Mindfulness

Research method integrates meditation, science: the meditation experience does not have to be subjective.

[Brown University] —

Mindfulness is always personal and often spiritual, but the meditation experience does not have to be subjective.

Advances in methodology are allowing researchers to integrate mindfulness experiences with brain imaging and neural signal data to form testable hypotheses about the science — and the reported mental health benefits — of the practice.

A team of Brown University researchers, led by junior Juan Santoyo, will present their research approach at 2:45 p.m on Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the 12th Annual International Scientific Conference of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Their methodology employs a structured coding of the reports meditators provide about their mental experiences. That can be rigorously correlated with quantitative neurophysiological measurements.

“In the neuroscience of mindfulness and meditation, one of the problems that we’ve had is not understanding the practices from the inside out,” said co-presenter Catherine Kerr, assistant professor (research) of family medicine and director of translational neuroscience in Brown’s Contemplative Studies Initiative. “What we’ve really needed are better mechanisms for generating testable hypotheses – clinically relevant and experience-relevant hypotheses.”

Now researchers are gaining the tools to trace experiences described by meditators to specific activity in the brain.

“We’re going to [discuss] how this is applicable as a general tool for the development of targeted mental health treatments,” Santoyo said. “We can explore how certain experiences line up with certain patterns of brain activity. We know certain patterns of brain activity are associated with certain psychiatric disorders.”

Structuring the spiritual

At the conference, the team will frame these broad implications with what might seem like a small distinction: whether meditators focus on their sensations of breathing in their nose or in their belly. The two meditation techniques hail from different East Asian traditions. Carefully coded experience data gathered by Santoyo, Kerr, and Harold Roth, professor of religious studies at Brown, show that the two techniques produced significantly different mental states in student meditators.

“We found that when students focused on the breath in the belly their descriptions of experience focused on attention to specific somatic areas and body sensations,” the researchers wrote in their conference abstract. “When students described practice experiences related to a focus on the nose during meditation, they tended to describe a quality of mind, specifically how their attention ‘felt’ when they sensed it.”

The ability to distill a rigorous distinction between the experiences came not only from randomly assigning meditating students to two groups – one focused on the nose and one focused on the belly – but also by employing two independent coders to perform standardized analyses of the journal entries the students made immediately after meditating.

This kind of structured coding of self-reported personal experience is called “grounded theory methodology.” Santoyo’s application of it to meditation allows for the formation of hypotheses.

For example, Kerr said, “Based on the predominantly somatic descriptions of mindfulness experience offered by the belly-focused group, we would expect there to be more ongoing, resting-state functional connectivity in this group across different parts of a large brain region called the insula that encodes visceral, somatic sensations and also provides a readout of the emotional aspects of so-called ‘gut feelings’.”

Unifying experience and the brain

The next step is to correlate the coded experiences data with data from the brain itself. A team of researchers led by Kathleen Garrison at Yale University, including Santoyo and Kerr, did just that in a paper in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in August 2013. The team worked with deeply experienced meditators to correlate the mental states they described during mindfulness with simultaneous activity in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). They measured that with real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging.

They found that when meditators of several different traditions reported feelings of “effortless doing” and “undistracted awareness” during their meditation, their PCC showed little activity, but when they reported that they felt distracted and had to work at mindfulness, their PCC was significantly more active. Given the chance to observe real-time feedback on their PCC activity, some meditators were even able to control the levels of activity there.

“You can observe both of these phenomena together and discover how they are co-determining one another,” Santoyo said. “Within 10 one-minute sessions they were able to develop certain strategies to evoke a certain experience and use it to drive the signal.”

Toward therapies

A theme of the conference, and a key motivator in Santoyo and Kerr’s research, is connecting such research to tangible medical benefits. Meditators have long espoused such benefits, but support from neuroscience and psychiatry has been considerably more recent.

In a February 2013 paper in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Kerr and colleagues proposed that much like the meditators could control activity in the PCC, mindfulness practitioners may gain enhanced control over sensory cortical alpha rhythms. Those brain waves help regulate how the brain processes and filters sensations, including pain, and memories such as depressive cognitions.

Santoyo, whose family emigrated from Colombia when he was a child, became inspired to investigate the potential of mindfulness to aid mental health beginning in high school. Growing up in Cambridge and Somerville, Mass., he observed the psychiatric difficulties of the area’s homeless population. He also encountered them while working in food service at Cambridge hospital.

“In low-income communities you always see a lot of untreated mental health disorders,” said Santoyo, who meditates regularly and helps to lead a mindfulness group at Brown. He is pursuing a degree in neuroscience and contemplative science. “The perspective of contemplative theory is that we learn about the mind by observing experience, not just to tickle our fancy but to learn how to heal the mind.”

It’s a long path, perhaps, but Santoyo and his collaborators are walking it with progress.

Meditation: Our Quest for Love

Bruce Davis, Ph.D From Huffington Post

Some people are always in their worldly life. They say they either do not have time for meditation or they do not believe in sitting, breathing,paying attention to the moment. The idea of an inner life is like a foreign country that does not interest them to travel to.

In recent years, however, more and more people are trying meditation. After experiencing the tastes and delights of an inner landscape they find this foreign travel is not so foreign. In fact, meditation is just the opposite. It is an experience of coming home within ourselves. With less worldly distraction, our awareness finds its own essence, an innocence of simply being. When the details on our mind are not so busy occupying and stirring up our attention, an experience of our heart is naturally present. Love comes forward in our awareness. People who meditate discover love is their true awareness when all the stuff of daily life is not mixed in.

Every day, meditation and the calming, centering effects call more love from within us and into our lives. Yes, meditation invites love into our lives.There is no magic here. A brief time of morning meditation including simplicity, being, silence becomes an anchor for more simple being and peace in our lives. Love attracts love. As meditation becomes a priority so does love become more front and center.

As we take time for meditation, our awareness learns to rest in our heart. We are thinking less and being heartfully more present. In the silence of meditation, our noisy thoughts dissolve in an inner quiet. So much thinking welcomes peace and quiet. Our awareness naturally grabs the stillness of meditation like a child grabbing candy! The sweetness of no thought is just too good to pass by. Of course the world keeps tugging on us. But with our meditation practice, the way to the candy store becomes clearer, easy, and fun. We know it is there. We just have to take the time, close our eyes, and go there.

The simplicity of our journey into meditation becomes a lesson in simplicity in other parts of life. Simplicity is love’s best friend. There is no limit to where simplicity and love, where this relationship can lead us.

With meditation, each of us find our own special way to uncover our ground of being. A candle, ocean view, sacred altar, mantra, or simple silence and meditation begins. Underneath our complicated personality, our likes, dislikes, fears, and self importance, our awareness can just be. As we grab onto inner silence, our thoughts are untying. As the rope of our mental life loosens, meditation opens the heart. As we enter, we are free. The inner quiet washes our personality. The deep silence of meditation is perfect therapy, healing, restoring love into the very structure of our personality and life.

There is an inner vault. It is a place where our daily world cannot enter. I use the word “vault” because even though there are actually no walls, the boundary to this place is so true, nothing but silence, being, awareness can be present. This place is available to all of us. This inner vault is a solid place of complete quietude. Here God is absorbing us and we are absorbing God. There is no separation. Meditation is the most direct route. As we leave our daily world behind, the gentle wind of our breath and stillness of heart take us. An inner space opens. Meditation lessens the weight of our personality as we embrace this vault of inner stillness. There is an emptiness which is actually a warm, pure presence. Deep silence and this inner vault comes forward. Deep silence and the landscape of the heart inside our heart unveils. Here there is a vastness and quality of love that is other worldly yet very natural, as if always waiting for us.

As where before we would chase riches in the world, in meditation we begin to unearth inner riches. In our ground of being is real treasure. Here is an abundance which gives us generosity, humility, and gratitude. Our patterns, routines in worldly life begin to change. Much of who we think we are, what we do is only a habit of thought and doing. The treasure inside us changes all of this and that, changing much of what we think, feel,strive for, and hold onto as important.

This inner treasure is our source of more honesty, humor, patience, and kindness for ourselves and others. Our normal identity and priorities are transforming. Vacations, retreats, retirement is planned around life’s real treasure.It is rather easy to step aside from the distractions in daily life, at least for some days. Getting by our own mental distractions is more of a challenge. Compulsive thoughts, our ever wandering mind can seem so overwhelming. Here our intention is important. Lets seek real peace and quiet. Our focus and concentration helps tame our distractions. Lets practice receiving our heart essence. This gentleness within tames our nervous energy. The peace around us supports us to find and receive deep inner silence. Step by step, meditation is breaking habits of thought and compulsively doing for the special love of simply being.

Follow Bruce Davis, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/silentstay

Is Mindfulness just another hype of the disconnectionist “artisanal crowd?” or is it as “a way to sabotage the addiction tactics of the acceleration-distraction complex that is Silicon Valley”

In yet another sign that the new age lingo of the 1960s is still very much with us, “mindfulness” has become the new “sustainability”: No one quite knows what it is, but everyone seems to be for it. It recently made the cover of Time magazine, while a long list of celebrities—Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, Paolo Coelho—are all tirelessly preaching the virtues of curbing technology-induced stress and regulating the oppressiveness of constant connectivity, often at conferences with titles like “Wisdom 2.0.”

The embrace of the mindfulness agenda by the technology crowd is especially peculiar. Consider Huffington, whose eponymous publication has even launched a stress-tracking app with the poetic name of “GPS for the Soul”—a new app to fight the distraction caused by the old apps—and turned the business of mindfulness into a dedicated beat. Or take Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, who has warned that we need to define times when we are “on” and “off” and announced his commitment to make his meals gadget-free. There are also apps and firms that, at a fee, will help you enforce your own “digital sabbath,” undertake a “digital detox,” or join like-minded refuseniks in a dedicated camp that bars all devices. Never before has connectivity offered us so many ways to disconnect.

In essence, we are being urged to unplug—for an hour, a day, a week—so that we can resume our usual activities with even more vigor upon returning to the land of distraction. Here the quest for mindfulness plays the same role as Buddhism. In our maddeningly complex world, where everything is in flux and defies comprehension, the only reasonable attitude is to renounce any efforts at control and adopt a Zen-like attitude of non-domination. Accept the world as it is—and simply try to find a few moments of peace in it. The reactionary tendency of such an outlook is easy to grasp. As the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek once quipped, “If Max Weber were alive today, he would definitely write a second, supplementary, volume to his Protestant Ethic, entitled The Taoist Ethic and the Spirit of Global Capitalism.” And what a wonderful Kindle Single that would make!

CEOs embrace mindfulness for the same reason that they embrace all the other forms of the “new spirit of capitalism,” be it yoga in the workplace or flip-flops in the boardroom: Down with alienation, long live transgression and emancipation! No wonder Huffington hopes that the pursuit of mindfulness can finally reconcile spirituality and capitalism. “There is a growing body of scientific evidence that shows that these two worlds are, in fact, very much aligned—or at least that they can, and should, be,” she wrote in a recent column. “So yes, I do want to talk about maximizing profits and beating expectations—by emphasizing the notion that what’s good for us as individuals is also good for corporate America’s bottom line.”



Illustration by Jessica Fortner

But couldn’t the “disconnectionists”—asone critic has recently dubbed this emerging social movement—pursue an agenda a tad more radical than “digital detoxification”? For one, the language of “detox” implies our incessant craving for permanent connectivity is a medical condition—as if the fault entirely resided with consumers. And that reflects a broader flaw in their thinking: The disconnectionists don’t seem to have a robust political plan for addressing their concerns; it’s all about small-scale individual action. “Individuals unplugging is not actually an answer to the biggest technological problems of our time just as any individual’s local, organic dietary habits don’t solve global agriculture’s issues,” complained the technology critic Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic.

Note that it’s the act of disconnection—the unplugging—that becomes the target of criticism, as if there are no good reasons to be suspicious of the always-on mode championed by Silicon Valley, what is called “real-time.” Madrigal, for example, draws an intriguing parallel between our attitudes to processed foods (once celebrated for their contribution to social mobility but now widely condemned, at least by the upper classes) and processed communications (by which, he means all digital interactions). Like processed foods, social media and text messages are increasingly perceived as inferior, giving rise to an odd form of technophobic—but extremely artisanal—living. As Madrigal sardonically observes, “[T]he solution is to make local friends, hang out organically, and only communicate through means your Grandma would recognize. It’s so conservative it’s radical!”

There’s some truth to this, but in their efforts to reveal the upper-class biases of the “digital detox” crowd—by arguing, for example, that the act of unplugging falls somewhere between wearing vintage clothes and consuming artisanal cheese—critics like Madrigal risk absolving the very exploitative strategies of Twitter and Facebook.

So far, our debate about distraction has hinged on the assumption that the feelings of anxiety and personal insecurity that we experience when interacting with social media are the natural price we pay for living in what some technology pundits call “the attention economy.”

But what if this economy is not as autonomous and self-regulating as we are lead to believe? Twitter, for instance, nudges us to check how many people have interacted with our tweets. That nagging temptation to trace the destiny of our every tweet, in perpetuity and with the most comprehensive analytics, is anything but self-evident. The business agenda is obvious: The more data we can surrender—by endlessly clicking around—the more appealing Twitter looks to advertisers. But what is in Twitter’s business interest is not necessarily in our communicative interest.

We must subject social media to the kind of scrutiny that has been applied to the design of gambling machines in Las Vegas casinos. As Natasha Dow Schüll shows in her excellent book Addiction By Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas, while casino operators want us to think that addiction is the result of our moral failings or some biological imbalance, they themselves are to blame for designing gambling machines in a way that feeds addiction. With social media—much like with gambling machines or fast food—our addiction is manufactured, not natural.

In other words, why we disconnect matters: We can continue in today’s mode of treating disconnection as a way to recharge and regain productivity, or we can view it as a way to sabotage the addiction tactics of the acceleration-distraction complex that is Silicon Valley. The former approach is reactionary but the latter can lead to emancipation, especially if such acts of refusal give rise to genuine social movements that will make problems of time and attention part of their political agendas—and not just the subject of hand-wringing by the Davos-based spirituality brigades. Hopefully, these movements will then articulate alternative practices, institutions, and designs. If it takes an act of unplugging to figure out how to do it, let’s disconnect indeed. But let us not do it for the sake of reconnecting on the very same terms as before. We must be mindful of all this mindfulness.

Evgeny Morozov is a senior editor at The New Republic.

What happened when I tried to be a ‘mindful’ parent

LEAH MCLAREN

Special to The Globe and Mail

When I had my son James, I tried to be mindful for the first time in my life.

I had practised yoga and meditation and read books on Buddhism and spiritual enlightenment before. I even did a 10-day juice detox during which I hallucinated colours while in a particularly intense reiki session. But I don’t think much of it sank in. I’d go through these phases of “being present” while half-starving on brown rice and spirulina tea and then return to eating canapé dinners and moaning about my charming commitment-phobe boyfriend of the moment.

But as I found out fast after my son came shrieking into the world, there is really no way of caring for a newborn other than to surrender to the experience. As the old gospel song says, you gotta walk that lonesome valley for yourself – ain’t nobody else gonna walk it for you.

Being alone all day with a baby, I quickly realized, is much easier if you can quiet your mind and go to “the baby place” in your brain. This is a state where you can spend several minutes, and eventually hours, simply laying on the floor and empathizing with your infant by feeling the sun on your face and occasionally thinking, “Oooh, look how my fingers move. I think I might do a poo now.”

Of course, many books will have you believe that to effectively care for a newborn you must spend your days sterilizing, pumping and swaddling according to a strict, incremented schedule, but I didn’t do any of that. I just sort sloped around braless for a few months, silently communing with James’s oceanic ego and changing an endless stream of diapers.

Eventually I went back to work and before I knew it I’d turned into that mother – the one in the supermarket lineup scrolling through work e-mails, snapping at the five-year-old to put down the candy NOW and nearly driving off leaving the baby in the cart.

So I started reading up on the practice of mindful parenting, which incorporates the techniques of mindfulness into family life. There was no shortage of material to choose from: In the past few months alone, several new books have come out on the subject. I started reading the daily tips on The Mindful Parent website and even signed James up for toddler yoga and meditation classes at my local wellness centre.

Much of the advice – effective breathing techniques, strategies to still the racing mind, tips for existing in the moment rather than ruminating about the past or fretting about the future – is stuff I’ve read before. Cultivating stillness is difficult, but it’s also simple.

After all this theory, it was time for practice. I decided to start with one of the most basic exercises on The Mindful Parent blog. The idea is to gather your family together and suggest a minute of silence, and in this way, “insert a pause at a time when everyone is otherwise caught up and engaged in the doing of things.” How sweet, I thought, imagining my stepson Freddie and James clasping hands around the kitchen table and doing cleansing breaths.

I decided Saturday breakfast was my best window of opportunity. First, I made sure my English husband had gone out to buy the paper because, although he is very good at being silent and calm, he has an admittedly low tolerance for what he calls “North American hippy bollocks.” Once Freddie and James were finished munching their muesli, I announced in my best Mary Poppins voice that we were going to play a game called “being silent for one minute.” The boys stared at me in confusion, but I persisted. “Doesn’t that sound fun? So on the count of three we all say nothing and keep very still for one minute. Okay, one, two …”

“BIRD!” James pointed out the window at a squirrel.

Freddie narrowed his eyes and let his spoon clatter in the bowl. “So what do I get if I win?”

“Win what?” I did the Mary Poppins smile again, hoping to dazzle him with my attentive enthusiasm.

Freddie: “The silent game. What’s the prize?”

Me: “The prize is that you get to live in the moment and experience the world without judgment. The prize is being silent. Isn’t that cool?”

Freddie: “The prize can’t be the same as the game, silly.”

Me: “Well the truth is there is no prize because it’s not actually not a game. It’s an exercise for living well.”

Freddie: “So you lied.”

Me: “Not really. More fibbed.”

Freddie: “Miss Mackie says fibbing is just as bad as lying. You have to go on a time out for it.”

Me: “And she’s right.”

Freddie: “Samuel went on a time out just for spitting in Ruby’s ear. He didn’t even fib and he still went on a time out.”

Me: “Thank you for honouring us with that story Freddie. Now could we just try being silent? Just for one minute? Please?”

Freddie: “No fair fibber, you make me go on time outs.”

James (pointing at a passing airplane): “CAR!”

And so I laid down on the floor and went to my baby place, where I felt perfectly present.

Namaste.

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.

Mindfulness Meditation for a Stress-Less Mind

Mindfulness Meditation for a Stress-Less Mind

We were listening to a radio interview we did recently, talking about the profound benefits of meditation. Deb had said, “Mindfulness meditation is revolutionary because it changes us simply by being fully present, completely aware of just this moment.” Which is absolutely true, but being in the present moment can be slippery, elusive — we want to be in Hawaii, start planning a Christmas shopping list, relive a disagreement with our partner, get distracted by the sound of the mailman outside or an aching knee. The possibilities are endless — all the many ways the mind can do something, anything, other than being present.

On average, we spend our time either living in what-could-have-been, what-might-have-been, or if-only, or in the expectation of what-could-be or what-might-be. But the truth is no matter how much we try, plan, plot, arrange, have things to do, leave the house at the same time each day, arrive at the office at the same time, pick up the kids on time, we can still never know what will happen in the next moment.

We used to live next to a glorious river in Devon, England and walked beside it each day. It was beautiful, but as much as it looked like the same river, even the same water, it was constantly changing — the water was never the same as even a second ago. Likewise, we may look the same but the cells in our body are forever forming, growing and dying; we are continually changing and renewing in every minute, we just aren’t aware of it.

Realizing the past is already gone and can never be relived, while the future is always ahead of us and consistently unknown, the only logical way to deal with this awareness is to be present with what is, whatever it is, as it is. Contrary to common belief, it can be immensely liberating to actually have nothing going on, to discover that the entire universe is contained in this very moment, to realize that nothing more is required than to just be aware and present. Imagine, what a relief! Finally, we can live without expectation, prejudice or longing, or the desire for things to be different than they are.

Being present invites a deep sense of completion, that there really is nowhere else we need to be or go. It’s impossible to think of somewhere else as being better, for the grass is vividly green exactly where we are. At a seminar someone once asked Ed if he had ever experienced another dimension. Ed replied, “Have you experienced this one?”

Right now, pause for a moment and take a deep breath. As you breath out, notice how your body feels, the chair you are sitting on, and the room you are in. That’s all. It only takes an instant to be present. Or, as a way of reminding yourself, put Post-its in strategic places around your home (on your bathroom mirror, the fridge, the inside of the front door, etc.) that say things like: NOW is the greatest moment, Be Here Now; Stop, smile and Breathe; Only this Moment Exists; There Is Just This, NOW!

It’s also essential that, as neuroscientist Brian Jones teaches, you tune down your sympathetic nervous system (the flight and fight response) and tune into your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and relaxation response). You can do this through breathing and mindfulness techniques and can learn more atrevolutionarymindfulness.com

Mindfully Meditating In the Moment 
Mindfully meditating on the flow of the breath naturally brings us into the present while bringing our awareness inward, rather than being focused outward. The breath is just breathing, and yet it is never the same, each breath is completely different to the last one. You can simultaneously silently repeat, “I am here, I am now, I am present! I am here, I am now, I am present!”

Practice: Being and Breathing Meditation
Sit comfortably with your back straight, hands are in your lap, eyes are closed. Spend a few minutes settling your body, being aware of the room around you and the chair you are sitting on.

Now bring your focus to your breathing, just watch the natural movement of air as you breathe in and out. Silently repeat, “Breathing in, breathing out.”

Stay with watching your breath. If your mind starts to drift just see your thoughts as birds in the sky and watch them fly away. Then come back to the breath.

Anytime you get distracted, bored, or lost in thinking, just come back to the breath, to this moment now. Silently repeat, “I am here, I am now, I am present! I am here, I am now, I am present!”

You can do this for a few minutes or as long as you like. When you are ready, take a deep breath and let it go, open your eyes, and move gently.

What keeps you from being mindfully here and now? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs by checking Become a Fan at the top.

Ed and Deb are the co-founders, with Brian Jones, of RevolutionaryMindfulness.com. Join to get our newsletter, free meditation downloads, community support, and learn to balance your nervous system. They are the authors of award winning Be The Change, How Meditation can Transform You and the World. See more at RevolutionaryMindfulness.comand EdandDebShapiro.com.

Mindfulness Could Make You Less Swayed By Immediate Rewards

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/05/mindfulness-rewards-positive-feedback_n_4213365.html?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living

mindfulness rewards

Mindfulness could help you to be less swayed by immediate rewards, a new study suggests.

A study in the journal Emotion shows that people high in mindfulness have less brain activity in response to positive feedback. Mindfulness is the act of nonjudgmental focus on the present moment.

“These findings suggest that mindful individuals may be less affected by immediate rewards and fits well with the idea that mindful individuals are typically less impulsive,” study researcher Rimma Teper, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto Scarborough, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers tracked brain activity of study participants using electroencephalography as they completed a computer task that involved receiving positive, neutral or negative feedback. Researchers found that participants high in mindfulness showed less brain response to rewarding feedback when compared with other study participants.

A study published earlier in the British Journal of Health Psychology also showed that mindfulness had benefits for self control. In that research, using mindfulness strategies seemed to help people resist sweets, Scientific American reported.

In addition, a study conducted by University of Utah researchers showed that mindfulness is associated with greater emotional stability and self-control over emotions.

Running as Moving meditation

Vinluan: Moving meditation (Part 2)

By Bobby Vinluan

Sports Psychology

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

THERE are usually distinctive stages in running and the need to listen to your body is recommended.

If running doesn’t feel good in 30 minutes, you may want to stop or you may ask what am I doing here?

Mild feeling of euphoria may also start in 30 minutes of running, tensions may drain away, and the rhythm between your steps and breathing may lull you, and ideas flash in and out of your mind from the periphery of your consciousness.

There are many offbeat ways of relaxing and getting into a meditative mood for running. Joe Henderson, author of the Long-Run Solutions, suggests five steps, which are general rules for running as well as for reaching a meditative state.

“First,” he says, “start your run without an end in sight. It will take 20-30 minutes to pick up the flow, and by then you’ll know how much you can do, if the run goes badly stop and try again tomorrow. Any running is better than none at all. Even a tickle of running add to the pool of fitness. Third, let the pace find itself. You will usually run along the edge between comfort and discomfort. Fourth, run for yourself. Don’t look ahead or behind. And fifth, run for today, don’t compete with yesterday or tomorrow, take pleasure in less than being your best.”

However, even the best runners will miss occasionally a desired and expected outcome. That is because certain things inhibit to facilitate “penetration into one’s inner world” while running. By avoiding these circumstances, i.e. competition, or the obsession with running kilometers, surroundings which focus your attention outside your body, rather than within, or the yakketty-yakking in group runs, and conversation, with someone or yourself, will misdirect your concentration.

Avoiding these circumstances during a run, and by running steady, in a non-tiring pace, and letting your mind spin free, with ideas flowing like water in a stream can make you encourage the meditative state. If we are to understand more the relationship between running and meditation, believe that a sense of euphoria comes with three types of runs, the meditative high from running alone at a reflective pace; the competition high of running fast at the edge of our physical limits; and the “high” of running with friends and fellowship. Try it if running is part of your life.

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/

What Mindfulness Isn’t … And What It Is – Wildmind

What Mindfulness Isn’t … And What It Is

woman_eating_thoughtfullyMindfulness is all the rage, but there are many misconceptions. It isn’t a form of relaxation, a technique, or even a meditation practice. It isn’t about doing things slowly or emptying your mind; it isn’t Buddhist, and it isn’t scientific. It isn’t easy … but, then again, it isn’t difficult. And it isn’t a fad. So what is it?

1.     It’s not about relaxing
A Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course is about reducing stress, and that means trying to relax, right? Well, not exactly. Mindfulness just means noticing what’s happening, including the things we find difficult. It doesn’t involve listening to panpipes to escape your worries.

2.     It isn’t a meditation practice
On a mindfulness course you’ll learn meditation, but mindfulness is a practice for the whole of life. It means finding a different way to respond to experience throughout the day.

 3.     It isn’t a technique
Mindfulness isn’t something you do. It’s a way of being. You could say it’s a faculty, or a quality of mind that we all have to some extent and can develop further through practice.

4.     It isn’t a way to fix your problems
Mindfulness can help you address stress, anxiety, depression or chronic pain, but not by fixing them. Mindfulness really means living with appreciation and curiousity. Then we can relate in a new way to the things that trouble us, rather than trying to make them go away.

 5.     It isn’t about doing things slowly
Mindfulness courses include things like eating a raisin very slowly. That helps you notice details that you otherwise miss, and shows up our tendency to rush or do one thing while thinking about something else. But that doesn’t mean that you should do everything slowly. Sometimes slower is worse – like when you’re driving. And some people, who have to do things really fast, like racing drivers and tennis players, are exceptionally mindful. With mindfulness, things can feel slower, even when you’re moving quickly.

6.     It isn’t about emptying your mind
Meditation doesn’t mean emptying your mind of thoughts, like a bucket. Minds produce thoughts – it’s what they’re built for – and keep producing them even when you’re meditating. But you can still become calm and settled by learning to let thoughts go. And exploring your thoughts lets you see what’s bugging you, and even how your mind really works.

7.     It Isn’t Buddhist
The mindfulness practices used in MBSR and MBCT are drawn from Buddhism, but no one owns mindfulness: it’s simply a capacity of the mind. That’s why mindfulness is being re-expressed in secular forms. However, Buddhism embeds mindfulness within its own, distinctive set of values and a wider path to liberation and if that’s what you’re looking for it’s worth finding out more.

8.     It isn’t scientific
Research into the effects of mindfulness and its impact on the brain is impressive. It’s a big part of what’s bringing mindfulness into the mainstream. But although you can measure what mindfulness does, you can’t measure what it is. That’s requires feeling, intuition and sensitivity. Measuring mindfulness is a science; practising it is an art.

9.     It isn’t difficult … or easy
Mindfulness is simple, but life is often complicated. So how does it work? The mindful approach is that you don’t have to work out everything all at once. You just have to be aware and manage what’s happening in this moment. So it isn’t difficult … but it also isn’t easy. What’s happening in this moment might be scary, so mindfulness requires patience and resolve as well as openness and gentleness.

10.  And it isn’t a fad
Mindfulness is certainly popular, but isn’t a fad? Mindfulness is a quality of the mind that has always been there and we’re now learning to harness. And mindfulness is more and more relevant because it counters the speed, distraction, superficiality and general mindlessness of so much modern culture and is causing an epidemic of mental strain and illness. Mindfulness is here to stay.