Jon Kabat Zinn

For many, meditation is key for fighting stress, finding peace Video

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For many, meditation is key for fighting stress, finding peace

Meditation is a mind-body practice that’s existed for thousands of years, yet it still attracts people looking for solace, healing and spiritual enlightenment today.

Verna Sausman of Louisville was among those who gathered at a recent meditation session at Wellness 360 studio in St. Matthews. She sat in a chair with her eyes closed and her legs crossed beneath her as Dr. Peter Buecker guided a small group through a meditation session.

“This is my healing; it works for me,” said Sausman, who was using the 45-minute session to cope with the loss of a loved one.

Though some people think they can’t quiet their mind enough to meditate, “anyone can learn to meditate,” said Buecker, the studio’s owner. “… The quiet or calm mind is the product of meditation, not the prerequisite for it.”

There are many different kinds of meditation, but most have some common threads, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health. People usually meditate in a quiet place in a specific posture, such as lying or sitting down, with an open attitude and a focused mind, the center says.

The Rev. Joe Mitchell, a priest and meditation teacher who is executive director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center on Newburg Road, explains meditation this way:

“Meditation is cultivating a steady and focused awareness by letting go of thoughts and desires to abide in a place of stillness and silence.”

Mitchell, who teaches mindfulness meditation from the Christian and Buddhist perspectives, said, “It’s about turning down the volume of the inner chatter in the mind.”

Buecker, an orthopedic surgeon, opened Wellness 360 in January to offer meditation and a variety of other mind-body services, after realizing that “a pill, or an injection, or a procedure isn’t always the answer” for patients going through personal crises, such as parenting, spousal and care-giving issues.

Many times, people are caught in a vicious cycle of stress that leads to tension and pain, then to the need for “more and more medicines at higher and higher doses,” Buecker said, but meditation helps give them basic skills to get their life back into control.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

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

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

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

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

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

JONATHAN WIGGS/GLOBE STAFF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom White for The New York Times

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

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

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

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

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

I plan to.

———————————-

Getting started is the hardest part

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kripalu : Mindfulness Meditation and the Brain

By Angela Wilson, MA, RYT

One of the most well-known and utilized tools in meditation and yoga is the practice of self-observation without judgment, or mindfulness. Swami Kripalu called self-observation without judgment “the highest form of spiritual practice.” Likewise, if you go to any yoga or meditation class you’re likely to hear words like mindfulness and nonjudgmental awareness repeated throughout the class. But what do these terms really mean?

Mindfulness meditation has been defined by Jon-Kabat Zinn as “the ability to pay total attention to the present moment with a nonjudgmental awareness of the inner and/or outer experiences.” Kripalu Yoga teacher Shobhan Richard Faulds describes self-observation without judgment as “restraining the mind’s tendency to grasp what is pleasant and push away what is painful — and produce a flowing state of choice-less awareness that enables you to remain intimate with what’s going on inside you.”

Mindfulness, something once practiced only in more closeted meditation circles, has recently become a greater mainstream interest. Perhaps for this reason, research on mindfulness meditation has increased considerably over the last decade. Even the National Institutes of Health has grown increasingly more interested in mindfulness meditation, funding a number of large studies which investigate the effects of mindfulness on emotional and physical health outcomes.

Mindfulness Improves Physical, Mental, and Emotional Health

While mindfulness is in many ways a simple practice, it benefits are numerous. Physically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce cortisol and blood pressure, and to improve the immune system. Cognitively, mindfulness has been shown to decrease rumination and boost attention. Emotionally, mindfulness reduces emotional reactivity and improves resilience. While many of these studies are preliminary, they nonetheless begin to paint a powerful picture of the overall health benefits of mindfulness.

However tenuous these preliminary studies are, they are augmented by current neuroscientific research that reveals how mindfulness meditation can significantly change the brain. And these changes are not just seen in cave-dwelling monks — they also occur in average hardworking, child-raising folks — like most of us.

The Brain on Mindfulness

Research shows that, even in a short time, mindfulness meditation can change the brain. What kinds of changes in the brain does mindfulness produce? Well, first, mindfulness fortifies our ability to manage difficult emotions. Second, it alters the way we experience our sense of self. It is arguably these changes that contribute to many of the benefits reported by current research. Let’s take a closer look at how this occurs.

Mindfulness training has a notable impact on the limbic system, or the emotional system of the brain. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce activity in the amygdala, a region of the brain that determines how much stress we experience and that is central in modulating our fear responses. For example, people with very active amygdalae tend to experience more depression and anxiety.

Perhaps even more intriguing, however, is that mindfulness can actually change the size the amygdala. One study on overstressed businesspeople found that after eight weeks of mindfulness meditation training, the size of the amygdala actually shrunk compared to those who were not practicing mindfulness. This reduction was correlated with less perceived stress. In those eight weeks, subjects were actually able to change their brain and, consequently, reduce their stress.

Findings also show that mindfulness practices help the person reduce emotional reactivity by increasing activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC, a brain region particular to homo sapiens, which is in charge of activities such as decision-making, planning, abstract thinking, and regulating emotions. People with post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, have an overactive amygdala and an underactive PFC. The result is high emotional arousal, and a low ability to manage it.

Several studies have indicated that mindfulness meditation improves PFC functioning. Specifically, a study showed that mindfulness practice increased activity in the PFC such that attention span improved. Another study revealed that mindfulness increased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex — a part of the brain that is closely connected to the PFC and is correlated with empathy and decision-making. As these regions show more activation, subjects tend to report greater emotional stability and less reactivity.

Neuroscientific research has also found that mindfulness meditation changes how we experience ourselves in the world. Generally, we spend a lot of our day in the personal narrative of our life. We obsess about the future, we dwell on that conversation we had with our spouse last week, or last year, and we remain entrenched in the storyline of our life. Researchers call this the “default network” and it’s dominated by cortical midline structures (CMS). While this “default network” has its benefit, when we spend too much time in self-referential thinking, especially if we are caught up in negative thinking, it can lead to poor emotional and behavioral outcomes, including depression and anxiety.

Mindfulness practice is about attending to the present moment. It teaches us to notice how the body feels, right now, paying attention to the breath and observing, without grasping onto our current state of mind. By definition, mindfulness moves us away from our personal narrative about how our life should be and into how life actually is, moment to moment.

It was no surprise to researchers that this practice would impact the brain. Through mindfulness practice, activity in the CMS, the part of the brain related to our personal narrative decreased, and activity in the insula, the part of the brain related to subjective awareness and body awareness, increased. Researchers postulate that this may contribute to some of the subjective benefits of mindfulness practice: When we move out of the story of our lives and into the actual lived experience of it, we feel better.

The bottom line? Mindfulness is an opportunity for the brain to strengthen and enhance itself — it’s like taking the brain to the gym. From our experience of working with health-care professionals — some of the most highly stressed individuals in today’s workforce — you don’t need to spend hours on a meditation cushion to reap the benefits of these practices. Our participants experience results with just five minutes a day of seated breath-awareness meditation or 10 minutes of mindful chair yoga. Ultimately, the impact comes from consistency of practice. Just as you wouldn’t expect to see much benefit if you went to the gym only once a week, the same is true of mindfulness training. It needs to be cultivated each day.

While the cushion is helpful in mindfulness meditation, mindfulness can be practiced at any time and in any situation. In every moment, we can choose to bring our attention back to the present and to know that when we do, we are actively involved in shaping our brains to foster more peace and inner ease. From this view, a touch of mindfulness practice each day becomes a tremendous investment in our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Kripalu : Mindfulness Meditation and the Brain.

Meditation Expert Peter Amato Announced Competition For Meditation In Schools Training – Press Release – Digital Journal

Scranton, PA (PRWEB) May 18, 2013

In an attempt to teach children how to live peacefully and forge a better future, Meditation Master Peter Amato has announced he will bring a meditation program to five deserving schools throughout the country, a $250,000 value in training and materials. At absolutely no cost to the schools.

By making meditation a regular part of the school day, Amato said, young children and teens will be given the tools to reduce stress in their lives, and cope with competition, peer pressure, bullying and the violence all around them. “Key research findings in pilot and current school meditation programs included increases in calm in the classroom, increased attentiveness, increase in a desire to learn along with a strong retention span, and an increase in morale and socialization. Overall, teachers saw a sizeable increase in emotional balance with less behavioral issues and acting out.”

Amato launched a nationwide search for five schools that are interested in starting a meditation program and want to compete to receive the program training free. He is also seeking interested schools to participate on their own as well as individuals, businesses and major corporations to sponsor the program in their communities. The contest ends September 30, 2013. Five winners will be selected by an appointed committee from all eligible entries during the month of October 2013. However, interested schools and sponsors may sign up at any time before or after the contest ends.

To enter the competition, students, teachers, parents or administrators must submit a 200-word essay or three-minute video, in the most creative way possible, on why they deserve to be selected. This can easily be done at Amato’s website http://pathwaytopeace.org/ . The site also offers the capability to become a sponsor or be partnered with a sponsor.

“This is certainly not a one-person project,” Amato admits, “and government funding is not available.” So he is challenging private enterprise to join in and sponsor a school so teachers can be trained to give children a proven tool to help shift the future. “The goal, and the hope, is to have this collaboration become infectious, spreading throughout communities and corporate America so that students from every school in the country, whether public or private, inner city or rural, have the opportunity to benefit from meditative practices.”

Amato knows the program is effective as proven in a multi-year pilot program he developed and implemented under a U.S. Department of Education grant in the Scranton (Pennsylvania) School District. He developed a qualitative research methodology to measure the attributes and benefits of the program. A qualitative case study methodology was then added to develop a mixed method research approach.

Are you willing to accept the challenge? The benefits reach everyone, so sign up now to enter the competition or to get help in getting started at http://pathwaytopeace.org/ .

Peter Amato is a trailblazer who possesses the innate ability to anticipate new paradigms in a changing marketplace, leading him to become a founding partner in several national businesses. Inspired by personal growth and the realization for the need for a higher standard within healthcare, he established the Inner Harmony Wellness Center and the Center for Integrative Medicine which is recognized as one of the first and foremost authentic centers for integrative medicine in the nation. A meditation and yoga master, with certifications from Deepak Chopra, MD Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. and Yogi Amrit Desai, Peter was the first to introduce a Meditation in School program and publish the results. Peter is the author of the book “Soul Silence” which explores one’s relationship to prayer and meditation, as well as numerous articles on mindfulness. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in mind-body medicine at Saybrook University. A student of many global healing systems, Peter is an in-demand speaker who has motivated audiences across the world.

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/5/prweb10741211.htm

via Meditation Expert Peter Amato Announced Competition For Meditation In Schools Training – Press Release – Digital Journal.

 

Meditation technique enhances children’s mental health

Mindfulness, a form of meditation, has been shown to help with a wide range of mental health conditions and improve well-being in adults. However, few trials have evaluated its effectiveness in children.

Professor Willem Kuyken from the Mood Disorders Centre at the University of Exeter is presenting new research findings from a feasibility trial which show how the mindfulness technique is also effective in improving well-being in young people. Speaking at the Mindfulness in Schools Project Annual Conference in London, Professor Kuyken will describe the results of the study which assessed how effective the intervention was at enhancing the mental health and well-being of young people aged 12-16 years.

Students from 12 secondary schools either participated in the mindfulness in schools program or took part in the usual school curriculum. Mindfulness has been described as the practice of becoming aware of what is happening in the present moment and of learning to relate more skilfully to thoughts, emotions, body sensations and impulses as they arise. The young people who participated in the mindfulness program reported fewer depressive symptoms, lower stress and greater well-being than those in the control group. The findings provide promising evidence of the effectiveness of the mindfulness in schools program.

Previous studies have shown that mindfulness can have a positive impact on physical health conditions, on social and emotional skills, and on learning and cognition. Changes in the brain are the basis for these positive effects. Neuroscience and brain imaging shows that mindfulness meditation alters the structure and function of the brain to improve the quality of both thought and feeling.

Although there is more work to do to fully determine the effects of mindfulness in young people, these results suggest that students participating in the scheme are likely to benefit from improved emotional wellbeing and mental health. Such interventions can fit within the school curriculum, are inexpensive to introduce, can have rapid impact and above all are enjoyable for both pupils and staff.

The philosophy behind mindfulness is rooted in more than 2000 years of history. In the 1970s the disparate approaches were brought together and incorporated into a programme by Jon Kabat-Zinn called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Since then mindfulness-based programmes have helped thousands of people with chronic health problems and have been used to relieve distress and enhance well-being. Ongoing research in Exeter is examining mindfulness approaches for people with recurrent depression and vascular disorders.

via Meditation technique enhances children’s mental health.

 

Jan 24th Mindful Parenting: Nurturing Our Children, Growing Ourselves with Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn Town Hall Seattle

Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindful Parenting: Nurturing Our Children, Growing Ourselves

Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn
January 24, 2013 7–9 p.m.
Town Hall, Seattle
Tickets: $20

Topic age range: All ages

About this lecture:
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is the world-leading scientist/researcher and meditation teacher who brought mindfulness to mainstream society. His best-selling books include Wherever You Go There You Are, Full Catastrophe Living and Everyday Blessings, co-authored with his wife, Myla.

In this rare visit to the Pacific Northwest, Myla and Jon will inspire parents, grandparents and anyone working with children to slow down and be more present with their kids. They will explore how the cultivation of mindfulness in daily life can help us to work with the challenges we may face with children at different ages, as well as enriching the joys inherent in parenting and family life.

Learn more about this Lecture

 

Joe Loizzo, M.D., Ph.D.: When Mindfulness Meets Compassion: Close Encounters in Contemplative Science

Joe Loizzo, M.D., Ph.D.: When Mindfulness Meets Compassion: Close Encounters in Contemplative Science.

At the world’s first International Symposia on Contemplative Studies held this April in Denver, it seemed as if the emerging field of meditation research had finally come of age. The gathering brought together research pioneers Jon Kabat-Zinn, Richie Davidson, John Teasdale and Marsha Linehan with groundbreaking contemplative teachers Sharon Salzberg, Roshi Joan Halifax, Matthieu Ricard and Brother David Stendl-Rast. In fact, as the nearly 750 participants convened for what could have been just one more hi-tech conference, the event felt not just historic but oddly unearthly, like a real-world version of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

A philosopher of science might explain that remarkable feel in light of the history behind the meeting. An unlikely array of individuals and teams — exploring dozens of converging paths around the nation and world, after decades of patient progress — suddenly find themselves assembled as one global community embodying a breakthrough field. A science journalist might explain the event’s uncanny feel by the fact that a once-obscure Buddhist contemplative practice called mindfulness, introduced in the late 1970s into pain management by Kabat-Zinn, has defied all the skeptics and all the odds by becoming one of the hottest topics in mainstream clinical research today.

But as a contemplative psychiatrist, I found the conference remarkable because what brought its participants together was less the cutting-edge science being discussed there than something far less tangible. Kabat-Zinn announced as much in his keynote address by confessing that what he really meant when he chose the word “mindfulness” for his popular stress-reduction program was “dharma,” the ancient Sanskrit term for spiritual teachings and contemplative experiences like Shakyamuni Buddha’s. Richie Davidson echoed this sentiment by sharing that his groundbreaking research was inspired not just by a lifelong interest in meditation but by a spiritual challenge from a renowned Buddhist leader. “What the world needs most in our global age,” the Dalai Lama told him, “is new brain science that clarifies the causal basis and beneficial effects of compassion.”

As an exploding body of clinical research confirms that mindfulness helps reduce stress and promote healing, learning and neuroplasticity, a parallel line of study on the related practice of loving-kindness has begun to converge with exciting new research on positive emotions and the brain.[1],[2],[3]

As the conference unfolded, the shape of that convergence came clear. The new contemplative science is not just consolidating its broad foundation in mindfulness, but is also opening an emergent frontier of basic research and application: the deep, healing and transforming power of compassion.

What I found most surprising about the new compassion research is that for most of human history, this cutting-edge scientific frontier has been the province of religious professionals and lifelong contemplatives.

In panel after panel, researchers from a handful of labs around the world shared recent work involving cognitive-behavioral compassion training based on the Tibetan Buddhist practice called mind-training. The gist of the four studies I heard about is that such training enhances novices’ natural capacity to experience and respond to human suffering with proactive compassion, rather than with the sympathetic distress some call empathy, and others, emotional contagion.[1-4] The studies not only show a significant change in subjects’ reported experience but also show measurable changes in brain processing, suggesting a shift from simple mirroring of distress to deeper, positive emotional engagement and prosocial responsiveness.

These and other studies in the new frontier were the exclusive focus of another historic conference, The Science of Compassion: Origins, Measures and Interventions, which took place in Telluride in July, featuring the renowned Tibetan scholar Thupten Jinpa.

In the last few months, some exciting new studies in this new breed of contemplative science have been published, introducing the budding field to the larger public for the first time.

What does this new frontier mean for our everyday lives? My strongest close encounter moment at the Denver conference came in a panel that brought together neuroscientist Tania Singer with lifelong advocates of compassion Sharon Salzberg and Brother David. Although the two contemplatives used contrasting language from the Buddhist and Christian traditions, they were both able to explain in human terms the shift Singer and her team found on fMRI scans of subjects’ brains.

Brother David used the metaphor of Michelangelo’s statue of David, who stands firmly on one leg and “plays” with the other. Our normal, stressful life in the world, he said, reflects a stance where we rely mainly on our disconnected identity and social role, and only play with fleeting glimpses of deeper attunement and connection to others. Instead, a proactive life of social engagement involves a stance where we rely mainly on a deep sense of caring interconnection, and flexibly play with the identities and social roles that seem to separate us from others.

What made this moment so profound for me had less to do with an otherworldly encounter than with an unexpected homecoming. As a science-minded teen in a progressive Catholic school, I recall asking my philosophy teacher why the infinite connectedness of people and things should be conceived as a personal God? At the time, I was bemused by the only answer he gave me: his caring smile. Thanks to meeting Robert Thurman and eventually the Dalai Lama at Amherst College, by the time I got to med school I’d learned enough to know my professors were dead wrong to warn compassion would cloud my objectivity and cause burnout. Yet after 30 years integrating contemplative psychiatry with Tibetan mind-training, it was listening to Tania and Brother David that the right and left sides of my brain clicked together, bringing me back to the visual koan of Father Eichner’s smile.

In mulling over what makes these new developments so historic, I kept recalling the words of T.S. Eliot: “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Given our total interdependence, the close encounter I experienced in Denver was not just personal but part of a larger, communal encounter with the brief history of human civilization.

Some 10,000 years ago, as we began to master the primal forces of nature, our images of the divine began to take human form. Roughly 15 to 20 centuries ago, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Neo-Confucians aligned those images with the spirit of universal love and compassion. When modern science broke from religion in the Enlightenment, it also abandoned such positive images of humanity and the value of social emotions like compassion.

So now as the new contemplative science comes of age, and its practitioners form new fields and communities, modern science and civilization are having their own close encounter. Only that encounter is not with an alien life form and civilization from another planet, but with our forgotten empathic nature and with the ancient arts of compassion that helped us meet the dawn of civilization on Earth.

As with most homecomings, the close encounter now taking place is more than just a happy ending to a centuries old human odyssey. It is a confirmation and confluence indispensable to our global future. As the Dalai Lama reminds us, science and spirituality must come together if we are to forge a way forward that is both viable and sustainable.

The new contemplative science makes the mission of teaching universal compassion viable, because it shows all humans naturally have the brains for it. The old contemplative science of our spiritual traditions makes that mission sustainable, because it offers ways of training compassion that are not just time-tested, but ready made to suit the different mindsets of people in the diverse religious cultures that must join together to help forge a global civilization.

If religions are not forever to divide the world like colliding continental plates, we will need both the new contemplative science and the old arts of compassion to cool the molten core of our nature and harness it to the civilizing work of cultivating human-kindness and caring engagement with our whole planet.

For more by Joe Loizzo, M.D., Ph.D., click here.

For more on the spirit, click here.

References:

Desbordes, G et al, (2012). Effects of Mindful Attention and Compassion Meditation Training on Amygdala Response to Emotional Stimuli in an Ordinary, Non-Meditative State. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. http://bit.ly/RGyAja

Jazaieri, H et al, (2012). Enhancing Compassion: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Compassion Cultivation Training Program, Journal of Happiness. http://bit.ly/WCL77L

Klimecki, OM et al, (2012). Functional Neuroplasticity and Associated Changes in Positive Affect After Compassion Training. PloS one. http://bit.ly/TwUXSZ

Ozawa-de Silva, B et al, (2012). Compassion and Ethics: Scientific and Practical Approaches to the Cultivation of Compassion as a Foundation for Ethical Subjectivity and Well-Being. Journal of Healthcare, Science & the Humanities. http://bit.ly/WCD4be

Videos:

H.H. the Dalai Lama, Human Compassion: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NF6uQ24V9GQ

Richard Davidson, Meng Wu Lecture: www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKKg3CDczpA

Thupten Jinpa, The Science of Compassion:
http://bit.ly/RYdSUW