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Exercise Your Mind Just Like Your Abs With 10-Minute Mindfulness

You don’t have to spend a month meditating to enjoy the benefits of mindfulness.

New research has found that short intervals of practicing mindfulness — even as brief as 10 minutes each day — can cause “really profound changes” in the brain, according to author Maria Konnikova, who examined memory and creativity in the book“Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.”

As Konnikova recently wrote in the New Yorker, achieving mindfulness can be just as easy as “10-Minute Abs.” Faithfully practicing mindfulness for 10 minutes each day will sharpen your brain, but Konnikova warns that it’s equally important to keep up the routine even after you feel the benefits.

“You’re going to lose your mindfulness abs if you stop practicing,” she said.

Learn more about the benefits of 10 minutes of daily mindfulness each day in the video HERE.

Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski are taking The Third Metric on a three-city tour: NY, DC & LA. Tickets are on sale now at thirdmetric.com.

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.

 

Flynn Coleman: Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness: “Trends” That Could Change Everything

I have a not-so-modest proposal: Mindfulness can change the world.

Okay, I’ll pause here, because I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I’m from California. Yes, actually, I have spent a little time in the “People’s Republic of Berkeley.” Okay, a lot of time. And yes, you guessed it, I do teach mindfulness, yoga and meditation seminars to all types of organizations, from corporations to schools. All of which is to say that, on this topic, I’m biased. But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Let me rephrase: I believe that we can find ways to improve our own lives that directly benefit the lives of others, from the people in the next cubicle to the people in places that we can’t find on a (non-digital, non-search assisted) map. We can bring more clarity and joy to our own lives and, by doing so, bring joy to others. We can start small, by paying more attention to the present moment. Next, we can get a bit more ambitious, and make mindfulness a part of our educational programs and our daily lives. In short, we can change the world by fostering greater “mindfulness” — attentive awareness that promotes focus, creativity, and compassion — and we can do it at every level: personal, institutional, societal, and global.

Maybe, before we go further, I should tell you a bit more about myself. I’m an attorney and an entrepreneur. I first became serious about yoga as a college soccer player. Then, I thought of it as just another form of exercise. It was only during my sometimes-very-stressful years as a law student and a big-firm lawyer that I came to understand the incredible power of yoga and meditation to transform and improve virtually every aspect of my life. With time, I saw that this power also offered remarkable benefits for my professional life.

It’s no wonder, then, that everyone seems to be catching on. Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, foundational elements of ancient Eastern beliefs and practice, have become certifiable modern “trends.” Wisdom 2.0, the non-conference-like conference (think tribe talks, yoga lounges, and nap time in the Google Chill Lounge) drew thousands of us together to discuss integrating mindfulness into business, technology, and society. From Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Cisco, to HuffPost’s own Arianna Huffington, modern thought leaders are integrating mindfulness into their lives and their institutions, and it’s working.

For individuals, mindfulness is exciting because it helps us to discover new and powerful dimensions of ourselves. For groups and organizations, mindfulness is exciting because it can lead to better communication, greater empathy, and a culture of creativity and innovation.

Dynamic corporate cultures have witnessed how mindfulness and social awareness are important components of an effective modern business strategy. Consider one of the most prominent business trends to emerge in recent years: “conscious capitalism.” From Patagonia’s “Common Threads” program to Warby Parker’s “Buy a Pair, Give A Pair” strategy, to my own company’s “OM for OM” initiative, this movement underscores the growing connection between businesses, consumers, mindful practices, and social good.

It’s because Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, spends his years outdoors that he works to protect the environment that inspires his designs. He is also pioneering the industry by challenging his customers to recycle more and buy less of his merchandise. As Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist, would say, Chouinard found his bliss (being outside and protecting nature), and remains true to it. In turn, millions of others remain true to his brand. This is the authenticity and compassion that mindfulness can help us find.

So how can organizations adapt to a rapidly evolving digital landscape while also promoting social good? Well, amid dramatic technological advancements and the ever-increasing proliferation of access to information, business practices are being revolutionized. In the new “connection economy,” amidst an increasingly crowded marketplace, companies must tell their stories, attune their messages, and operate with genuine authenticity to connect with consumers. This is what moves people to buy, work with you, and believe in you. Building these connections with others starts with knowing yourself. This principle is as salient for institutions as it is for individuals.

As Dan Pink says in his book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, on the new art of selling: “Make it personal and make it purposeful.” Sales today, as Dan describes them, are about being attuned, buoyancy, and clarity. Do these words sound yogic to anyone else? Yep, they do. Turning inward is how we begin to find clarity and harmony, which allow us to be more productive, communicative, and innovative. Finding this sense of balance is vital for becoming personally effective. And instilling widespread balance and focus among employees should be a foundational goal for all companies serious about competing in this new landscape.

It’s what Bill George, former legendary CEO of Medtronic, said was the key to effective leadership: going from “I” to “we,” and why Google’s Chade-Meng Tan thinks the greatest companies have compassionate leaders. After all, to inspire means “to breathe into.” And the fact that yoga, meditation, and mindfulness all come back to the breath is no coincidence.

And mindfulness at work doesn’t mean trading suits and spreadsheets for peacock-patterned leggings and kombucha tea (though I’m a fan of both). It simply means finding ways to become more aware, tapping into our reserves of creative leadership and compassion, and then practicing these skills. Because it’s always a practice.

Mindfulness is not only “on-trend.” It’s an ancient principle, as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. It can help us grow more attentive, creative, resilient, and successful. In doing so, it can create ripples of awareness and positivity that will reverberate through our communities, our society, and our world. This is why mindfulness is not only cool, but crucial for the future of our society. As Richard Branson says, “Let’s do business like there is a tomorrow.” But to create a better tomorrow, we must start by being more mindful today.

Flynn Coleman: Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness: “Trends” That Could Change Everything.

 

Anthony Strano: Meditation and Motivation

Meditation, in the form of reflection and examination, helps me to create and maintain my motivation. For newness and clarity of perception, ideals and aims, we need to relax our grip on old habits, on old ways of thinking and seeing and thus create a space for something new and inspirational.

Motivation is an inner positive energy, a combination of enthusiasm and clear perception that enables us to accomplish a task. Motivation keeps us determined and on course, otherwise it is so easy to be distracted by problems, novelties and laziness. What does motivation do? It moves us from one reality to another, from where I am to where I wish to be. Motivation is sustained when a sense of purpose, identity and contribution is being fulfilled.

When we want to reactivate our motivation, we need to examine the following:

What do I want?

What do I wish for?

What do I value?

What do I need?

What do I enjoy?

What do I understand?

What do I love?

When we sit down and reflect on the answers to these questions, they become the basis for activating new insights and tasks and for reactivating those insights and tasks, which I have forgotten to pay proper attention to and have not developed properly. Throughout life it is necessary, from time to time, to stand back, become silent and redefine, reevaluate, and experiment, over and over again, with what we know or what we think we know. It is a simple exercise, which, if done sincerely, stimulates in our thoughts and in our motivational pattern.

Therefore, to change or widen my pattern, I need to:

redefine

re-examine

reorientate

relearn

Then newness, creativity and quality are generated.

Successful motivation depends on having a clear aim. How much do I believe in my aim? Faith in my aim determines the quality of effort and willingness to meet challenges. There will be successful renewal of motivation when I realize that there is always the opportunity to exercise the power of choice.

Another question that helps us in sustaining motivation is: “What is really most important to me: product or process?” Process entails growth, development and learning — cultivation of the awareness and resources of the self and others. To be product-orientated tends to over-focus on result with not enough care or attention to the underlying processes needed to arrive at that result. The quick-fix method, the “success in seven days” formula, does not really work, at least not permanently. If we look at nature, we see that her beauty and her strength are the combined result of time and process. For example, a huge oak tree, the roses in the garden, the changing of the seasons do not happen instantly. There is always space and time given for particular processes to function.

For a process to happen effectively, I need to prioritize, that is, to make the best use of my time, energy and resources.

To prioritize, I also need to recognize and refuse clever excuses (for example, “there is no time”) and create a timetable that is realistic and functional. As I prioritize my values, then the type of motivation I have becomes clearer. Is my motivation materialistic or spiritual? The results of one and the other are very different.

Materialistic motivation is based on ambition, competition and a desire for position. Often, we believe we cannot succeed without these and so think and act on the basis of these values. Often the results include conflict, fear, attachment, jealousy, possessiveness and over-identification of the self with a role, a position that makes us feel threatened by anyone who is more talented or more praised. For example, when motivation is materialistic, there is always the fear of loss that, in turn, creates uneasiness, stress and worry.

Spiritual motivation is based on enthusiasm for a task, rather than blind ambition, and cooperation with the uniqueness of others, rather than being in competition with those differences. Finally, the feeling to serve through whatever talent, position, or role I have — to serve a need rather than exploit a need is quality service.

The results of spiritual motivation are respect, harmony individual and collective well-being, a sense of purpose and the feeling of a deep fulfilment in one’s being.

Spiritual motives such as cooperation, sharing, caring integrity and respect create quality in the aim, the task and the methodology used. Meditation, in the form of reflection, always helps me to reexamine and redefine my aims, my processes and the reasons why I am doing what I am doing.

For more by Anthony Strano, click here.

For more on meditation, click here.

via Anthony Strano: Meditation and Motivation.

Richard Schiffman: Meditation Creates a Little Breathing Space for San Francisco Students

There are two jobs that have become a lot more difficult in recent years. One is being a teacher, which was never easy at the best of times. But in an age of virtually unlimited opportunities for distraction and rapidly shrinking attention spans getting kids to focus on their schoolwork can be (with apologies to dentists) like pulling teeth.

I know: As a former school aide working with young children, it was often all that I could manage just to break up fights and keep the decibel level below that at an international airport. Any “education” that actually took place in such an environment was a small miracle.

The other job that has become a whole lot harder, of course, is being a student. Believe me, I sympathize with their plight too! Today’s kids are weaned on electronic devices where they move between one website, text-message, or video game and the next at lightning speed. Where does a child learn how to direct their attention to just one math problem or reading assignment when there are so many distractions a click away?

Yet recently I watched a deeply moving and inspiring film that gave me hope. Room to Breath, by director Russell Long was filmed in a public school in San Francisco. The Marina Middle School with 900 students is one of the largest in the Bay Area, and it has the dubious distinction of having the highest suspension rate in the city.

We see why in the opening shots of pencil throwing kids, schoolyard squabbles and frenetic hallways. Children fail, we are told in a voice over by guidance counselor Ling Busche, not because they are stupid, but because they are unable to focus: “There is this sense of nonstop entertainment and whatever is happening in the lesson often becomes secondary.”

So it is more than a little surprising, given this chaotic atmosphere, that Mr. Ehnle’s homeroom has been chosen for a innovative new program in self-reflection called “mindfulness.”

Actually mindfulness is not “new” at all. It originated over 2,000 years ago in the jungle monasteries of South Asia. This form of bare-bones meditation in which attention is focused on bodily sensations is now being introduced to classrooms in San Francisco, Philadelphia and scores of other cities nationwide less as a path toward enlightenment than a practical method to help kids to settle down and learn.

The idea, according to Megan Cowan, the instructor from the group Mindful Schools who worked with Ehnle’s class is to give students “tools and skills” to tame the disorder within their own minds.

A tall order, as Cowan herself discovers when her efforts to get the kids to sit still and focus on their breath are greeted with wisecracks and expressions of boredom. When she wants to move these disruptive ones out of the classroom for the duration of the mindfulness exercises, the assistant principal reminds her that in public education nobody is excluded.

So Cowan soldiers on with the full class and, surprisingly, by the end of the film some of her “toughest cases” have come to value what these simple techniques offer them.

For example, Omar, whose older brother has been killed in gang violence, testifies that mindfulness has taught him to step back from potential fight situations without reacting. Jacqueline’s mom says on camera that her daughter has become more respectful of others and now gets better grades. And Gerardo, an aspiring artist, tells us that he uses mindfulness to concentrate better when he paints and draws.

These modest “success stories” are backed up by a growing body of research. In one of the largest studies to date, 2nd and 3rd graders in a low-income school experienced significant improvements in concentration, academic performance and social skills which were sustained more than three months after the end of their mindfulness program.

Research has also shown that exercises like listening to ambient sounds and focusing attention on the breath have a profound effect on human physiology, slowing respiration lowering blood pressure levels and reducing harmful levels of stress.

The practice is not a panacea. Clearly lots of kids need more than a few quiet moments in their day to calm them down. But for many who took part in the training at Marina Middle School it was a revelation. It showed the teens for the first time that they need not be puppets dangling on the strings of their own over-active minds. On the contrary, they can make choices about where to direct their thoughts and how to respond to their own emotions.

This is something that adults too need to learn! An estimated 10 million Americans have some form of meditation practice, according to Psychology Today. Mindfulness programs are increasingly being introduced into hospitals, drug treatment programs and even corporate boardrooms across the nation.

“Mindfulness does not make problems go away,” says Megan Cowan. “But the way that you are meeting your experiences changes to allow more lightness and happiness.”

And kids who are calm and happy are disproportionately the ones who learn. Let’s hope that mindfulness training spreads to more of our nation’s embattled schools, where teachers and students alike nowadays can use all the help they can get!

via Richard Schiffman: Meditation Creates a Little Breathing Space for San Francisco Students.