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Meet the New Year mindfully!

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2016 is coming to a close — thank goodness! It’s been a challenging year, with political upsets that the pundits hadn’t predicted — from Brexit to Donald Trump’s election as US president — leading to fears of rising nationalism and racism and deepening rancorous splits in our already polarized societies. And that’s not to mention the loss of beloved celebrities such as David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Florence Henderson, and Leonard Cohen, to name but a few.

I don’t know what 2017 will be like, but I think we should prepare for further potentially traumatizing events.

A major tool for keeping your head when all around are losing theirs is meditation. My own meditation practice hasn’t exactly kept my life stress-free, but it’s definitely helped. Just last night I arrived at a meditation class I was teaching feeling rather anxious about some financial matters, and left, after leading a number of meditations totaling about 70 minutes, feeling calm and clear.

Here are some of the benefits of meditating regularly:

If you haven’t yet taken up meditation, there’s no time like the present, and Wildmind’s 31-day online course, Sit Breathe Love, is starting today. It not only teaches two meditation practices that will help you calm your mind and improve your emotional states, but is designed to help you establish a rock-solid daily meditation practice, since we know how hard it can be to establish a new habit.

Sit Breath Love will take you right up to the end of this appalling year, and leave you perfectly placed to deal with whatever 2017 is going to throw your way!

If you’re interested, you can learn more and enroll on our Eventbrite page.

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Mindfulness is a capitalist grift: How faux enlightenment maintains our status quo

wildmind meditation newsKali Holloway, Salon: I stumbled across mindfulness, the meditation practice now favored by titans of tech, sensitive C-suiters, new media gurus and celebrities, without even really knowing it.

A couple of years ago, I was deeply mired in an insane schedule that involved almost everything (compulsive list-making at 4am, vacations mostly spent working, lots of being “on”) except for one desperately missed item (sleep; pretty much just sleep). A friend suggested I download Headspace, a meditation app he swore would calm the thoughts buzzing incessantly in my head, relax my anxious energy and help me be more present. I took his advice, noting the app’s first 10 trial sessions — to be done at the same time over 10 consecutive days — were free. When I found the time to do it, it was, at best, incredibly relaxing; at worst, it barely made a dent in my frazzled synapses. When I didn’t find the time (because again, schedule), the effort to somehow make time became its own source of stress. In the end, I got an equally hectic yet far more satisfying career, took up running and forgot Headspace existed.

That is, until the term “mindfulness” reached a tipping point of near ubiquity. As it turned out, what I’d regarded as just a digitized form of guided meditation was actually a “mindfulness technique,” part of a bigger, buzzy, Buddhism-derived movement toward some version of corporate enlightenment. As long ago as 2012 …

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What is mindfulness and should we be doing it?

wildmind meditation newsRosie Hopegood, The Mirror: Everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Goldie Hawn has been dropping the buzzword ‘mindfulness’ lately.

But while celebs are only just cottoning on to the technique, it’s actually been practised for thousands of years, and is now popping up in all sorts of unlikely places – big banking and tech firms are paying for their employees to take classes in order to reduce stress and anxiety at work.

And according to mindfulness expert Will Williams, anyone can benefit from the practice. “It can be particularly helpful for middle aged women, because hormonal imbalances during or approaching the menopause can be can be helped by regularly doing this kind of meditation,” he says.

It’s a technique that encourages focusing your awareness on the present, rather than mulling over the past, or fretting about the future.

It’s a form of meditation with all religious elements stripped away. There are many classes, books and apps available, but one of the most popular is Headspace (a website and app), which has been downloaded by over three million people, including celebrity fans Emma Watson and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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George Takei on ‘Being Gay, Being Buddhist’

George Takei, Lion’s Roar: The actor, author, and undisputed King of Social Media reflects on his fascinating personal history: his childhood and his family’s internment during World War II, his life as a gay man and activist, how far we’ve all come, and why we must press on together.

I was born to a Buddhist family — my father was Zen and my mother was Shin, and both were rather casual about it. Before Internment all I remember of Buddhist temples are the funerals and the weddings.

Then the Internment came. It was a very chaotic time. I don’t remember much religion except that my mother had created a tiny altar in our little barrack room.

But she didn’t chant every day like my grandmother did before the war, so there wasn’t much discussion of Buddhism until we came out of camp. A volunteer from Senshin Buddhist Church would come and pick my brother, my sister, and me up and take us to the temple (although my mother belonged to Nishi Hongwanji and my father belonged to Zenshuji Temple), and there I was exposed to the teachings of Buddhism. I particularly remember Roy and Terry Nakawatase, a young, personable, actively engaged couple who were teachers of the Sunday School. I remember Roy using the metaphor of the vastness of the ocean: we are all part of it, we belong to this vast oneness, and that made a lot of sense for me—that I am really one with everybody, with the whole, and that we can play a part in making that whole healthier and more understanding…

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Jerry Seinfeld credits meditation for endless energy

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Michael D’Estries, Mother Nature News: Comedian, who has practiced Transcendental Meditation for 40 years, says the technique has helped him stay balanced throughout his career.

For more than 40 years, Jerry Seinfeld has twice daily practiced Transcendental Meditation, a mantra meditation he credits with giving him endless energy and peace of mind.

“When I think about the things I love more than money, more than love, more than just about anything, I love energy,” the 60-year-old said in an interview earlier last month. “I love it and I pursue it, I want it, and I want more of it. And I think this is the reason by the way why I’m so enthusiastic about TM. Physical and mental energy to me is the greatest riches of human life. And TM is like this free account of an endless amount of it.”

Transcendental Meditation (TM), introduced in the mid-1950s by an Indian yogi, is experiencing a resurgence as people with stressful lives seek out easy-to-follow relaxation solutions. While TM is a form of mantra meditation that one generally has to learn through paid training, there are alternatives if you’re working off a smaller budget. Results usually expected from any form of meditation include lower blood pressure, greater focus and reduced anxiety.

In an interview with Bob Roth, executive director of the TM-focused David Lynch Foundation, Seinfeld detailed how he fits meditation into his daily routine.

“I’ll get up at 6 a.m. My kids get up about 6:45 a.m. And so I do the TM before anybody gets up,” he said. “And how does it feel? It doesn’t feel like anything. I don’t understand it. But here’s the difference. At 1 p.m. that day, my head does not hit the decks like it used to. That’s the difference. If I didn’t do TM that morning and I’m working, then by 1 p.m. I’m shot, and I think most people are. And now, at 1 o’clock, I’m feeling good. I just sail through the day, and then I have my second TM at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.”

Other recognizable names who are big fans of meditation include Oprah, Jared Leto, Miranda Kerr and Paul McCartney. MNN’s own Starre Vartan is also a big believer in the practice, having practiced meditation since she was 15.

“Try out what works for you,” writes Vartan. “I find I like different kinds of meditation on different days, and as a person who doesn’t really like a regular schedule or following rules, it works for me to mix it up. The opposite might be true for you — maybe the same time, same place, same breathing sequence and mantra is how you will make meditation yours. But you’ll never know unless you try.”

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More Mindfulness, Less Meditation

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Tony Schwartz, New York Times: More Mindfulness, Less Meditation. Here’s the promise: Meditation – and mindfulness meditation, in particular – will reduce your cortisol level, blood pressure, social anxiety and depression. It will increase your immune response, resilience and focus and improve your relationships — including with yourself. It will also bolster your performance at work and provide inner peace. It may even cure psoriasis.

50 Cent meditates. So do Lena Dunham and Alanis Morissette. Steven P. Jobs meditated, and mindfulness as a practice is sweeping through Silicon Valley. A week from Saturday, 2,000 technology executives and other seekers will gather for a sold-out conference …

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The secret to Goldie Hawn’s sunny disposition

Judith Newman, Prevention: Since the 1970s, Hawn, 67, has been a practitioner of meditation and living mindfully. Through the Hawn Foundation, she has brought the concept of mindfulness to 150,000 children around the world. Today children in her MindUp program learn how they can reduce stress and anxiety by understanding where negative emotions live in the brain and taking charge of their own feelings. (She also released a book on the program, Ten Mindful Minutes, just out in paperback.)

With a reclining Buddha watching over us, Hawn and I met up in her glass-walled New York City penthouse. The living room is Indochined and feng …

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Liv Tyler uses meditation to deal with ADD

Irish Examiner: Liv Tyler meditates to deal with attention deficit disorder (ADD).

The 35-year-old actress – daughter of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler – takes part in the relaxation technique to help her deal with the behavioural condition and also admits meditation also “helps with everything”.

She told the New York Daily News: “I have ADD. [Meditation] definitely helps. It helps with everything.”

Liv is not the only star to have such a condition as it was recently revealed Britney Spears suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – symptoms of which include having difficulty following instructions or remaining seated when required – which is also called ADD or hyperactivity.

A source recently said: “Britney was diagnosed with ADHD in her teens and used to take medication for it.

“The medication helped her deal with it, however, she can’t take it now because it interferes with the other medications she takes for her mental health issues.

“Britney’s current team of doctors strictly prohibit her from taking Adderall or Ritalin, which are commonly given to people with ADHD.”

What’s more, a number of stars enjoy taking time out to meditate including Kimberly Wyatt, who takes part in the relaxation method for two hours every day.

She recently explained: “I meditate for around two hours every day. I put a lovely prayer shawl I got from Bali around my shoulders and sit on the bed with my essential oils – especially white angelica – and angel cards, which I look at for inspiration.”

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Thai Group says Steve Jobs reincarnated as warrior-philosopher

A rather quirky Buddhist organization has taken the distasteful, and I must assume dishonest, step of making claims about Steve Job’s rebirth. Many people only became aware that the Apple leader was a BUddhist when he died last year after a prolonged battle with cancer.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Dhammakaya Group in Thailand is now claiming that “Mr. Jobs has been reincarnated as a celestial warrior-philosopher .. and he’s living in a mystical glass palace hovering above his old office at Apple’s Cupertino, California headquarters.”

The WSJ pointed out that the widespread grief many felt after Jobs’ passing took an odd form, when some of hisadmirers in Malaysia “gathered on a tropical island and in a religious ceremony each took a bite from an apple before flinging the fruit into the sea in a bid to speed up his reincarnation.”

Now, over in Thailand, Phra Chaibul Dhammajayo, who is the abbot at the Dhammakaya Temple north of Bangkok, is claiming that Mr. Jobs has already been reborn.

“After Steve Jobs passed away, he was reincarnated as a divine being with a special knowledge and appreciation for science and the arts,” the Dhammakaya leader said in the first of a series of sermons beamed to hundreds of thousands of the group’s followers around the world.

The WSJ charitably notes that “Phra Chaibul’s claims are impossible to corroborate.” it seems reasonable to assume that they are, in fact, either fabrications or delusions.

It also notes that Chaibul has faced criticism for his claims, which have been accused of being part of a fundraising campaign. Sadly, that sounds about right. I have to say that Dhammakaya’s claims smack of an attempt to profit from the death of a prominent Buddhist.

It is salutary for us to remember that the Buddhist world is not as “pure” as we sometimes might like to think it is.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers members ask for meditation room before Romania concert

The famous rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, which will be performing in Romania on August 31, asked for a relaxation room where they can unwind before the Bucharest show on the National Arena. The meditation room should have plenty of natural light, drapes, carpets and many green plants, but should by no means be blue. The band members asked for coffee, still water, non-alcoholic beer, scented candles, fruits and vegetables, cheese and rice cookies.

Two additional, sound proof rooms are also required for practicing before the concert for drummer Chad Smith and singer Anthony Kiedis, according to eMagic, the organizers of the show …

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