Meditation Research

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: So Much More Than Watching and Letting Go – HuffPost

Meditation: So Much More Than Watching and Letting Go

Posted: 09/27/2013 1:22 pm

Most people are taught when sitting in meditation to watch their thoughts, feelings, everything which comes into awareness and let it go. Focus on your breath. Simply watch what arises and let it go. Focus on your breath.

The preoccupation with watching and letting go in meditation can easily continue the separation of our small mental stream from the great body of awareness of who we really are. The mental activity of watching and letting go can keep us entertained with the busyness of our ego while keeping us from deeper levels of meditation. It is in deeper meditation where we discover the love of our core self and a vast inner universe. In other words, meditation is much more than merely watching and letting go. No wonder many people give up on daily sitting. The endless thoughts, tiredness, boredom that seem to be waiting for us each time we sit are not much reward to continue a meditation practice.

Mindfully watching and letting go can lead to devaluing our thoughts, feelings, the story of our life. When we are told the life passing by our inner screen is only distraction, only clouds covering the large sky of awareness, we can downgrade important parts of who we are. The thoughts and feelings we are watching and hoping will disappear can lose their life force. We can forget there is purpose. In our detached observing and our desire to let everything go, we can be detaching and letting go instead of embracing life. The thoughts, feelings, and story filling our awareness are expressions of our life energy. These are our thoughts, our feelings which we are told are interrupting the clarity of meditation. If we are only watching and letting go we can be separating ourselves from the power, the life juice which our thoughts and feelings come from and are made of. Instead of feeling bigger, we can be left feeling small and unsuccessful. Many people try and quit meditation. They feel it maybe great for others but for me, thinking about not thinking seems like a waste of time and effort.

Watching and letting go of our mental activity by itself can be just an exercise of more mental activity. It can be an unending adventure of the ego watching and trying to let go of itself. Instead of trying to get our grasping ego to let go of itself, there is a loving presence, the love of our natural awareness, inviting us deeper within. The hope and power of meditation is to widen the river of our mental world to the ocean of being that is who we really are. Sitting and waiting for glimpses of clear viewing in the midst of a busy mental stream is not the same as clear being, experiencing awareness as a great body of peaceful presence.

The path to the great love of our core being begins with valuing and embracing the thought and feeling passing in our meditation. Instead of merely watching and letting go, we can embrace our mental stream. When we embrace the stream of thoughts, we are right away including our heart essence. Meditation is this embrace, feeling the presence of our heart in our awareness. This presence is underneath, in, and all around the inner voice, the stream of thought. As our awareness includes the greater presence we find inside, the engine of our mind slows down, the busy voice of our ego calms. Our experience of heart strengthens. We are no longer waiting for a break in the clouds, a clearing in our thoughts. Meditation is feeling the body of presence in our heart. Our meditation is bigger than the thought and feeling floating down our inner river. Meditation is the daily connection with the part of us that is much greater.

With practice, no matter what or how much thought and feeling come and go, we are identifying with something more, a brilliant stillness, the gentle vastness, the awe that is within us. Meditation is changing our identification from the narrow focus on thought and feeling. Meditation is sitting with something greater than today’s page in this chapter of our life story. Meditation is remembering the expansive peace in our heart which is so much more than the ups and downs on any page of our personal story. Meditation is directly receiving our heart essence. Our mental activity lessens as the inner well of our lightness of being is experienced. The strength of the busy mental activity decreases as the awareness of our inner silence grows. We are beginning to experience our core self, our no self with by its magnitude heals the unnecessary habit of always thinking. We can learn to be, heartfully present.

If we are going to take the time to meditate lets not just sit here watching and letting go.
More than needing to be mindful, lets be heart full. More than finding a few centering words, we can receive directly the quietude inside which carries us. There are realms of complete acceptance, an intimacy of soul and spirit to discover in deeper meditation.

As the culture of meditation grows and spreads it is important that we guide one another to the true garden, the real fruit which meditation offers. Sacred emptiness waits for us. This emptiness fulfills the part of us, our personality, that is seemingly always struggling. This sanctuary of emptiness heals the part of us that wants more, needs to be busy, that can’t have enough no matter how much we have. There is a home inside of each of us. Its walls, roof, and floor are a diamond light of unlimited emptiness. This home speaks directly to our materialism, greed, anger, and mistrust. Sacredness and holiness are words with meaning as we connect to the very real wordless encounter of a loving emptiness which is full of warm presence.

Meditation is so much more than watching and letting go. Life is much more than observing, letting go of grasping, and trying to control the events and characters of our story. Meditation takes down the veil, lightens the filter, uncovering our essence and true being. Meditation is devotion, understanding, humility, and joy. Meditation is true whenever our heart is involved. We are discovering consciousness. Meditation is washing away everything occupying the Divinity of awareness. This daily bath of our awareness is important if we are to stay in touch with our unworldly self, our true self, our innocence, and life’s beauty. Lets tell everyone hesitant to try or about to give up on meditation, the magical life of your heart and deep joy depend upon it. Meditation, absorbing the essence of our heart, frees our mind. Meditation brings forward the richness of consciousness, inner worlds beyond our imagination, and perhaps most important, the simplicity of this moment of love.

We invite you to join us in the exploration of meditation and consciousness at Silent Stay Retreat Home & Hermitage near Napa, California and Assisi, Italy.

Opinion: Meditation can remedy your sleepless nights

Opinion: Meditation can remedy your sleepless nights

From the series Working Out Happiness
Andrew Fleming, Columnist
Fri Sep 27, 2013
Andrew Fleming

Your prefrontal cortex is a blessing and a curse.

Located under your forehead, mankind’s hugely developed prefrontal cortex enables creativity, foresight and strategy. However, that same prefrontal cortex is responsible for those nagging thoughts that keep you up at night – the “what if” scenarios that become increasingly terrifying as their exigency approaches.

While these imaginary situations where you fail the test and lose the girl – or boy, depending on your anatomical preference – may not ever play out, the long term effects on your body from these thoughts actually can. When the brain invents a stressful situation (or replays something horrific that just happened), the sympathetic nervous system engages in very real fight-or-flight responses. These adrenaline pumping, heart-racing reactions are great at making you jump away from a moving car, but they can have incredibly detrimental effects in the long run. Our bodies are incapable of sustaining the stress we are capable of providing it. Stress can eventually lead to organ failure and death in mysterious and insidious ways.

Whether an increased risk for heart attack, coronary heart disease, arrhythmias or even just “sudden death,” you can, quite literally, stress yourself to death.

Hopefully you’re still reading, because there is hope. Now, meditation has long been frowned upon by Western culture as some sort of Eastern cultish religious nonsense. That being said, quieting your thoughts has nothing to do with religion, chi, Zen or anything else on a physiological level (and I mean that with absolutely no ill-words towards religions of any kind).

It has come to light in recent years that meditation is one of the healthiest things you can do for your brain, and subsequently, the rest of your body. This is coming from real neuroscientists doing real research on real brains – this is not the hippie stuff your parents warned you about.

The Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin produced hard data that short amounts of mindfulness meditation lead to increased influenza resistance. Akira Kasamatsu, M.D., went as far as monitoring the electronic activity of 48 priests and disciples of Zen Buddhism, a religious sect known for meditation. Their brain activity showed increased levels of what are known as alpha waves. These waves are heavily associated with being relaxed.

These long-time practitioners of meditation were literally able to tune their brains to a relaxed wavelength, regardless of how stressful a situation may be. Imagine being able to make stress go away with a conscious decision – these individuals don’t have to imagine that power. They already have it.

Countless scholarly articles reinforce this sentiment, explaining how mindful meditation can be used to manage chronic pain and reign in anxiety disorders.

To approach “mindfulness” from ground zero can seem difficult. The whole point of the exercise is to quiet the mind – something I struggle with on a daily basis. To begin, you need a mental focal point. Some people like to use the word “mantra,” but if that seems hokey, call it a focal point. Sometimes I just use the word “focus” as a constant reminder of what I’m trying to do. Relax every muscle in your body. Sit upright so you don’t fall asleep. See if you can sit there and do nothing but think less and less for 10 minutes. Use a timer on your phone so you don’t feel the need to peek at the time. It takes practice, but even if you don’t get it your first time, you’ll be amazed how good quiet time feels. It’s the kind of habit that takes little time and less planning. Do it in the library if you’re stressed and until you fall asleep when you’re antsy.

It’s your brain; learn to make it work for you.

Andrew Fleming is a junior in neuroscience. He can be reached at aflemin8@utk.edu.

Yoga, meditation being pushed as ways to cut prison violence, boost well-being

BY DOUGLAS QUAN, POSTMEDIA NEWS SEPTEMBER 21, 2013

Even though some politicians have derided prison yoga programs as unnecessary inmate “coddling,” there’s a growing push for their expansion across Canada.

Advocates say yoga and meditation boost inmates’ mental well-being and help to reduce prison violence. They point to the success of programs in the U.S., including one at California’s San Quentin State Prison, notorious for housing some of the most dangerous offenders.

The question – can the downward dog really benefit those doing hard time? – will be the focus of a discussion next month at a conference of the Canadian Criminal Justice Association.

“We’re interested in promoting (offenders’) return to the community with better skills than when they left it. If meditation helps them become more self-aware and helps them control their anger, then it’s really advantageous,” said Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, which advocates for prisoners’ rights. “It contributes to the successful re-integration of people.”

The society is in the process of taking over administration of Freeing the Human Spirit, a Canadian charity that has provided yoga and meditation classes at more than two-dozen provincial and federal institutions, mostly in Ontario, using volunteer instructors.

Latimer said she is now hoping to expand the yoga and meditation programs – which she says cost very little to run – to more institutions across the country.

This summer, a study out of Oxford University found prisoners who went through a 10-week yoga program had a more positive mood, were less stressed and performed better on a computer test of their impulse control.

Expansion of yoga in Canadian prisons may still be a tough sell for some. The federal Conservatives appear to question the value of prison yoga. Asked this week if the federal government would consider

providing funds to help expand such programs, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said via email: “Our government’s focus is on making sure the correctional system actually corrects criminal behaviour. Let me be clear: No taxpayer dollars have been spent on this program.”

Edmonton-area yoga instructor Chantele Theroux, a speaker at the upcoming criminal justice conference, doesn’t understand what the fuss is about. Theroux, who also works as a provincial investigator specializing in fraud and forensic investigations, said prison inmates often have anger issues, impulse-control issues, and post-traumatic stress disorder – in other words, they’re prime candidates for exposure to yoga’s calming effects.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Mindfulness meditation aids health – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

June 29, 2013 12:12 am
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From the Beatles’ bouts with Transcendental Meditation to brand names such as lululemon and YogaRat, mind-body relaxation methods have long been pop-culture staples. But ongoing studies aim to show that a calmer mind and a more acute awareness of one’s surroundings can improve physical health, according to research based at Carnegie Mellon University.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction, a 12-week program developed in the 1970s by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, uses techniques from Buddhism to train participants in skills they can apply to their everyday lives, to help them deal with stress, pain and illness. The skills involve finely tuned attention to thoughts and emotions and their bodies’ reactions to physical sensations.

Loneliness and stress have been found to increase risk for medical conditions such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Last year, in a published study of 40 healthy adults, mindfulness meditation in the MBSR model seemed to reduce loneliness and stress. In addition, it was linked to reducing inflammation throughout the body, which scientists say promotes the progression of diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

The loneliness research is among several small studies conducted by Carnegie Mellon assistant professor of psychology J. David Creswell. One study from 2006-08 focused directly on the body’s immune response to the human immunodeficiency virus. It indicated that mindfulness meditation could prevent the decline of the type of white blood cell that is specifically targeted and killed by HIV. Known as CD4 cells, they are counted in people infected with HIV to analyze the extent of the disease. They are a type of T-cell, cells that send signals to activate the body’s immune response when they detect virus or bacteria infections.

“It was one of the first studies to show that mindfulness meditation could actually have a direct impact on a clinically relevant disease marker,” Mr. Creswell said. “In this case it was delaying disease progression in the context of HIV infection.”

Conducted in Los Angeles at the University of California and HIV/AIDS clinics around the city, Mr. Creswell recruited for his study through newspapers and community agencies that catered to the city’s HIV/AIDS population. The 33 participants all had HIV, but not AIDS. Most were male, African-American, homosexual and low-income. All experienced moderate to high levels of stress in their daily lives, Mr. Creswell said.

In blood tests at the start, each participant had CD4 counts above 200. The HIV virus slowly deteriorates the infected individual’s immune system, particularly CD4 cells. Once the CD4 count drops below 200, the infection advances from HIV to AIDS.

For the study, half of the participants were randomly assigned to an eight-week mindfulness meditation program or a similar program condensed to one day. Those assigned to the eight-week program attended weekly classes where they learned meditation practices and were also expected to practice these techniques at home. By contrast, those in the one-day program received the same training, but did not practice meditation regularly. Average age for the eight-week program was 40 and average age for the control group was 42.

Mr. Creswell said the study’s results indicated more meditating brought more benefit, what he called a “dose-response effect.”

During the eight weeks, two individuals in the control group, which received only one day of mindfulness training, progressed from HIV to AIDS. No one who underwent the eight-week program developed AIDS.

“The more classes you were attending or the more mindfulness meditation home practice you were doing, the better your CD4 T-cell counts were at post-test,” Mr. Creswell said. “The more mindfulness practices you were doing, the better your immune outcome is going to be at post-test.”

Previously, most mindfulness meditation studies had been conducted among more affluent, female individuals. Mr. Creswell said the results from his study show that mindfulness meditation can also be applied to more “hard-to-reach” populations who also have high amounts of stress.

More recently, a similar study was conducted from 2008-10 in Tehran, Iran, on 173 HIV-positive patients, who were mostly male. The study also found that CD4 counts in participants practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction remained stable over time. Those not practicing MBSR experienced declines in their CD4 count.

The Iranian study, Mr. Creswell said, shows mindfulness meditation has similar effects in a sample from a different population in another country.

Mr. Creswell’s latest research is assessing how well people perform in stressful situations after undergoing mindfulness meditation training. In a laboratory, people who have received the training perform tasks such as giving a speech or doing mental math under pressure. The aim is to discern whether or not mindfulness can build resilience in stressful situations.

And yet, according to Carol Schramke, Ph.D., director of behavioral neurology at Allegheny General Hospital, such research is still in the beginning stage.

Ms. Schramke, a clinical psychologist who treats patients with neurological problems, frequently advises different relaxation strategies to patients, including mindfulness meditation. She says it is widely known people need to reduce stress and to relax, but most studies examining the health impacts of relaxation techniques are underpowered and underfunded.

“In a lot of these areas the research is in very preliminary stages, and there haven’t been really well-controlled, well-designed studies yet,” she said.

She cited the disease multiple sclerosis, which, in contrast to HIV, causes an overactive, rather than underactive, immune system. While there has been research examining the effects of stress in T cells among people with MS, the disease acts over decades, not days or weeks. Consequently, “these things are pretty expensive to study,” she said.

But Hilary Tindle, associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, believes there is sufficient evidence that mindfulness can improve chronic conditions such as pain, anxiety, depression or addiction. She added, however, that mindfulness is most helpful when used with existing therapies like prescription medications.

Dr. Tindle, who published a book on mindfulness called “Up: How Positive Outlook Can Transform Our Health and Aging” last month, said mindfulness research is spreading throughout the country. She said the majority of mindfulness studies were initially funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. But the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Drug Abuse have since funded additional studies.

Although Dr. Tindle advises mindfulness to patients in her everyday practice, she says they’re often resistant. Some people are confused by mindfulness. Others have never heard of it or assume it must be religious, Dr. Tindle said. She said the field can continue to grow by holding larger studies with more funding and more subjects.

“That’s when people really start to stand up and notice it because they understand how it may be working,” she said. “It ceases to be voodoo.”

For phone-based training on mindfulness, go to www.basicmindfulness.org.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/health/mindfulness-meditation-aids-health-693582/#ixzz2YRAhXnC0

Mindfulness meditation aids health – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Morality of Meditation [Research]- NYTimes.com

The Morality of Meditation

Olimpia Zagnoli
Published: July 5, 2013

MEDITATION is fast becoming a fashionable tool for improving your mind. With mounting scientific evidence that the practice can enhance creativity, memory and scores on standardized intelligence tests, interest in its practical benefits is growing. A number of “mindfulness” training programs, like that developed by the engineer Chade-Meng Tan at Google, and conferences like Wisdom 2.0 for business and tech leaders, promise attendees insight into how meditation can be used to augment individual performance, leadership and productivity.

This is all well and good, but if you stop to think about it, there’s a bit of a disconnect between the (perfectly commendable) pursuit of these benefits and the purpose for which meditation was originally intended. Gaining competitive advantage on exams and increasing creativity in business weren’t of the utmost concern to Buddha and other early meditation teachers. As Buddha himself said, “I teach one thing and one only: that is, suffering and the end of suffering.” For Buddha, as for many modern spiritual leaders, the goal of meditation was as simple as that. The heightened control of the mind that meditation offers was supposed to help its practitioners see the world in a new and more compassionate way, allowing them to break free from the categorizations (us/them, self/other) that commonly divide people from one another.

But does meditation work as promised? Is its originally intended effect — the reduction of suffering — empirically demonstrable?

To put the question to the test, my lab, led in this work by the psychologist Paul Condon, joined with the neuroscientist Gaëlle Desbordes and the Buddhist lama Willa Miller to conduct an experiment whose publication is forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science. We recruited 39 people from the Boston area who were willing to take part in an eight-week course on meditation (and who had never taken any such course before). We then randomly assigned 20 of them to take part in weekly meditation classes, which also required them to practice at home using guided recordings. The remaining 19 were told that they had been placed on a waiting list for a future course.

After the eight-week period of instruction, we invited the participants to the lab for an experiment that purported to examine their memory, attention and related cognitive abilities. But as you might anticipate, what actually interested us was whether those who had been meditating would exhibit greater compassion in the face of suffering. To find out, we staged a situation designed to test the participants’ behavior before they were aware that the experiment had begun.

WHEN a participant entered the waiting area for our lab, he (or she) found three chairs, two of which were already occupied. Naturally, he sat in the remaining chair. As he waited, a fourth person, using crutches and wearing a boot for a broken foot, entered the room and audibly sighed in pain as she leaned uncomfortably against a wall. The other two people in the room — who, like the woman on crutches, secretly worked for us — ignored the woman, thus confronting the participant with a moral quandary. Would he act compassionately, giving up his chair for her, or selfishly ignore her plight?

The results were striking. Although only 16 percent of the nonmeditators gave up their seats — an admittedly disheartening fact — the proportion rose to 50 percent among those who had meditated. This increase is impressive not solely because it occurred after only eight weeks of meditation, but also because it did so within the context of a situation known to inhibit considerate behavior: witnessing others ignoring a person in distress — what psychologists call the bystander effect — reduces the odds that any single individual will help. Nonetheless, the meditation increased the compassionate response threefold.

Although we don’t yet know why meditation has this effect, one of two explanations seems likely. The first rests on meditation’s documented ability to enhance attention, which might in turn increase the odds of noticing someone in pain (as opposed to being lost in one’s own thoughts). My favored explanation, though, derives from a different aspect of meditation: its ability to foster a view that all beings are interconnected. The psychologist Piercarlo Valdesolo and I have found that any marker of affiliation between two people, even something as subtle as tapping their hands together in synchrony, causes them to feel more compassion for each other when distressed. The increased compassion of meditators, then, might stem directly from meditation’s ability to dissolve the artificial social distinctions — ethnicity, religion, ideology and the like — that divide us.

Supporting this view, recent findings by the neuroscientists Helen Weng, Richard Davidson and colleagues confirm that even relatively brief training in meditative techniques can alter neural functioning in brain areas associated with empathic understanding of others’ distress — areas whose responsiveness is also modulated by a person’s degree of felt associations with others.

So take heart. The next time you meditate, know that you’re not just benefiting yourself, you’re also benefiting your neighbors, community members and as-yet-unknown strangers by increasing the odds that you’ll feel their pain when the time comes, and act to lessen it as well.

David DeSteno is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, where he directs the Social Emotions Group. He is the author of the forthcoming book “The Truth About Trust: How It Determines Success in Life, Love, Learning, and More.”

The Morality of Meditation – NYTimes.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.

How meditation boosts your brain power

ow meditation boosts your brain power

It’s probably no surprise that Sting, Tina Turner and Richard Gere meditate.

Kourtney Kardashian and supermodel Gisele Bündchen seem less likely candidates, but they’re all part of the surge in interest in mind-calming exercises, from mindfulness and transcendental meditation to traditional Buddhist practices. And the surge is fuelled by the incredible new info about how meditation helps make you smarter — and wiser — and keeps you that way.

We meditate every day (almost!) for about five minutes in the morning and at night to ease stress, strengthen our focus and improve our health. Now research shows just how meditation does all that.

In one study, after meditating for 30 minutes a day for eight weeks, folks had more gray matter in the areas of the brain that handle learning, memory, emotional regulation and the ability to take a clear look at what’s going on.

Other research shows that meditating helps you handle multi-tasking (and who doesn’t have to multi-task these days?) and pay more attention to various incoming sensations.

It also makes genes that produce inflammation-triggering proteins less active. Best of all, regular meditators who are 40 to 50 years old have areas in their cerebral cortex that are as thick as those of 20 to 30 year olds — defying the long-held belief that age inevitably thins the cortex. It’s how meditation keeps your reaction time, thinking, retention and memory younger.

So, pull up a chair, roll out a yoga mat or take a stroll and follow the easy-to-do, five-minute, 12-minute and walking meditations at http://www.RealAge.com

Mehmet Oz, MD, is host of the Dr. Oz Show and Mike Roizen, MD, is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Wellness Institute. For more information, go to http://www.sharecare.com

via How meditation boosts your brain power.

 

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.

 

Bill George: The Tipping Point for Mindfulness

The Tipping Point for Mindfulness

Posted: 06/21/2013 8:32 am

Mindfulness practices like meditation have been in existence for thousands of years, but only now are they reaching the tipping point in the Western world. Today’s pace and stress are so great that people are searching for new practices to find resilience in the midst of chaos, and mindfulness programs are helping them find better ways to live.

Mindfulness, the practice of self-observation without judgment, encompasses an array of activities in which we focus inward on our minds and our inner voices. New research studies are demonstrating conclusively that meditation and mindfulness are good for your health — and for your soul. This is why each of us should consider balancing the fast-paced nature of our lives with individual practices that cultivate mindfulness.

My Experiences with Meditation

I began meditating thirty-seven years ago after my wife Penny dragged me “kicking and screaming” to a weekend training program in transcendental meditation at the University of Minnesota. I started meditating twenty minutes, twice a day, and stayed with the practice because I felt better and was more effective at work and at home. Meditation helps me relieve the stress of the day, gain clarity about what’s important, open up creative ideas, and find added energy and a deep sense of well-being. For a practice that costs nothing and doesn’t involve medication, that’s a good bargain.

For years I was reluctant to talk about meditating, as it sounded too “new age,” especially to the media. Today, mindfulness is becoming mainstream, no longer confined to closed-door meditation circles and therapy sessions. Public interest in mindfulness is increasing, as evidenced by the proliferation of literature on the subject; an Amazon search for “mindfulness” brings up 4,006 books.

Let me describe how meditation works in my daily life. When I open my emails, I am bombarded with requests and information. There are packages to read from the boards on which I serve, messages from Harvard colleagues, inquiries about speaking, and an unending stream of requests. Meanwhile, the phone is ringing, people are stopping by my office with questions, and I am trying to prepare to teach my next class. Navigating through these issues requires constant context shifting, which can leave me mentally drained.

After I meditate, I feel calm and centered, having slowed my mind from the adrenalin-fueled, frenetic workday pace. Consequently, I am able to focus deeply on the big questions and do my most productive thinking. The clarity that comes with meditation enables me to escape from my never-ending “to do” list and concentrate on my most important priorities, not letting them be overtaken by the urgent, less important tasks that can be delegated. The self-awareness that comes from meditation helps me understand how others perceive me and how to empower them.

The Science of Meditation

Research has shown that meditation is powerful enough to alter the makeup of the human mind. Thanks to the personal dedication of the Dalai Lama and the Mind and Life Institute he founded in the U.S., neuro science researchers are studying mindfulness meditation. Breakthrough research using fMRI technology conducted by Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison have demonstrated the correlation between mindfulness and changes in the regions of the brain related to learning, memory, and emotion. Other studies have shown that mindfulness is as effective for treating depression as antidepressant drugs.

A Massachusetts General Hospital study discovered that meditation has the ability to change one’s gene expression (which genes are turned “on” or “off”) in as little as six weeks, based on blood samples before and after meditation. Genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance were enhanced while genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways were reduced. Another Massachusetts General Hospital study showed that eight weeks of meditation shrunk the amygdala, the portion of the brain modulating response to fear and stress.

Meditation and its Applications

In a recent Huffington Post article, my wife Penny highlighted the importance of mindfulness in integrative medicine in connecting the mind, body, and spirit. Integrative medicine encourages patients to practice inexpensive and non-toxic activities such as yoga, massage, healthy eating, and mindfulness meditation in combination with conventional Western medicine. Mindfulness is also practiced by health professionals in order to cope with the immense stress of their work. Allina Health, the largest health system in Minnesota, offers resilience-training programs for employees that encourage mindfulness, nutrition, and exercise to manage anxiety and depression.

Most leaders do everything they can to shape their enterprises, but if they don’t step back from constant action, they lose perspective and their sense of priority, as well as their ability to create original solutions. That’s why many companies like Walt Disney, General Mills, and Google have made mindfulness an important element of their company cultures by offering it to their employees.

Thirty years ago, Disney brought in Ron Alexander, a meditation teacher, to teach seminars to inspire their creative teams. Following the meditation seminars, Disney’s teams dreamed up Tokyo Disney, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Today, the company incorporates meditative practice into its workplace and is regarded as one of the world’s most innovative companies.

For the past seven years, General Mills employees have engaged in meditation, yoga, and mindfulness practices while at work. General Mills reports that 80 percent of employees practicing mindfulness were able to make better decisions with greater clarity and 89 percent reported enhanced ability in listening to others. Marturano recently formed the Institute for Mindful Leadership to bring mindfulness training to corporate executives.

In April 2012, Google announced a new program titled “Search Inside Yourself,” a free course for employees designed to teach emotional intelligence through the practice of meditation. The program was designed by Chade-Meng Tan, a Google engineer looking for a way to ease the burden of Google’s fast-paced, demanding environment. Mr. Tan’s program is very popular among employees, generating a waiting list each time it’s offered.

Cultivating mindfulness takes daily practice. Mindfulness allows us to live in the present, bringing a deeper understanding of what is happening and how we respond to it. I urge you to give it a try. You will be glad you did, and so will those around you.

Bill George is professor of management practice at Harvard Business School and author of True North and Authentic Leadership. He is the former chair and CEO of Medtronic. Read more at www.BillGeorge.org, or follow him on Twitter @Bill_George.

Bill George: The Tipping Point for Mindfulness.