mindfulness in daily life

Go on, laugh your heart out. It’s good for you

wildmind meditation newsKristine Crane, US News: When Carla Riechman laughs, you hear it.

With her big laughter, the former District of Columbia school teacher has been compared to the laughing Buddha, and it’s a comparison she welcomes. She helps people laugh, which in turn helps them meditate.

“Laughter brings one to silence,” says Riechman, 63, who calls herself the professional “giggle lady.” She established the “laughter revolution,” a laughter meditation program based in the District of Columbia that provides people with hourlong sessions in which they laugh and then meditate. She hosts laughter sessions at people’s homes and local wellness centers, as well as online at …

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Meditation isn’t clearing the mind; it’s focusing on one thing

wildmind meditation newsMihir Patkar, Lifehacker: Meditation does not require a large chunk of sustained time, nor is it too difficult to get into. Psychologist Mike Brooks busts the misconception that it’s about emptying your mind. Instead, meditation is about focusing on one thing.

Brooks is talking about mindfulness meditation, which we’ve discussed before, which focuses on being fully in the moment. One of the biggest problems people have with meditation is the assumption that it requires emptying your mind entirely—I’ve seen several people who misconstrued it as that and gave up on meditation far too quickly. Brooks explains it better:

People think the goal of …

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5 Tips for practicing mindfulness at the office

wildmind meditation newsJanice Marturano, Mindful Magazine: Mindfulness training is about your life. It isn’t about the time you meditate on a cushion or chair. It is about learning to be awake for each moment of your life. So bringing your training into the moments in the day is a necessary requirement.

The good news is that you can bring your training into everyday moments without adding any more demands on your already too-packed schedule. I like to call these moments Purposeful Pauses. It isn’t just about stopping, it is about noticing what is here to be noticed when you stop. And it is about redirecting …

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Mindfulness: how to find inner peace in the chaos of a city

wildmind meditation newsRupert Hawksley, The Telegraph: Mindfulness is all the rage right now, but what, if you don’t mind, does mindfulness actually mean?

The subtitle to a new book on the subject, How to find calm and contentment in the chaos of the city, gives us a hefty clue. Calm and contentment? Sounds good. So what better place to meet the author, Tessa Watt, than central London at rush hour, a time and location that is guaranteed to be chaotic?

My plan to rigorously test Watt’s methods in this hostile environment backfires, however. By the time she whisks me off Oxford Street, away from the …

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How to get out of a bad mood: 12 tips

wildmind meditation newsJoyce Marter, LCPC, PsychCentral: Large and rapidly moving, ominous clouds of negativity roll into my mind, infuse my thoughts and deeply darken my mood. As I exhale, I feel the irritability fume from my nostrils like fiery smoke from a dragon’s. As I bristle with defensiveness and hostility, I feel the energetic spikes of anger jet from my spine, creating a non-verbal warning to others to steer clear. My eyes narrow and shoot lasers of fury. My tongue sharpens and my words become cutting and biting. As waves of anger ripple through my body, my energy and power grows. My walk becomes a stomp and I can almost feel the slash of my tail as I move, determined to defend myself and survive anything that comes my way.

“I’m in a bad mood today,” I said to my dear friend and colleague.

I feared she could see the dragon, was ashamed of my rage, and wanted to give her warning of my mood-state to protect our relationship.

“Really? You seem totally fine,” she said.

Interestingly, more often than not, others do not see the dragon. I have spent a lifetime hiding her and have apparently gotten quite good at it.

“Anyway, you are entitled to be in a bad mood with what you have going on,” she added.

What? Entitled to be in a bad mood? This was a radical new concept to me, and one that changed my life.

Growing up in my family, it was never acceptable to be in a bad mood. Angry feelings were not viewed as normal responses to life events, rather they were viewed as bad behavior. I was expected to be the happy, good girl. My feelings of anger were often invalidated. Subsequently, feelings of shame, guilt and anxiety were internalized.

Would my dragon exist had I been allowed to experience and express normal feelings of anger?

As I move through my own personal psycho-spiritual journey, I consciously strive for self-compassion for my negative feelings and less desirable aspects of self. I’m dedicated to a life aligned with love for self and others.

Because we are human, anger and foul moods are a natural and normal part of life. However, they need not be shameful nor destructive. They can be navigated and managed successfully, with little or no harm to any.

After 20 years of counseling clients and being dedicated to my own personal work, I recommend the following to pull out of a bad mood:

1) Don’t fight it. Fighting a bad mood is like flailing in water when drowning or panicking in quicksand—it makes things worse. Simply be mindful of your mood-state and accept that, “it is as it is.” (It’s important to note that I am referring to a “bad mood” and not depression, which requires treatment by a qualified mental health professional.)

2) Look for the lesson. Was there a trigger for the bad mood? Is there a hidden blessing or something to be learned? For example, I often get in a bad mood when I have over-extended and have not set healthy boundaries for myself. Sometimes negative consequences are opportunities for learning and growth.

3) Embrace it. Anger can be mobilizing, energizing and empowering. I secretly sometimes love my dragon energy. Man, do I get stuff done when I am in that state. I’m fearless and determined—-aspects of that can feel quite good and work to my benefit. Ask yourself, how can your negative mood state work to your advantage?

4) Understand that your feelings are always normal. Our feelings may be irrational, but they are always normal responses to our nature and our nurture. Sometimes a current event taps into a well of old feelings from the past, so our emotional response appears disproportionate to the event, but is actually understandable when you consider the full picture.

5) Cut yourself some slack. Nobody is perfect and we are all works in progress. Practice a mantra such as, “I am only human and I am doing the best that I can.” Accept and forgive yourself as you would your best friend or somebody you love very much.

6) Bring your attention to the present. Don’t exacerbate your bad mood by ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Practice mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or meditation to reboot your mind, body and spirit.

7) Pay attention to your thinking. You can observe your negative thoughts and choose not to listen to them. Look for anything good, as gratitude promotes positivity. Compassionately coach yourself through the mood (i.e. “It’s completely understandable that you are upset…Take one thing at a time…It’s going to be okay,” etc.

8) Take pause. Give yourself a mental time out. A bad mood is a good time to take a walk around the block or shut your office door to have a few quiet moments. It’s not a good time to initiate important conversations about work or relationships! Let loved ones know that your not at your best and hold your tongue so you don’t say things you will regret later.

9) Infuse yourself with self-care. Think of it like an epi-pen shot of self-love. Give yourself what you need, even if it is as simple as a good cup of coffee, a yummy meal, a bubble bath or an early night to bed. Keep the self-care healthy, as drinking and shopping and other compulsive behaviors can masquerade as self-care but may be more harmful in the end. Think of it as being your own good parent and take loving care of yourself.

10) Tell people what you need. Don’t expect others to be mind-readers or you might end up in an unwanted conflict. Use assertive communication to ask for support or space, depending on your needs.

11) Know that you are not your anger. You might feel like you are the dragon, but you are not. You the unique spirit of light and love that your anger is temporarily eclipsing.

12) Understand, this too, shall pass. Like the waves of the tide, your moods ebb and flow. You can trust in the ways of the universe—your low mood will lift in time.

The more you practice self-compassion and self-care, the sooner your spikes and claws will retract and the dark clouds will clear from your mind. Inner peace and serenity will be restored. That is, until the tides change and life presents you with another lesson…

“Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves.” ~Carol Lynn Pearson

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Your brain on meditation

wildmind meditation newsBrittany Dingler, The Skidmore News: Generally, meditation is a mindfulness-based practice in which an individual sits quietly, focuses on breathing, and tries to clear their mind of any distracting thoughts or worries. Some meditators even choose to supplement their meditation practice with repeated mantras (think “ohmmm…”) or visualization (“imagine you’re a stick, floating down the river of zen”). Though often viewed as a wacky, spiritual practice reserved only for yogis, hippies, and monks, meditation is a critical tool that has recently gained more support as a source of daily restoration for CEOs and doctors as well as an effective, supplemental treatment for chronic …

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8 ways meditation can improve your life

wildmind meditation newsKristine Crane, Huffington Post: Shrimati Bhanu Narasimhan, a petite Indian woman wrapped in a bright fuchsia sari, has a soft voice but a big presence. She holds the rapt attention of some 100 people who have come to learn how to meditate at the Art of Living Center in the District of Columbia. The type of meditation she teaches is called Sahaj, Sanskrit for effortless. It’s a mantra-based meditation she advises doing twice a day for 20 minutes — before eating. “Mental hygiene,” Narasimhan calls it. Sahaj is just one type of meditation. Others are based on compassion, mindfulness, yoga and transcendentalism, among others. While their …

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Enlarging our tribe – seeing behind appearances

Homeless man sitting in a subway station with a sign saying "Seeking human kindness."

In the mid-1970s I worked as a tenants’ rights activist with poor families in Worcester, Massachusetts. Through organizing tenants’ unions we would try to pressure landlords into assuring fair rents and decent living conditions.

One of these unions was comprised of families renting from one of the most notoriously callous slumlords in the city. The union’s leader, Denise, was a forceful and articulate woman who worked hard to galvanize the group into action to fight a steep rent increase that no one could afford.

Over the many months it took to build the union, I had become friends with Denise and her family. I joined them for dinner, played with the children and was privy to their struggles. Their apartment had been vandalized several times, and there was no way to keep out the rats and cockroaches.

Denise’s oldest son was in jail; another was a drug addict. Her current husband was unemployed and they were in debt. Feeding and clothing her young children and keeping the heat on were challenges she faced regularly. I admired her willingness to put such a dedicated effort into her role as union leader when she had so much to handle at home.

Two days before we were about to begin a rent strike that Denise was coordinating, she left a note under my door, saying she was leaving the union. I was surprised and disappointed, but had an idea of what had happened. Landlords frequently co-opted tenant leaders as a way of crippling the unions. As it turned out, Denise had been bought off with the offer of a new double lock, a rent break, and a part-time job for her son.

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The other tenants, feeling betrayed and demoralized, called Denise “two-faced” and “spineless.” Whenever they saw her on the sidewalk, they would cross to the other side of the street. They didn’t let their children play with hers. She was an outsider, one of “them.” In the past, when union leaders had been bought out, I’d felt the same. They were obstructing our progress.

With Denise, it was different. I understood how desperately she was trying to help her family. I’d seen how, like me, she felt anxiety about her life, how she too wanted love. The poet Longfellow writes, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” I had read enough of Denise’s secret history for her to be real to me; I cared about her.

On the other hand, while it was possible for me to feel openhearted towards Denise despite her actions, I certainly didn’t feel the same toward the landlords. They were in my “bad guy” category.

A number of years later, I had the perfect opportunity to face someone in this category and look more deeply. A friend of mine knew a CEO from a very large corporation who wanted to set up a mindfulness program for his company’s employees, and wanted me to discuss the program with the CEO over lunch.

The CEO fit exactly my rich white man stereotype. He’d been the focus of a well-publicized class action suit for systematically denying women the same opportunities for upward mobility as men. The discrimination was particularly egregious towards African American women. Reluctantly, I agreed to talk with him, feeling uncomfortable about the meeting, expecting that we’d be coming from very different and unfriendly planets.

Yet, close up, he turned out to be quite human and real. He bragged a bit and was obviously eager to be liked. His mother had had triple bypass surgery several weeks earlier. His oldest son had juvenile diabetes. On the weekends his wife complained that he didn’t play enough with the children. He was crazy about them, but invariably urgent calls on his cell phone would pull him away from the barbecues, games of ping-pong, or the videos they were watching together.

He wondered, “Can mindfulness help me to relax when everywhere I turn is another demand?” It didn’t matter that we probably disagreed on most political and social issues. I liked him and wanted him to be happy.

Even if we don’t like someone, seeing their vulnerability allows us to open our heart to them. We might vote against them in an election; we might never invite them to our home; we might even feel they should be imprisoned to protect others.

Still, our habitual feelings of attraction and aversion do not have to overrule our basic capacity to see that, like us, they too suffer and long to be happy. When we see who is really in front of us, when we can glimpse a bit of their “secret history,” we don’t want them to suffer, and our circle of compassion naturally widens to include them.

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How 20 minutes of meditation a day helped me deal with my anxiety

wildmind meditation newsRachel Gillett, Fast Company: Like most people with a brain and a pulse, my life can feel pretty stressful.

We may be lying to ourselves about how busy we really are, but the stress we feel from our always-on lives is real.

And while “mindfulness” has become more of a cliché than a real call to action in the business world, the core message to quiet your mind and focus on the present sounds like the perfect solution for a more productive workday.

The concept of occupying my mind with only one thing was especially appealing to me. I’ve wanted to try and …

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Why everyone should begin to meditate

wildmind meditation newsAnant Naik, Minnesota Daily: Over the past several centuries, saints and mystics around the world have encouraged people to meditate to find inner peace. Even scientists have recently found evidence to suggest that everyone could benefit from more meditation. As a result, a practice once used as a mystical way to understand the forces of life is becoming a popular method to relax and to attain a peaceful state of mind.

Though there are many kinds of meditation, almost all of them involve concentrating on an object. The object might be a thought, image, internal energy or God. However, the act of concentration and self-withdrawal remains the same.

Zoran Josipovic, a professor from New York University, published a study in which he observed Tibetan Buddhist monks’ brain activity while they were meditating. He found that the monks had higher brain connectivity, which means that their brains are able to communicate between different lobes more effectively than they normally would…

This confirmed an earlier study conducted by Eileen Luders at the UCLA School of Medicine. Her research suggested that long-term practitioners of meditation have the capacity to change the physical structure of their brains by repairing white matter and forming new neurological connections. Test subjects were given a cognitive exam, and researchers examined whether the time the subjects spent meditating impacted how well they scored. The cognitive test measured the efficacy of the neurological connections between the different lobes of the brain.

This research has many implications. It suggests that meditation could help repair parts of the brain and thus help treat or prevent mental disorders. With meditation increasing the neuroplasticity of white matter, the brain experiences an improvement in its self-regulatory mechanisms. Michael Posner of the University of Oregon explains that most mental disorders are due to the brain’s inability to self-regulate.

Research has also indicated that meditation can improve concentration. The University of North Carolina showed in a study that students at the school were able to increase their concentration by meditating for about 20 minutes a day for four days.

Furthermore, meditation has been shown to reduce stress. The University of Ottawa found that meditation was effective in lowering patients’ stress levels in the hospital setting.

Although meditation might not completely remedy our daily anxieties, it is definitely an area that all people, including college students, should explore. As University of Minnesota students return to their studies, stress levels are likely to increase. Meditation is a good way to remedy this.

Students can achieve significant increases in focus simply by meditating for 20 minutes each day. In our own ways, all of us are scientists. We should all experiment to see whether meditation has any place in our lives.

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