Meditation is becoming more popular in America, according to the Daily Iowan.
2007 Census Bureau Survey statistics indicate that about 10 percent of the population over 18 practices some form of meditation, and increase from 8 percent in 2002.
Highlighted in the article are students, who benefit from the relaxing effects of transcendental meditation to help them study.
“I felt like I almost had an advantage over other people because I wasn’t panicking over the test,” said Yosra Elkhalifa, a freshman at the University of Iowa. “I’ve been able to focus better, which is crucial, because I’m taking 17 credit hours.”
Susan Taylor, founder of the National Meditation Specialist Certification Board in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, has seen her practice grow from a class of five in 1996 to a group of 200 certified instructors. The program requires 100 hours of intensive training and meditating.
“Each year, more and more people use meditation for health and healing,” Taylor said.
She also stressed that hers is a secular practice. “I’m not preaching Buddhism or Hinduism.”
Linda Rainforth teaches meditation at a public library in Iowa City, where people aged 6 to 96 join her to learn how to meditate. While she said she wasn’t completely sure why more and more people are becoming interested in meditation, she sees a lot of excitement about its possibilities.
“There is so much stress in the world, and I think that’s just another reason that transcendental meditation has made such a great leap back,” she said.
Source: Third Age
Educators and policymakers are always on the look-out for new techniques to enhance academic acumen.
A new study reports on the potential benefits of a specific kind of meditation called the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique to improve scores among low-performing students.
The study was conducted at a California public middle school with 189 students who were below proficiency level in English and math. Change in academic achievement was evaluated using the California Standards Tests.
“The results of the study provide support to a recent trend in education focusing on student mind/body development for academic achievement,” said Dr. Ronald Zigler, study co-author.
“We need more programs of this kind implemented into our nation’s public schools, with further evaluation efforts.”
Students who practiced the Transcendental Meditation program showed significant increases in math and English scale scores and performance level scores over a one-year period.
A significant portion of the meditating students – 41 percent – showed a gain of at least one performance level in math, compared to 15 percent of the non-meditating students in the control group.
Among the students with the lowest levels of academic performance, “below basic” and “far below basic,” the meditating students showed a significant improvement in overall academic achievement compared to students in the control group, which showed only a slight gain.
“This initial research, showing the benefits of the Quiet Time/Transcendental Meditation program on academic achievement, holds promise for public education,” according to Sanford Nidich, Ed.D., lead author and professor of education at Maharishi University of Management.
Maharishi University of Management was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who also founded Transcendental Meditation. Maharishi University promotes “self-exploration, higher consciousness, spirituality, and inner peace through the Transcendental Meditation technique,” according to its website.
“The findings suggest that there is an easy-to-implement, value-added educational program which can help low-performing minority students begin to close the achievement gap,” said Nidich.
The middle school level is of particular concern to educators because of low academic performance nationally. Sixty-six percent of eighth-grade students are below proficiency level in math and 68 percent are below proficiency level in reading, based on 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress data.
Faculty surveyed as part of the project reported the Quiet Time/Transcendental Meditation program to be a valuable addition to the school.
They reported the students to be calmer, happier, and less hyperactive, with an increased ability to focus on schoolwork. In terms of the school environment, faculty reported less student fights, less abusive language, and an overall more relaxed and calm atmosphere since implementation of the program.
Source: Psych Central
Opening The Huffington Post to scenes of political confrontation, revolution, earthquakes and meltdowns, I watch with awe and compassion as our planet heaves and reels with transformation — masses of people demanding reform, while others stagger from the terrifying impact of natural disaster.
Whether it’s one’s own world crashing down or others’ lives falling apart, one feels vulnerable. Can strengthening our connection to the calm, unchanging depths of our being through meditation bring steadiness and resilience in the face of change?
As a meditation teacher, I find that people are often drawn to turning inward during periods of personal crisis, seeking to anchor themselves. It’s not uncommon for someone to come and learn meditation after receiving a devastating medical diagnosis, while going through a divorce, after losing their job or when just feeling overwhelmed by life. Rather than numbing fears and anxieties with alcohol, drugs or something from outside themselves, it’s encouraging that more and more people feel confident that the mind is powerful enough to provide strength and stability from within.
What Happens During Meditation
Our attention is usually absorbed in outer demands — pressures from work, family responsibilities and issues with friends. Meditation can reverse that outer directedness and allow attention to turn inward, not just onto more incessant thinking, but to quieter, subtler, more powerful levels of thought, until the faintest impulse of thought is left behind and the mind is wide awake to itself, not thinking anything, just pure Being.
This is called transcending — the experience of human consciousness in its state of pure potentiality.
There are many venerable forms of meditation, with their own goals, methods, and benefits. As many of my readers know, I happen to teach the Transcendental Meditation technique, which is specifically designed for transcending. This inward settling of the mind happens effortlessly during TM practice because the technique allows the mind to be naturally drawn to levels of increasing charm within — levels of greater peace, energy and intelligence that reside deep within everyone.
A Preparation For Action
This experience of inner wakefulness resets our natural ground state and better prepares us for whatever comes our way. In a recent meditation class, I had a worried mother who complained of insomnia, a businessman with debilitating anxiety and a student struggling with ADHD. Yet even new meditators as these, whose lives were fraught with stress, could sit, close their eyes and transcend to find comfort in their own inner silence — not escaping, but going to a deeper level where pressures of work, unpaid bills and exams don’t intrude. Balance and clarity is regained. Within a few days of learning to transcend, the common experience is that worries are less, and one’s eyes are open a little bit more. With a fresh mind and calm spirit, ideas and insights come easily, and life’s challenges are more manageable.
How The Body Benefits
Stress is the enemy of good health, and the deep rest of the transcendent obliterates stress. Medical researchers have found that TM practice consistently brings down high blood pressure in hypertensive patients.1 A clinical trial funded by the NIH found a 50 percent reduction in heart attack and stroke among elderly at-risk patients who learned the TM technqiue.2
A distinct style of brain functioning is associated with transcending. Research shows that a state of heightened EEG coherence is produced during TM practice, which overtime improves brain performance and changes how our brain deals with stress.3 Other studies on TM show faster recovery from sleep deprivation and a healthier response of the nervous system to stressful stimuli.4
By researching bodily changes during meditation, scientists are identifying the physiology of deep transcendence, as distinct from other mind/body states. A more restful heart rate, slower metabolism, increased skin resistance, stillness of breath, greater reduction of blood lactate and cortisol and widespread alpha coherence all indicate a neurophysiological state not seen during sleep or ordinary eyes-closed relaxation, and also very different from meditation practices like contemplation, concentration or watching your thoughts.5
The deeper we go in meditation, the greater is the rest to the body and the more we harness our inner resources.
Meditation In Times Of Tragedy
A trusty meditation technique may be our best tool for remaining cool, calm and collected in the face of change, disappointment or catastrophe. A student in last week’s class said she came to learn meditation because after recently losing her father, she was impressed with how her brother, a long-time meditator, had handled their dad’s passing.
Meditation cultivates self-reliance. It allows us to fall back onto our self to access that most wise, timeless, unbounded field of human awareness that remains hidden or unavailable to us if we neglect it or never go there.
We need to help others in times of tragedy, with food, supplies, medicine — everything. But we can only help others if we have the wherewithal and can react supportively, exercising our highest powers of judgment and acting from the better angels of our nature. As science has confirmed, transcending develops the brain’s executive functions, quickens reaction time and improves moral reasoning — exactly what’s needed in a crisis.
In times of tragedy or when people are struggling to survive, meditation is not a luxury. Transcending attunes you to the deep, underlying evolutionary force that not only strengthens the human survival mechanism, but creates the presence of heart and mind to more gracefully endure hard times and turn them into something better.
Source: Huffington Post
Good morning! It is my pleasure to introduce you to meditation practice, or — if you already have a practice — to revisit the foundations with you.
The Practice of Tranquility is more than 2,500 years old and has been practiced by countless people over the millennia. I say this so you can know that what I’m going to teach you is ancient and time-tested. It may or may not be for you, but, in any case, you can trust it. I didn’t make it up.
Our culture keeps uncovering more and more reasons why it is a good idea to meditate. For example, according to studies, it has tremendous health benefits, like decreasing stress (by lowering cortisol), improving focus and memory (by raising the level of gamma waves), and preventing relapse into depression by 50 percent (according to studies by Jon Kabat-Zinn, M.D., and Zindel Segal, Ph.D.).
Western science has done a tremendous job of cataloging so-called “negative mind states” (like depression, anxiety, and so on) and prescribing truly helpful treatments for them. Meditation is fast become one of those treatments. Buddhism, on the other hand, has spent the last 2,500 years cataloging positive mind states, such as wisdom, compassion, generosity and patience. It is truly wonderful to live in a time when these two mighty traditions meet. No matter what perspective you come from, the benefits of meditation are numerous and deep. Here is my list:
(The video clip is from July 24, 2009 at Padma Samye Ling, the Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches taught shamatha, calm abiding, meditation instructions according to Zhigpo Dutsi)
1) Meditation makes you like yourself more, and you stop acting so crazy, terrified and confused.
When you practice meditation, you don’t stop thinking. Thinking just goes on and on, but you take a different attitude to your thoughts, which is simply to allow them to be as they are. As you do so, you get to know yourself in a whole new way. You see how your mind works, and what affects you. You see that the smell of toast makes you indescribably happy, you think way too much about your hairstyle, and that every time the phone rings, you get adrenaline in your stomach. You didn’t know these things about yourself, and, when you stop judging yourself (as meditation teaches), you begin to see yourself as someone rather wonderful — vulnerable, strong, quirky and incredibly well-intentioned. You have become your own best friend — one who happens to like you a lot, no matter what.
Thoughts are always trying to seduce you in one way or another — to get mad about something, crave something, avoid something, to become busier, less busy, and so on. In an untrained state, we always go along for the ride. But when you train your mind through the practice of meditation, you see that no matter how many thoughts arise that tell you to become furious, or desirous, or sleepy or frenzied, they all, eventually, pass. With each moment you wait, you soften.
2) Meditation makes you like your fellow humans more.
The practice of meditation has one particularly odd side effect. I did not anticipate this one, and, as far as I can tell from my fellow practitioners and meditation students, no one else did, either.
As it chips away at your concepts, stories and truths, meditation opens your heart. Why are these two things related? Because when you give up your story about yourself and about life, you are left with things as they are. Since you can’t take refuge in stories, you have no protection. You are basically raw. When you’re open, vulnerable and inquisitive, guess what happens? You feel everything. Your fellow humans cease to be puppets in your wee drama, and instead become actual individuals with joys and sorrows, both of which you can feel. You see that everyone –everyone — is as vulnerable as you are, and is pretending that they are not. So your heart goes out to them, even the ones you think are jerks. You can no longer treat anyone as less than yourself. And what does our world need more than this?
3) Meditation helps you see the magic of this world.
When you have a sense of gentleness toward yourself and the ability to love genuinely, something quite extraordinary happens: You relax. Whether things go well, or poorly, on any particular day, you can deal with it because you know how to remain soft and open. This soft openness is no different from waking up to the present moment.
In the present moment, the natural wisdom, beauty and bliss of your own mind and this world are apparent. Profound wisdom in the form of awareness cuts through your concepts, again and again. The simple act of meditation — of placing awareness on breath and, when it strays, bringing it back — is exactly, precisely, utterly this act of wisdom.
Have you ever wondered where that awareness comes from that says, “Hey, you’re thinking — you’re supposed to be paying attention to your breath”? You’re wandering around in a sea of hope, fear, boredom, excitement, and so on, when, out of nowhere, awareness cuts in to remind you of what you are supposed to be doing.
Where does that come from?
Well, unfortunately, I do not know, but I do know that this is the same place that creative inspiration comes from, and insight and freshness. So don’t be afraid of softness, openness and the groundlessness that can accompany the giving up of concept. Instead, you could learn to fall, again and again, into the space of not knowing, which turns out to be where love, compassion and omniscience reside. In the words of Tibetan meditation master Chogyam Trungpa, “The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.”
Source: Susan Piver at Huffington Post
Melissa Shattuck recently was stranded for three days at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport while on her way back to Sioux Falls from a workshop in Puerto Rico with The Chopra Center.
Instead of becoming overly worried and stressed, Shattuck took the setback in stride. A friend remarked to her how calm Shattuck was during the event.
Shattuck credits her meditation practice for helping her keep anxiety and stress in check. Shattuck, who is co-owner of The Dharma Room, started meditating about four and half years ago after an experience at the The Chopra Center in Carlsbad, Calif.
She started meditating to deal with stress. “This was the most life-changing thing for me in dealing with depression and anxiety,” Shattuck says. She is a certified meditation instructor with The Chopra Center, started by teacher and author Deepak Chopra and David Simon. She also teaches Ayurveda and yoga.
During her regular practice, Shattuck meditates twice a day for 20 to 30 minutes. She notices the effects when she doesn’t meditate.
“I would say there’s so many subtle benefits of meditation. … I noticed out of the blue I would respond to a situation in a different way,” Shattuck says.
A team of researchers led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that people who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. Their findings appeared in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.
The study’s senior author, Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, says the study explains why people who meditate feel better, according to the website ScienceDaily.
“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” Lazar says.
“This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”
Meditation can be as simple as just closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. Those who meditate say it helps to calm their mind and to pay attention to what is going on in their body.
More people are looking for ways to cope with stress, says Cena Keller, owner of East Bank Yoga. “I think people are stressed. … They need some sort of outlet that isn’t another device or another outlet.”
The studio currently doesn’t offer a regular meditation class, but Keller says she has been getting more requests for classes.
Veronika Ludewig is teaching a series of meditation classes using a crystal singing bowl at The Dharma Room. When played, the bowls send out sound and vibrations. “It will affect everyone differently. It allows people to tune in to their own body. It literally will resonate where people need it most within their physical self,” Ludewig says.
Ludewig combines breathing meditations and color meditations, which is a visualization technique, in the class.
The Butterfly Rainbow Center has hosted a monthly workshop with Buddhist monks for the past five months. The monks discuss Buddhist principles and give guidance on how to meditate.
Co-owner Randy Smith says 20 to 30 people have attended each session. “We get requests (for meditation) on a fairly regular basis. The interest is growing, I would say,” Smith says.
Source: Argus Leader
On Monday, I wrote an article for the Globe’s g Health section detailing the many ways that cultivating mindfulness can make you happier and improve your health. That’s the practice of being fully engaged in the moment — whether you’re washing dishes or staring at the traffic light in front of you — rather than allowing your mind to wander.
I discussed a recent Massachusetts General Hospital study, which found that taking an 8-week class in mindfulness mediation could actually lead to changes in the brain. I also mentioned a Harvard study published in the journal Science that discovered that we’re most unhappy when our minds are distracted and not focused on the task at hand.
I received a slew of positive e-mails and comments on this piece, with many of you asking me to provide links to the studies — which I did above — and more information on where to take a mindfulness class.
Here are links to institutions in the Boston area that offer mindfulness training that were mentioned in the article.
And watch the video to take a virtual meditation class with renowned mindfulness practitioner Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
They are the simplest instructions in the world: Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, clear your mind and try to focus on the present moment. Yet I am confident that anyone who has tried meditation will agree with me that what seems so basic and easy on paper is often incredibly challenging in real life.
I’ve dabbled in mantras and mindfulness over the years but have never really been able to stick to a regular meditation practice. My mind always seems to wander from pressing concerns such as the grocery list to past blunders or lapses, then I get a backache or an itchy nose (or both) and start feeling bored, and eventually I end up so stressed out about destressing that I give up. But I keep coming back and trying again, every so often, because I honestly feel like a calmer, saner and more well-adjusted person when I meditate, even if it’s just for a few minutes in bed at the end of the day.
Now there’s even more reason to give it another go: New research from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston indicates that meditating regularly can actually change our brain structure for the better, and in just a few months.
The small study, published last month in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, tracked 16 people who took a course on mindfulness-based stress reduction – a type of meditation that, besides focusing your attention, includes guided relaxation exercises and easy stretching – and practiced for about 30 minutes a day.
After eight weeks, MRI scans showed significant gray matter density growth in areas of the brain involved in learning and memory, empathy and compassion, sense of self and emotional regulation, when compared with a control group. In addition, the researchers referred to an earlier study that found a decrease in gray matter in the amygdala, a region of the brain that affects fear and stress, which correlated with a change in self-reported stress levels.
“This is really, clearly, where we can see, for the first time, that when people say, ‘Oh, I feel better, I’m not as stressed when I meditate,’ they’re not just saying that – that there is a biological reason why they’re feeling less stress,” says senior author Sara Lazar, a psychology instructor at Harvard Medical School. She notes that these findings build on prior research that has found positive brain changes in long-term meditators: “But this is proof that it’s really meditation that’s making the difference,” as opposed to other potential factors such as diet or lifestyle, she says. “And it doesn’t take long to get there.”
None of this comes as a surprise to dedicated meditators or to doctors who regularly prescribe the practice.
“The study shows that meditation induces certain physiological brain changes that are consistent with many of the health benefits we see clinically,” says Gary Kaplan, family medicine and chronic pain specialist and director of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine in McLean, Va. He recommends meditation as part of a treatment plan for every one of his patients. He reports that patients who follow this advice typically sleep better, have less pain, less anxiety and depression, and a better general sense of well-being.
Kaplan adds that this admittedly anecdotal evidence comes on top of at least a decade’s worth of research showing that meditation can have a range of benefits such as reduced stress and blood pressure, migraine relief, an improved attention span and better immune function.
Given that meditation is readily accessible, cheap and portable and has few if any risks, there’s really no harm in giving it a try, says Kaplan, who suggests that getting a book or CD on the topic or taking a basic class is a good way to start.
He acknowledges that the practice is far from easy, at least in part because the mind is bound to wander. “We spend a whole bunch of time time-traveling – a lot of time in the future, worrying, and a lot in the past, dwelling on regrets and grief and loss – and we spend very little time in the present, focused on what’s going on at this moment,” he says. “So allowing that chatter to quiet and becoming present in the moment, while being gentle with the thoughts that come in and out of the mind and any anxiety that’s there, that can be difficult.”
For those who are skeptical or who continue to struggle, Hugh Byrne, a senior teacher with the Insight Mediation Community of Washington, suggests some tips for getting going – and sticking with it:
Seek the right style. There are many forms of meditation, with different objectives, and it’s important to do some research and find the one that works best for you, whether it involves walking, chanting or deep-breathing exercises.
Practice, practice, practice. It’s essential to cultivate a regular, daily routine to get your mind in the habit of meditating, even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes to start, says Byrne, who recommends slowly increasing that to 30 minutes or more every day.
Be mindful all day long. Meditation “isn’t just about bringing awareness to your experience while you’re sitting cross-legged with eyes closed,” Byrne says. “It’s also a practice that you can bring into the rest of your life: when you’re eating, sitting in a traffic jam, or relating to a partner, spouse, kids or colleagues at work.” He suggests finding a few minutes here and there to get centered.
Don’t be discouraged by a wandering mind. It’s totally normal. “The important thing is just to notice when you move into planning the future or ruminating on the past or daydreaming, just notice that and gently bring attention back to the present,” Byrne says. “And come back into the body, without judgment or criticism.”
Source: Journal Gazette
You shouldn’t get mad at work but sometimes it just happens. One minute you’re typing up a memo, and the next, you realize it’s been a good minute since you took a breath. Anger has a devilish way of sneaking up on us-especially at work.
But here’s a cure: walking meditation.
At the onset of anger, the best thing you can do for yourself and your career is get up from your desk and walk away. Implement these steps for a successful walking meditation session, and your quality of life at work will dramatically improve.
The goal is to observe the act of walking while becoming completely aware of your body, your breathing, and your surroundings.
Step One: Schedule walking meditation practice on a daily basis. As with most things in life, practice makes perfect. One of the keys to maintaining equanimity is to incorporate regular meditation into your daily life. By scheduling a daily walk, you will improve your meditation skills, ensure you get up from your desk, and create a routine, which gives you a better shot at achieving success. By practicing regularly, you’ll learn to squash anger quickly when it arises.
Step Two: Choose a walking meditation route. One of the goals of this practice is to quiet our minds. We all spend much of our day multitasking at work, while juggling our personal lives as well. Choose a route with little vehicular or pedestrian traffic. The ideal route will be straight, flat, and outdoors. However, walking meditation can be practiced anywhere; a stairwell, quadrangle, or even the office lobby. Try several different routes until you find one that works for you. The best routes are ones that give you enough to observe, without over-stimulating your mind.
Step Three: Before you get started, take several deep breaths. Stand still. Take air in through your nose and feel your abdomen rise. Make yourself aware of the earth under your feet. Enjoy the miracle of being alive. Forget whatever brought you to get up from your desk and temporarily walk away. Tell yourself that you are about to take a walk and clear your mind because you deserve to feel good-even at work.
Step Four: You are now ready to begin your walk. Take measured steps and get in tune with your body. Notice how your feet feel against the ground, how your legs are gliding you forward, how the air feels against your face. Remember that this is not a race. You are enjoying this walk and the world will be fine even if you check out for a few minutes.
Step Five: Keep your mind quiet. As you walk, thoughts will pop into your head. Some of them will be negative thoughts about work. Others might be about how you have 1,000 things to do when you get home tonight. As each thought comes up, acknowledge it, let it go, and concentrate on the walk. This walk is to clear your mind-not clutter it. It is important not to become angry with yourself if this task is difficult for you. Most people are surprised about how difficult it is to shut off their brains for a few minutes! With some practice, it will become easier for you to quiet your mind.
Step Six: Wind down. Ideally you’ll be able to devote 15 minutes a day at work to your walking meditation practice. However, not everyone has that luxury at work. With some practice, a successful walking meditation session can be as short as the walk from your desk to the bathroom. Remember, the goal is to regain your balance and not allow yourself to get angry, upset, or overly emotional at work. Also, don’t end your walking meditation abruptly. Ease yourself back into work life by coming to a planned halt.
Step Seven: Use a mental checklist. When your walk ends, notice how your body feels compared to the beginning of the walk. The good news is that you can’t fail at meditation; there are only varying degrees of success. Don’t have any expectations, other than you know this exercise is good for your body and mind-even if the results aren’t obvious.
Walking meditation has done wonders for my mental clarity at work, and I hope it helps you too! There are many different approaches to this practice. Let us know what works best for you.
By Andrew G. Rosen, founder and editor of Jobacle.com, a career advice blog. He is also the author of How to Quit Your Job.
Source: US News Money