The Need to be Mindful of the Mind!

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People of Christen belief are less likely to die 20 days before Christmas than after Christmas. People who believe in something higher themselves are more likely to live longer, generally healthier and more resilient than people who are non-believers. People who meditate are more to feel a sense of wellbeing and are generally happier.

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These statements are rooted in science and from them one may conclude that these people are somehow living and seeing the world in a different way that confers them some benefits.

What’s special about these situations and these people that causes them to experience these benefits?

Research seems to confirm the age-old suspicion that these individuals’ brains are firing differently! That is to say their mind is processing the world differently.  In a sense they are creating their own reality and their own happiness.

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The Buddha realized the world is suffused with suffering and always advocated cultivating the mind to free one of suffering. Science is now discovering that cultivating the mind is indeed very important determinant of our health and wellbeing.

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It is easy to say cultivate your mind but how does one do that? There are many ways, but none surpass the practice of training your attention, which really means meditating. The practice of meditation is a technique used for thousands of years to improve concentration and focus, which improves the control of  our awareness.

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When we are more aware, it allows us to “see and map out” our own mind.  This then allows us to see different aspects of our self. These different aspects of ourselves have different drives, they are all driven to fulfill our different needs and if these needs are in conflict with each other, then this will result in uncomfortable feeling of either chaos or rigidity within us, resulting in ill-health, relationship conflicts and feeling of depression.

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Sciences is now finding out that Practices like prayer, meditation, tai chi, qigong, yoga all help to cultivate our minds in a beneficial way. Even simple exercise is shown to help depression and improve neuroplasticity in the brain.

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So if you are doing any of these practices please don’t let them lapse and if you were thinking about starting, I wholeheartedly support your effort because the benefits are obvious.

Resources

The Mindful Brian by Daniel Siegel

http://flickrhivemind.net/

Paradise Within a Paradise.

I drove to the far east of the Island and found this deserted white sandy beach; it seemed like a gift just for me since my body was craving to do walking meditation in the hot sun.I felt blissful after I had finished. Here is the beach, the walking meditation you have to do yourself!

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Body Scan Meditation.

It is so important to be connected and be aware of how your body feels at all times. The body provides so much information to our brain, either consciously or unconsciously that it affects how happy, sad or at peace we feel. If we can learn how to be in our bodies it goes a long ways towards influencing and dealing with our emotions. I can tell you more about the benefits of this meditation but they are not realized without regular practice.

The Sources of Suffering and Meditation for Cultivating Self-Compassion

I have talked about self-compassion and how powerful it can be in relieving suffering. It is not the answer to all suffering but it goes long way towards helping us to live well and flourish.

Sources of Suffering

 

There are numerous sources of suffering and here’s one way of categorizing them: –

1.It could be physical, such as when we continue to eat even after we are full, or when we drink too much and then get a hang over the next morning or when we spend hours surfing the internet sitting and getting a backache.

2. It could be mental, when we have thoughts of ill will towards ourselves or others or when we ruminate about something.

3. It could be emotional, when we feel depressed, sad, angry or fearful.

4.It could be relational, when we are unable to connect with others authentically.

5. It could be spiritual, when our values are undermined or when we don’t nurture them.

The pathway to self-compassion is to mindfully look at these areas and start to recognize and accept the suffering that maybe present. We can then use mindfulness based meditative practice to address the suffering.

Meditation for Self- Compassion

Good place to start self-compassion practice is by sitting quietly with spine straight and head held high but slightly tilted downwards.

Once you assumed a comfortable position notice your own breath going in and out your body. The breath maybe noticed going in and out by the sensation at the nostrils or by the movement of the belly going in and out or you might notice it at some other part of the body. It doesn’t matter where you notice the breath going and out of your body but the important thing is to notice the breath all the way in and all the way out of your body. Almost certainly your mind will wonder to other thoughts or images but just acknowledge that the mind is somewhere else and gently bring it back to the breath.

After two to three minutes turn your focus inwards and start to notice sensations in your body. What sort of feeling you experiencing right now?  Is there temperature differences or discomfort in different part of the body? Is there muscle tightness or tension anywhere? Is there pleasant sensation anywhere? Is some part of the body feeling lighter than another part? You may notice other experiences.

Just notice these sensations or experiences and accept them without judging whether they are good or bad. Continue this for 5-6 minutes.

Then with all your heart say the following words:-

May I be safe

May I be happy

May I be healthy

May I live with ease.

You may repeat these wards as many times as you like and when you are ready open your eyes, but try to carry any good will feeling you may have experienced during the meditation as long as you can for the rest of the day.

The idea of this meditation is not to necessarily feel good but to feel the suffering, witness it, accept it and to show compassion towards yourself. In this way we are concentrating on addressing the suffering we feel and are not engaged in blaming or calling others or ourselves derogatory names or planning how to get even with others who may have done us wrong. The wise say it’s no point wishing our enemies death because they are going to die anyway. Therefore lets just concentrate on addressing our suffering with the right thinking and right action.

It is important to have regular formal mindful practice to experience the benefit, just reading and knowing about meditation or mindful is worthless. The research confirms that the beneficial changes in the brain only occur with consistent regular practice.

Until the next time, may you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy and may you be at ease. I will put up some more mindful based self-compassion meditation in the future posts.

Resources: –

C.K. Germer – Open Heart, Open eyes: Practicing the Art of Self Compassion.

http://www.flickrhivemind.net for the photos

 

The Secrets of Resilience

In the past I wrote about vulnerability. I said vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. I asked not to mask or deny your vulnerability because its our greatest asset. Be vulnerable, I said: quake and shake in your boots with it because the new goodness that comes to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable. Now, this of course is on the assumption that life wounding does not leave you with grievous wound from which you cannot recover.  One may wonder if there is a healthy balance between vulnerability and resilience so that a person can recover from their wounds.  All the wounded people I have come across have recovered either completely or partially. Those that are resilient recover completely and those who are not may have difficulty.

A wise man once said, “The best way to come to terms with a terrible past is to get a really good future out of it.” Again the wise man is assuming the person has enough resilience to overcome the terrible past.

So the question is how does one get resilient. I have suggested in my previous posts that the individual who had a happy loving childhood and who’s parents provided the right kind of environment are more “psychologically balances” and this would contribute to them being resilient. But all is not lost if you had a terrible childhood. One can learn to be more resilient. The past doesn’t have to ruin or limit our future. We don’t want to have thought that say “ I can never be happy because this happened in my past.”

What can we do to become resilient? Some very exciting research has emerged from the study of mindfulness meditation.  It seems with meditation practice there is an electrical change in brain function which cultivates an “ approach state” in which people move toward, rather than away from a challenging external situation or internal mental function such as a thought, feeling, or memory. Naturally, such an approach state can be seen as the neural basis for resilience.

Studies have also shown that patients with meditation practice feel an internal sense of stability and clarity. This is important because resilient people are very good at dealing with novelty. When they feel stuck or come across a new difficulty in their path they don’t run away from it.but face it head on, the sense of the stability and clarity they cultivate through meditation becomes very handy  in those situations. If someone is unable to deal with a new situations and keeps finding good excuses not to tackle it, then they will get stuck in the pattern of ineffectuality i.e. they keep repeating the same behaviour and hoping for a different result. They maybe too fearful to try something new; they maybe putting their fear ahead of solving the problem they are faced with. Not solving the problem keeps one in the comfortable zone of what we already know and this keeps one stuck because what we know has been ineffectual and therefore continues to keep one  stuck. One needs to try something new.

Meditation has also been shown to boost the immune system. So there is defence and resilience at the cellular level too, against infections and damage done to the body by the stress hormones. Having a healthy body also will provide sense of resilience.

Quote

Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.
Bern Williams

Resources

http://www.brainyquote.com

http://flickrhivemind.net

The Mindfulness Revolution: edited by Barry Boyce – chapter by Daniel Siegel,  the proven benefits of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the single most important foundation of Health.

It has become more common to hear people talk about mindfulness. In the future I believe it will become even more common and it would not surprise me if as part of the health promoting measures, health care professionals don’t start advocating mindfulness in addition to exercise, good nutrition etc. But what is mindfulness? The exact definition is still being debated but generally it is a form of awareness where we are fully present for an inner or outer moment of  experience, of being accepting and open. In contrast non-mindfulness is when we view from a prejudicial belief, we may be fully aware but not mindfully aware because we are not open and not accepting. We can for example act hostile towards someone because of our existing mental model of hostility but not because there is any need to be hostile. In mindfulness the stance is one of positive regard for others, a nonjudgemental awareness that is tinted with acceptance at its core, of compassion towards self and others.

Mindful awareness can be intentionally created by practices such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, or centring prayer. Daniel J. Siegel in his book ” Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology ” writes this about mindfulness…

“Studies of those with mindful awareness using a broad application of these features reveal that it is of benefit to the health of the mind in terms of balanced emotional regulation, flexibility, and approaching rather than withdrawing from challenging event. Being mindful makes you more empathetic and improves the health of the body in terms of enhanced immune function and increased telomerase – the enzyme that maintains the telomeres at the ends of chromosomes and thus enhances cellular longevity. Mindfulness also helps you have more resilience in the face of chronic pain. Mindfulness awareness helps minds, relationships, and our embodied lives.”

In the ancient traditions of the East mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years to seek truths at higher state of being or to seek enlightenment. It is only recently scientists, with encouragement of Dalai Lama, are discovering the value of mindfulness for health and relationships. In the future posts I will talk about the neurobiology of mindfulness.

 

Resources

Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology  by Daniel J. Siegel

Related articles

How to cope with anxiety without drugs- part 4 -Relaxing the Mind.

Relaxing the mind:

Our mind is constantly active from the time we wake up to when we fall asleep. If we are anxious the thoughts in the mind may accelerate to the point where our mind is racing. Unsettled mind can conjure up all sorts of anxiety provoking scenes resulting in more anxiety. Here we are going to look at the strategies that will calm the mind; these include visualization, meditation and calming music or nature sounds. Like the relaxation techniques for the body, to get most benefit one must do them regularly everyday.There are many techniques of meditations and the best way to learn them is from a teacher. However, just to whet your appetite I have posted some videos below which will show you the basic technique so that you can get started.

Visualization:

Meditation:

Music can have a profound effect on the mood , it seems to touch something deep within us. It has the potential to move you to a place beyond anxiety and worries. It can uplift your mood; so collect music that transport you to these different levels of being. I hesitate to provide a list here because everyone has their own favourites.

Resources:-

Coping with Anxiety

Edmund Bourne and Lorna Garano

Some thoughts on happiness before my article.

I will write an article on happiness shortly , but in the meanwhile here  are some thoughts on happiness by others:

Top 20 most famous happy quotes and happiness quotations. Get 16 free self improvement and selfhelp guides with inspirational quotes, affirmations, happiness, meditation, relaxation, positive, manifestation, motivational quotes, the secret to happiness

What is happiness, and how can we all get some? Buddhist monk, photographer and author Matthieu Ricard has devoted his life to these questions, and his answer is influenced by his faith as well as by his scientific turn of mind: We can train our minds in habits of happiness. Interwoven with his talk are stunning photographs of the Himalayas and of his spiritual community.

Louie Schwartzberg is an award-winning cinematographer, director, and producer whose notable career spans more than three decades providing breathtaking imagery for feature films, television shows, documentaries and commercials.

This piece includes his short film on Gratitude and Happiness. Brother David Steindl’s spoken words, Gary Malkin’s musical compositions and Louie’s cinematography make this a stunningly beautiful piece, reminding us of the precious gift of life, and the beauty all around us.

Interchange Blog

Interchange Blog

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