mindfulness in daily life

Everyday mindfulness linked to healthy glucose levels

Eureka Alert press release, Brown University: Dispositional, or “everyday” mindfulness is the inherent trait of being aware of one’s present thoughts and feelings. In a new study of 399 people that measured health indicators including dispositional mindfulness and blood glucose, researchers found that those with higher scores for mindfulness were significantly more likely than people with low scores to have healthy glucose levels.

The results show an association and do not prove a cause, but they are part of a program led by Brown University where researchers are studying whether interventions that increase mindfulness can improve cardiovascular health. Their overarching hypotheses are that people practicing higher degrees of mindfulness may be better able to motivate themselves to exercise, to resist cravings for high-fat, high-sugar treats, and to stick with diet and exercise regimens recommended by their doctors.

The researchers therefore sought to identify factors that might explain the connection they saw between higher mindfulness and healthier glucose levels. Their analysis of the data showed that obesity risk (mindful people are less likely to be obese) and sense of control (mindful people are more likely to believe they can change many of the important things in their life) both contribute to the link.

“This study demonstrated a significant association of dispositional mindfulness with glucose regulation, and provided novel evidence that obesity and sense of control may serve as potential mediators of this association,” wrote the authors led by Eric Loucks, assistant professor of epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health. “As mindfulness is likely a modifiable trait, this study provides preliminary evidence for a fairly novel and modifiable potential determinant of diabetes risk.”

The study, published in the American Journal of Health Behavior, did not show a direct, statistically significant link between mindfulness and type 2 diabetes risk, which is the medical concern related to elevated blood glucose. Participants with high levels of mindfulness were about 20 percent less likely to have type 2 diabetes, but the total number of people in the study with the condition may have been too small to allow for definitive findings, Loucks said.

Measuring mindfulness, gauging glucose

To gather their data, Loucks and his team enrolled 399 volunteers who’ve been participating in the New England Family Study. The subjects participated in several psychological and physiological tests including glucose tests and the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), a 15-item questionnaire to assess dispositional mindfulness on a 1 to 7 scale. The researchers also collected data on a host of other potentially relevant demographic and health traits including body-mass index, smoking, education, depression, blood pressure, perceived stress, and sense of control.

After adjusting their data to account for such confounding factors as age, sex, race or ethnicity, family history of diabetes, and childhood socioeconomic status, the researchers found that people with high MAAS scores of 6 or 7 were 35 percent more likely to have healthy glucose levels under 100 milligrams per deciliter than people with low MAAS scores below 4.

The analysis found that obesity made about a 3-percentage point difference of the total 35-percent point risk difference. Sense of control accounted for another 8 percentage points of the effect. The rest may derive from factors the study didn’t measure, but at least now researchers have begun to elucidate the possible mechanisms that link mindfulness to glucose regulation.

“There’s been almost no epidemiological observational study investigations on the relationship of mindfulness with diabetes or any cardiovascular risk factor,” Loucks said. “This is one of the first. We’re getting a signal. I’d love to see it replicated in larger sample sizes and prospective studies as well.”

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It’s time for Buddhists to address ableism and accessibility

Vidyamala Burch, Lion’s Roar: Following two accidents in my teens and twenties, I live with a serious spinal injury, getting around with the help of a wheelchair or crutches and with pain as a constant companion. When I am on retreat, I need to change position regularly, either by lying down or standing up. I need to do this. And at the places where I teach and practice, I can do this. Taraloka, a U.K. retreat center for women where I often teach, has a dedicated living space for disabled retreatants …

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Sincerity and meditation

Devi Sawh, Huffington Post: It was funny to me when at a meditation retreat in 2015, the facilitator used the word “sincere” to describe the type of meditator I am. It was funny because that has not always been the case. I have had to work for that like just about everything else on this journey of self-growth.

I remember a very long time ago when I first started to try to make meditation a daily practice, I had a very hard time being sincere each time I sat for meditation. I was trying it because I was …

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An honest narrative of a first meditation

Hunter Colvin, The Vermont Cynic: I’ve never really meditated.

Not unless you count the mini meditation I did at the end of a yoga class I took that one time. But I was too busy wiping copious amounts of sweat from, well, everywhere to really meditate.

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of meditation, though. I mean, to empty your mind and focus on the present is really impressive.

I can’t even make my mind stop making “Supernatural” or …

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Meditation: what can and can’t be taught

Steven Schwartzberg, Huffington Post: By most standards, I’m a fairly experienced meditator. I meditate daily, and have for years. I’ve spent months at a time immersed in silent practice. I study it, teach it, and write about it.

I can still wonder if I’m doing it wrong.

Meditation is deeply personal. Except with the broadest brushstrokes, this intricate journey into one’s most intimate inner experience can not be translated or taught. Teachers may of course share their intuition and expertise, but it is not possible to get inside …

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How meditation helped this guy ditch dating apps — and get more dates

Jordi Lippe-McGraw, Yahoo Health: Last year, Andy Glickman decided he’d had enough. The now-24-year-old realized that his love life essentially consisted of a string of people just looking for superficial or physical relations, with no interest in connecting on an emotional level. He was meeting people online and through apps, and would frequently receive unsolicited nude pictures from people more than twice his age. And he was tired of it.

So Glickman, who also happens to be a sought-after yoga instructor and meditation coach in Philadelphia, decided to apply his expertise in meditation to his love life.

How? Meditation …

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A meditation on meditation: learning it, hating it, needing it

Rachel Machacek, RVANews: When I first started learning the practice of meditation, I was on a far-flung beach in Mexico, there for yoga teacher training. Every day, I got up before sunrise for a 30-minute meditation. I sat in a circle with the other 13 would-be instructors on a wooden platform, ocean waves crashing nearby, eyes closed, incense swirling. Sounds like bliss was just an OM away, doesn’t it?

Not to burst the bubble, but no. During these sessions, my eyes darted around inside my head and I would shift uncomfortably at least 50 times, and usually ended up on my …

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Accept Dependence

Galaxy-unsplash

Want to try a little experiment?

Stop breathing. Really. For a few seconds, maybe a few dozen seconds, and see how it feels.

For me, this experiment is an intimate way to experience a deep truth, that we live dependently, relying on 10,000 things for physical survival, happiness, love, and success.

For example, within half a minute of no air, most people are uncomfortable, after one minute, they’re panicking, and after four minutes, they’re brain-dead or severely damaged. Second by second, your life and mind require oxygen, the plants that “exhale” it, the sun that drives photosynthesis, and other stars blowing up billions of years ago to make every atom of oxygen in the next breath you take. Or think about the people you rely on – the touches, attention, and caring – or the medicines, wisdom teachings, civil society, technologies, or your own good efforts last year that you profit from today.

It’s kind of freaky and frightening to know that we live dangled by 10,000 vulnerable threads, many of which could be cut at any moment. On the other hand, opening to this truth can silence the lies of unwarranted self-criticism. Of course we need others, of course the underlying causes and conditions have to be present to succeed at anything, of course we can’t grow roses in a parking lot. We are frail, soft, vulnerable, hurt by little things, and hungry for love. When you let this in, you’re not so hard on yourself – or others.

Accepting dependence brings you into harmony with the way it actually is. All things, from gophers to galaxies, arise and pass away in dependence on all other things. Dependence is nothing to be ashamed of, in spite of our culture’s hyper-emphasis on independence. Hearing the voice of someone you love, eating a strawberry, or taking a breath, realizing your dependence brings you into an almost ecstatic gratitude when you see that the 10,000 vulnerabilities are actually 10,000 gifts.

Consider some of the many things you depend on. Imagine that for the next year you leave all your doors unlocked, give up a favorite food, and don’t speak with any friends or family. Let it sink in that you use or need many people and things each day. Try to have a matter-of-fact attitude about this, knowing that this is true for everybody, not just you.

Then look in the other direction, and recognize how so many others depend on you. They’re affected by how you smile, your tone of voice, and whether you pick up milk on the way home tonight. When I see this myself, it makes me feel good: I’m connected rather than isolated, and someone who makes a difference. It also makes me feel more tender and kindly toward others.

Much as people depend on you, you depend on you. The you that you are today has been gifted in thousands of ways, large and small, by previous versions of yourself. Like runners in a great relay race, you hand the baton each day to the you who wakes up the next morning. Think of some of the many things that earlier you’s have contributed to your life: problems solved, goals accomplished, dishes done, relationships nurtured, lessons learned. It’s simple and powerful: silently thank them. How does this feel?

Looking forward, consider how your future you depends on what you do today. Not as pressure, but tenderly, let it land that your future you is counting on you, right now. What will be important to this being that you will become? What could you do this year, this day, that would set up this future person – in his or her middle age or old age – to live with safety, health, happiness, and ease?

Last, be honest with yourself about your own needs, and the things that make a difference for you. What would be good to nourish or shore up? Paradoxically, the more open you are to the humility of dependence, the more straightforward you are about watering your personal fruit tree.

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Five mindfulness blessings for 2016

Aubrey Nagle, Philly Voice: As we begin 2016, may you make an ever-increasingly courageous dedication to embody the energy of love. There is no healing power greater than this force on earth. It takes only a cursory read of headline news to see how the absence of love creates profound suffering. May you work to cultivate connection, compassion, and empathy. In the process not only do you transform, but so does the world.

If you enjoy reflecting on the intersection of philosophical musings about love and neurobiology, consider reading “A General Theory of Love” by Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini …

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Science and meditation: integrating a first-person experience into the scientific process

Marjorie Woollacott, Huffington Post: As a long time meditator and neuroscientist, my interest in the effect of meditation on brain function is both personal and professional. The benefits meditation has brought to my life mirror first-person accounts of other meditation practitioners–basically, a sense of greater peace and more joy.

In addition to being even-minded in the midst of life’s challenges, many meditators describe having experiences that might be called mystical–and not just in the state of meditation but also after their session of meditation has ended. Some individuals say that their …

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