzler, a meditation instructor and author of Walk Like a Buddha (Shambhala, 2013). “You burn yourself out really quickly.”
Meditation can help counterbalance that anxiety. By training you to stay in the present moment, it helps you develop patience, approach problems calmly, and treat yourself kindly when things go wrong.
The process of meditating is simple: Sit upright in a comfortable position on a cushion or chair and set a timer for 10 minutes. Gaze at a spot on the ground 2-4 feet in front of you and focus on your breath. As thoughts arise, notice them, but try to just let them go.
The challenge comes in finding the discipline to do it every day, as well as the courage to work through your fears and acknowledge negative patterns or habits. “Be extremely gentle with yourself,” Rinzler says. “Obstacles and frustrations come up, but mentally yelling at yourself is antithetical to the whole process of getting to know yourself.”
The benefits may be subtle at first, but here are three ways that a regular meditation practice can help you in the workplace:
1. End habitual unproductive thoughts.
We tend to dwell on common issues, such as frustrations about a co-worker, worries about tomorrow’s presentation, or regrets about yesterday’s gaffe. Those thoughts become habitual distractions, often hurting our relationships and choices. “Meditation is a training tool to help us become familiar with thoughts or patterns that come up over and over,” Rinzler says. To break those patterns during your work day, Rinzler recommends taking a 30 to 60-second break once every hour. Look up from your computer and focus on your breath, noticing any thoughts and letting them go. “By doing that, you’re taking a fresh point of view every hour,” Rinzler says. “That helps you refocus and stay grounded.”
2. Focus on who you want to be.
Meditation is a process of learning who you are, who you want to be, and how to get there. Noticing the thought patterns that arise during meditation makes you aware of the habits you have, allowing you to choose which ones to let go, and which ones to keep. That awareness helps you set clear intentions about the impact you want to have in the world.
To add value to the world through your work, develop your business goals and practices based on qualities you hope to cultivate. For example, if you want to be generous, then ask, what does it mean to build a business based on generosity? What actions would you take on a daily basis if you were a generous leader? The values you choose will be evident in the products, companies, and cultures that you create.
3. Trust your innate wisdom.
Buddhists believe that each of us has innate wisdom, which is the essence of who you are when you act without habits or defenses to hide behind. It’s the root of gut instincts, creativity, and inspiration. “When an idea just occurs to you, that’s your innate wisdom,” Rinzler says.
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There seems to be a misconception that kids have it easy.
While they might not be worried about work or money, there are plenty of other things that can stress them out – relationships with their friends, bullying, school work and family issues are high up on the list of things children worry about.
Which is where meditation comes in.
It can help kids find a calm place when they feel anxious and help them to become peaceful after spending an afternoon running around the playground.
Lyn-Maree Fredericks started taking her two daughters to a children’s meditation class 18 months ago, after they started asking questions about her own meditation practices.
Although her eldest daughter no longer attends the classes, she still meditates regularly at home to overcome stress around school, while her nine-year-old daughter Jessie still loves meditating with her friends every Tuesday afternoon.
“Jessie is in tune with the relaxation side of it. I find the conversations I have with her leaving here are usually very clear, like she can go in concerned with what’s happened at school but come out quite bubbly and relaxed,” Fredericks says.
“She seems to find clarity with life. It means she is clearer in the things she wants to do.”
Jessie says she uses meditation to deal with things she worries about at school and to help calm her mind before she falls asleep.
“I like it because it’s fun and very relaxing to do. I like doing the guided meditation the most. Sometimes it’s hard to do just on your own.”
“I do it at night because it helps me get to sleep and with school and calming down with tests that might be coming up.”
Ursula Laughton runs a children’s meditation class and says most kids tell her it assists them when they are feeling anxious about something at school.
“There’s always pressures, even from age five they’ve already started school, and there’s expectations and responsibilities that they have to experience and deal with everyday, so taking this time out, they get the opportunity to be themselves, reflect on what they need and get to know themselves more,” she says.
“I’ve had comments about children being able to go to school more at ease, relating with their peers with more confidence.”
The difference between teaching a child and an adult how to meditate is the level of intellectual engagement they have with the process.
A typical meditation class begins with the children expressing something they are grateful for, followed by some stretches and breathing exercises to calm them down. Laughton then guides her students through some relaxation exercises before taking them into their imagination using visualisation, which lasts between five and 10 minutes depending how old the children are.