Goldie Hawn Promotes the Benefits of Meditation

Goldie Hawn wikimedia commons

Goldie Hawn promotes the benefits of meditation, which is a part of the MindUP™ curriculum. Meditation is integral and foundational to this program, a program which at its core philosophy seeks to transform and help children transform their lives by creating opportunities to develop necessary social and emotional skills.

The MindUP™ consists of fifteen lessons for three developmental levels including Pre-K through second grade; third through fifth grade; and, sixth through eighth grade.

The program is organized into four units, in which mindfulness meditation as a role.  “Let’s Get Focused,” the first unit, features “understanding mindful attention and focusing our awareness.” The second unit, “Paying Attention to Our Senses” includes;Mindful Listening; Mindful Seeing; Mindful Smelling; Mindful Tasting;  Mindful Movement I; Mindful Movement II.” In unit three, “It’s All About Attitude” includes the mindful practice of ‘perspective.’ The last unit is all mindfulness, “Taking Action Mindfully,” including; “Acting with Gratitude; Performing Acts of Kindness; Taking Mindful Action in Our Community.”

It’s easy to see how Goldie Hawn’s vision to bring mindfulness to the classroom has evolved. An article by Ingrid Wickelgren, on the Scientific American blog reviewed Hawn’s address at the Second Annual Aspen Brain Forum speaks directly to the programs evolution. Here’s Ingrid’s take on it…

“Hawn spoke without notes, claiming to be a born communicator, a claim she backed up by her performance. As she talked, it occurred to me that vivaciousness and beauty did not alone propel her to stardom. Unlike most people who wing it, Hawn strung together rhythmic sentences that made sense. If the neuroscience community was going to be delivered an advocate, they could have done a lot worse.

She answered the obvious question first: Why is Goldie Hawn speaking at a brain conference? I already partly knew the answer. Just as any 7-year-old can now do, I had looked it up on the web. Six years ago Hawn established a nonprofit group called The Hawn Foundation “to promote children’s academic success in school and in life through social and emotional learning.” It is based on the notion that kids’ intellects do not exist in isolation from their emotions, their connections to others or the rest of their bodies. The MindUp program, the Foundation’s signature educational initiative, is designed to address these oft-neglected components of learning. It was a perfect fit for the forum, which this year addressed “The Cognitive Neuroscience of Learning: Implications for Education.” But more on that in a bit.

Hawn’s version was more personal. Decades ago (in 1972 she said), when she became famous, she felt newly anxious and something hard to imagine happened: she lost her signature smile. The change was foreign to Hawn—and not welcome. “When I was 11 years old, I decided that what I wanted to be in life was happy,” she said. “I thought, `All I want to do is hold onto this joy, this tickle I had when I was little.’” Having lost that tickle Hawn went spelunking, in her own psyche. She saw psychologists and began meditating, embarking on a nine-year psychological journey. Such an adventure might make lesser folks crazy or depressed in itself, but Hawn became surprisingly analytical about it. It led, she said, to her first understanding of the brain, “what it can do, how it can change.” She was particularly interested in neuroscience and spirituality, fancying questions such as “What is that God part of the brain?”

Hawn moved to rainy Vancouver, because her son, Wyatt, wanted to play hockey. While watching the rain outside her meditation room sometime in 2002, Hawn’s quest turned outward—in particular, to children. “I was a happy child,” she recalled. “I signed all my 4th grade papers, “Love, Goldie.” But in the wake of 9/11, she perceived U.S. children as being profoundly unhappy. “And I thought why can’t we do something that gets kids to understand their potential? Why don’t we teach our kids about the brain?”

Hawn was no brain expert, but she reasoned that teaching kids about the brain might make them more aware of their own thoughts and emotions. It might help them to develop the ability to think about thinking, or metacognition. That awareness would then give them better control over their own mind—directing their attention more appropriately or calming themselves down—in ways that could improve learning. Hawn seems to give kids lots of credit. I doubt most grownups would be similarly confident that kids could ably control their minds if shown how. Hawn saw this mission as urgent, though. She particularly wanted to prevent stress from shutting down executive function, the self-control of thought, action and emotion that is essential for learning.

So Hawn asked a team of educators, neurologists, psychologists and social scientists to develop a new curriculum built, in part, around lessons about how the brain works. Nowadays teachers in about 65 U.S. schools, nearly 150 in Canada, seven in the UK and one in Venezuela are using MindUp. Some of its young students now weave brain anatomy into casual conversation. One six-year-old girl, Hawn says, explained that it was her aunt’s amygdala that saved her life when the aunt pulled her out of the way of an oncoming car. Another kid reportedly said, “Oh, that lights up my prefrontal cortex, I know how to do this.”

Not all scientists think explicit knowledge of brain anatomy is necessary for prepping kids for study. But it is kind of cool. And why not? “I don’t think kids need to know about the amygdala,” says Adele Diamond, a developmental cognitive neuroscientist at the University of British Columbia. “But kids enjoy learning about the brain. I don’t think it hurts.”

Another component of MindUp, also apparently aimed at metacognition, is meditation. For three minutes, students concentrate on their breathing. The activity not only promotes calm but also sharpens attention. “It is very hard to stay focused on something for three minutes,” Diamond says. “This is training the mind.”

An equally important objective of MindUp is social and emotional development. Kids are taught, for example, that random acts of kindness matter. They know about mirror neurons, Hawn says, and they learn that you become happy when you give to someone else, a lesson in line with the teachings of the Dalai Lama​. Similarly, in “gratitude journals,” children regularly jot down what they are grateful for. I think this is also designed to make them feel good (Hawn invoked dopamine, the brain chemical for reward, in her talk), and to build better relationships. My kids are told to do this at Thanksgiving, and every November I have the passing thought that we really should be counting our blessings more often.

Preliminary data suggest the program works. Kim Schonert-Riechl, an applied developmental psychologist at the University of British Columbia and her colleagues tested the effectiveness of MindUp in 75 schools in her area. So far, the program seems to have had “incredibly positive effects,” says Diamond, who helped parse the data. It not only boosted kids’ self-reported feelings of happiness, liking of school, and sense of belonging, but also moderated kids’ cortisol levels, suggesting it lowered stress in the classroom. Perhaps most strikingly, it improved children’s executive function.

Scientists I spoke to about MindUp were enthusiastic about its potential to benefit children, particularly those at risk of being unhappy and failing in school. A lot of it did make scientific sense. After all, meditation exercises of the type used in MindUp can help adults better orient their attention, according to work presented by psychologist Amishi P. Jha of the University of Miami. And stress can shut down the ability to think—so reducing it should do the opposite. Some studies exist on the effects of gratitude as well: expressing your appreciation for a romantic partner, for example, seems to solidify those important bonds. (See “The Happy Couple: Secrets to a Long Marriage,” By Suzann Pileggi, Scientific American Mind, January/February 2010.) MindUp is reportedly gaining the support of teachers as well. “Teachers love it,” Diamond claims. “That’s why it’s spreading.”

…Hawn’s program is unique, if for no other reason, because she’s behind it. I couldn’t help admiring this scientific novice for doggedly following up on the instincts she had a decade ago, far-fetched as they might seem, and molding them into something undeniably real and data-driven. Hawn’s determination obviously cuts across disparate fields.”Read original article…

Meditation is a journey into self-awareness and neuroscience is allowing us to explore the landscape of the mind itself. In today’s world our children face so many challenges that have created unprecedented stress which compromise our children’s chance of academic success and wellbeing. Goldie Hawn’s program promotes the benefits of meditation and as she said, “We are going to change education as we know it,” I believe her!

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Meditation can Heal You in Less than a Day

Meditation can heal you in less than a day, this what the data shows in research done by Yi-Yung Tang, of Dalian University of Technology in China, and Michael Posner, of the University of Oregon. Their research shows that meditation creates physiological changes in the brain in as little as 11 hours.

Meditation can heal you in Less than a Day

Meditation can heal you in Less than a Day

In what amounts to a revolution in science, recent discovers reveal that the human adult brain remains open to change during our full lifespan. How and what we think about creates and regulates a flow of energy and information, understanding this we then understand that the mind can change the brain. In other words, what and how we focus our attention and intention on, how we direct the flow of energy and information can directly affect the brain’s structure and activity.

In his post, Stephan Schwartz, explores this subject. He links the seemingly universal need to connect to something greater than ourselves to meditation, and meditation to science. Scientific studies verify that when compassion is practiced that the social circuits of the brain light up, which helps us to transform all our relationships, even the one we have with ourselves.

According to Stephan Schwartz:

“Of all the things that you can do to know yourself, nothing will serve you as well as developing the practice of meditation. Although meditation is often associated with Asian cultures, it is not Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Satanic or any faith at all. It can be done in the name of any of these faiths, or without faith in a religion — as distinct from a spiritual sense. Meditation is a single term defining many practices.

More than 1,000 papers have been published on meditation in the peer-reviewed literature between 2006 and 2009. There is not one meditation literature, but multiple branches to this literature in several disciplines, from physics to pastoral counselling, concentrating on everything from using meditation to end addiction, to symptom reduction in Fibromyalgia. Much of the research focuses on stress reduction, sleep problems and attention issues. But the emerging evidence on the lasting effects meditation has on our neuro-anatomy, and particularly our brains is, perhaps, the most fascinating research of all.

This work has documented a kind of deep “stillness” that affects the entire brain. When this occurs, the frontal and temporal lobe circuits — which track time and create self-awareness — seemingly disengage. The mind-body connection dissolves. These studies show us that the limbic system is responsible for assigning emotional values to persons, places, everything in our total life experience. Since the limbic system, among other things, regulates relaxation and ultimately controls the autonomic nervous system, heart rate, blood pressure and metabolism, it produces both emotional and physiological effects when you react to a specific object, person or place. This is why your hair “stands on end,” your skin “crawls,” your stomach “lurches” or your heart “beats faster.”

Because meditation affects the limbic system, developing the discipline allows one to become more volitionally in control of these responses. The practice has a calming effect that leaves us relaxed and physiologically more evenly regulated. This, in turn, allows us to be coherently focused, because we are less distracted by our inner dialogue and emotions as well as our physiological responses. And this literally changes your brain.

A team at the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, headed by Sara Lazar, used MRI to scan the brains of long-term meditators to see if the physical structure of their brains really were different. In 2005, they reported their findings in Neuroreport:

“Brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula. Between-group differences in prefrontal cortical thickness were most pronounced in older participants, suggesting that meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning. Finally, the thickness of two regions correlated with meditation experience. These data provide the first structural evidence for experience-dependent cortical plasticity associated with meditation practice.”

In 2009, at the Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience at Denmark’s Aarhus University, Peter Vestergaard-Pulsen led a team seeking to explore the effects of long term meditation on brain structure. They found, as they report in their paper, also in Neuroreport:

“Using magnetic resonance imaging, we observed higher gray matter density in lower brain stem regions of experienced meditators compared with age-matched nonmeditators. Our findings show that long-term practitioners of meditation have structural differences in brainstem regions concerned with cardiorespiratory control. This could account for some of the cardiorespiratory parasympathetic effects and traits, as well as the cognitive, emotional, and immunoreactive impact reported in several studies of different meditation practices.”

That same year, a research team at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, Department of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine, publishing in Neuroimage, reported:

” … meditation practice has been shown not only to benefit higher-order cognitive functions but also to alter brain activity … meditators showed significantly larger volumes of the right hippocampus. Both orbito-frontal and hippocampal regions have been implicated in emotional regulation and response control. Thus, larger volumes in these regions might account for meditators’ singular abilities and habits to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability, and engage in mindful behavior.” Read full story here…

Though the study by Yi-Yung Tang and Michael Posner shows that meditation can heal you in less than a day, even Mr. Schwartz believes that a person should commit to at least a nighty day program in order to affect lasting changes. His belief is that if a person practices meditation for ninety days, they will have established a regular practice.

So take a deep breath, sit and quiet your mind, take a break from your daily stress and overwhelm from multitasking and running on autopilot, and balance your brain and let the connections in your brain improve along with the connections others and yourself.

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Meditation Benefits: The three Elements of Meditation

The three elements of meditationlead us on our inward journey of self-realization.

The three Elements of Meditation

The three Elements of Meditation


Meditation begins with the breath. Breathing is always with us, whether we are meditating or not. From this place there is never a time when we are not meditating, only a time when we are unaware of it. Meditation is awareness. Meditation centers us in the present moment.

Meditation is a process that involves three important elements. The first is concentration, a place of inner focus. The second is an attitude of non-attachment, where our thoughts are left fleeting unable to disturb our awareness or gain energy. The third element is mindfulness, being fully present in this moment by awakening to our natural state of quietness, where awareness becomes aware of itself.

To deepen your practice of meditation you will want to practice each of these skills regularly.

Concentration

Concentration in meditation is without doing, it is creating awareness without judgment. There’s nothing mystical or spiritual about concentration, and like breathing we all do it in one form or another. It is a way of focusing the mind and applying thought to what is being done.  

Concentration is applying mind to what is felt, seen or thought without an effort to change a thing. It is when we rest our attention on one thing. The focus of our attention when developing a meditation practice can be a candle or Sri Yantra or mandala; more often it is the breath or a mantra.  

In the beginning concentration feels as if it is hard work and can be frustrating. There is, however, a difference between the type concentration we use to solve a problem and the focus we bring to meditation. Meditative concentration is the process of bring together all our scattered energies and letting them settle down, restoring a sense of wholeness.  

Whatever we choose to use as our focus of concentration, whether it’s the breath or a candle, it becomes the center of our attention. In the end the object of attention fills the mind and the energy of thought settles.

Non-attachment

Concentration is the process of letting go of distractions. Thoughts, emotions, sounds or sights in the environment can all disrupt concentration and when that happens, usually we react. And when we react we give energy to those disturbances. The easiest way to have them move out of our conscious awareness is to remain neutral and this is the practice.

Instead of trying to suppress the thoughts (an almost impossible task) we let go of our instinctual need to react to them. This is the process of non-attachment, allowing whatever thoughts that arise in the mind to pass as clouds pass through the sky, dissipating as they go.

The thoughts that distract us in meditation usually center on our cravings and desires. It is these objects of thought that not only disturb our meditation but our daily lives as well.  

Our craving and our moments of silent bliss come and go in meditation; non-attachment is the process of watching without trying to understand them. And when we do not give them new energy through continued attention, the power of these distractions is diminished, they leaves us without acquiring new power.

As the practice develops an experience of one-pointed concentration becomes part of our unconscious mind as well. We create a new samskaras (grooves in the mind) that support our meditation.

Concentration and non-attachment work together supporting each other allowing the other to deepen.

Mindfulness

As our practice of concentration and non-attachment grows there is a transformation that takes place in our awareness. As we become aware of the consistent mind chatter and begin to slowly step away from it, our mind begins to settle and we become aware of our natural state of silence and presence.

The Sanskrit translation of the term “mindfulness” is smriti, and it means ‘to bring to mind’ or ‘to bring to remembrance.’ In describing mindfulness Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (developer of Mindfulness-based stress reduction) said, “Mindfulness can be cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, that is, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, non-judgmentally and openheartedly as possible.”

In the beginning your practice is a collection of developmental skills that support your practice, including your ability to:

  • Pay attention. In order to develop a mindful posture, you need to pay attention.
  • Present moment awareness. Remain in the present moment instead of fantasizing about the future or worrying about the past, or as Ram Dass put it, “Be here now.” This is ‘seeing’ things as they are, without judgment, being aware of things as they are now.
  • Non-reactivity is the ability to respond to your experiences rather than react to your thoughts. Reaction is automatic; response is with awareness.
  • Sensing your emotion is the process of becoming aware of the emotions that give rise to your thoughts.
  • Becoming non-judgmental. Letting go of judgment allows you to see things as they are instead of seeing thing through the filter of your conditioning. This, especially, includes the judgmental self-talk that is so often our inner companion, and allow the feelings of self-acceptance to wash in and fill the void.
  • Maintain concentration. Maintaining your focus keeps you from being carried away on a train of thoughts.
  • Being Openhearted. To be open-hearted is to be kind, compassionate to other as well as yourself. You cannot find the qualities of kindness and compassion outside of yourself, you must look within; and when you can see yourself with awareness as who you truly are, then you can be genuinely compassionate to others.

Meditation is not about self-enhancement but self-transcendence. To realize the self is the gift of meditation and the means to understand and experience the center of consciousness within.

The three elements of meditation, concentration, non-attachment and mindfulness, help us move along our inward journey of self-realization.

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What are the Benefits of a Walking Meditation?

 

What are the Benefits of a Walking Meditation?

What are the Benefits of a Walking Meditation?

Walking meditation is when the act of walking becomes the meditation, mindfulness meditation to be precise, being focused and present to the experience of walking. When you practice walking meditation, you are not trying to get somewhere or accomplish something, like exercise, you let go and enjoy the journey.

The idea in this approach to meditation is to release the mechanical and bring our attention into our bodies and feel what happening within us, all the sensations, as we move through the world.

Aimee Boyle describes the benefits of walking meditation and one approach to the practice. So here I’ll let Aimee describe it…

“Meditation is so often thought of as a practice of sitting still that we often think if we can’t sit still we can’t meditate. Truthfully, many of us don’t even know what meditation really is; there are stereotypes galore, rife with images of oval-fingered, palm-facing-upward serenity and placid facial expressions, candles and gently closed eyelids.

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Although we’ve heard vague notions of stress relief and bliss, many Westerners– unless you’ve purposely led yourself toward meditation or were born into a family which practiced it–do not understand what it is all about. Can you text during a meditation session? Is it all right if the television is on in the background? Do you fall asleep?

Meditation conjures images of quiet and peace, candles and sitting with eyes closed because the very nature of meditation is to undo the overstimulation of the mind and bring it back to a single point of concentrated focus. By letting go of thoughts, images, worries, high excitements and arousals and low despair and depressions, we can reclaim a sense of balance within ourselves spiritually, emotionally and psychologically.

Walking can serve many of the same purposes. All types of exercise have proven to calm one’s mind and bring the energy into alignment, using endorphins as a means of lifting the sense of doom, dread and despair we feel, and oxygenating the blood so that our millions upon billions of thoughts are crowded out by the buzz in our blood and limbs.

By combining walking with meditation you serve the dual purpose of stilling your mind with the purpose of moving your limbs and staying fit, but what’s more helpful, the rhythm of the walking as you feel your feet find their own drumbeat and steady rhythm of your breathing can really bring your mind back into that still, quiet place.

Candles, incense and sitting have their place, of course, there is no doubt whatsoever. But for many of us who become frustrated with ourselves because sitting is so challenging, or for those who want an extra benefit while walking, combining walking and meditating can be extremely beneficial. Walking early in the morning, just after waking up, when the air is cool and the birds are just starting to sing can refresh your spirit and put things in perspective too. Breathe, step, breathe, step, breathe, step, chant, focus, become one with your walk.”

Walking meditation has been practiced alongside the more formal sitting meditation as a way to continue in mindful awareness. This style of meditation practice is a wonderful way to, not only extend your mindfulness practice, but as a way to practice bringing present moment awareness in to your day-to-day experience of the world.

You can actually practice ‘walking meditation’ without actually walking by bringing mindfulness to any movements you make, become aware of how your body feels as you move. How does the bannister feel as you climb the stairs, feel the changes that take place as you stand or even shift your position in your chair.

And when your minds wanders, bring your attention back to the present moment and feel the sensations that happing to you right now. This type of meditation allows you to begin to walk and work in a meditative, calm and relaxed way. Click here to visit the original source of this post

The Benefits of Meditation Benefits Special-needs Students

 

The Benefit of Meditation

The Benefit of Meditation

The aim of mindfulness isn’t to calm to body or the mind and yet it is that’s the effect and the benefit of meditation for students with special needs such as autism and attention-deficit disorders.

 

Probably, the biggest benefit of meditation for the children is that when they begin to learn how to control their anxiety and stress, even to some degree, they can begin to reduce their medications.

In this story, by Kristin Homes, the question of meditation and the challenges faced by different special-needs students is told. So I’ll leave Kristin to it…

“Brandon Heinz, an eighth grader in the Bristol Township School District, told occupational therapist Charles E. Gallagher that he had been asked to sit still “millions of times.”

The problem is that it’s not always easy.

For Brandon, 14, and his classmates – students with autism, attention-deficit disorders, or other special needs – controlling signs of anxiety is often a struggle.

So Gallagher made a suggestion: Breathe.

“In through your nose, and out through your mouth,” he instructed. Then, he said, let out a big sigh.

Gallagher went on to teach the students meditation techniques to help them cope when frustration threatens to overwhelm.

Students with conditions such as autism and attention- deficit disorders have difficulty reading the social cues of language, voice, and behavior and consequently might react in ways that appear inappropriate. They also can experience high levels of anxiety.

“They feel out of control,” said JoAnn Allison, the district’s supervisor of special education. “A lot of the strategies we have are to help them feel they have control of their environments and themselves.”

Gallagher, who has studied a treatment approach known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, fit in perfectly, Allison said.

Mindfulness is a concept that means “paying attention on purpose in the present moment without judgment,” said Gallagher, who has trained at the Mindfulness Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Meditative exercises such as deep breathing help practitioners pay attention to the reactions of the body and mind in stressful moments, said Don McCown, a faculty member at the Mindfulness Institute. Once those reactions are recognized, the person can work toward controlling them.

Meditation also can help youngsters control their anxiety enough to reduce any medications they are taking, said Christina DiNicola, a pediatrician with the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Jefferson.

Early studies show promising results in youngsters with attention-deficit disorders who use yoga and biofeedback to relax, DiNicola said.

This year, Allison invited Gallagher, a therapist at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit, to lead a 30-minute session on meditation.

At the school, Gallagher talked with students in three classes – first and second graders, third and fourth, and fifth to eighth.

Students ran quickly throughout the room, and then in slow motion in exercises designed to get them to notice differences in their body when moving quickly and moving slowly. Gallagher clinked a meditation bell to signal when to stop and go.

He taught them about breathing deeply while standing up and while sitting down with their hands on their belly. He taught them to focus on sounds in their surroundings.

“How do you feel?” Gallagher asked the class of older students.

“My body feels more calm,” said Zachary Ford, 10. “My face feels like it loosened up.”

In the class of third and fourth graders, Christine Smeltzer, 8, said her body felt like she wanted to take a nap.

Christine said she might use the techniques outside the classroom during times when she’s frustrated.

That means when “kids are telling me what to do or bullying my friends,” she said. The breathing would help her feel “calm.”

Mindfulness meditation can reduce stress and that benefit alone is a very powerful tool for children that often feel out of control. Helping the children feel more in control happens as they start to become aware and pay attention to their bodies and mind in moments of stress, the great thing is that the awareness grows as a natural ‘side–effect,’ it’s the benefit of meditation. Click here to visit the original source of this post

The Meditation Benefit of Clearing Your Mind

Who is Andy Puddicombe? He’s a former Buddhist monk and was called by The Times of London, “Britain’s top meditation guru,” but likes to think of himself as an anti-guru.

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe - Bringing Headspace to America

And it looks like he is bringing his nonprofit organization, Headspace, to America. Headspace is, “a project to demystify meditation, to make it accessible, practical and relevant to your life,” a site that offers a number of the ‘meditation for beginners’ type videos.

Actually, the New York Times article does a nice job of introducing Andy to those who have not heard about his style of, “secularized meditation.”

Enter the New York Times…

“What would New York look like if everyone took just 10 minutes out of their day to step back from it all?” Mr. Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk, asked in his rubbery Bristol accent. He was trying out his message — that inner peace can be achieved in meditation sessions shorter than the average cab ride — on an invitation-only audience of harried fashion editors, hedge funders and advertising executives.

Outside, the roar of a motorcycle shredded the springtime evening calm. In the rear row, a leggy woman in a black miniskirt tapped away on her BlackBerry.

“New York is undoubtedly my biggest challenge yet,” he said later. Mr. Puddicombe, 38, has made a career of promoting a quick and easy, religion-free brand of meditation, aimed at busy professionals who would ordinarily recoil at the smell of incense. He teaches techniques that can be practiced on a crowded subway or even while wolfing a sandwich (albeit, mindfully) during a quick lunch break at your desk.

Next year, he and his business partner, Rich Pierson (a former client), plan to move their nonprofit organization, Headspace, to the United States and set up operations in New York, Miami and Los Angeles.

Purists may raise an eyebrow at his promise of a shortcut path to bliss, but Mr. Puddicombe has already struck a chord in the United Kingdom, where he has become something of a Dr. Phil of the yogi set. His new book, “Get Some Headspace: 10 Minutes Can Make All the Difference,” was part of a three-book deal that earned him an advance in the mid-six figures, in dollars.

His group’s Web site, getsomeheadspace.com, features beginner-friendly instructional videos and had 200,000 visitors last year, due in part to Mr. Puddicombe’s regular appearances on BBC Radio. He is also branching into television. In September, Channel 4 in Britain will start a series of 10-minute meditation videos that he stars in. They will be broadcast between regular programs, like tiny TV shows.

His growing media presence has been built on top of a clinical practice in the Kensington district of London that caters to hard-charging achievers: bankers, actors, Premier League soccer players and members of Parliament. He also consults for corporations like Nomura securities and Google.

As such, it’s tempting to call him the maharishi of the money class. But Mr. Puddicombe is uncomfortable with any messianic connotations. “I’m the anti-guru,” he said. Despite his Dalai Lama-esque shaved head, he could be mistaken for a nightclubbing striker for the Tottenham Hotspur soccer team, with his sleek sports jackets from Uniqlo and shirts that show off his muscular build.

Ed Halliwell, a meditation author and writer for The Guardian’s Web site, said Mr. Puddicombe is “doing for meditation what someone like Jamie Oliver has done for food.” And like Mr. Oliver, he’s ready to conquer the United States. At the Industria event, Mr Puddicombe was not promising spiritual enlightenment, only a technique that combines steady breathing with mind-focusing exercises.

“We’ve secularized meditation,” he said. Click here to visit the original source of this post

The idea of ‘secularized meditation’ is not for everyone, for some there is a strong need for a deeper connection, but for others, this may be just the approach they need to embrace and receive the benefits of meditation.

However, even if meditation is secularized that does not mean that the practice should be trivialized or that it doesn’t come from a deep and profound place.ᅠ Nor does it mean that, while the benefits of meditation are vast, meditation is the solution to all of life’s problems.

I do believe that the reason for the success of programs like, Jon Kabat–Zinn’s, MBSR program and the Headspace offerings, is the almost desperate need in today’s high speed, high tech world, for stress relief; a reconnecting with our humanity.

So here’s a bit more about Andy Puddicombe, this time from The Times of London… ᅠᅠᅠ

As an ordained monk, Puddicombe spent ten years in monasteries in Nepal, India, Tibet and Russia, often meditating for up to 18 hours a day. He left the monastic life to teach meditation and to fulfil what he believes is his vocation, “to bring meditation [or ‘mindfulness’, as it’s often called] to as many people as possible, and especially to people who wouldn’t usually consider it”.

His timing couldn’t be better. The Beatles were the first to popularise meditation in the UK in the Sixties, but it’s only now that it has reached its tipping point. A growing body of respected research over the past 20 years has suggested that meditation improves a range of psychological and biological functions, including blood pressure, sleep patterns, stress control and levels of serotonin, the happy hormone. The evidence is now so overwhelming that in 2007 it was approved for use in the NHS and independent healthcare — many of Puddicombe’s private clients come to him through GP referral, and he uses it to help with anything from depression and eating disorders to addictions.

The concept of meditation chimes with the times, too. Cheap, portable and scientifically proven to be a powerful defence against stress and anxiety, it’s the perfect self-help treatment for the current convergence of tough times and post-consumerist values.

When I ask about the famous clients, he politely brushes the question away, partly to protect their privacy, and because their celebrity seems genuinely unimportant to him. “One great thing you learn through practicing meditation is empathy. You understand how much the same we all are.” He is just as focused on his non-celebrity clients, and has started a new not-for-profit project called Headspace, which aims to make meditation “accessible and practical”, meaning free from mystery, jargon and religion. It will feature group-training events and interactive online resources including podcasts and MP3 downloads. “My aim is to get as many people as possible to try it for ten minutes a day and see that it’s a great practical tool for everyday life.” He has started a regular Friday morning slot on the BBC Radio 2 Chris Evans Breakfast Show, and is working with Jamie Oliver’s website on issues surrounding “mindfulness” around food and eating.

Anyone can learn to meditate, Puddicombe says. “Meditation is about putting you in the present moment. It’s not about being caught up in never-ending cycle of thoughts that seems to occupy our every waking day. When you step out of that, it brings a sense of profound relaxation, and lets you experience any activity — from your work to eating a sandwich — more directly and more intimately.” Meditation has two main effects on the mind, “calm and clarity”. Finding calm is often what brings people to meditation, “but the greater, long-term benefit is clarity. It gradually allows you to still your mind; you understand what is really causing you stress and become more self-aware”. Most of us don’t know ourselves very well. “We think we do, but we can’t. Our minds are like a pool of water. We’re constantly dropping thoughts into them, which ripple the surface. Meditation doesn’t empty your mind but it creates space between the thoughts so the surface can be calm and we can see our reflection more clearly.” Many people find it helps to give them direction and makes them more focused and creative.

Puddicombe is a great debunker. He teaches meditation to people wearing ordinary clothes, sitting in chairs: “There’s no need to sit in a special posture on the floor.” Ideally, he says, the practice should be integrated into our everyday lives. “You can meditate on the Tube — it’s a good way to beat commuter stress — and there are techniques you can learn so you can meditate while you are brushing your teeth, at your desk or walking home. I recommend three short sessions of ten minutes a time, rather than one big session in the morning.”

To show me how it works, he takes me though a short training session. I sit on a chair with my back straight but relaxed, my feet on the floor and my hands resting on my stomach. He tells me to close my eyes and focus on my breath. The first step is becoming aware of it, and then to count each breath as it comes and goes up to ten, and then to start again. To begin with I’m thinking of other things at the same time — did I send off my car insurance ? — but then, for a few moments, I’m not thinking about anything except noticing my breathing, which has gradually become slower and deeper. I have to “re-enter” the conversation slowly — it feels as if I’ve been in a different room, and for longer than ten minutes. If I can feel noticeably different after ten minutes in a strange office with someone I’ve just met, what could daily practice do for me?

“The word ‘meditation’ comes from a Sanskrit word that means ‘mind training’. It gives you deeper insights and deeper peace. It changes all your perceptions, about yourself and others. Then you take what meditation gives you into your work, and into your relationships and communications with other people.ᅠ

It makes them all better and it makes you happier.” Click here toᅠvisit the original source of this post

So in the end will 10 minutes a day really create the meditation benefit of clearing your mind? Because meditation is a natural and organic process, and because once it’s been, truly, planted in your being, it will then it will grow and expand, so the short answer to the question is, yes.ᅠ

Science confirms it; experience takes it to a deeper place, a place of knowing. If you want to check out the mindfulness training techniques taught in the Headspace program, you can check out Andy’s, “Get Some Headspace,” book at Amazon.

Is there a Meditation Benefit in Being a Slow Learner?

Meditation is the simplest of practices and at the same time it as tremendous subtlety and depth that can create challenges for those who are new to the practice and the benefits that meditation has to offer.

Meditation Benefits for Slow Learners

Meditation Benefits for Slow Learners

 

The basics of meditation are simple, sit in a comfortable position, straighten your back, breathe deeply, put your attention on your breath and follow it. That’s the basics of a mindfulness meditation practice.

However, meditation is like any art form, you can keep it simple or you can delve into the depths of the practice. Because of these subtleties and the challenges that someone new meditation encounters, they can sometimes feel as if they just don’t ‘get it’ or they are a ‘slow learner.’

That’s how Therese Borchard felt as she began to learn meditation and, well, I’ll let her tell you the story from her post, “Meditation for Slow Learners.” ᅠᅠᅠ

“…I’m a bit of a slow learner, so even as I promised myself two years ago that I would start each day with 20 minutes of meditation, I am still thumbing through books trying to figure out how, exactly, you do it. I have learned much from Elisha Goldstein’s Psych Central blog, “Mindfulness and Psychotherapy.” Because I believe, on some level, that all forms of meditation are about creating space. And Elisha reminds his readers of that by continually repeating the meaningful quote by Viktor Frankl that says “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”

Space is what makes meditation as well as laughter such powerful tools. Without space, we live from the reptilian part of our brains, the amygdala, or fear center of our brain. So everything is reaction, impulse, panic. Even a second’s amount of space allows us to breathe and grab our mental blankie, if you will, so that we can respond with a higher evolved part of the brain.

While that all sounds so easy, I’m admittedly still challenged in this area. And apparently a lot of other folks are, too, which is why Dr. Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson have written an in-depth guide titled simply, “Meditation.” (Even the title is easy to understand!)

Before you put these guys in an ivory tower away from the muddle that us, non-academic-types trudge through everyday, you should know a little about Dr. Gawler’s story. A competitive decathlete, he was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1975 at the age of 24. Even after his leg was amputated, doctors gave him a five percent chance of living beyond five years. Just three years after that, the same doctors declared him cancer free. Because so many cancer patients were coming to him for advice, he founded The Gawler Foundation, which provides holistic healing retreats for cancer patients.

The authors introduce mindfulness-based stillness meditation with four simple steps: preparation, relaxation, mindfulness, and stillness.

  • Preparation is the easy part, the practical details of where you will meditate, your posture, deciding what specific kind of meditation you will try, and everything that relates to how you set yourself up to begin the meditation. According to Gawler and Bedson, “Preparation involves establishing comfort and ease. We create a conducive external and internal environment for meditation by preparing the location, our posture and our attitude.”
  • Relaxation is the street corner where the wheels on my meditation bus disassemble and roll down the road to a coffee shop. According to the authors we simply take the time needed to learn how to relax our body and mind. “A tight or tense body often accompanies a busy or restless mind,” the authors explain. “We use relaxation techniques to create more spaciousness in the body, which helps in calming the mind and bringing our attention into the present moment.”
  • By the time I have made it to mindfulness, I have usually abandoned the discipline altogether, because my mind is so relaxed that it is thinking about chilling out at the pool with a glass of lemonade, not closing my eyes in an air-conditioned office sitting on a pillow. Mindfulness is simply paying attention to the present moment. I don’t know why that should be so difficult, but it is. At least for my monkey brain. Probably because staying attentive to the moment requires that you be free of judgment, like Damn it. I’m thinking about the pool and lemonade again. I totally suck at this. Ideally, if we are truly mindful, we are also free of reaction. Like when the doctor comes after your knee with that rubber thing, and you almost kick him in the nose without even trying to move your leg. Yeah, all that would stop if you were absolutely mindful. You are able to let go of the guilt in the past and the worry of the future. You don’t engage in your usual obsessive thinking … theoretically … so you don’t obsess about your not obsessing. You get the frontal lobes where they are supposed to be.
  • That takes us to stillness. Let me just quote from them on this one:

“Gradually, by just paying attention without reacting, we become aware of a stillness. Sounds, sensations, even emotions and thoughts just come and go. Free of judgment. Free of reaction. We notice a background of stillness against which sounds, sensations and thoughts come and go, appear and disappear. We become aware that still and silent presence that is just noticing the movement of sounds, sensations and thoughts. In this stillness, awareness is open and undistracted. Stillness is not a static nothingness; it is alive, alert and non-reactive presence.”

The challenges that Therese ran into as a beginning meditator are the same challenges that almost all meditators run into when they begin a practice. In fact the most common complaint of a new meditator is, ‘I can’t stop my thoughts.’ ᅠᅠ

The good news is that meditation is not about trying to stop your thoughts, it’s about ignoring them by using the ‘tools’ of meditation, watching the breath or using a mantra; so that when thoughts intrude on your silence you gently brush them away by returning to your breath or mantra. Now that’s a meditation benefit.ᅠClick here to visit the original source of this post

A Field Guide to Taoist Meditation Benefits

Taoism and Taoist meditation benefits, ᅠmake up this ancient Chinese philosophy, a system which emphasizes mindfulness, effortless action and the oneness of life. Taoism is part of the unique blend that makes up Zen and the Tao’s beginning are attributed to two historical figures, Chang Tzu, who wrote the Chang Tzu and the more popular and well known Lao Tzu, who wrote the Tao Te Ching.

A Field Guide to Taoist Meditation Benefits

A Field Guide to Taoist Meditation Benefits

The Tao is mindfulness without the techniques, the most basic of meditation, which is why, I suppose, that it can be the most challenging to comprehend.

But let me let Sat Hon, Author and founder of the New York Dan Tao Center, fill you in on This meditation…

“On Finding a Teacher

On one fine summer day, as I strolled aimlessly along a riverbank,
Beset with a thousand disquietudes,
I chanced upon an old woman fishing under the shady cool of creeping willows.
I wanted to ask her my thousand questions regarding the sun, moon and the creation of the universe and my purpose in life and oh so many more,
She placed her fingers on her lips: Fish are rising.
So I stood there and watched.
The freckled river shimmered with flashes of light like scales of an anaconda.
Clouds drift and tugged the blue horizon with their thick, silken strands;
Shadows of the willow grove deepened.
I felt my questions draining away.
Finally, as she slowly reeled in her line, I laughed as I saw that the line was without a hook.
How does one catch fish without a hook? I wondered.
As she turned to go, I know that tea is ready and I am invited.
Following behind her light, drifting footsteps, a gentle breeze combs through the willow branches,
I catch fragments of their whispering: A big one she caught…”

* * *
“Taoist meditation is action without aim. It is an aimless, meandering meditation without technique or prefabricated notion — fishing without a hook. In Taoism, the very nature of this existence is considered a total meditation of the cosmos. Yet, my clinging mind needs something concrete, steps and the knowhow. Thus, began my foray into the wide horizon of meditation.

Taoist alchemical meditation

I consider this the most simple yet, the most difficult of meditations. There is no technique, no particular posture or formality. Just this very instance of one’s existence is the meditation. One takes each moment as perfect, whole and everything in its rightful place; thoughts, emotions and such are wonderful, magnificent manifestations and an expression of one’s true nature. It is likened to a man waking up after a long coma to find everything — every thought utterly sweet. In other words, as in the case of a patient of mine who suffered partial paralysis from a stroke, the sharp pain of a needle was felt with overwhelming joy and gratitude.

When I teach this pathless form of meditation to students: that there is nothing to teach and everything is perfect and in harmony just as they are in this very moment. I am usually met with the following:

“Ughh. But you have taught us nothing,” is a common response.

“Exactly,” I laugh. While, some walk out in a huff.

“Charlatan!” they shout.

A few stay, hoping that perhaps at a later time I will eventually reveal the secret techniques to them. They will also leave empty-handed and full of blame and anger. Only a rare individual or two will awaken to this instantaneous perfection of suchness.

“You lying thief!” they laugh. And perhaps, we will then share a cup of Dragon Well tea.

Mentak Chia’s macrocosmic/microcosmic meditation

The representative of this lineage of Taoist meditation is Master Mentak Chia who guides students in circulating their endogenous energy/Qi through the acupuncture meridians. Master Chia also utilizes the internal visualization of the inner smile in this meditation. Smiling to one’s angry liver or soothing the weeping lungs might seem farfetched, but such inward smiling does have wonderful healing affects on the organs and their functions. Furthermore, in the opening of the endogenous energy channels, the source and root causes of pathogens are vanquished and one’s health is restored. In summary, the Healing Tao meditation system emphasizes the harnessing of the mind’s power in the health process and guides one toward healing.”

Sat Hon offers a number of other meditations all of which impart wisdom and Taoist meditation benefits and this article also has a FAQ section, which is very interesting and worth the read.

So remember when practicing mindfulness meditation, keep it simple and effortless, and you will be following “the way.” Click here to visit the original source of this post

SAD Meditation Benefits

Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, which is when a person has an unreasonable or excessive fear of social situations and symptom relief, according to researchers at Stanford University, may be a meditation benefit. ᅠᅠ

For those suffering with SAD’s intense nervousness or anxiety can potentially lead to panic attacks. Additionally, there is anticipatory anxiety, which is a fear of a social situation before it happens. Meditation is being shown to have beneficial effects in helping with anticipatory anxiety as well.

But let me have Arlin Cuncic tell you in her own words about the benefits of meditation and SAD’S…

Meditation is a practice that dates back thousands of years and draws on Buddhist principles. During meditation you learn to focus your breathing, reduce negative thinking and live in the present. The practice of meditation has been shown to have a positive impact on many medical and mental health conditions, including social anxiety disorder (SAD).

How does meditation help? In a study at Manchester University, Chris Brown and colleagues found that people who practiced meditation had less negative reactions to pain. As part of the study, participants were administered pin pricks on their arms with a laser; brain scans showed that areas involved in anticipation were much less active in those who meditated.

Anticipatory anxiety plays a large role in SAD; worry about upcoming social or performance situations can cause significant impairment in daily functioning. If meditation helps to reduce anticipation of pain, it follows that it would also help to reduce anticipation of feared events.

Indeed, when researchers at Stanford University looked at brain scans of participants with SAD during meditation, they found changes in brain activity that suggested the potential for a reduction in social anxiety symptoms and reactions to negative self-beliefs.

Finally, meditation is believed to have some direct impact on the body’s nervous system. Breathing, heart rate, and other physiological mechanisms respond to this form of relaxation. Given the role of the fight-or-flight response in SAD, it is easy to see how meditation may also have a direct posit

Social anxiety disorder is, according to research, the most common anxiety disorder and the third most common mental disorder in the U.S. and it’s estimated that 19.2 million Americans suffer from it. Is it any wonder, given the meditation benefits regarding the fight-flight response, which researchers are seriously looking at meditation for relief in dealing with SAD’s. ᅠClick here to visit the original source of this post

Music, Mindfulness and the Meditation Benefits

One question that comes up in my meditation classes is, “should you meditate to music and are there any meditation benefits if you do?” Paradoxically, the answer is yes and no. It depends on your approach to meditation.

Music, Mindfulness and the Meditation Benefits

Music, Mindfulness and the Meditation Benefits

If you have chosen a Vedic, transcendental, mantra based approach, then listening to, and certainly playing, music is not recommended, because the focus of the approach is deep inner silence and music will draw you attention away.

Because mindfulness is the quality of being in harmony with the present moment and starts by paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, it is the perfect meditative approach to music for both listening and playing.

Rolf Hind, a teacher at the Guildhall School of Music, discovered the benefits of meditation and felt compelled to share the practice with his students, but hey, I’ll let him tell it in his own words…ᅠ

ᅠ“…It dawned on me that meditation naturally appeals to musicians, as clearly evidenced by my mini vox pop. Musicians spend a lot of time – even as children – in a state of solitary absorption, called practice. And when we perform, we seek and occasionally know (generally by not seeking) those elusive “flow states” where, in the coming together of all our preparation and the right circumstances, playing feels wonderfully natural and unselfconscious. The latter is something that people sometimes get mystical about,ᅠbut there is increasing research to suggest that it has a physiological and neurological basis.

For me, the practice of meditating – in its more secular usage, the cultivation of mindfulness – has brought an enormous amount to my life and music-making. A sense of clarity and control, less neurosis about ambitions and “career”, greater efficiency, awareness and body sense as a pianist. As a composer, I’m more in touch with the sources of my own creativity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, it occurred to me, if more musicians (and more people generally, come to that) could benefit from this straightforward practice?”

“Science is increasingly endorsing mindfulness. It’s been shown as an effective treatment of stress, anxiety, psoriasis and depression, and approved by the Mental Health Foundation. It is taught in prisons and schools and widely used by sportsmen. And among the enthusiastic proponents of this approach is no less than the Dalai Lama. With our western thirst for scientific corroboration of experience, there is now more and more data emerging about the proven effects of mindfulness practice in many trials. But none yet specifically geared toᅠmusicians…”

“So when the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where I teach, suggested I apply for funds to instigate a course with students, I leapt at the chance.

With my friend and colleague, Chris Cullen, an eight-week course was devised to introduce some techniques and encourage the participants to make mindfulness a part of their practice and life. We also wanted to develop a specific form of mindfulness-teaching tailored for musicians. To me, there were four key areas that might benefit: developing a practice routine, dealing with nerves, gaining an increased awareness of the body, and unlocking creativity. All of which could, I hoped, help in all aspects of music-making and listening.

Chris, a highly experienced and effortlessly motivating teacher of mindfulness, brought a wealth of warmth and kindness to the sessions. Indeed a participant wrote: “To be kind to yourselfᅠisᅠ… very important, but in an environment of pressure and competition, I keep forgetting about it.” There was sufficient buzz from the first course thatᅠweᅠwere able to run it again the followingᅠterm.

Its structure was based on the groundbreaking work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who has been bringing mindfulness meditation into the US medical mainstream since 1979. A version of his mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course is recommended by Nice (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) in the UK for sufferers of recurrent depression and anxiety. Kabat-Zinn has worked with the management of chronic pain as well as with specific clients with particular needs: prisoners, the mentally ill, sportsmen and lawyers to name but a few groups.

The students meet for two hours a week. The time is filled with a guided meditation, a discussion relating to their progress with the practices they have been taught, and suggestions of ways in which they can develop mindfulness as a tool in their musical lives. One of the key practices is the guided body scan – you lie on your back and slowly work your way around your body, trying to feel it from within.ᅠParticular themes are explored – embodiment, or dealing with one’s inner critic…”

“If there is not the time for a longer daily meditation (and even if there is) the students are encouraged to see if they can carry out some everyday activities mindfully: while you are brushing your teeth, being fully immersed in the sensations; walking to the tube you are feeling the sensations of your feet on the pavement, the air on your exposed skin, and so on. You’re fully living the experience. They also take three-minute mindfulness breaks when things are in danger of gettingᅠhectic…”

“The feedback has been relentlessly positive. Some students have used the term “life-changing”. “I have become less prone to stress and anxiety, my self-image has become more stable (I feel like I know myself better) and my concentration has improved hugely,” says one. Another writes: “I think the course is a must for musicians wanting to fulfil theirᅠpotentials.”

It’s a piece with calm episodes, but also moments of high anxiety, excitement and violent joy. This seems to surprise people, who, when you’ve come off a retreat, generally say: “Oh, I’m so jealous. Did you have a lovely relaxing time?” Well yes … to an extent … although you would be surprised what an ecstatic cacophony emerges from your mind when there’s nothing around to distract it.”

Listening to music can end up being, besides a meditation, a meditation benefit in its own right. Listening to music is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. Instead of daydreaming or thinking of all the things you need to do, listen to the music with full attention. When your mind wonders off, gently return to the music, and continue to do that as often as your attention gets drawn away.

There will be times when your slip into the “flow” and you lose yourself in the sound so that you sound merge, only the listening remains. It’s in that moment that you’ve stepped out beyond the mind. Click here to visit the original source of this post