stress reduction

Orchard Knob Middle School begins new year with a deep breath

wildmind meditation news

Mary Barnett: Former athlete and current assistant principal at Orchard Knob Middle School [in Chattanooga, TN] LaKesha Carson said she was used to employing a variety of techniques to de-stress and unwind after a particularly crazy day.

But what she learned last week during the first day of faculty in-service at the middle school was the opposite of everything she has ever done or thought to do.

“As a former athlete I have been all about a good hard workout. So I think of de-stressing as going hard, pumping the weights, running, running, and getting that sweat up,” Carson said.

Slowing down, breathing correctly and just sitting quietly were just a few of the techniques Carson and the entire teaching staff were taught during a full day workshop facilitated by two Chattanooga-based yoga and meditation practitioners, Jayne Cagle and Lisa Willard.

The program was introduced by the school’s new principal, Crystal Sorrells, who said she thought of the idea after participating in the Principal Leadership Academy at the Public Education Foundation.

The academy pairs emerging school principals with mentors from the business community while studying 21st century leadership techniques.

“Corporate America puts a lot of time and energy into wellness programs. They have corporate gyms on their campuses and wellness events and activities. I decided to build that idea into our first day of in-service,” Sorrells said.

During the workshops the faculty, classroom facilitators and certified staff were taught various ways to de-stress at their desks and at home by using simple techniques based on yoga and meditation practices.

“Ms. Willard demonstrated use of foam rollers for releasing muscular stress and I taught practical meditation techniques designed to transform or recycle mental and emotional stress into productive energy,” Jayne Cagle said in an email.

Breathing exercises including a simple “8 X 16” were introduced. Breathing in for 8 seconds and breathing out for 16 seconds is something that can be done in the moment of stress, even while standing in front of a group of rowdy teenagers.

Ethan Evans, who will be teaching 7th grade science, is a first time teacher entering the challenging environment of a middle school. Evans said he knows the stress will be coming this year, as it does for most working professionals, and appreciates having some simple tools “in his pocket” as the need arises.

“I like having something I can do right at my desk. What do you need in that moment? It’s good to have something you can look to right then and it takes 24 seconds. I can’t imagine not using these techniques in the middle of the day,” Evans said.

Sorrells agrees.

“Middle school is a tough transition. Its a tough transition no matter what middle school you are in. And so the best way to be the most effective is to take care of yourself and keep yourself balanced,” Sorrells said.

Carson said the long term goal is to find similar activities that the faculty can do together after school on a weekly basis.

“We ask our faculty to expose our kids to different activities, so we want to also do that for each other as educators,” Carson said.

The hope is that the methods picked up by the teachers to keep themselves in balance can also be shared with the students.

“We want to help find ways to teach students how to bring themselves out of a difficult situation. We can train them what to do when they are feeling overwhelmed, when the work is too hard, or when they feel like giving up,” Sorrells said.

Both Willard and Cagle said that they felt training the faculty using these de-stressing tools could be the start of a new trend for school systems.

“It’s a bold move for Principal Sorrels. It shows her creativity and willingness to raise the bar in trying new ways to empower her faculty and students,” Cagle said.

Original article no longer available.


Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More

Mumbai civic administration BMC turns to meditation camp to de-stress fire officials

Sharvaripatwa: The sudden death of chief fire officer Uday Tatkare due to stress induced heart attack last month has served as a wake-up call for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. The civic administration is now planning to send its senior fire officials on a 10-day Vipassana meditation course.

“The issue of high tension and stress faced by fire officials came to light after Tatkare’s death. In a meeting which was held just days after his death, we decided to send all senior officials and firemen for a 10-day Vipassana course so that they can learn to deal with stress in their jobs,” said S S Shinde, Joint Commissioner (Disaster Management). “In the first phase, about 25 senior fire officials will go for the course, following which the entire staff will be sent in batches,” he said.

A senior official overlooking the process said, “We will send officials Read the rest of this article…

one by one for the course as we cannot afford to send all of them at the same time. Officials live with a lot of stress. Sometimes, we have to be on call round-the-clock and this takes a toll on our health.”

According to a fireman, “With fire incidents on the rise, the job pressure has increased tremendously. Fire-fighting has become more difficult due to increase in highrises.”

While the administration is hoping they can send all the officers for the course, it will be voluntary.

“Some officials were concerned about the long leave they will have to take for the meditation course but we assured them this will be covered under sick leave,” said Shinde.

Tatkare, 57, suffered died of a heart attack last month when he was going back home from the civic headquarters in his car.

This was the second incident in the department’s history. On October 20, 1999, Dr V V Rao, the then chief fire officer, had also suffered a cardiac arrest after attending a meeting at the civic headquarters and died on his way to hospital.

Another department which has resorted to meditation camps to de-stress is BMC’s octroi and property tax department.

Newly recruited octroi inspectors and other tax officials were made to undergo a meditation and physical fitness camp last year. More than 250 officials had participated in the camp.

Read More

Yoga’s stress relief: an aid for infertility?

Kimberley Soranno, a 39-year-old Brooklynite undergoing an in vitro fertilization cycle as part of her quest to become pregnant, had gone to her share of yoga classes, but never one like that held on a recent Tuesday night in a reception area of the New York University Fertility Center. There were no deep twists or headstands; just easy “restorative” poses as the teacher, Tracy Toon Spencer, guided the participants — most of them women struggling to conceive — to let go of their worries.

“Verbally, she brings you to a relaxation place in your mind,” Mrs. Soranno said, adding, “It’s great to do the poses, get energy out and feel strong. But the most important part for me was the connection to the other women.”

Besides taxing the mind, body and wallet, infertility can be lonely. Support groups have long existed for infertile couples, but in recent years, so-called “yoga for fertility” classes have become increasingly popular. They are the latest in a succession of holistic approaches to fertility treatment that have included acupuncture and mind-body programs (whose effectiveness for infertility patients is backed by research); massage (which doesn’t have specific data to support it); and Chinese herbs (which some say may be detrimental).

No study has proved that yoga has increased pregnancy rates in infertility patients. But students of yoga-for-fertility classes say that the coping skills they learn help reduce…

Read the rest of this article…

stress on and off the mat. For many, it’s a support group in motion (or lotus).

“As important as the yoga postures was the idea that women could come out of the closet with their infertility and be supported in a group,” said Tami Quinn, the founder, with Beth Heller, of Pulling Down the Moon, a company with holistic fertility centers in Chicago and the Washington area. “If you say come to my support group, women going through infertility are like, ‘I don’t need some hokey support group’ or ‘I’m not that bad.’ But with yoga they are getting support and they don’t even realize it.”

Holly Dougherty, 42, didn’t want to talk about her drug-infused slog through fertility treatment that began seven years ago. “I didn’t tell anyone,” said Ms. Dougherty, with the exception of her parents.

This changed after she started going to yoga-for-fertility classes taught by Ms. Spencer at World Yoga Center in Manhattan in 2005. The gentle poses helped take her mind off her setbacks, and each week, she found the community that she hadn’t realized she needed.

“Being able to open up in a safe environment with support and encouragement of others on the journey, everyone became each other’s cheerleader,” said Ms. Dougherty, now a mother of two who still socializes with students from Ms. Spencer’s class. “I learned to become so open about it.”

SMOKING, alcohol, caffeine and some medications can hurt fertility, as can being overweight or underweight, said Dr. William Schoolcraft, a medical director of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, whose main branch is in Lone Tree. As for improving one’s chances with massage, diet or yoga? “That’s where the data gets murkier,” he said.

“We will never promise that you will get pregnant by doing yoga,” Ms. Quinn said. “We can tell you many women who have done yoga have gotten pregnant. But there’s no clinical data supporting the fact that yoga increases conception rates. The last thing we would want to do is give false hope.”

Stress, however, has been shown to reduce the probability of conception. Alice Domar, who has a Ph.D. in health psychology and is the director of mind-body services at the Harvard-affiliated center Boston IVF, said of yoga: “It’s a very effective relaxation technique, and a great way to get women in the door to get support. It’s a way to get them to like their bodies again.”

A handful of prominent medical centers have partnered with yoga teachers to offer classes. Pulling Down the Moon now holds its $210 six-week Yoga for Fertility programs at Fertility Centers of Illinois in Chicago (since 2002), and Shady Grove Fertility in the Washington area (since 2008.)

Recently, Dr. Domar, a psychologist whose research has shown that participation in a mind-body program can positively affect fertility, joined with Ms. Quinn and Ms. Heller to take wellness programs, including yoga and acupuncture, to infertility clinics nationwide. They have formed a new company, Integrative Care for Fertility: A Domar Center, and plan to open seven branches this year.

In 2009, the New York University Fertility Center in Manhattan brought in two yoga instructors to help patients. “We really do push it,” Dr. Frederick Licciardi, a founding partner of the center, said of its wellness programs that include mind-body work and acupuncture along with yoga. “We put it up front. We know they are doing it anyway. We want to show we are supportive that they are doing it.”

Some infertility clinics advise patients not to do vigorous exercise like running for fear of twisting their drug-stimulated enlarged ovaries. (This excruciating condition, called torsion, is rare, but surgery is often required if it happens with the possibility of losing the ovary, said Dr. Brian Kaplan, a partner at the Fertility Centers of Illinois, who advises his patients to limit exercise while taking stimulating drugs.)

But Dr. Domar, the executive director of a namesake center for mind-body health in Waltham, Mass., has found that some women are loath to give up their daily anxiety-relieving run during infertility treatments, or are “freaked out about gaining weight on fertility drugs.” In some cases, yoga is her bargaining chip. She tells those patients, “you can do hatha yoga and stay fit and toned, and give up your run.”

Ms. Spencer explained in an e-mail that for many patients, “There is a feeling of walking on eggshells and also that one false move may throw off the chances of success.” A class like hers lets them move and blow off steam, students said. “It’s like a can of worms,” she said in an interview. “You can’t stop women from talking to one another.”

But the relief can be quiet as well. Elaine Keating-Brown, 38, an elementary-school teacher in Manhattan who is in her last trimester after in vitro fertilization, found the yoga classes she took with Laura O’Brien, then at N.Y.U., helped her silence a tireless negative voice in her head. Her fertility-related worries felt endless, from “What happens if it doesn’t work?” to “financially, it’s not exactly cheap,” Mrs. Keating-Brown said.

But “once you’re in the yoga room, you haven’t got all that anymore,” she said, “you’re concentrating on you, and put those thoughts aside, put your body in a good place, and come out of class feeling a real feeling of relaxation and it’s going to be O.K. If it isn’t, it isn’t.”

Lori, a 32-year-old management consultant who asked that only her first name be used for privacy, lived with “the chatter in the back of her mind” so constantly after losing twins and suffering two miscarriages that she named that voice Constance in a yoga class she took at Pulling Down the Moon. After learning meditation techniques in class, Lori, the mother of a newborn, said she could observe, but not succumb to her negative thoughts. “I’m aware I feel that way,” she can tell herself when an anxious thought surfaces, “but I’m not going to let it overwhelm me right now.”

Ms. O’Brien summed up the infertility roller coaster this way: “You have to get screened all the time. You have to take certain drugs. You’re at the mercy of everyone telling you what to do and when to do it.” Now teaching $72 four-week fertility and flexibility workshops at Devotion Yoga in Hoboken, N.J., Ms. O’Brien added that loss of control is challenging, “especially for people in this part of the country, if they have a goal and work hard, they get it.”

“This throws that whole mentality out of whack,” she said. But yoga, she contended, helps type-A’s to learn that “you cannot control what’s happening to your body, but you can control how you feel about it.”

In 1998, when Brenda Strong first starting teaching fertility-focused yoga at the Mind Body Institute in Southern California, she said, “people were so ashamed and so isolated because no one else was talking about it.” In her classes, she facilitates conversation among yogis. “In yoga, suffering is caused by attachment to a result or by resistance,” said Ms. Strong, the actress who is the narrator on “Desperate Housewives” and herself has struggled with infertility. “There’s nothing that brings up these two things more: you’re attached to wanting to get pregnant and you’re resistant to the fact that you can’t.”

Medical acceptance of yoga as a stress reliever for infertility patients is slowly growing. In 1990, when Dr. Domar first published research advocating a role for stress reduction in infertility treatment, “I wasn’t just laughed at by physicians,” she said. “I was laughed at by Resolve, the national infertility organization. They all said I was perpetuating a myth of ‘Just relax, and you’ll get pregnant.’ ” At the last meeting for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Dr. Domar, now on the national board of Resolve, gave multiple talks, including one about how to help the mind and body work together in infertile couples.

On March 17, Resolve will host a tele-seminar on “Yoga for Fertility” led by Jill Petigara, who teaches in the Philadelphia area. “A lot of people want to boil it down to ‘If you relax, it will happen,’ ” Ms. Petigara, a former in vitro fertilization patient who adopted a son, wrote in an e-mail. “I absolutely feel that yoga can have a very positive impact on infertility, but infertility is a lot more than ‘just relaxing.’ ”

Read More

Mindfulness meditation improves well-being, researchers report

Sit down. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath. Observe your thoughts objectively as if you were a scientist.

There, you’ve achieved it: mindfulness, a heightened awareness and acceptance of the present moment without judgment.

As simple as it seems, mindfulness, with its origins in the 2,500-year-old Buddhist practices of meditation and yoga, has become the latest buzzword in wellness, as study after study confirms its power to relieve anxiety and improve mood when combined with Western therapies.

Last month University of Toronto researchers reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, which mixes mindfulness meditation with cognitive behavioral therapy, is as effective as antidepressants for preventing relapses in depression.

Dr. Zindel Segal, head of the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Clinic at the University of Toronto, and his colleagues gathered 84 participants who had all recuperated from at least two spells of depression.

Participants were then divided into three groups. One group underwent weekly group therapy. Another received an antidepressant. The third took a placebo.

Over the span of one and a half years, 70 percent of the participants who had taken the placebo had one or more relapses of depression. Only 30 percent of those who received the therapy or the antidepressant suffered from another relapse.

Read the rest of this article…

Segal believes the therapy is so effective because it teaches patients how to observe and correct the destructive ways of thinking that typically lead to depression.

“People may get criticized at work or face rejection, but this therapy teaches skills,” he said. “They can watch those negative thoughts and feelings come and go in their mind without having to engage in them. Patients can then decide to take some action which is more adaptive.”

In Chicago hospitals and private practices, mindfulness-based therapies often cater to specific conditions. Integrative Health Partners in the Loop, for example, offers mindfulness classes for those suffering specifically from anxiety, depression, physical pain and compulsive overeating.

These therapies are offered not only in one-on-one sessions, but also in couples therapy and group classes.

Chicago writer Betsy Storm completed a mindfulness-based stress reduction class last summer at Rush University Medical Center. She has continued to meditate ever since because it improved her chronic sleep problems.

“I told somebody that it was one of the best things that happened to me in 2010—adding meditation in my life,” Storm said. “I feel more alert. I’m able to relax more.”

NorthShore Evanston Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago offer mindfulness programming as well. Researchers are conducting studies at various universities in the area including Rush, Loyola and Northwestern.

Dr. David Victorson, assistant professor in Northwestern’s the department of medical social sciences, studies the effects that mindfulness meditation has on patients in the early stages of prostate cancer. He also runs a nonprofit called True North Treks to bring young cancer survivors together on mindfulness wilderness trips.

Many of the area’s mindfulness professionals meet monthly for networking opportunities, and annually for a teacher’s retreat. The group, called The Chicago Area Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Teacher’s Sangha, has about 30 members, according to founder Holly Nelson-Johnson.

She said several of the group’s members were the first to bring mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy to Chicago in the mid-90s after training with the therapy’s founder Jon Kabat-Zinn. The group later opened the first mindfulness-based stress reduction clinic in Illinois at Cook County Hospital in 1996.

Today, the group helps Chicagoans suffering from sleep deprivation, stress and anxiety. The Amsterdam-based Philips Center for Health and Well-Being recently found that Americans could use the help. In a global survey, the center found that about 49 percent of Americans reported they were too worried or stressed out to sleep.

For some, this figure may indicate that cultural values are responsible for the anxiety and stress that mindfulness-based therapies help to reduce.

“My two-year-old knows his alphabet, numbers and colors, all because of a computer,” said Vered Hankin, a mindfulness-based stress reduction therapist in Chicago. “That’s great, but you’ll learn all that eventually. But will you learn to tap into your intuition and creativity? Not if your TV or phone is always on. That’s important to remember in our society. After running around and information gathering, do we really know how to come back to the self?”

Read More

Can mindfulness help manage pain and mental illness?

In the German night sky, there were hundreds of parachutes falling in a routine army training exercise.

It was this jump that would cause former United States Army Ranger Monty Reed more than two decades of pain. Reed fell from about 100 feet after another parachute interfered with his descent. He broke his ankle and back and to this day has trouble walking and feels discomfort when he breathes.

“I felt like the physical pain that I deal with every day was an enemy I had to fight,” says Reed, 45, of Seattle, Washington.
But eventually, says Reed, a therapy technique that incorporates mindfulness helped him deal with this pain and the flashbacks he got from various army training situations. Mindfulness as a concept comes from Buddhism and is key to meditation in that tradition. It means being present and in the moment, and observing in a nonjudgmental way, says Susan Albers, psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Mindfulness encourages you to accept who you are, and trust yourself. Don’t judge yourself for having the feelings you have — just allow yourself to feel them.

Read the rest of this article…

Read More

The busy mind on meditation

Alicia W. Roberts: Even brief sessions can help with multitasking, dealing with deadlines – and pain relief, too

Fadel Zeidan has proven that minimal training in meditation can lessen the perception of pain in research subjects.

He also has shown that similarly brief sessions of meditation can increase cognitive function – the ability to multitask, recall items in a series and complete tests on a deadline.

Now, he wants to find out why even short stints of meditation affect the brain that way.

As a post-doctoral fellow at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, Zeidan is building on research he started at UNC Charlotte. Using…

Read the rest of this article…

Read More

Hi! Managers: Meditation makes a big difference

The Nation, Thailand: “In a mid-size manufacturing company, the productivity and profitability rose steadily as the number of employees practising a particular form of meditation over the same period rose to 80 per cent of the workforce. During this period, productivity increased by 52 per cent, annual sales grew by 88 per cent and absenteeism declined by 89 per cent.” – The Academy of Management Journal.

This is very interesting, but one has to wonder: How can something as simple as meditation be so beneficial to business performance?

Meditation is the skill of paying attention in a restful way to the flow of life in mind and body. It produces a deep state of relaxation and awareness, and serves as a gateway to a profound healing state.

Meditation can be considered a natural response, or a built-in instinct, because mind and body willingly know how to do it.

It is, however, a mental discipline, which goes beyond a reflexive action.

“… a growing number of corporations, including Deutsche Bank, Google and Hughes Aircraft, offer meditation classes to their workers. Making employees sharper is only one benefit. Studies say meditation also improves productivity, in large part by preventing stress-related illness and reducing absenteeism.”

– Time magazine

When I’m having a rough day with a busy schedule and a variety of tasks waiting for decisions, I need a short break. Unfortunately, I cannot leave the office. To relieve my stress, I put my burdens behind me and take deep breaths – in and out – at least five times. Then, I continue breathing normally and complete my tasks.

It is obvious to me that practising meditation clears the mind. I can relax and let thoughts come and go. The “interference” I feel beforehand subsides. I can keep my focus longer, while the physical strain and mental fatigue that come from sitting at a desk and obsessing over problems for hours are reduced.

I also have other methods of practising meditation. They do not require visiting a temple, because meditation, by my definition, is applied to stay focused on all the activities I do each day. For example, when I listen to New Age songs, I focus on listening. When I paint pictures, I focus on painting. And when I tend to my flowers, I focus on gardening.

I highly recommend pausing throughout your day to feel your mind and body. When you are stressed at work – when you feel your shoulders or back stiffening after a tense meeting or workshop – you need to take time to make yourself physically and mentally comfortable.

There is nothing mysterious about meditation. You will see visible, life-transforming changes to your business performance if you start meditating every day, for 20 minutes in the morning before breakfast and 20 minutes in the evening before dinner.

Chantana Sukumanont is executive vice president of Siam City Cement. Her column is published every second Monday of the month.

Original article no longer available….

Read More

Stressed Out? (ABC News)

Catherine Valenti, ABC News: Battling stress has become a top priority for many Americans who become frazzled as they try to balance a million responsibilities at once.

Plagued by rising health-care costs and increasing absenteeism due to stress, companies, health clubs and health-care providers all over the country are offering different methods to help people relax and take it easy.

While there are a number of different ways to alleviate stress, most boil down to two approaches, says Dr. Bruce Rabin, medical director of the Healthy Lifestyles Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

One approach is to increase an individual’s ability to cope with stress by raising his or her physical tolerance to it. That can be done through exercise or physical activity that activates the same physiological responses that stress does (such as a higher heart rate and breathing rate), making the person better able to tolerate stress, says Rabin…

The other option, which has been steadily gaining popularity in recent years, is to decrease a person’s perception of stress by training the mind to think about the stressful event in a different way. This can be done through techniques such as guided visualization or meditation, and is recommended by organizations such as the Mind/Body Medical Institute, a Chestnut Hill, Mass.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of mind/body interactions.

“What we’re looking at is getting people to understand some of the negative thoughts and behaviors that are impacting their lives and getting them to make changes,” says Marilyn Wilcher, senior vice president at the institute.

Here are some brief descriptions of some widely used methods that have become popular for combating stress in recent years:

Guided Imagery: This technique involves sitting and listening to a tape or an instructor walk you through a guided relaxation exercise. The instruction often includes imagining yourself in a calm environment or a relaxing, faraway place.

Qigong: Qigong comes from two Chinese words: Qi (chi) means energy and gong (kung) means a skill or a practice. Qigong is a technique the combines movement, meditation and visualization. Proponents of Qigong say it can improve your physical and mental health and provide the same physical benefits of meditation, such as reduced stress and lower blood pressure.

Relaxation Response: The relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress (e.g., decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension). This technique is used by the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

The technique involves sitting in a comfortable position and repeating a word, sound, phrase, prayer or muscular activity while passively disregarding the everyday thoughts that come into the mind so the practitioner can focus on the object of repetition. The institute suggests doing the response for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.

Transcendental Meditation: Popularized in the West by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, transcendental meditation involves sitting comfortably with the eyes closed for about 15 to 20 minutes, allowing the practitioner’s mind to enter a deeply relaxed state referred to as “Transcendental Consciousness.” The Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corp., which promotes the study of transcendental meditation, says the practice can increase a person’s creativity and productivity, improve health and reduce violence, among other benefits.

Yoga: A series of physical postures that connect the movement of the body with the breath. The poses are designed to purify the body, increase flexibility, calm the mind and provide physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation. There are many different kinds of yoga that range from more relaxing to more physically demanding, so people interested in practicing should find out beforehand what style of yoga is best for them.

Writing it Down: One technique recommended by Rabin involves taking 15 minutes to write down everything that’s bothering you. Don’t read what you’re writing or take time to proofread it, just write everything down, says Rabin. At the end of the 15 minutes, simply rip up the paper and throw it away. “It’s amazing the calming effect” this technique has, he says.

Read the rest of the article…

Read More

Meditate To Relieve Stress (WTOC, Georgia)

WTOC, Savannah, Georgie: Daily stress can make you age faster, that’s according to a new study and who doesn’t have daily stress? Maybe it’s time to reach deep down into your inner self through meditation and get rid of some extra stress that can build up especially around the holiday season. But just how do you meditate? And what results can you expect?

The Chopra Center at Memorial Health is a quiet and peaceful kind of place. Nancy Bowden enjoys spending time there as a volunteer. Meditation is one of the services offered at the Center and Nancy has been meditating since the 70’s when transcendental meditation was popular. “It’s not that kind of mystical thing any more,” says Nancy. “For me it’s a tool that helps me de-stress.”

Nancy and Jeannie Green demonstrate typical meditation postures, sitting on plus over-sized pillows cross-legged on the floor. Jeannie, a certified meditation instructor says there is no right or wrong way to meditate. “It helps to have instructor give you tips, pointers on how to meditate.”

Meditation is a way of accessing your inner silence, getting into a zone that puts out of mind, everything that is happening in the world around you. “With the intent of relaxation, resting our minds,” says Jeannie.

If you’re interested but don’t know how to get started you can attend a free open meditation offered at the Center. “It’s a perfect way for somebody who is perhaps interested in meditation but intimidated by the process or even the word.”

The next open session is coming up Tuesday December 7 at 5:30 and it’s free. The Chopra Center is in Memorial Health but look for their new location soon in the Hilton Hotel in downtown Savannah.

Original article no longer available…

Read More

Buddha Lessons (Newsweek)

Claudia Kalb, Newsweek International: A technique called ‘mindfulness’ teaches how to step back from pain and the worries of life.

At the age of 39, Janet Clarke discovered that she had a benign spinal tumor, which caused her unremitting back pain. Painkillers helped, but it wasn’t until she took a meditation course in Lytham that Clarke discovered a powerful weapon inside her own body: her mind. Using a practice called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Clarke learned to acknowledge the aching, rather than fight it. “It was about getting in touch with your body, rather than your head,” she says. “Mindfulness gives you something painkillers can’t—an attitude for living your life.”

With its roots in ancient Buddhist traditions, mindfulness is now gaining ground as an antidote for everything from type-A stress to depression. At the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts, where MBSR was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, 15,000 people have taken an eight-week course in the practice; hundreds more have signed up at medical clinics across the United States. Now scientists are using brain imaging and blood tests to study the biological effects of meditation. The research is capturing interest at the highest levels: the Dalai Lama is so intrigued he has joined forces with the Mind & Life Institute in Boulder, Colorado, which supports research on meditation and the mind. Next month, scientists will meet with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, for a major conference on the neuroplasticity of the brain. “People used to think that this was a lot of mystical mumbo jumbo,” says psychologist Ruth Baer, of the University of Kentucky. “Now they’re saying, ‘Hey, we should start paying attention’.”

Paying attention is the very essence of mindfulness. In 45-minute meditations, participants learn to observe the whirring thoughts of the mind and the physical sensations in the body. The guiding principle is to be present moment to moment, to be aware of what’s happening, but without critique or judgment. It is not easy. Our “monkey mind,” as Buddhists call the internal chaos, keeps us swinging from past regrets to future worries, leaving little time for the here and now. First attempts may provoke frustration (“I’ll never be able to do this”), impatience (“When will this be over?”) and even banal mental sparks (“What am I going to make for dinner?”). The goal, however, is not to reach nirvana, but to observe the cacophony in a compassionate way, to accept it as transient, “like bubbles forming in a pot of water or weather patterns in the sky,” says Kabat-Zinn.

The keystone of mindfulness is daily meditation, but the practice is intended to become a way of life. At Stanford University, Philippe Goldin encourages patients battling social-anxiety disorder to take “meaningful pauses” throughout the day as a way to monitor and take charge of their fears and self-doubts. Inner control can be a potent tool in the fight against all sorts of chronic conditions. In a pilot study of 18 obese women, Jean Kristeller, director of the Center for the Study of Health, Religion and Spirituality at Indiana State University, found that mindfulness meditation, augmented with special eating meditations (slowly savoring the flavor of a piece of cheese, say), helped reduce binges from an average of four per week to one and a half.

Mindfulness takes you out of the same old patterns. You’re no longer battling your mind in the boxer’s ring—you’re watching, with interest, from the stands. The detachment doesn’t lead to passivity, but to new ways of thinking. This is especially helpful in depression, which plagues sufferers with relentless ruminations. University of Toronto psychiatry professor Zindel Segal, along with British colleagues John Teasdale at Oxford and Mark Williams at Cambridge, combines mindfulness with conventional cognitive behavioral therapy, teaching patients to observe sadness or unhappiness without judgment. In a study of patients who had recovered from a depressive episode, Segal and colleagues found that 66 percent of those who learned mindfulness remained stable (no relapse) over a year, compared with 34 percent in a control group.

The biological impact of mindfulness is the next frontier in scientific research. In a study published several years ago, Kabat-Zinn found that when patients with psoriasis listened to meditation tapes during ultraviolet-light therapy, they healed about four times faster than a control group. More recently, Kabat-Zinn and neuroscientist Richard Davidson, of the University of Wisconsin, found that after eight weeks of MBSR, a group of biotech employees showed a greater increase in activity in the left prefrontal cortex—the region of the brain associated with a happier state of mind—than colleagues who received no meditation training. Those with the greatest left-brain activation also mounted the most vigorous antibody assault against a flu vaccine.

There’s more in the pipeline. Stanford’s Goldin is taking brain images to see if mindfulness affects emotional trigger points, like the amygdala, which processes fear. And at the University of Maryland, Dr. Brian Berman is tracking inflammation levels in rheumatoid arthritis patients who study mindfulness. One of them, Dalia Isicoff, says the payoff is already clear: “I’m at peace,” she says. Mind and body, together.

With Clint Witchalls in London

Original article no longer available…

Read More