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.

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