Health

Why Google, Facebook and Twitter Execs Are Meeting With a Monk

In an age when we’re constantly being distracted, being able to focus is the golden goose.

We may thank technology platforms like Twitter and Facebook for shrinking our attention spans down to nanoseconds, but the executives of those selfsame companies know that to grow their businesses, they need to put a priority on focus.

 

At the Wisdom 2.0 conference being hosted in San Francisco next month, a group of tech heavyweights will come together with yoga practitioners, mindfulness specialists and even a Benedictine monk to learn how to work and live within the demands of technology more effectively.

Related: 10 Trends for 2014: We Seek Imperfect, Human Moments. With Our Smartphones at the Ready.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and Huffington Post CEO Arianna Huffington are on the roster of speakers along with top executives from Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram and LinkedIn. Also on the 2014 speaker rundown is Eckhart Tolle, the spiritual teacher and author of New York Times best seller The Power of Now.

The annual conference, which attracted 350 attendees when it was first held five years ago, is expected to attract 2,000 attendees this year. The conference runs February 14 through 17 and tickets range from $500 to $1,500 depending on how early you reserve a spot.

Related: Let Go, Keep it Simple, Move Quickly: Secrets to Being a Productive Entrepreneur (Infographic)

The growing interest in the conference mirrors a growing trend in our relationship with technology: As we become increasingly dependent on mobile devices and social networks, we struggle to not feel controlled by them. These questions and struggles pervade both our personal and professional lives, but business leaders and executives at the Wisdom 2.0 conference will specifically address how to perform more efficiently in the workplace.

For example, last year, Gopi Kallayil, the chief evangelist for Google+, talked about how to integrate the fundamentals of a yoga-practice to be a more productive professional. Kallayil, who was born in India and grew up practicing yoga, has five fundamental rituals that he implements in every single day: focus on the essential, do one thing at a time, take time to listen to your own body’s needs, make at least one minute for mindfulness each day and set appointments for the activities that will help you stay mindful.

 

London hospital promotes mediation as tension management tool

London hospital promotes mediation as tension management tool

Model helps resolve conflicts between family members and clinicians
December 10, 2013 | By 

A new project by the Medical Mediation Foundation, aimed at breaking down tension between family members and health professionals when there is a disagreement about a child’s course of treatment, is in full swing at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, The Guardian reported.

Noting the importance of communication between caregivers to a child’s recovery, the Evalina Resolution Project offers mediation at the request of parents or staff members, and trains hospital personnel in stress management techniques. It also teaches staff how to recognize triggers for conflict and ways to rebuild trust when a situation deteriorates, the article states.

More than 90 staff nurses have completed training sessions, with doctors set to begin training this month. The sessions help staff think about issues from the parents’ perspective and reflect on how their actions impact them, according to the article.

The program is especially helpful for staff who interact with parents of children in the hospital for long-term care, because they become experts in their children’s condition and “their threshold is lowered for what they’re prepared to tolerate from health professionals,” Medical Mediation Foundation Director Sarah Barclay, who set up the project, told The Guardian.

Mediation isn’t the only approach hospitals take to help personnel manage difficult situations and stress.

Cleveland Clinic in Ohio offers “Code Lavender,” a holistic care rapid response to clinicians in need. Within 30 minutes of hearing the code, a team of holistic nurses arrive to give Reiki, massages, healthy snacks, water and a lavender armband to remind the doctor or nurse to take it easy the rest of the day, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

In addition, an Aetna study found insurers can save money if their members participate in a mind-body stress reduction program, according to FierceHealthcare.

To learn more:
– here’s the article

Related Articles:
Hospitals try holistic approach to treat docs’ stress, burnout
How mind-body programs reduce stress, healthcare costs 
Hospitals offering alternative medicine tripled, based on patient demand
Trend: More physicians offer alternative medicine

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Breathing exercises, meditation improved inflammatory markers, quality of life in IBD patients

Breathing exercises, meditation improved inflammatory markers, quality of life in IBD patients

 

SAN DIEGO — Patients with mild-to-moderate inflammatory bowel disease who participated in a program of breathing, movement and meditation exercises experienced significant improvement to inflammatory markers and quality of life in a study presented at the American College of Gastroenterology Annual Scientific Meeting.

Researchers randomized 30 patients with mild-to-moderate IBD to participate in either a breathing, movement and meditation workshop (BBMW) or a control group undergoing a parallel educational seminar (ES). Inflammatory and psychometric markers were assessed via brief symptom inventory (BSI), Beck anxiety inventory (BAI), Beck depression index and IBD questionnaire (IBDQ) at baseline, with changes after 6 weeks as the primary endpoint and after 6 months as the secondary endpoint. Both groups received similar access to health care professionals.

Patients in the BBMW group experienced significant improvements to BSI after 6 weeks compared with the ES group (P=.02 for difference). Similarly, quality of life as measured by the IBDQ (P=.01) was significantly improved in the BBMW group, as were symptoms of anxiety (P=.02). These improvements all persisted after 6 months (P=.04 for BSI score, P=.03 for BSAI and P=.01 for IBDQ), and investigators noted additional improvements to perceived stress (P=.01), perceived disability (P=.001) and depression (P=.01).

At 6 weeks, fecal calprotectin levels had improved significantly in the ES group (P=.04), and numerically in the BBMW group. These changes were not maintained at the 6-month evaluation.

“Many of our young patients with IBD have a decreased quality of life from many symptoms, including diarrhea, bleeding and abdominal pain,” researcher Vinita E. Jacob, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College, toldHealio.com. “… While we have excellent medical therapy, it’s important to be broad-minded about other techniques that can be helpful in decreasing the inflammatory state in these particular patients. There are so many young patients who do not want to be on lifelong medication therapy; there is a role for stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system in these patients to help them feel better.”

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

For more information:

Jacob VE. P1064: Impact of Breathing and Education Programs on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Quality of Life (QOL) and Inflammatory Biomarkers. Presented at: The American College of Gastroenterology Annual Scientific Meeting; Oct. 11-16, San Diego.

Mediation, for people who can’t meditate

Mediation, for people who can’t meditate

By: Nitin Agarwal on Oct 18, 2013 | 218 Views | 5 Responses

The author is deeply influenced by ‘A Course in Miracles’, ‘The Power of Now’ and ‘Tripura Rahasya’, and gives various suggestions keeping in the mind the learning received from these books.

 

I am unable to meditate. When I sit to meditate, my mind wonders more wildly. I have tried it all but found no benefit. What do I do now?

 

Mediation is a great tool to enlightenment, but it’s not the only one.

 

What are the other ways?

 

If meditation has not worked for you, don’t worry. Try other means to switch off your mind.

Play, dance, sing, run, walk in the woods, eat, take a bath, enjoy sex, work, do anything that you would normally do, but with little caution.

Do what you are doing, but make a conscious effort to be fully involved in the doing.

 

I don’t understand this..

 

Observe your mind. See how it wonders uselessly. The mind will always tell you that what you are thinking is of extreme importance. Most of the time it will tell you that something has gone wrong in the past and you will have to face the consequence in future or get it right in future.

 

Is that not the right way? Should we not be introspecting and take necessary steps to improve our future?

 

All you are thinking about is the past or the future. Introspection is fine, but just see how much time is required for the same.

Constantly thinking about the past or the future, you miss the present.

Focus on the present, and do what you are doing. This is a 24 hour meditative state. You won’t need to sit and close your eyes and try to meditate.

 

Is it as good as meditation?

 

In meditation, you give a certain dedicated time. Being in the present, is taking benefits of meditation, while doing all your daily activities.

 

Will there be any spiritual progress?                     

 

God resides in a quiet mind. Meditation is a way to achieve a quiet mind. Being in the present is another way of keeping your mind quiet.

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/

Inner truth: Meditation Unplugged

Inner truth: Meditation Unplugged

Thursday, Oct 10, 2013, 8:21 IST | Agency: DNA

Meditation is largely prevalent nowadays because it is seen as an antidote to stress. However it is much more than just that.  Meditation is a way of life. It is to be lived. We have a vast reservoir of energy in us, lying unused, untapped. Once we get in touch with this energy, our life changes from just being an ordinary to a Divine one. Meditation is being in tune with our inner energy source.
It is about moving into the inner zones of emptiness, where stress can never touch you. It is to explore the inner space where you remain absolutely untouched from the ill-effects of the mind. All that is needed is the right method to move into that space. Being there is like being in an ocean of joy. Releasing ourselves from the clutches of our mind is called meditation.

Interestingly, meditation is not about doing something, but rather it is about doing nothing. The life of today’s man or woman is so hectic and fast paced that there is no time when one does absolutely nothing at all. To begin with, find a comfortable and quiet place to sit for 10-15 minutes every day. Stop all movements of body and mind to simply be by yourself, be still. The transformation that comes from the regular practice of meditation is gradual but certain to happen.

The author is a guru, mystic, contemporary spiritual master. For details, visit http://www.gurumaa.com

Modern meditation: Why incense and crossed legs are strictly optional

Modern meditation: Why incense and crossed legs are strictly optional

Former Buddhist monk and founder of online meditation course Headspace Andy Puddicome on why modern life doesn’t mean you can’t get some headspace

By  | Yahoo Lifestyle – Mon, Oct 7, 2013 17:29 BST

Meditation has had a makeover. No longer must you sit uncomfortably in a room, stifled by the scent of sandalwood, a green tea before you and the sound of Gregorian chants preparing you for the serious business of mindfulness.

No.

Today it’s not just a feel-good fix for those on the hippy fringe; mindfulness has shed its alternative image and gone mainstream, thanks, in no small part, to wellbeing website and app Headspace, created by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe.Headspace animations explain and encourage users to give their mind a workout [Headspace]

“There has been a massive change over the past five years in the way in which we perceive meditation,” says Andy, who describes the guided meditation on the site as ‘a gym membership for the mind’.

“Our aim is to demystify meditation,” he explains. “Mountaintops, granola, yogis in loin cloths sitting cross-legged – you don’t need any of that stuff to achieve a healthier, happier state of mind.”

Andy and co-founder Richard Pierson launched Headspace in 2010 promising mindfulness for modern living. The programme aims to equip the uninitiated with the techniques required to cultivate a daily lifelong practice in 10, 15, and 20 minute guided segments over 365 days.

The site now attracts more than 750,000 users worldwide and ranks number one on iTunes’ Health and Fitness chart, while Andy’s ‘10 mindful minutes’ has received over a million views on TED Talks.

The Headspace team works with a broad demographic, from the corporate world to the unemployed, and ages four right up to 91. Famous fans include Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma Watson and Davina McCall.
Why should we give meditation a go?

“The benefits of meditation are defined by the user,” Andy explains. “For some, this might mean feeling less stressed or anxious, or sleeping better.

“For others it might be physiological – lower blood pressure, for example, or for athletes, a better performance on the track.

“Then there are those who practise meditation for altruistic reasons – they want to experience a greater empathy with others. You define meditation by how you choose to use it.” 

An early devotee of the practice, Andy started attending mindfulness classes with his mother aged 10.

He decided to pursue it further while studying at university and relocated to a Buddhist monastery in Tibet, where he spent the next 10 years honing his skills before returning to the UK to share his experiences.

“I started practising meditation because I wanted a calmer, quieter mind and not to feel so overwhelmed by my emotions,” he tells us.

“Whenever I would come back to England to visit, I’d meet up with friends in the local pub in my Buddhist robes and would hear the same story over and over again – ‘I feel stressed all the time. It’s fine for you, you live in the mountains, it’s so quiet and peaceful there….’ but essentially, meditation is a technique that can be applied to anyone, anywhere.”  Andy Puddicomb takes users through a daily guided meditation [Headspace]

Mediation – a mind workout that really works

Still doubtful? Just look at the science. Numerous studies have shown that regular meditation can decrease stress and anxiety levels, boost the immune system, relieve pain, enhance cognitive functions and improve interpersonal relationships, to name but a few of the benefits, while Headspace is about to launch the largest meditation research study ever conducted, in partnership Yale University.

 “What’s driving the mainstream population is the science,” agrees Andy. “When I was growing up in the seventies, my mum used to jog through the village where we lived. People would stare at her like she was crazy because, of course, no one knew the benefits then.

“Over the years, science proved how good physical exercise is for you, and people became more aware of the need to take personal responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. The same is true for meditation. There are now so many scientific papers coming out on its advantages that it’s hard to ignore.”

Headspace users know only too well how restorative regular practise can be.

“People tell me on a daily basis how it’s changing their lives. Kids write in to say thanks for making their parents less angry, people who haven’t slept properly in 10-15 years are now getting a good night’s rest – I never tire of hearing things like this. It’s hard to imagine working on a nicer project.”

Find out more or sign up for your first course of 10 days for free at Headspace. Get some.

Confession of a Fidgety Meditator: HuffPost

Confession of a Fidgety Meditator

Posted: 10/07/2013 1:11 pm

Author and fitness expert

In my childhood home, each person was assigned a specific task. My dad’s job was to wash dishes after dinner. In retrospect, it’s not surprising the memory remains so vivid to me. I remember watching him as he lovingly handled the job every night. He was so methodical, never varying his routine. First he put on an apron, next he filled the sink with soap and water. (This was before most kitchens had automatic dishwashers.) Making sure the temperature was just right, he gently lowered each dish into its soapy place. The last step was setting out a drying towel on the counter. The preliminary work done, it was time to get on with the task at hand.

From the moment he completed the pre-routine, dad went on automatic. Today I realize that in his own way, this was his meditation — a time when he could be fully present. Nothing to think about except the rhythmic movement of lifting each dish out of the water, making sure it was clean, rinsing it off and placing it on the drying towel. His mind didn’t ask, “Hmm what’s my purpose here? What’s my next step? Can I quiet my mind? What is it I have to do after the dishes are done?” The calm radiated from his eyes, but I knew it was birthed in his heart. He was at total peace.

How can washing dishes put someone at peace and how can it be a meditation? By definition, meditation is continued or extended reflection or a fixing of thought on something… the ability to maintain a single-pointed concentration that promotes a sense of well-being. This labor of love was something he could count on. He knew if he did the preparation, he’d be in the “zone.” Same time every night, same place, same preparation, same results. Everyone knew this was dad’s quiet time, so nobody bothered him. Dad was perfectly happy in his domain, focused on the task and nothing more.

I’m not suggesting you hand wash dishes. I’m suggesting that meditation is not mysterious, it’s not a woo-woo religious experience. It’s simply being able to still the “monkey mind” long enough to relax into a feeling of well-being, not concerned about the outside world. There is no new skill to learn. You already know how. Ask yourself where in life you get that incredible feeling of peace and well-being that comes from one pointed intention and total relaxation. Is it painting, cooking, soaking in a hot tub, riding a bike, singing? Once you determine your particular nirvana, create a pre-meditation routine that will transport you into the same space — the one my dad was in every night after dinner, and use it before you “officially” meditate — at the same time, same place, every day. Just as the soap and water washed away the debris of our dinners, your meditation time will wash away the cares of the day.

How easy is it to start or restart a meditation practice? No need to leave the house. No worries about bad hair days, no class fee and no pre-requisite training. You can meditate anytime, day or night. Just boot up your laptop. How easy it that? Don’t put off giving yourself the gift of meditation. It will change your life dramatically. Find a series that is about to begin, register online and embark on a wondrous journey to your real self.

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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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Loving-Kindness Meditation and Change – HuffPost

Loving-Kindness Meditation and Change

Posted: 10/02/2013 7:58 am
By Angela Wilson, MA, RYT

One increasingly popular form of meditation is loving-kindness meditation (LKM), the practice of wishing oneself and others to be happy, content and at ease. In the yoga tradition, loving-kindness is seen as an opportunity to “cultivate the opposite.”

Where many meditation techniques encourage students to explore difficult feelings or emotions directly, in loving-kindness the invitation is to send well wishes to oneself (who is in distress) as well as the other (who we feel distress toward). This isn’t meant to suppress the feelings as they arise, but instead it can be thought of as a soothing balm, something gently placed on a wound for healing.

Over the past several years, as meditation research has become more prevalent, science has become interested in the effects of loving-kindness practice on the mind and the body. Under the guidance of such well-known contemplatives as the Dalai Lama, researchers believed that LKM would offer similar benefits to other forms of meditation, such as breath meditation or open-awareness meditation.

As it turns out, LKM offers unique benefits that are subtly different from other kinds of meditation. What are those differences? Some just might surprise you.

LKM is a key tool for an optimal life.

One benefit of LKM is that loving-kindness reduces the stress response. Those who practice even a short course of LKM (say over the course of eight weeks) experience less distress than those who do not by the end of those eight weeks, according to this study. Probably no huge surprise there, right?

However, further exploration into this practice may intrigue you. The study on the effect of compassion meditation also investigated the impact of LKM on the body’s inflammatory and neuroendocrine system. At first preliminary results revealed that LKM showed no discernable differences in inflammation compared to the control group.

However, when divided into high-practice group verses low-practice group (i.e., those who practiced LKM each day compared to those with minimal practice) the results became more striking. The high-practice group saw a significant decrease in inflammation compared to the low-practice and no-practice groups. This research highlights two important findings. First, that not only can LKM subjectively reduce distress, but it can impact the body’s physiology as well (in this case, LKM reduced inflammation). The second, equally noteworthy finding is that this only happened for those who activity engaged in the practice of LKM. Simply attending a meditation class once a week was not enough to produce a change. Students had to practice at least a little each day.

Another pivotal study in the investigation of LKM was conducted by positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson. Dr. Fredrickson and her team investigated the impact of LKM not only on emotions, but also on how this practice could actually build personal resources (cognitive, emotional and physical). Her research team invited a group of people to practice LKM over the course of nine weeks. Participants in the LKM group had to practice at least a little every day, and researchers measured subjects on a variety of outcomes — including their experiences of positive emotions, their immunity to illness and their relationships to others. Her question: Could LKM actually build a person’s personal resources?

It did. In their seminal research paper, Dr. Fredrickson and her team write,

The practice of LKM led to shifts in people’s daily experiences of a wide range of positive emotions, including love, joy, gratitude, contentment, hope, pride, interest, amusement and awe. These shifts in positive emotions took time to appear and were not large in magnitude, but over the course of nine weeks, they were linked to increases in a variety of personal resources, including mindful attention, self-acceptance, positive relationships with others and good physical health… They enabled people to become more satisfied with their lives and to experience fewer symptoms of depression.

These findings are powerful.

The Brain on LKM.

So we know that LKM positively impacts our emotions, our physical health, our sense of connection. But does that translate to an impact on the brain?

Neuroscientific meditation researcher Richard Davidson from the University of Wisconsin became interested in just that question. He has extensively studied the effect of meditation, including LKM, on the brain. He had a simple question. Would LKM change the brain? To investigate the exact implication of this practice on the brain he invited two groups of subjects into his lab: those who had at least 10,000 hours of LKM under their meditative belt and those who were interested, but new to meditation. He invited both these groups into the fMRI scanner to see how LKM would impact the brain.

The results were clear. The practice of LKM changed several important brain regions: both the insula and the temporal parietal junction (TPJ) lit up as a result of LKM. The insula is the part of the brain responsible for our ability to empathize with others, and to make oneself aware of emotional and physical present-moment experiences. While both groups saw an increase in insula activity, the group with 10,000 hours of experience showed significantly more activation than the other group. This group was experiencing higher levels of compassion than the non-practicing group.

A similar finding appeared for the TPJ. The TPJ, like the insula, is also related to our ability to process empathy and our ability to attune to the emotional states of others. Again, compared to short-term meditators, those with a long-term meditation practice showed significant activation of this brain region.

Loving-kindness creates feelings of social connection.

Given this research, it is no surprise that LKM has been shown to increase social connectedness, even for strangers. A study conducted by a group of researchers from Stanford University found that in just seven minutes of LKM, subjects reported greater social connection toward others. Other studies have shown that the feeling of social connection can predict changes in a person’s vagal tone (a physiological measurement of resilience and overall well-being).

As a yoga teacher for Kripalu’s Frontline Providers Program, I have the opportunity to teach the Loving-Kindness practice to members of a workforce who are at high risk for compassion fatigue — health-care providers. In just the 10 minutes that I invite participants to practice LKM toward themselves and others, something powerful emerges. Some students begin to cry. Some bring their hand softly to their heart. Some physically relax. Afterward, when I invite the group to look around at each other, the sense of connection is palpable.

What is striking about the research and about the experience teaching is that these changes can happen in a short amount of time. Concentrated practice is essential. Even a few minutes creates a shift, and that shift is marked.

The Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying, “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” And indeed, it seems that in fact, with a little practice, LKM has the potential not only to improve our connection with ourselves, but to foster deeper connection and care for others as well.

For more from Kripalu, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.