Mental Health

Meditation Is the New Yoga: Bringing Mindfulness Into the Workplace | Amped | Big Think

This embrace of meditation is being driven by vocal proponents who claim that regular meditation can improve the immune system, cure depression, boost memory, regulate emotions, and even change the structure of the brain.

Hari Kaur is an internationally renowned Kundalini teacher and author of two books on meditation and yoga (as well as a member of our Influencer Advisory Board). She explains why meditation is blossoming in popularity at this moment in time:

“Meditation is both a conscious act and a refinement of what is possible with our brains and our minds and bodies. We have figured out about every possible way to exercise; the next frontier is our minds. There will be a movement towards meditation that will include the simplest to the most complex ways of ‘getting the most’ from our brains. The way we might get the most from our brains so we can handle the technological era is to meditate to become still – to dump our subconscious burden, to learn to light up the happy hormones and experience the balance to this existence.”

Far from being a fringe pastime, meditation is being used by a large cross section of society. The United States Marines have introduced a program called Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training (or “M-Fit”), which trains soldiers in mindfulness and meditation in order to improve mental performance and emotional health during combat situations. “Mindful Leadership” is an initiative at General Mills that mixes sitting meditation, yoga and mindfulness practices to settle and focus the mind. Google, Target and Aetna all have similar programs. Surprisingly, Aetna discovered that an hour a week of this type of practice decreased stress levels in employees by a third, slashing healthcare costs per employee by around $2,000 per year.

At sparks & honey, we’ve also taken this idea to heart, regularly practicing in-office yoga and encouraging meditative breaks in our “digital detox zone.”

How can you take baby steps into the world of meditation and integrate it into the hectic environment of the modern workplace? Here are two ideas:

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Walking Meditation: One of the simplest ways to relax your mind and become more mindful is to take a break and go for a short walk. Whether around the office or around the block, simply walking, breathing and staying mindful and focused on the present moment can have a lasting effect.

Breathing: Taking five minutes out of your day and quietly focusing on your breath while letting go of mental and physical stress can help to improve focus, aid in relaxation and clear your mind of clutter.

Hari suggests that if you truly want to reap the benefits of meditation, you’ll need to treat it as an essential part of your life:

“Set aside time daily and make it a priority to meditate. Just as you would attend to your appearance, develop a commitment to attend to your inner world. Schedule your meditation practice as if you were scheduling any other appointment or client. Add it to your calendar [and] keep the appointment with yourself. Find techniques that match your lifestyle and personality type. Techniques that inspire you to continue. There are many different styles and techniques of meditation. If you feel the call to meditate and grow and heal, search for the right teacher, the right technique and don’t give up.”

To learn more about the explosion of Conscious Media and the mindset of the new conscious consumer, please download our white paper or our Deep Dive Report on Oneness.

If you would like to go deeper and understand how your company can sync with the Conscious Consumer market, please get in touch with us at info@sparksandhoney.com.

via Meditation Is the New Yoga: Bringing Mindfulness Into the Workplace | Amped | Big Think.

 

It’s Time to Unwind your Mind!

Introduction to Meditation

Here’s the Introductory track on the Unwind your Mind Meditation Instruction CD with transcript below:

Unwind your Mind Meditation CD

Meditation Instruction CD

Unwind your Mind Intro Transcript:

It’s time to unwind your mind.  Find yourself a quiet place to sit while I explain a little about these techniques to clear and open your mind.

We all struggle with stress, more precisely, our response to stress.  Tension, anxiety, short breath, fast heart-rate, raised blood pressure, disrupted digestion, trouble sleeping, the list goes on…and on.

Fortunately for us there are ways of neutralizing the stress response we are experiencing and allowing ourselves to enter a state of calmness and restoration.  As modern research continues to explore meditation as a therapy, we are learning how to apply these ancient techniques to our very busy and stressful modern lives.

The first set of techniques utilizes the breath as a tool to change our physiological patterning from a stress pattern to a rest pattern.  Once you practice them a while and are familiar with how you respond to each technique, they can be done most anywhere and can positively impact your stress response in as little as two minutes, that’s about 10-20 breaths.

*Remember if at any point you start to feel lightheaded while practicing these techniques, immediately return to normal breathing.  It can take some time for your body to re-adjust to what is really a normal level of oxygen.

The basic posture for meditation in a chair is preparation for a longer meditation such as the most basic mindfulness meditation:  Observation of the Breath.  20 minutes of mindful meditation is a very powerful tool for switching your neurological pattern into a restorative state and has been shown to lower cortisol/stress hormone levels for up to 12 hours!

Visualization techniques work through utilizing the power of the mind to conceptualize.  Turtle breathing, is a practice that helps us learn to change mental constructs by switching between opposites.  We can then apply this thought reversal process to more complex, stress induced, thought and feeling patterns.

Sound techniques utilize the physical vibration of sound to impact our physiology in very measurable ways.  Our heart, for instance, beats on average more than 100,000 times per day, reverberating in our chest, triggering cascades of biochemicals.

Movement techniques help us to learn to maintain a calm state of meditation awareness as we are moving, so that we can take this peacefulness with us throughout our day.

sop let’s begin.  This may sound strange our maybe eve a bit corny, but one of the fastest way to reset our mental pattern is to chant the sound OM.  It’s kind of like a shortcut, so let’s try it together for just a few breaths and see how you feel.

Sitting with your spine straight and room for your lungs to expand completely, breathing at your own pace, fill your lungs and exhale making the sound OM.  Like this…….

mommy-and-alvin-sqBy Karah Pino, MAcOM: Meditation Instructor and creator of Unwind your Mind

Meditation study seeks to help cadets prevent PTSD – Nation – The Boston Globe

Study suggests meditation may help prevent PTSD

By Bryan Bender

| Globe Staff

December 02, 2012

NORTHFIELD, Vt. — It is part of a highly regimented daily routine at Norwich University, the nation’s oldest private military academy and a cultivator of battlefield leaders for nearly two centuries.

Dressed in combat fatigues and boots, a platoon of first-year cadets — “Rooks” — are up early in their barracks. On the orders of their instructor, the young men and women take their places. At 0800 sharp, they sit on wooden chairs in a circle and begin — to meditate.

The first-of-its-kind training is part of a long-term study to determine whether regular brief periods of silent, peaceful consciousness can improve troops’ performance. Ultimately, researchers hope the transcendental meditation training might be made available across all branches of the military to help inoculate troops against acute post-traumatic stress disorder, which has reached epidemic proportions and is blamed for a record number of suicides in the ranks.

For an institution that demands that incoming cadets exhibit physical and mental toughness, meditation training is a radical approach. The broader military culture had long associated meditation with a leftist, antiwar philosophy. Known by its shorthand, TM was widely introduced to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Hindu leader who once served as the spiritual guru to the Beatles.

I was very skeptical at first,” said Norwich president Richard W. Schneider, a retired Coast Guard admiral who is among several university officials who have also been trained in the technique. “I’m not a touchy-feely guy.”

‘We want to send people to war whole and for them to come back whole.’

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But the preliminary results of the study, now in its second year, surprised even its lead researchers. They have been methodically tracking the dozens of participants and several control groups of non-meditating cadets through detailed questionnaires as well as brain wave and eye scans to measure levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

“All those things decreased significantly,” said Dr. Carole Bandy, a Norwich psychology professor overseeing the project. “In fact, they decreased very significantly.”

Positive traits such as critical thinking and mental resilience improved, according to preliminary findings shared with the Globe that Bandy and her team plan to publish next year.

The project has garnered high-level attention from the Army.

“Becoming more psychologically fit is just like becoming physically fit. It is better to do it before you are injured,” said retired Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum, a surgeon who until recently ran the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program and visited Norwich three times to be briefed on the work. “There seems to be no question that meditation is, frankly, good for you. I am very encouraged by the Norwich University study.”

Not everyone at Norwich is on board. Top university officials acknowledged that a few people in the university community have privately snickered over how meditation is “not Norwichy,” though there has been no formal opposition from the faculty or board of trustees.

But Reverend William S. Wick, the university’s chaplain, remains concerned that its practice could undercut the school’s Judeo-Christian foundation.

“Contrary to what is claimed by its advocates and presenters, transcendental meditation is not a neutral discipline but is, rather, philosophically, spiritually, mystically, and religiously based — having Hindu monism and a pantheistic world view as its underlying base,” Wick told the Globe in an e-mail.

Some ‘jokes about nap time’

The participating cadets, however, seem to share a single-minded commitment to the meditation sessions, which for now are voluntary.

Each of the six men and three women who attended the first of their twice-daily meditation sessions last week sit silently, focusing thoughts on their mantra, a word or phrase privately assigned to them by their instructor in August.

For the next 20 minutes they sit motionless, some with their arms crossed, others with hands resting in their laps. Some can be heard breathing, others cannot.

“Ok, let’s take a few minutes and then open our eyes. Take your time,” David Zobeck, one of two meditation instructors, breaks in.

The approach is one among a variety of meditation techniques that date back thousands of years. The periods of silent reflection are intended to nurture what practitioners call “restful alertness” to improve overall mental health.

Zobeck, an Air Force veteran, works for the David Lynch Foundation, founded in 2005 by the film director to provide TM to adults and children suffering from PTSD. Since 2010, it has donated nearly $1 million to teach the technique to military veterans and their families.

The foundation is funding Norwich’s program.

“It seems like some wacko thing from the Far East but there has been so much research done, including on veterans suffering from PTSD who say they have got their life back again,” Lynch, who has been meditating for four decades, said in an interview. “It’s not a hippie thing, it’s a human being thing.”

“It’s like putting on a flak jacket against stress,” he added. “The things that used to almost kill you in the stress department have less power. For a soldier this is money in the bank.”

The meditating cadets at Norwich agree. “At first it’s silly,” said Chandler Camlin, 18, a first-year cadet from Stamford, Conn. “But at the end of that 20 minutes, you feel refreshed.”

“It feels like a whole tremendous thing off your chest,” said Dayne Valencia, 19, of Houston. “You feel so much lighter — like you told the truth after holding back for a long time.”

Before she arrived at Norwich, said Hana Kita, 18, of Titusville, N.J., “I had less activities and I was more tired. I feel less stressed now than I did back home.”

Yet the meditating cadets have also faced ridicule from fellow Rooks.

“There are a lot of jokes about nap time,” said Anthony Russo, 18, of Rockland.

But much of the razzing has dissipated since the group recently outperformed the 17 other Rook platoons in the so-called “culminating event,” a grueling competition requiring tests of mental and physical resilience. Said Russo: “That pretty much speaks for itself.”

No help with mental health

More senior cadets who have participated in the study bring a unique perspective. A few of them also serve in the National Guard or Reserves and have already been to combat.

Against the din of upperclassmen berating three Rooks running to class, Shea Burke, a 21-year-old junior who returned in February from a seven-month tour in Afghanistan, described his reaction when he learned about the study in the fall: “Are you serious?”

But the Marine Reserve lance corporal volunteered to participate. He now believes it has helped him rejoin campus life after a stressful deployment.

“You are still twisted and trying to come out of it,” he said, wrapping the fingers of both hands together and turning his hands back and forth. “It re-centers yourself.”

The native of Amherst, N.H., said he could have used it in Afghanistan and knows of other troops who need it now that they are back.

“Too many buddies are turning to substances,” he said of those who are relying on drugs and alcohol to relieve tension.

Senior Sam Lieber, 21, who was taught TM last year, said he meditated while he was completing reserve officer training last summer aboard the destroyer USS Chafee in the Pacific Ocean. “I still do it regularly when I need to recharge,” the Hampton, N.H., native said.

John Dulmage, a Norwich researcher who served in 1991 Persian Gulf War, said he wishes he had been exposed to the technique much earlier.

“They never really helped us with our mental health,” said Dulmage, 67, a 23-year Marine Corps veteran from Barnard, Vt., who is a trained nurse and the study’s chief data cruncher. “We want to send people to war whole and for them to come back whole.”

He said his recent exposure to TM has helped him cope with the loss of his wife to a debilitating disease. “It sorts stuff out for me,” he said.

Among the research project’s most influential boosters is retired Army chief of staff General Gordon R. Sullivan, a Norwich graduate and Boston native who is now chairman of Norwich’s board of trustees.

“It is a way to get out in front and expose them, in a prophylactic way, to help them handle stress before the fact,” said Sullivan, who runs the influential Association of the United States Army in Washington. “Whatever skepticism I may have had was dampened.”

Later in the training day last week, some cadets got a small taste of what might lie ahead after they receive their commissions as officers in the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps.

After a drill on the football field, some gather in a corner of the fieldhouse for a role-playing exercise designed to test their critical-thinking skills. “You have two soldiers wounded,” the instructor tells them. “One shot in the head, no pulse. Another soldier is shot in the chest.”

Consulting their handouts, the cadets have to make some quick decisions.

“We have spent nearly 200 years preparing them physically to be military leaders,” said Schneider. “What we have never spent any time doing is making them emotionally prepared for battle. We are waiting until the end of the fight. Why not give it to them before they get into the fight?”

Schneider acknowledged that it is “going to take years to track these guys to see how they do.”

But he doesn’t want to wait that long. “My plan is to make it available to anyone who wants it,” he said. “I’m not yet to the point of requiring it [but] if this works I will be shouting from the rooftops.”

via Meditation study seeks to help cadets prevent PTSD – Nation – The Boston Globe.

 

Natural Learning Initiative Publications and Research

Creating environments for healthy human development and
a healthy biosphere for generations to come.

The purpose of the Natural Learning Initiative is to promote the importance of the natural environment in the daily experience of all children, through environmental design, action research, education, and dissemination of information.

 Publications:

Behavior Mapping: A Method for Linking Preschool Physical Activity and Outdoor Design

The preschool that children attend has been shown to be a significant but variable predictor of physical activity of 3- to 5-yr-olds, whereas the time outdoors has been found to be a strong correlate of physical activity.

read more >>

Download: Cosco_Moore_Islam_BehaviorMapping.pdf

 

Sensory Integration and Contact with Nature: Designing Outdoor Inclusive Environments

In The NAMTA Journal Vol. 34, No. 2

Healthy Planet, Healthy Children: Designing Nature into the Daily Spaces of Childhood

In Biophilic design: the theory, science, and practice of bringing buildings to life

Developing evidence-based design: Environmental interventions for healthy development of young children in the outdoors

In Open Space People Space

What makes a park inclusive and universally designed? A multi-method approach

In Open Space People Space

Greening Montessori School Grounds by Design

In The NAMTA Journal Vol. 32, No. 1

Reasons to Smile at Teardrop

In Landscape Architecture Magazine

Playgrounds: A 150-Year-Old Model

In Safe and Healthy School Environments