Meditation and Medicine

OCD Expert Who Recommends Meditation as Therapy Is the Focus of New eBook

OCD Expert Who Recommends Meditation as Therapy Is the Focus of New eBook

by

Editor at Open Minds Magazine

Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz applies Buddhist teachings to his work with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and bucks the mainstream belief that the brain is a static organ that dictates our actions. So it is no wonder that he is a controversial figure.

The amazing thing is that he has proven to be right, and has shown that mindfulness meditation can be effective at reducing the effects of OCD. In part, by utilizing what he calls “self-directed neuroplasticity.” In other words, the idea is that we can use meditation to physically rewire our brains. A process I believe I have utilized myself to improve my outlook and health.

Steve Volk’s new book OBSESSED: The Compulsions and Creations of Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, is the first offering by Discovery magazine’s Discovery In-Depth series. It is available via Kindle single on Amazon.

In the book, Volk examines Schwartz as a scientist and a person. He describes Schwartz as a “pariah among his academic peers,” and “a man battling demons of his own.” Schwartz is often combative, and has a tough time with personal relationships. However, Volk says Schwartz was very open and willing to let Volk spend a lot of time with him, which Volk says is rare in the scientific community. Volk believes Schwartz really just wants to be understood.

Despite his quirks, Schwartz has made substantial contributions to the understanding and treatment of OCD. Volk says his ideas used to be taken lightly, but “he helped produce this shift where now people take mindfulness very very seriously as an effective therapy.”

I find his work fascinating because it relates to the existential question of who we are. As Volk explains it, some scientists believe “our whole selves and our choices are all dictated by physical processes in the brain, and a lot of people take this to mean we don’t have any free will.”

But what if we choose to be different, and in doing so change our brain physically? It sounds fantastic to be able to change the inner workings of our brains by thought alone, but it is now believed it happens, and it is called neuroplasticity. Volk explains, “Schwartz says his therapy, which involves shifting your attention in particular ways in regard to your illness, he says this shows we do have free will and we are not our brains.”

Years ago I learned through studying meditation techniques, methods similar to what Schwartz teaches, and they have helped transform my life. Buddhists teach that in mindfulness mediation one can view their thoughts and self impartially. In doing so one can identify behaviors that are not helpful, and purposefully change the way they react to certain situations. In this way we can choose to alleviate our own suffering, which Buddhists believe we cause ourselves.

For instance, let’s say you get flipped off on the highway on the way to work. That can be kind of frustrating. Some people are prone to get really upset, and then have a terrible morning. In mindful mediation one lets go of emotional static to reflect on oneself and the ways we cause our own suffering.

In reflecting upon why we had a bad morning and realizing it was because somebody flipped us off, we can see that it was our reaction to this event that caused the suffering for the rest of the morning. We can then choose to react differently. I have chosen to smile and wave at people who flip me off, and wish them a good day. I then leave the situation chuckling, while the flipper offer continues on their grouchy way.

This is us choosing to modify our behavior. It may be difficult at first, but as we continue to act out this new behavior, neuroplasticity is at work changing our neural pathways and making this reaction easier to accomplish. One thing I remind myself in these situations is that I cannot let another’s dysfunction become my dysfunction. Just because their brain is wired to be a total jerk, doesn’t mean I have to let mine be wired that way.

In using these methods to help OCD patients alleviate their symptoms, Volk says in his book, “what Schwartz had proven was that his patients could rewire their brains (and reinvent their lives) through sheer force of will, with thought alone.”

Volk says he was inspired to write the book because he has also benefited from “self-directed neuroplasticity.” Beyond that, Volk says, “I really enjoy being able to tell the story about this guy operating on sort of the fringes of things.”  See Video: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alejandro-rojas/ocd-expert-stars-in-ebook_b_4119218.html

Not surprising coming from a guy who also authored a book called, Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable — And Couldn’t.

Technique incorporating meditation and yoga lowers high blood pressure

Technique incorporating meditation and yoga lowers high blood pressure

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013, 17:58

Washington: A new study has revealed that technique incorporating meditation and yoga can benefit patients with high blood pressure or `prehypertension`.

The study by Joel W. Hughes , PhD, of Kent State (Ohio) University included 56 women and men diagnosed with prehypertension.

One group of patients was assigned to a program of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR): eight group sessions of 2 and a half hours per week. Led by an experienced instructor, the sessions included three main types of mindfulness skills: body scan exercises, sitting meditation, and yoga exercises.

The other “comparison” group received lifestyle advice plus a muscle-relaxation activity. This “active control” treatment group was not expected to have lasting effects on blood pressure.
Researchers found that patients in the mindfulness-based intervention group had significant reductions in clinic-based blood pressure measurements. Systolic blood pressure (the first, higher number) decreased by an average of nearly 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), compared to less than 1 mm Hg with in the control group who did not receive the mindfulness intervention.

Diastolic blood pressure (the second, lower number) was also lower in the mindfulness-based intervention group: a reduction of nearly 2 mm Hg, compared to an increase of 1 mm Hg in the control group.

“Mindfulness-based stress reduction is an increasingly popular practice that has been purported to alleviate stress, treat depression and anxiety, and treat certain health conditions,” Dr Hughes said.

The study is published in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.

Walking Meditation: Mindfulness On the Move By ALICIA SPARKS

 

Walking Path Sign

I took my first meditation walka few weeks ago. I’ve since done some research aboutwalking meditation, and wow–there’s a ton of information out there!

My meditation walk was hosted by a licensed counselor who often offers group seminars and private sessions on mindfulness, so I feel confident I learned–definitely not everything–but a good solid foundation for planning my own mindfulness walks.

So, for simplicity’s sake–and to add to the wealth of information already available–I’ll focus on my own meditation walk.

 

Walking Meditation vs. Still Meditation

Probably, this goes without saying, but the main difference between walking meditation and still meditation is you’re not sitting still during walking meditation.

(Oh, and you’re eyes should be always are open!)

Walk at a comfortable, slow pace. Don’t rush–you’ve set this time aside for yourself. Intentionally step heel to toe, one foot at a time, paying attention to how the dirt, pavement, or gravel feels under your soles.

So, understand you won’t be sitting or lying still, but don’t be afraid that you won’t reap some of the same meditation and mindfulness benefits.

Understand Your Mindfulness Meditation Walk

Why are you taking a meditation walk? Why are you choosing to walk rather than sit or lie?

Maybe you want to sharpen your senses, or reconnect with your surroundings. Maybe there’s a specific issue in your life you want to meditate on and you feel moving rather than sitting still will help.

Prepare for Your Walking Meditation

As with any practice–yoga, meditation, running–there’s a little preparation involved before you get started.

Here are a few tips my mindfulness coach shared:

  • Dress appropriately. Wear comfortable walking shoes (or, for you beach bunnies, make sure the sand’s nice and soft!) and wear clothes cool or warm enough for the current temperatures.
  • Set aside enough time. Sure, “enough time” is relative, but walking is a bit different from sitting or lying still, so it’s okay to shoot for at least 30 minutes.
  • Choose your course. Choose a safe area, but feel free to choose among a variety of environments. You can be just as mindful in a park full of boisterous toddlers as you can on a quiet mountain path.
  • Plan your course *. Once you know where you’ll walk, where will you start? Where will you take a left, a right, or turn around to head home? Sure, you could wander, but we’re focusing on mindfulness here. Start out knowing where you’re headed and then focus on being mindful of that course.
  • Patience, not perfection. Whether it’s your first mindfulness walk or you’re a veteran at meditation walking, be prepared to get distracted–and be prepared to let those distractions pass on by. You might find yourself thinking about unrelated things–bills, your dishes, Sally’s dance recital. Once you become aware of those thoughts, don’t indulge them; just let them pass through. Do the same for any distracting environmental noises (beyond those senses of which you’re striving to be mindful).

* Remember all that “different information” I mentioned in the beginning? Well, here’s an example: Rather than choosing a proper “path,” some meditation walk instructions suggest finding a stretch of land, 30 or 40 feet long, and walking back and forth. Although this sounds beneficial in its own way, it wasn’t my experience this time.

Plan Your Mindfulness Walk

Aside from preparing for your walk–and knowing where you’ll walk–considering planning your mindfulness topics.

For example, my mindfulness walking class was a donation-based class to help raise money for an upcoming charity event, so our mindfulness coach divided our walk into three parts and instructed us to focus on something different during each section:

  • First Part: We focused on our breath. The goal was to shut out as much environmental elements as safely possible and pay attention to our breath. Were we breathing deeply? Was our breath shallow? Were we thinking too much about it, instead of letting it happen naturally? What could we do to relax ourselves and thus relax our breath?
  • Second Part: We focused on our five (or six, as my coach allowed for) senses. We smelled the air and listened to children’s laughter and occasional car horns. We felt the wind on our skin and watched the leaves blow in one direction or another. We even tasted the air, our last bite, our latest sip of water.
  • Third Part: During the third and final part of our mindfulness walk, we focused on our current purpose: the charity. Why was the cause important to us? What did we hope to achieve at the event? What were our own personal goals for bettering the situation?

Of course, you might mix up these parts, or take away or add a few. It’s entirely up to you. Your mindfulness walk must work for YOU.

Reflect On Your Meditation Walk

After your meditation walk, don’t immediately hop in your car or get started on dinner. Take some time to reflect on your meditation.

Did you learn anything? Did your mindfulness help you reach any realizations or conclusions?

Did you enjoy walking more than sitting, or was it just a different experience for you?

Was there anything you could “tweak” to make the experience more beneficial?

So, how about YOU, readers? Do you think you’ll try a mindful meditation walk this weekend? Or, have you already put a few meditation walk notches in your belt and have your own experiences to share with us?

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/your-mind/2013/10/walking-meditation-mindfulness-on-the-move/

Meditation made easy: How to sleep more serenely

Meditation made easy: How to sleep more serenely

By Madonna Gaulding

 

Experts suggest that we need a minimum of eight to nine hours to be at our best physically and mentallyExperts suggest that we need a minimum of eight to nine hours to be at our best physically and mentally

Madonna Gauding, author of  The Meditation Bible, gives you a beginner’s guide to serenity.

This week, a meditation to relax you  before bedtime…

BENEFITS: Sleep deprivation is a serious health problem in our overly busy, stress-filled world.

Experts suggest that we need a minimum of eight to nine hours to be at our best physically and mentally.

Realistically, though, we tend to get more like seven hours sleep a night.

This meditation will help clear your head and induce relaxation and sleep, thereby strengthening your immune system.

TO START: Make sure your bedroom is quiet, get into bed and turn off the lights. Ensure that your curtains or shades are closed to keep out any lights from the outside world.

STEP ONE: Stretch out on your back and get comfortable. Tense up your body as much as you can and then relax. Repeat this exercise three times.

STEP TWO: Slowly and deeply breathe into your lower abdomen 20 times.

STEP THREE: Now, with each in-breath, breathe in peace, and with each  out-breath, breathe out all the cares of your day.

Release your worries and welcome pleasant dreams. Surrender to deep relaxation as you let go more and more. Feel yourself sinking into a deep, healing and rejuvenating sleep.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2437668/Meditation-easy-How-sleep-serenely.html#ixzz2gWhfsBm5
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4 Things To Know About Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices

4 Things To Know About Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices

Menopause is the permanent end of a woman’s menstrual periods. Menopause can occur naturally or be caused by surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. A woman is said to have completed natural menopause when she has not had a period for 12 consecutive months. For American women, this typically happens at around age 51 or 52.

Some symptoms that women experience as they age are related to menopause and decreased activity of the ovaries. Other symptoms may be related to aging in general. For decades, menopausal hormone therapy was a widely used treatment for menopausal symptoms, but findings from the Women’s Health Initiative raised serious concerns about the long-term safety of menopausal hormone therapy. Natural products or mind and body practices are sometimes used in an effort to relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Here are 4 things to know if you are considering a complementary health practice for menopausal symptoms:

  1. Mind and body practices such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong, hypnosis, and acupuncture may help reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms. Researchers looked at mind and body therapies for menopausal symptoms and found that yoga, tai chi, and meditation-based programs may be helpful in reducing common menopausal symptoms including the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, sleep and mood disturbances, stress, and muscle and joint pain.
  2. Many natural products, such as black cohosh, soy isoflavone supplements, and DHEA, have been studied for their effects on menopausal symptoms, but scientists have found little evidence that they are helpful. There is also no conclusive evidence that the herbs red clover, kava, or dong quai reduce hot flashes.
  3. Natural products used for menopausal symptoms can have side effects and can interact with other botanicals or supplements or with medications. For example, United States Pharmacopeia experts suggest that women should discontinue use of black cohosh and consult a health care provider if they have a liver disorder or develop symptoms of liver trouble, such as abdominal pain, dark urine, or jaundice. Also, concerns have been raised about the safety of DHEA because it is converted in the body to hormones, which are known to carry risks.
  4. Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health practices you use.Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

‘Let’s all Meditate’ – WSJ.com

MILTON KEYNES, England, June 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ —

New Milton Keynes business promotes role of regular meditation and massage in increasing individual wellbeing, business performance and economic growth.

Up to 90% of all illness is stress related. Inspired by this shocking statistic, Reiki With Ria, a holistic therapy practice based at Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, is on a much overdue mission to change the way we think about our health and to place wellbeing at the heart of our daily lives. Bolstered by the government’s recent commitment to engage people for success in the working world while increasing wellbeing, Reiki With Ria is now expanding to provide wellbeing solutions for business.

Ria, the founder of the company explains: ‘The business was set up to help people improve the quality of their lives, by offering relaxation practices that have been scientifically proven to both counteract the negative effects of the stress response and to enhance physical and psychological health. To begin with, we sought to empower individuals: encouraging ownership of one’s own health and re-establishing it as a priority at all times – not just during times of ill health, is essential. Now, we feel it is time for a two-tiered approach, whereby businesses make a commitment to encourage and enhance their staff’s wellbeing recognising the correlation between employee wellbeing and increased profitability’.

Reiki With Ria offers Reiki, Massage Therapy, Stress Reduction and Meditation. Massage therapy, has for a long time been a firm favourite with the public, ‘people often perceive massage as a luxury- it can be, however this widely held belief restricts people from utilising the full extent of its health enhancing abilities’.

Meditation has gained much popularity of late, but as Ria points out, ‘many people have misconceptions about what meditation actually is. We believe that everybody can, and should, meditate and we always seek to demystify, simplify and make the practice relevant to ordinary people with ordinary concerns’.

If recent research is anything to go by, the case for developing a regular meditation practice is compelling. Benefits of meditation include stress reduction, pain management, improvement of immune function, regulation of emotion, improvements of focus and memory and anti ageing properties. For businesses and individuals it seems the research is clear – ‘Let’s all meditate’.

Reiki With Ria offers high quality massage and reiki treatments from their base at BletchleyPark. They hold regular meditation workshops and courses for complete beginners and more experienced mediators. From August 1(st) 2013 they will officially open their Wellness @ Work division,offering on-site massage,meditation instruction and support in developing workplace wellbeing programs.

Find out more at: http://www.reikiwithria.co.uk

Any questions should be directed to the Founder:

Ria Richardson

+44-(0)7580-541229

info@reikiwithria.co.uk

Bletchley Park, Sherwood Drive, Milton Keynes, MK3 6EB

SOURCE Reiki With Ria

via ‘Let’s all Meditate’ – WSJ.com.

The Daily Habit Of These Outrageously Successful People

The Daily Habit Of These Outrageously Successful People

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 07/05/2013 8:55 am EDT  |  Updated: 07/06/2013 6:32 pm EDT

“Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had.” That’s what Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates — the world’s largest hedge fund firmexplained in 2012.

Dalio is in good company. More and more leaders in the corporate world have been taking note of the benefits of meditation, which include lower stress levels, improved cognitive functioning, creative thinking and productivity, and even improved physical health. A number of Fortune 500 companies, including Google, AOL, Apple and Aetna, offer meditation and mindfulness classes for employees — and the top executives of many major corporations say that meditation has made them better leaders.

Ford Motor Company chairman Bill Ford and former Google.org director Larry Brilliant are also among the executives advocating the mindfulness practice. Here are 10 influential business leaders who say meditation has helped them achieve (and sustain) a high level of success.

1. Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO, News Corp

rupert murdoch

News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch recently tweeted that he was trying out Transcendental Meditation, a popular technique developed in the 1960s and followed today by famous practitioners like Oprah, David Lynch and Candy Crowley.

2. Padmasree Warrior, CTO, Cisco Systems

padmasree

Warrior, the chief technology and strategy officer of Cisco Systems, meditates every night and spends her Saturdays doing a “digital detox.” In her previous role as Cisco’s head of engineering, Warrior oversaw 22,000 employees, and she told the New York Times in 2012 that taking time to meditate and unplug helped her to manage it all.

“It’s almost like a reboot for your brain and your soul,” she said. “It makes me so much calmer when I’m responding to e-mails later.”

3. Tony Schwartz, Founder & CEO, The Energy Project

tony schwartz renewal

The Energy Project CEO Tony Schwartz has been meditating for over 20 years. He originally started the practice to quiet his busy mind, according to his book What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America. Schwartz says that meditating has freed him from migraines and helped him develop patience, and he also advocates mindfulness as a way to improve work performance.

“Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy — physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually — requires refueling it intermittently,” Schwartz wrote in a Harvard Business Review blog.

4. Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company

bill ford

The Ford Motor Company chairman is a big proponent of meditation in the business world, according to Inc. Magazine. At this year’s Wisdom 2.0 conference, Ford was interviewed by leading American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. Ford told Kornfield that during difficult times at the company, he set an intention every morning to go through his day with compassion. And to lead with compassion, Ford said he first learned to develop compassion for himself through a loving-kindness (metta) meditation practice.

5. Oprah Winfrey, Chairwoman & CEO, Harpo Productions, Inc.

oprah weight body image ego

An outspoken advocate of Transcendental Meditation, Oprah — recently named the most powerful celebrity of 2013 by Forbes — has said she sits in stillness for 20 minutes, twice a day. She’s also brought in TM teachers for employees at Harpo Productions, Inc. who want to learn how to meditate.

After a meditation in Iowa last year, Oprah said, “I walked away feeling fuller than when I’d come in. Full of hope, a sense of contentment, and deep joy. Knowing for sure that even in the daily craziness that bombards us from every direction, there is — still — the constancy of stillness. Only from that space can you create your best work and your best life.”

6. Larry Brilliant, CEO, Skoll Global Threats Fund

larry brilliant

Larry Brilliant, CEO of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and former director of Google.org, spent two years during his 20s living in a Himalayan ashram and meditating, until his guru instructed him to join a World Health Organization team working to fight smallpox in New Delhi.

In his 2013 commencement address at the Harvard School of Public Health, Brilliant emphasized the importance of peace of mind, wishing the graduates lives full of equanimity — a state of mental calm and composure.

7. Ray Dalio, Founder & Co-CIO, Bridgewater Associates USA

ray dalio

In a 2012 conversation at the John Main Centre for Meditation and Inter-Religious Dialogue at Georgetown University, Dalio said that meditation has opened his mind and boosted his mental clarity.

“Meditation has given me centeredness and creativity,” said Dalio. “It’s also given me peace and health.”

8. Russell Simmons, Co-Founder, Def Jam Records; Founder of GlobalGrind.com

russell simmons

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has long practiced Transcendental Meditation, speaking out about the benefits of the practice and sitting on the board of the advisors for the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace.

“You don’t have to believe in meditation for it to work,” Simmons wrote in a Huffington Post blog. “You just have to take the time to do it. The old truth is still true today, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ My advice? Meditate.”

9. Robert Stiller, CEO, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.

russell simmons

There is a dedicated meditation room at the Vermont headquarters of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., and CEO Robert Stiller himself is a devoted practitioner.

“If you have a meditation practice, you can be much more effective in a meeting,” he told Bloomberg in 2008. “Meditation helps develop your abilities to focus better and to accomplish your tasks.”

10. Arianna Huffington, President & Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post Media Group

arianna huffington

And last but not least, Arianna Huffington described early-morning yoga and meditation as two of her “joy triggers” in a 2011 Vogue feature. Now, Huffington has brought meditation into her company, offering weekly classes for AOL and Huffington Post employees.

Huffington has spoken out on the benefits of mindfulness not just for individual health, but also for corporate bottom lines. “Stress-reduction and mindfulness don’t just make us happier and healthier, they’re a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one,” she wrote in a recent blog.

The Daily Habit Of These Outrageously Successful People.

The Difference between Tai Chi and Qigong

Difference between Tai Chi & Qigong

Often at retreats and from students the question arises; “What is the difference between qigong and tai chi?” In this article we will explore this question, understanding that this is a more complex matter than it seems, and cannot be fully answered in a few simple sentences. This is because there are literally hundreds of styles of qigong (chi gung) and five major schools of tai chi with numerous variations.

This is a lot of tai chi and a lot of qigong from which to make a simple statement. Accurately distinguishing between them is like separating out all the color flows and shadings within a single beautiful but complex painting.

Energy Gates Qigong Instructor Training in EnglandEnergy Gates Qigong Instructor Training in England

Cultural Translation Issues

There is another issue that muddies the waters and makes answering this qigong question diffi­cult. Many obtain information on the differences and similarities from a local qigong or tai chi instructor, or from a Chinese instructor who cannot translate from one culture to another easily, or who may not want to share what has been secret, etc.

The trouble is that instructors may only know details about the specific type of qigong they do, and not other types or its rela­tionships to chi-energy arts as a whole. This is not unusual, just as in the field of science, biologists often don’t know that much about civil engineering, and vice versa. As a result, misinformation and half-truths abound.

Comparing Qigong and Tai Chi

Anything of truly great value always has great subtlety, whether or not it looks simple and easy on the surface. Some other differences not mentioned here are too technical, and will not be covered as they may confuse rather than clarify. To bypass complex tech­nical issues, just as is done when you want common sense to tell you how computers work, we will look at the four most commonly given simple answers to the original question—what is the difference between tai chi and qigong?

Each answer gives a progressively more complete answer. All are only partial truths, but at least they are the most accurate answers that can be given without going into excessive detail.

Level 1: Tai chi is a form of qigong, or, qigong is tai chi’s parent

This is the most common answer.

The accurate part of the statement is this: the invisible chi or internal power aspects included within the tai chi part of tai chi chuan derive directly from one branch of the 3,000-year-old Taoist qigong tradition, whereas Taoist qigong does not come from tai chi. However, the statement is misleading because it omits Buddhist or Confucian qigong, which have little in common with tai chi’s roots in Taoist qigong or Taoism. Learn more about this in the Five Branches of Qigong.

This answer also involves a common error in logic: since to the Western ear it sounds as if the word energy is contained in both words, they must mean the same thing. Right? Wrong! The qi or chi of qigong means energy, the chi of tai chi does not. In tai chi the chi means ‘ultimate’.

To add to the confusion, the chi in tai chi and qigong are almost universally pronounced by Westerners as “chee,” which is accurate for qigong and inaccurate for tai chi (“gee”) chuan. Those who commonly both see and mispronounce tai chi as chee also tend to assume both mean the same thing, which they do not.

Confusion escalates and gets reinforced when you find out both tai chi and qigong work with chi-energy (however often in different ways) and have similar benefits. Adding to the potential confusion, although many people may have heard the name, most in the West have only seen tai chi or qigong in still photos, on television, or at the cinema.

When shown visually, if these arts are even named, usually narrators inaccurately call both tai chi, because they don’t know the difference. This commonly leaves the impression that qigong is tai chi or vice versa. The public subsequently has an association that slow-motion movements + Chinese something-or-other = tai chi. Consequently, the public and the media are more familiar with the name tai chi than qigong, and commonly do not make much distinction between them.

Tracing Acupuncture Lines with QigongTracing Acupuncture Lines with QigongLevel 2: Tai chi is a martial art, qigong is purely for healing

The accurate part of this statement is that qigong has specific techniques or styles that are particularly effective for specific diseases beyond the ken of tai chi. For instance, there are specific qigong methods for helping those with cancer and mitigating the effects of radiation and chemotherapy. In China one set used for this was Dragon and Tiger Medical Qigong.

The misleading part is that although all tai chi powerfully heals and maintains health, only a tiny fraction of participants do any of its practical martial arts techniques. On the other hand, qigong also has within it practices for increasing the power you need to make self-defense techniques effective, even though qigong per se does not include the fighting techniques themselves.

Level 3: Tai chi and qigong have different movements

Although the first part of this answer can be a little murky, the second part is relatively clear. Both tai chi and some (but not most or all), aspects of qigong do what they do using flowing, fluid, slow-motion movements. To an untrained eye, all regular, smooth, slow-motion movements would tend to look the same, no matter how different they are in reality. Yet a casual observer would be able to clearly distinguish between different kinds of movements done at a faster speed. Nevertheless, slow-motion movements are only fast movements done slowly.

The second part of the answer is this: just because tai chi and qigong movements are done in slow motion does not mean that their movements must basically be the same. There is an exceptionally wide range of different movements, each requiring different kinds of physical coordination. Moreover, although the slow-motion movements of different tai chi styles may be somewhat different, on the whole they are basically variations of the same theme.

In contrast, slow-motion movements in a particular qigong style can look radically dif­ferent from either tai chi or other qigong systems. Take, for example, two well-respected members of the Taoist qigong tribe—tai chi chuan and Wild Goose qigong. Wild Goose has as many moves as a tai chi long form, yet looks radically different from tai chi. Likewise, non-Taoist medical and Buddhist qigong systems also contain movements not to be found in tai chi or each other.

There are many ways to move the body, as can be seen in the differences in the dance world between styles of ballet, ballroom, tap, disco, and hip-hop. Like dance styles, within the hundreds of qigong schools you can move in other ways besides regular, smooth, slow-motion movements. There are techniques which involve shaking, jumping up and down, vibrating, shouting, alternating speed with staying dead still, flapping like a bird, squatting flatfooted, and even moving freely and spontaneously in ways almost too strange to describe, while making weird, otherworldly sounds.

Above and beyond moving, qigong also has primary methods that specialize in:

  • Standing, either with your arms by your sides or in all kinds of positions.
  • Sitting, both on the floor and in chairs.
  • Lying down in various positions.
  • Sexual and all kinds of human interactions, including talking.

Although tai chi may use standing, sitting, and lying down techniques, they are ancillary to the primary technique of slow-motion movements for health, longevity, and stress management.

Using the Beak Hand in Dragon and Tiger Qigong to Move ChiUsing the Beak Hand in Dragon and Tiger Qigong to Move ChiLevel 4: Tai chi and qigong may work with chi-energy differently

Why are you doing these movements in the first place? From a purely physical viewpoint the body needs to move and exercise to prevent problems. A different perspective is that the movements are designed to specifically promote the flow of chi within you. Therefore, if you want to generate a specific chi flow in your body, one type of movement may make it easier whereas others may make it harder.

Tai chi is based upon the potential to fully incorporate all 16 parts of the neigongi system seamlessly into every movement; qigong normally tends to partially utilize some, but not all, of the 16 neigong components in any specific movement or entire form. In tai chi, although some specific moves may make it slightly easier to initially learn or solidly assimilate any one of the 16 components, for an advanced practitioner, the other 15 are ideally always present and integrated within each and every move of the form.

Some Taoist qigong schools will teach the entire 16 components initially through a series of short qigong forms, each of which emphasizes two or three specific parts of the neigong, until the final form which encompasses all 16. After this the student has a complete background within which to engage learning the full energetic potential of tai chi. The Energy Arts Qigong Exercise Program, for example, does this in his teaching work, using five very short qigong sets plus Dragon and Tiger Qigong, the first five of which initially emphasize only one to three components of the entire 16 neigong components.

Qigong also often separates specific chi functions into separate movements or differ­ent forms. For example, while doing a qigong form, during one move you might direct energy through a specific acupuncture meridian (the lung or heart meridian for example), and in the next move you might direct energy through a different meridian. Or in one move, you might draw energy through a particular acupuncture point in your body, and in the next release the energy from a different one. Or within the same form during one series of moves you could deliberately only exclusively activate and work with one of your three tantiens or centers of energy, and later within the same form, in a different series of moves,deliberately solely activate a different tantien and its functions, or other specific elements of the Taoist neigong system.

Ideally, in tai chi, an experienced practitioner will not separate these energy practices in this way. So that provides you with four different ways of looking at the question. All have truth in them and help elicudate the difference between qigong and tai chi.

Article extracted from Tai Chi Health for Life Book.  To order this book click here.

The Difference between Tai Chi & Qigong.

Time perception altered by mindfulness meditation

(Medical Xpress)—New published research from psychologists at the universities of Kent and Witten/Herdecke has shown that mindfulness meditation has the ability to temporarily alter practitioners’ perceptions of time – a finding that has wider implications for the use of mindfulness both as an everyday practice, and in clinical treatments and interventions.

Led by Dr Robin Kramer from Kent’s School of Psychology, the research team hypothesised that, given mindfulness’ emphasis on moment-to-moment awareness, mindfulness would slow down time and produce the feeling that short periods of time lasted longer.

To test this , they used a temporal bisection task, which allows researchers to measure where each individual subjectively splits a period of time in half. Participants’ responses to this task were collected twice, once before and then again after a listening task. By separating people into two groups, participants listened for ten minutes to either an audiobook or a meditation exercise designed to focus their attention on the movement of breath in the body. The results showed that the (audiobook) didn’t change in their responses after the listening task compared with before. However, meditation led to a relative overestimation of durations i.e. time periods felt longer than they had before.

The reasons for this have been interpreted by Dr Kramer and team as the result of attentional changes, producing either improved that allow increased attention to the processing of time, or a shift to internally-oriented attention that would have the same effect.

Dr Kramer said: ‘Our findings represent some of the first to demonstrate how mindfulness meditation can alter the of time. Given the increasing of mindfulness in everyday practice, its relationship with time perception may provide an important step in our understanding of this pervasive, ancient practice in our modern world.’

Dr Kramer also explained that the benefits of mindfulness and mindfulness-based therapies in a variety of domains are now being identified. These include decreases in rumination, improvements in cognitive flexibility, working memory capacity and sustained attention, and reductions in reactivity, anxiety and depressive symptoms. Mindfulness-based treatments also appear to provide broad antidepressant and antianxiety effects, as well as decreases in general psychological distress. As such, these interventions have been applied with a variety of patients, including those suffering from fibromyalgia, psoriasis, cancer, binge eating and chronic pain.

Dr Dinkar Sharma, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Kent, commented: ‘Demonstrating that mindfulness has an effect on time perception is important because it opens up the opportunity that mindfulness could be used to alter psychological disorders that are associated with a range of distortions in the perception of time – such as disorders of memory, emotion and addiction.’

Dr Ulrich Weger, of Witten/Herdecke’s Department of Psychology and Psychotherapy, concluded by stating that ‘the impact of a brief mindfulness exercise on elementary processes such as time perception is remarkable’.

‘The effect of on ‘ (Robin S.S. Kramer, Ulrich W. Weger, Dinkar Sharma) is published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

via Time perception altered by mindfulness meditation.

 

The stress of not meditating, when you know you should – Lifestyle – The Boston Globe

I want to meditate. I do. I want to be calm and happy and live in the now. I want to try to deactivate genes associated with stress and inflammation and turn on those associated with mitochondrial function and telomere maintenance. I want to be mindful, darn it. And yet, like George Costanza, who wanted to be a Civil War buff without the bother of actually learning about the Civil War, I’ve yet to put tush to cushion.

“You want to meditate like you want to wear a bikini,” a friend observed. “You want to change your life, but only if no effort is involved.”

Who has 20 minutes a day to spare? There are detailed analyses of “Mad Men” to devour, photos of friends’ meals to “like” on Facebook, computer passwords to remember. Please don’t throw that Gandhi quote in my face — “I have so much to do today, I will need to medidate twice as long.” I’m busy.

And yet, the studies showing the benefits of mindfulness and meditation are so relentless that I need to retreat to a monastery just to get away from the news. Nothing’s more stressful than hearing about the advantages of something you’re not doing.

Researchers published almost 600 studies on the subject last year, according to the editor of a new high-end magazine sold at Whole Foods called — what else? — Mindful. That’s up from 10 in 1993, when meditation was more associated with incense than with the US Marine Corps, which recently ran a pilot Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training program.

These days, top money managers are meditating. So is US Representative Tim Ryan (D-Ohio). He wrote a book on the subject, “A Mindful Meditation,” and says that to his knowledge, no colleagues have accused him of going New Age. Eager to lower stress-related business costs — $300 billion annually in the United States, according to the World Health Organization — corporate America is getting in on the action. At Google, employees can take a “Search Inside Yourself” course.

From a merchandising perspective, meditation has a lot to learn from yoga, but it’s making progress. In Lawrence, DharmaCrafts sells $349 Sherpa meditation cloaks and $59 zabutons (meditation cushions) for kids. Earlier this year, Electrolux tried to use meditation to promote its new ultra-quiet vacuum. “In an age of anxiety every opportunity to reduce stress matters,” the press release read. “Electrolux is now transforming the chore of vacuum cleaning into a resource for personal well-being, with a meditation program developed especially for vacuuming; an opportunity to clean your home — and your mind.”

The well-off are building meditation rooms and taking luxury meditation retreats. At the Esalen Institute, in Big Sur, Calif., a single suite perched at cliff’s edge with a stunning view of the Pacific, and Internet access, goes for $1,750 per weekend.

Katie Boyd, a pageant-fitness guru, at her gym the Miss Fit Club, where she has started teaching meditation.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Katie Boyd, a pageant-fitness guru, at her gym the Miss Fit Club, where she has started teaching meditation.

In Hudson, N.H., former Miss Taunton Katie Boyd, a pageant-fitness guru, recently started teaching meditation at her Miss Fit Club. “It’s not always about are my boobs perky enough? How does my [rear end] look in this swimsuit?” she said, noting that meditating gets rid of negative energy.

“When these girls walk into the judging room, they’re nervous nellies, and the judges can feel it.” Now that they’ve started meditating, she added, she gets pageant-day calls from clients who are nervous because they are not nervous.

A pastry shop selling “mindful cupcakes” has yet to open, but it can’t be far off. No less a trend omnivore than Arianna Huffington is all over it (in tweets and blog posts, on TV, and at her company’s New York headquarters, where employees can participate in breathing and meditation sessions). In January, a meditation workshop debuted at the buzzy Davos World Economic Forum meeting. Perhaps most significant, the movement has crossed over to the pet world. In the book “How to Meditate With Your Dog,” the authors James Jacobson and Kristine Chandler Madera explain that “meditating with our dogs is one of the most caring things we can do for them.”

NKate Conti does PR for clients in the health and fitness fields and enjoys running, yoga, and beaches like this one on Nantucket. But she struggled with staying focused on meditation.

JONATHAN WIGGS/GLOBE STAFF

Kate Conti does PR for clients in the health and fitness fields and enjoys running, yoga, and beaches like this one on Nantucket. But she struggled with staying focused on meditation.

How did we get here? Barry Boyce, the editor in chief of the new Mindful magazine, said a key moment came in a 1993, when Bill Moyers’s “Healing and the Mind” series featured the groundbreaking stress-reduction work Jon Kabat-Zinn was doing at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Before that, the word “mindful wasn’t really in play,” Boyce said. “I’m 57, and when I was in college, [meditation] was considered religious and a little weird. Everyone seemed to think you had to have a beatific smile on your face and a chant going through your head. Now, 40 years later, there has been a health revolution that emphasizes self-care. Mindfulness can be a religious thing but it doesn’t have to be.”

Despite all the evidence of its benefits, most people don’t meditate, but the numbers of those who do are growing, according to the National Institutes of Health. In 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 9.4 percent of American adults had meditated within the past 12 months, up from 7.6 percent in 2002.

To her dismay, Monika Lutz is not one of them. “I always seem to find an excuse,” said Lutz, a junior at the Harvard Extension School and the vice president of its student association. “If I’ve got 15 minutes free, I think I could go for a quick run or finish some task or call this professor or work on my resume. I think that if I could just get it all done then I’ll reduce my stress and I won’t need meditation.

“But when I do get it done, something new always pops up.”

Lutz went on a 10-day meditation retreat after high school, and she’s been unable to incorporate mindful meditation in her everyday life. “To say that I can only relax my mind when I’m four states away in complete silence surrounded by strangers — it’s not sustainable,” she said. “I need to be able to do it on the Red Line.”

Author Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray, Love” ) says she is not good at meditating.

Tom White for The New York Times

Author Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray, Love” ) says she is not good at meditating.

Boston-based publicist Kate Conti is also in what might be called a pre-meditative state. With clients in the health and fitness field, she and her firm, KC Public Relations, have promoted meditation’s benefits, yet Conti is unable to reap them for herself. “I even have gone through a yoga teacher training program where we had a special session on meditation, and I struggled with being able to stay focused for a short 10 minutes,” she said. “I signed up for a Deepak Chopra online mediation e-mail, but I didn’t stick with it.”

You know who else doesn’t meditate? Elizabeth Gilbert , the author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” a travelogue of spiritual seeking. Even so, people regularly ask her for advice on how they can do it. “What they forget about ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ is how poorly I did it,” she said. “Even when I was in the ashram, it was hard for me. If you live in New Jersey” — where she does — “it’s even harder.”

Gilbert, also the author of the forthcoming novel “The Signature of All Things,” says she has a “pretty religious yoga practice” and finds peace in gardening. “But I completely intend to begin a disciplined meditation program,” she said. “Probably tomorrow.”

She paused, and then gave me some advice. “You should meditate,” she said.

I plan to.

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Getting started is the hardest part

Everyone knows that. OK, sometimes with dieting — and exercise and dense nonfiction and house cleaning and just about everything else — the middle also presents a challenge. And the end can be tough, too. But if you’ve been wanting to try meditation but are unsure how to begin, here are tips from Barry Boyce, the editor in chief of the new Mindful magazine:

1. Go online to get a clearer picture of just what mindfulness meditation is, anyway. Mind the Moment at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care offers a series of short, fun, and accessible videos. A YouTube video called “What Is Mindfulness?” with Jon Kabat-Zinn is also a great place to start.

2. Learn how to do mindfulness practice online: A great resource is www.mindful.org — in particular the section called “Mindfulness: The Basics.”

3. Read a short book such as “Mindfulness for Beginners,” by Kabat-Zinn, or “A Mindful Nation” by congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), an avid meditator.

4. Find a local group and set up an appointment to meet someone who can teach you face-to-face how to meditate. Mindful Boston offers drop-in classes.

Beth Teitell can be reached at bteitell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.

The stress of not meditating, when you know you should – Lifestyle – The Boston Globe.