Unwind your Mind

Robert Piper: America’s New Workout for the Brain

Half of America exercises at least three or more times a week. I’m not sure why at least half of Americans don’t do meditation, considering the benefits. America is one of the most resilient countries in the world; the DNA of this country is made up of people that took risks and came from all over the world. I think Americans need to adopt a practice that’s been shown to increase resilience and compassion.

Why is everyone in America not using a tool that may make you more compassionate, resilient, kind, and happy?

One thing I noticed enormously from the time I started meditation is that the practice has made me a happier and more compassionate person. I’m not perfect, and I’m sure there are people out there who think I’m not compassionate at all, and they are entitled to their opinion. But the reality is it’s something I consciously work on because of meditation.

I grew up in a culture where most of my guy friends are alpha males who love sports, and work in corporate America. They like to joke around and greet each other with a series of insults. Anyone who observes this would think that it is a comedy show. Now this is not good or bad, this is just a part of the subculture. If you ever go into a locker room of football players in the NFL, you might see a similar subculture.

If you would have heard the jokes that were made about me doing meditation, then you would understand where I’m coming from. Outside of the mindfulness and yoga communities in America, meditation is still not mainstream.

I admire Dr. Richard Davidson for his pioneering research in the area of meditation. I think programs like the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at University of Wisconsin-Madison are causing a ripple effect on bringing meditation to the masses. Or the work that Congressman Tim Ryan is doing with promoting the positive effects of meditation.

I think the millions of Americans who exercise should be meditating before and after they jump on the treadmill. Why is this not possible? They adopted an iPod into their workout. They should be meditating before work, and they should be doing some meditation during their lunch break to stay focused.

Ten years from now, this practice is going to be seen as just like doing a push-up.

Here are four ways to make the practice a part of your life:

1. At Work

Come up with various ways to incorporate meditation into your work schedule, whether it’s before, during, or after work. Try to bring your attention to your breathing whenever you feel stressed out, this can be done at any time throughout the day. Another option would be do it at your lunch break.

2. Before You Exercise

I find meditation to be immensely beneficial to be used before exercising. If you’re a runner, try to do at least 10 to 15 minutes of meditation right before you run. Then you can make your run a moving meditation.

3. Right When You Wake Up

If you do meditation right when you wake up in the morning, it will impact every area of your life. Try to do a few minutes of meditation every morning before you start your day.

4. Schedule a Five-Day Challenge

Make a commitment today that you are going to do meditation every day for the next five days straight. Meditation is like anything else — once you get over the initial difficulties, like trying to focus your mind, it becomes easy.

For more by Robert Piper, click here.

For more on meditation, click here.

Follow Robert Piper on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rgpiper

via Robert Piper: America’s New Workout for the Brain.

 

Meditation as Performance Art: Calling all Meditators!

Looking for Meditators of all traditions!

From Vipassana, QiGong Practitioners, Yogis and Yoginis to Kirtan Performers and other Meditation Practitioners to share your sacred practice in a sacred space for the benefit of people curious about meditation and interested in learning more about meditation. 

Please read the complete Artist Statement for more information.  You are encouraged to bring brochures or other informational materials to leave behind throughout the month long exhibition.

Performances are scheduled June 13th, during West Seattle Art Walk from 6p-9p and closing June 28th 7p-10p.  Other performances can be scheduled throughout the month at Mind Unwind Gallery in West Seattle.

Please fill out the form below to share your Sacred Self!

Blessings, Metta and Namaste,

Karah Pino – Artist and Meditator

Rebecca Lammersen: Silencing the Myth of Meditation: You Don’t Have to Sit Still to Be Present

“I can do this. Just 20 minutes. Just sit still. My shoulder itches. Stop thinking about it! My foot is falling asleep, almost numb. The numbness is always the opening act for the pins and needles. That would be a good name for a band, The Pins and Needles, and here they come, singing right up my leg. I’ve never been able to decide whether moving helps them go away faster or just makes it worse. I think I should go get more yogurt cups for the girls at Trader Joe’s. Oh, and I need more apples too. Okay, my shoulder really itches now, I’ve got to itch it. Just breathe a little longer. Speaking of, how long has it been? Don’t look, don’t do it!”

I peel my upper lid from my lower lid, just enough so no one will notice, even though the only living creature nearby is a quail squatting outside my door, and I doubt he can see past his beak.

“Really? It’s only been two minutes? Who am I meditating for? Why would I care if someone sees me open my eyes? I feel defeated. I can’t even sit for two minutes without a full chorus of complaints and to-dos.”

This is how it used to be.

For 10 years, I struggled my way through every meditation. I had the desire and the discipline, yet I couldn’t seem to be anywhere, but elsewhere.

A few years ago, I began asking the question, Why? Why do I meditate? and Why can’t I meditate? From the why came the how: How do I meditate?

Meditation is a science — the science of understanding the pathways of the brain and how they react to different situations, experiences and stimuli. Through this understanding, we can learn how to respond to these reactions and train the brain to focus.

Before we can have a purposeful meditation and yoga practice, we must first become a scientist fluent in the physics of the practice. It is impossible to bepresent in stillness for any amount of time without knowing how our brain functions.

Until we aquire this knowledge, sitting is ineffective — a waste of time, and detrimental to our well being due to the unnecessary pressure and expectation that breeds from our naiveté.

“Practice and all is coming.”

These are the wise words of the late Pattabhi Jois, the master of Ashtanga. I agree, as long as there is a method to the practice and guidance of the method.

Practice may bring a mastery that mimics perfection, but practice also creates suffering if one does not know what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Attempting to sit in meditation without learned technique is comparable to placing a 2-year-old on the floor of the NYSE and expecting him to navigate the system on his own while conducting the trades for the day.

Chaos amidst chaos. Chaos causes more chaos. My favorite description of enlightenment is, “Enlightenment is learning not to make more struggle of the existing struggle.”

In this situation, not making more struggle would be grooming and teaching a person how to traverse the trading floor with grace, discerning the viable trades within the noise and creating a profit.

Meditation is the same. We learn how the brain operates, cultivating the tools to manage it, before we sit down to listen to it. The profit bestowed to an educated meditator is a contented life, with an abundance of efficiency, discernment and intention. We respond more and react less, because we (the mind) have learned how to direct the brain as it keeps the trading floor open all day, every day.

The brain is the NYSE, the mind is the trader.

The brain and the mind are two separate parts, as are the spirit and the soul. In order for them to work synergistically, they must be studied separately, understood individually and then, connected together.

Before we can be present in stillness, we may want to learn how to be present in action.

The other day, a woman approached me, and in one stressed breath she asked: “My friend told me you are a yoga teacher, and I’ve always wanted to meditate and be present, and I just want to learn how, how can I meditate?”

I asked, “You probably already do and you don’t even know it. What do you love to do that calms you?”

Her face relaxed and she replied quietly, “I like to run. I can hear myself breathe. I feel my feet and I notice my surroundings.”

“So you see? You already meditate. Just do it more, in other facets of your life. Turn any chore or repetitive action into a sensory overload, and see if you can separate each sense from the other. For example, when I vacuum, I am only vacuuming. I pay attention to the feel of the handle in my hand. The vibration and hum as I turn it on, how the vacuum resists as it stumbles across a crumb on the carpet, and the sound of the crumb as it is chewed inside the canister.

“I am completely there, in the experience, hearing, feeling, seeing — sensing. I am fixating my brain on a task as my mind remains concentrated in the experience. I extract myself from my surroundings, so that I may be in it, being in it, is being present.”

Her response began with a sigh of relief. “Oh my gosh, I can totally do that.”

“Yes you can,” I encouraged.

The “how to” begins with attention — paying attention and educating ourselves about the mechanics of the brain. That’s it.

Before we can sit still and meditate like a monk in a Nepalese cave, we need to learn how bathe within ourselves, in the active moment, without thinking of the next action.

This is presence, being present and I think it may even be a little something “they” like to call enlightenment.

Rebecca Lammersen: Silencing the Myth of Meditation: You Don’t Have to Sit Still to Be Present.

 

Heart Math Institute: Video on Global Coherence plus an Unwind your Mind Meditation Track to practice

The Heart Math Institute has a phenomenal body of research on the measurable impacts of the resonance of our beating hearts, both physiologically and emotionally.  Learn more on the Meditation Resources page.

To practice working on increasing your own personal heart coherence, you can work with this Meditation from the Unwind your Mind CD:

Below you will find a fascinating video about the global impacts of joining in our personal heart coherence by the Heart Math Institute.

The Spiritual Heart — is in a way a little like a smart phone, invisibly connecting us to a large network of information. It is through an unseen energy that the heart emits that humans are profoundly connected to all living things. The energy of the heart literally links us to each other. Every person’s heart contributes to a ‘collective field environment.’ This short video explains the importance of this connection and how we each add to this collective energy field. The energetic field of the heart even connects us with the earth itself.

The Institute of HeartMath (http://www.heartmath.org) is helping provide a more comprehensive picture of this connection between all living things through a special science-based project called the Global Coherence Initiative (http:///www.glcoherence.org.) They hope to help explain the mysteries of this connection between people and the earth…and even the sun.

Scientists at the Institute of HeartMath (IHM) have already conducted extensive research on the power of heart, the heart/brain connection, heart intelligence and practical intuition.

Whether personal relationships, social connections, or even the global community – we are all connected through a field of electromagnetic energy. Increasing individual awareness of what we bring to this field environment could be the key to creating a sustainable future, a future that we can be proud to have helped create. Learn more about this research, http://www.heartmath.org/heart-intell…, scroll to bottom of the page.

Meditation as Art: “The Sacred Shadow Self” – Creating Sacred Space – Sketches

Here are the final architectural sketches for The Sacred Shadow Self light and shadow installation June 2013 at Mind Unwind Gallery:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

See how it turns out at Mind Unwind this June!

Part of my great joy in making art is seeing how ideas end up manifesting as they change and adapt to different circumstances. Hope you’ll come play with your sacred shadow self!

-Karah Pino, MAcOM, Artist

media: paper, light, refractions and shadows 

performance: mindfulness, qigong, yoga, chanting, singing bowls,

and other meditative arts

“The Sacred Shadow Self” is an interactive art installation including live meditation performances opening June 2013 at Mind Unwind Gallery ~ West Seattle.

~Still looking for QiGong, Yoga and other Meditation Performers!!~

To join in meditation, please fill out the form at the end of the Artist Statement.

“We are all a precious child of creator and as such our shadow is also a sacred part of our selves as the precious children of the holy people our ancestors in the context of the natural order in the universe.” 

Patricia Anne Davis, Navajo Wisdom Keeper

“Unwinding the Mind” Meditation Technique: Responding creatively to stress by Karah Pino, MAcOM

Responding creatively to stress.

Instead of reacting to situations with our old  instincts, we can learn to respond thoughtfully and creatively. When we practice observing our own reactions, we can better understand the nature of our old instinctual patterns.  After allowing our initial, instinctive reaction to pass by,  we then have more time to choose how to respond with intention and care.

The experience of being in a meditative state is one of calmness, peacefulness and a sense of well-being.  After meditating, this sense of well-being will continue for a half a day (or until the next stressful event).  Research has shown that 20 minutes of meditation can lower cortisol stress hormone levels for 12 hours.  This helps us to understand why meditation traditions around the world encourage meditation twice a day!

After meditating regularly, you will find that you are able to regain your calm more and more easily after a stressful event.  You will also find that the feeling of peace gives your creative mind more space to find solutions to problems and this leads to less worry because you begin to trust in your abilities more and more.

Download this guided meditation for free:

20 minute Guided Meditation: Observation of the Breath MP3

Watching our thoughts and feelings as children on the playground of our imagination.

Unwind your Mind

Meditation Instruction and CD

Know as children know, that these thoughts and feelings are temporary.  Know that you are free to leave the playground game sat any time.  Watch as the spinning wheels and grinding gears slow to a stop.  Feel the peaceful stillness of a mind unwound.

Karah Pino, MAcOM is the creator and instructor of Unwind your Mind, a meditation course designed to help you discover for yourself the benefits of meditation and choose the style best suited to you.

 

Walk Through Green Space Could Help Put Brain In State Of Meditation, Study Finds

Entering a more ‘zen’ mindset could be as easy as taking a walk in the park, according to a small new study.

New research from scientists at Heriot-Watt University in the U.K. conducted mobile brain electrical activity testing on volunteers to find that the brain enters a meditative state when going through green spaces.

The findings have “implications for promoting urban green space as a mood-enhancing environment for walking or for other forms of physical or reflective activity,” they wrote in the study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The study included 12 healthy adults who walked through three kinds of environments in Edinburgh while being hooked up to mobile electroencephalography devices (which tracked their emotions). They took a 25-minute walk through a city shopping street, through a green space, and on a street in a busy business area. The mobile electroencephalography tracked emotions including frustration, meditation, short-term and long-term excitement, and engagement.

Researchers found that feelings of meditation were the highest when the study participants were going through the green space, as well as less frustration, long-term excitement and engagement.

The New York Times reported that the findings don’t mean the green space triggered spacing out — rather, the engagement required to walk through a green space is more “effortless,” study researcher Jenny Roe told the publication.

“It’s called involuntary attention in psychology. It holds our attention while at the same time allowing scope for reflection,” Roe told the Times.

And taking a walk in the park or a hike outdoors is good for our brains in more ways than one — the University of Washington reports that spending time in nature helps to conquer mental fatigue and even boost cognitive functioning.

For more benefits of being outdoors, click through the slideshow:

via Walk Through Green Space Could Help Put Brain In State Of Meditation, Study Finds.

 

Research Comparing The Neural Images Of Three Different Types Of Meditation

About the Author: Fred Travis, Ph.D. is the Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition, and an Associate Professor of Maharishi Vedic Science at Maharishi University of Management.

There are many systems of meditation that widely differ from one another in their procedures, contents, objects, beliefs, and goals. Given these differences, it is not surprising that research has shown they have different subjective and objective effects. Scientific research on one type of meditation cannot be generalized to effects from any type of meditation.

Let us compare three forms of meditation. Scientific research on the functioning of the brains of practitioners of these techniques have been published in peer-reviewed journals. The three forms in this document are: Mindfulness Meditation (also called Insight Meditation or Vipassana), Tibetan Buddhist Tsonghakapa, and the Transcendental Meditation® technique from the ancient Vedic tradition of India. These three methods have different procedures, different neural images (pictures of the brain or brain functioning), and different EEG patterns (electrical activity of the brain).

Type of Meditation Procedure
Insight, Vipassana, Mindfulness Observation [Reference 1]
Tibetan Buddhism Concentration [2]
Transcendental Meditation Technique Effortless Transcending [3]

Different Neural Images

The neural images of different types of meditation are distinctly different. Brain blood flow and brain metabolic rate can be imaged with modern neural imaging techniques using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or PET (Positron Emission Tomography). These data are from independent labs reports and published research.

Type of Meditation: Mindfulness
Neural Images: Thicker right insula, thicker right frontal, thicker sensory [4]
Explanation: Higher gray matter volume—more connections—are reported in areas used in focusing of attention (right frontal areas) and brain areas involved with sensory perception: the right insula (taste and emotionally relevant context), right parietal (touch) and right temporal (hearing). Thicker cortex suggests these local areas are used during Mindfulness.

Type of Meditation: Tibetan Buddhism
Neural Images: Activity in the frontal (left) increases; activity in the thalamus increases; activity in the parietal lobe decreases. [5]
Explanation: In Tibetan Buddhist Tsonghakapa meditation, activity in the frontal lobe increases—this is what happens when focusing. Activity increases in the thalamus, the gateway of activation to the brain. Activity decreases in the parietal lobe (the area of visual attention, spatial orientation, and cross-modal matching)

Type of Meditation: Transcendental Meditation Technique
Neural Images: Activity in the frontal (left) increases; activity in the thalamus decreases; activity in the parietal lobe increases. [6]
Explanation: During the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, frontal lobe activity increases, and so does the parietal lobe. But the thalamus (the gateway of activation to the brain) is less active. This is called restful alertness—pure wakefulness: heightened alertness in the midst of deep silence for mind and body.

The curious reader is invited to read the complete presentation that I gave at the Science of Consciousness conference in Tucson, AZ, April 2006. The complete slideshow also explains in more detail how these three types of meditation compare in terms of brain metabolic rate, and in EEG patterns.

Conclusion

Meditations differ in procedure, in patterns of brain blood flow, brain metabolic rate and EEG patterns. They also differ in reported benefits. One cannot generalize the effects and benefits of one meditation to all meditations.

End Notes

1. Meditation in the Tibetan Buddhism Kargyu tradition has been described as: “Reasoned deconstruction of the reality of objects experienced in meditation, as well as concentrative practices to create moods such as “pure compassion,” “loving kindness” or “no self.” This involves focused attention, and control of the mind. It is a system of concentration.
2. Mindfulness Meditation is described by Paul Grossman as “Systematic procedure to develop enhanced awareness of moment-to-moment experiences.” Mindfulness includes two meditation practices: with eyes closed: attention on breath, and with eyes open: “dispassionate observation of body, senses and environment.” This meditation involves intention or directing of attention to physiological rhythms, inner thoughts, sensations or outer objects.
3. EEG (electroencephalogram) tests show that TM is effortless because it is quickly mastered (there is no difference during the practice of TM in the EEG of someone who has been practicing regularly for 10 years versus someone who has been practicing regularly for 4 months). However, the waking state EEG of these subjects are distinctly different (the more months or years the subject has been practicing the TM technique, the more coherent their EEG pattern while resting with their eyes open).
4. Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D.
N., Treadway, M. T., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B. T., Dusek, J. A., Benson, H., Rauch, S. L., Moore, C. I. & Fischl, B. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16, 1893-7.
5. Newberg, A., Alavi, A., Baime, M., Pourdehnad, M., Santanna, J. & d’Aquili, E. (2001). The measurement of regional cerebral blood flow during the complex cognitive task of meditation: a preliminary SPECT study. Psychiatry Research, 106, 113-22.
6. Newberg, A., Travis, F., Wintering, N., Nidich, S., Alavi, A. & Schneider, R. (2006). Cerebral Glucose Metabolic Changes Associated with Transcendental Meditation Practice. Spring meeting, Neural Imaging, Miami, Fl.

Comparing The Neural Images Of Three Different Types Of Meditation.

Coming June 2013: The Sacred Shadow Self: interactive light installation with live meditation performances

Artist Karah Pino, MAcOM transforms the Mind Unwind Gallery with live meditation performances, a paper installation and multiple interacting light sources giving viewers a chance to play the game of shadow finding, observing the effect of shadows and light to bring a new awareness of the space we are in. Playing with your sacred shadow self is a reminder that you are in the world of substance, you are more than your thoughts and feelings, but also matter interacting with the materiality of what exists around you.

I hope you enjoy exploring the space of the Sacred Shadow as a 2-year-old does,

in divine celebration of being in the world.

-Karah Pino, MAcOM, Artist

interactive light installation

with

live meditation performances

The-Sacred-Shadow-Header

Mind Unwind Gallery
– West Seattle-

media: paper, light, refractions and shadows

performance: mindfulness, qigong, yoga, chanting, singing bowls,

and other meditative arts

opening performance June 13, 6p-9p

closing performance June 28, 7p-10p

“We are all a precious child of creator and as such our shadow is also a sacred part of our selves as the precious children of the holy people our ancestors in the context of the natural order in the universe.” 

Patricia Anne Davis, Navajo Wisdom Keeper

artist statement – excerpt

I first heard the term Sacred Shadow Self in a conversation with Navajo Wisdom Keeper, Patricia Anne Davis. My son was 2 years old and just learning about the magic of shadows. Patricia and I were watching Alvin playing with his shadow when Patricia explained to me how the Navajo word for shadow conveyed the entire concept she described as the Sacred Shadow Self. In the indigenous worldview all life is sacred. As such, a shadow cast by a living being between the Sun and the Earth is also sacred. In this way, the Sacred Shadow of the Self is a result of being in the world of substance.

Vitalize the Brain Concept Sketch

Vitalize the Brain Concept Sketch

In this show I wanted to give participants the opportunity to experience their own sacred shadow self through performance and light. The experience of observing the sacredness of meditative moments in experienced meditators trained in the art of meditation gives viewers the opportunity to join in the meditation by building their observer mind. The observer mind is the practice of being mindful and present in awareness while remaining calm, non-reactive and non-judgemental. – Read the Complete Artist Statement here

Sacred Tree Shadows Concept Sketch

Sacred Tree Shadows Concept Sketch

To sign up as a meditation performer for The Sacred Shadow Self Installation and Performance Art in June 2013, please fill out the form at the bottom of the Artist Statement Page.

B.R.E.A.T.H.E: The Neuroscience of Breathing Techniques TED talk

This is an extra long TED talk by Neuroscientist Alan Watkins talking about how to “Be Brilliant Every Single Day”.

In the second half he talks about how breathing techniques work physiologically.  He mentions that there are 12 different ways that the breath can be adjusted, but only talked about the most important three:

  1. Rhythmically
  2. Smoothly
  3. Location of the focus during the breath (in the center of the chest)

To remember this, Dr Watkins uses the acronym B.R.E.A.T.H.E:

  • Breathe
  • Regularly
  • Through the
  • Heart
  • Everyday

He also shows a graph which describes two variances of experience, one being the Sympathetic (flight/fight) neurological pattern and the Parasympathetic (rest/digest) pattern.  His explanation about how where we are on that trajectory is less important than the Negative (cortisol driven) emotional system vs. the Positive (DHEA driven) emotional system trajectory was quite fascinating.

He explains that we can use breathing techniques to bring us to the center of the Negative/Positive Emotional system, but that to be optimal we need to be able to regulate our emotional state and stay in the positive.  This makes sense to me as a meditation instructor because the breathing techniques are so often used in conjunction with deeper emotionally based meditation techniques such as METTA meditation, Tonglen and other methods of training ourselves to emote love and peace.

Download a free Meditation Track from Unwind your Mind here.