mindfulness in daily life

The power of meditative thinking versus positive thinking

wildmind meditation newsEden Kozlowski, Huffington Post: In conducting my meditation and mindfulness work, I meet many seemingly happy-go-lucky types who focus their attention on positive thinking. Chances are, many of you also aspire to this lifestyle. There are countless websites, Facebook pages and self-help diatribes dedicated to the upbeat idea.

However, this recent HuffPost blog on PT books states, “Positive thinking is at once the most widely embraced and the most frequently reviled philosophy in America.”

So, let me get straight to the point and continue with more of the reviling (actually, how about we clarify instead of revile). In my professional experience, I find …

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Can meditation really make you look younger?

wildmind meditation newsSara Bliss, Yahoo!: There’s a particular buzz around meditation right now, probably a direct result of more than half of working American adults being seriously concerned about their stress levels. Studies—and history—have shown that regular practice can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and keep depression and anxiety at bay. If you’re more concerned with the external effects of stress, how’s this: regular meditation might even make you look younger. Recent studies show that long-term practice changes your body on a cellular level that might actually slow down aging. Vedic Meditation instructor Charlie Knoles says, “People are spending a fortune on anti-wrinkle creams even …

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Be mind full of good

Reaaching Up Into The SkyIt’s kind of amazing: right now, what you think and feel, enjoy and suffer, is changing your brain. The brain is the organ that learns, designed by evolution to be changed by our experiences: what scientists call experience-dependent neuroplasticity.

Neurons that fire together, wire together. This means that each one of us has the power to use the mind to change the brain to change the mind for the better. To benefit oneself and other beings.

Using this internal power is more important than ever these days, when so many of us are pushed and prodded by external forces – the economy, media, politics, workplace policies, war on the other side of the world, the people on the other side of the dining room table – and by our reactions to them.

Life is often hard. To cope with hard things, to be effective and successful, or simply to experience ordinary well-being, we need resources inside, inner strengths like resilience, compassion, gratitude and other positive emotions, self-worth, and insight.

Some strengths are innate – built into your DNA – but most are acquired, woven over time into the fabric of your brain. These lasting traits come from passing states – experiences of the inner strength – that get installed into the brain. You become more grateful through internalizing repeated experiences of gratitude; you become more compassionate through internalizing repeated experiences of compassion; etc.

So far, so obvious. But here’s the catch: without this installation – without the transfer of the experience from short-term memory buffers to long-term storage – beneficial experiences such as feeling cared about are momentarily pleasant but have no lasting value. Yikes! There is no learning, no growth, no change for the better.

Meanwhile, your brain is rapidly and efficiently turning unpleasant, negative experiences – feeling frazzled, stressed, worried, frustrated, irritated, inadequate, hurt, etc. – into neural structure. To help our ancestors survive in harsh conditions, the brain evolved a negativity bias that makes it good at learning from bad experiences but relatively bad at learning from good ones – even though learning from good experiences is the main way to grow the inner strengths we all need.

In effect, today our brains have a well-intended, universal learning disability because they’ve been painstakingly built over millions of years for peak performance . . . in Stone Age conditions.

Most of us are pretty good at having beneficial experiences – but pretty bad at installing them in the brain. Similarly, most therapists, mindfulness teachers, coaches, parents, and human resources trainers are pretty good at encouraging beneficial experiences in others, but pretty bad at helping them get installed in those brains; this was certainly true for me.

In effect, most beneficial experiences are wasted most of the time. The result is a learning curve, a growth rate, that is a lot flatter than it needs to be.

Poignantly, because we are not internalizing most of our wholesome, beneficial experiences – authentic moments of feeling relaxed, capable, peaceful, glad, successful, contented, appreciated, loved, and loving – we feel emptier inside than we truly deserve to feel. And we become a lot easier to manipulate by fear, consumerism, and “us vs. them” conflicts.

What can we do?

We can use the mind to change the brain for the better.

How?

Here’s the essence: Have It, Enjoy It.

In other words, have a beneficial experience in the first place – usually because you simply notice one you are already having: you’re already feeling a bit of ease, relief, pleasure, connection, warmth, determination, confidence, clarity, hope, etc. And it’s fine to create beneficial experiences, such as deliberately thinking of things you feel thankful for, or calling up compassion for someone in pain, or recalling how it felt in your body to assert yourself with someone who was being pushy.

Then, once you’ve got that good experience going, really enjoy it: taking 5, 10, or more seconds to protect and stay with it, and open to it in your body. The longer and more intensely those neurons fire together, the more they’ll be wiring this inner strength into your brain.

This is positive neuroplasticity, the essence of self-reliance: taking in everyday experiences to develop more inner strengths such as grit, confidence, kindness, emotional balance, happiness, patience, and self-awareness.

I don’t believe in positive thinking. You’re not overlooking the pains, losses, or injustices in life. I believe in realistic thinking, seeing the whole mosaic of reality, the good, the bad, and the neutral. Precisely because life is often hard – and because we’ve got a brain that’s relatively poor at growing the inner strengths needed to deal with these challenges – we need to focus on the good facts in life, let them become good experiences, and then help these experiences really sink in.

Most of the time you take in the good will be in the flow of life, maybe half a dozen times a day, usually less than half a minute at a time. You can also use more structured moments, such as at meals, after exercising or meditation, or just before bed.

Besides being more open in general to beneficial experiences, you can look for those specific experiences that will grow the particular inner strength(s) that will help you the most these days. For example, if you’re feeling anxious, look for authentic opportunities to feel supported, protected, resourced, tough-minded, relaxed, or calm. If life feels disappointing or blah, look for the genuine facts that naturally support experiences of gladness, gratitude, pleasure, accomplishment, or effectiveness. If you feel lonely or inadequate, look for the real occasions when you are included, seen, appreciated, liked, or loved – and open to feeling appropriately cared about, and valued; also look for chances to feel caring yourself, since love is love whether it is flowing in or flowing out.

Our beneficial experiences are usually mild – a 1 or 2 on the 0-10 scale of intensity – but they are real. Any single time you let these experiences really land inside you won’t change your life. But much as a cup of water is filled drop by drop, you’ll be changing your brain synapse by synapse for the better – and your life for the better as well.

And with a mind full of good, you’ll have more to offer others. Growing the good in them, too, in widening ripples seen and unseen, perhaps reaching eventually around the whole world.

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Mindfulness for kids: Why we should be encouraging young people to find inner peace

wildmind meditation newsBrogan Driscoll, Huffington Post UK: Once upon a time mindfulness was reserved for spiritual types sitting cross-legged on the tops of faraway mountains, but these days the mind-calming practice has well and truly gone mainstream.

Now, everyone is doing it, from comedian and HuffPost UK blogger Ruby Wax to high-flying bankers ditching the city for a life of peace.

But what exactly is it? Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that involves focusing on the present moment while acknowledging and accepting feelings and thoughts – whether positive or negative.

While the practice is certainly helping adults deal with negative tendencies such stress, self-doubt and anxiety, …

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How two minutes of mindfulness can calm a class and boost attainment

wildmind meditation newsMatthew Jenkin, The Guardian: Buddhists have practised mindfulness for more than 2,000 years, but the technique of focusing on the present moment has long been dismissed by scientists as new age mumbo jumbo. Now, though, the West is finally waking up to the benefits of Eastern meditation and schools are discovering a daily dose of silent reflection can not only calm a classroom but may improve academic performance.

In recent years, medical science has discovered the extent to which mindfulness can help treat a range of mental conditions, from stress to depression. While most studies have focused on adults, new research shows mindfulness can …

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Five reasons why men should start practicing mindfulness

wildmind meditation newsElisha Goldstein, Ph. D., PsychCentral.com: From my experience the gender that is overwhelmingly attracted to mindfulness is women, men aren’t quite as attracted to it. Why is this? In the early days, the man’s greatest responsibility was to protect the tribe. Our brains have been crafted over thousands and thousands of years to guard against vulnerability. The problem with mindfulness for men is that the practice of it asks us to look toward and open up to vulnerability because that is where the gold is. We are also asked to relate to it in very feminine language like with “warmth,” “tenderness,” and “gentleness.” …

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Put down the fork: A mindful parenting mantra

wildmind meditation newsCarla Naumburg, PsychCentral: A few weeks ago, I was on a retreat as part of a year-long course I recently took on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy. (For the record, the course meets in person in the Boston area and online for those of you around the world, and it’s fantastic. If you’re a mental health professional interested in integrating mindfulness into your practice, I highly recommend you check it out.) Anyway, we spent about 36 hours of the retreat in silence, during which time our goal was to meditate on whatever we were doing: sitting, walking, washing dishes, and eating.

At each meal, I tried …

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Aerobics for the brain? Fitness experts praise mindfulness meditation

wildmind meditation newsDorene Internicola, Reuters: Fitness experts call it bicep curls for the brain and aerobics for the mind. Whatever the name, athletes and gym addicts are discovering how mindfulness meditation can enliven a workout routine and invigorate a sports performance.

They say that mindfulness meditation, which focuses on the present moment to clear the mind, can help an exerciser overcome boredom and an athlete zero in on the task at hand.

“Mindfulness meditation is a hot topic actively studied in sports medicine,” said Gregory Chertok, a sports psychology consultant with the American College of Sports Medicine.

The art of living in the present moment …

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Meditation and … Squirrel!

wildmind meditation newsBecky Mahoney, LimaOhio.com: This morning I was perched on top of a thick wool blanket, straight from the jungles of Chichen Itza, Mexico; legs crossed Indian style, hands on my knees. My palms were facing upward, ready to receive (peace, wisdom, wishes – any old gift will do) and I laughed, out loud. I couldn’t take it anymore. Here I am, not a total newbie to this meditation practice, and it was still happening. My nose itched and I felt like I had to sneeze. My foot fell asleep and I willed it to wake up. It didn’t. Was that smoke I smelled outside? …

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Does meditation make a person smarter?

wildmind meditation newsKimberly Ruble, Guardian Liberty Voice: In spite of or even in absence of religious views, many individuals have tried meditating at various times throughout their lives but does meditation make a person smarter? A new research study is claiming that meditation appears to stimulate portions of the brain that basic relaxing does not and they are areas of the brain in which intelligence is believed to come from.

People who meditate appear to process more feelings and ideas than when they are only resting and letting their minds roam seems to be more effective than trying to empty the head of any thought …

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