yoga

What’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation?

Erin Cook, Elle Australia: With everyone from Miranda Kerr to Rachael Finch touting mindfulness and meditation as the solution to, well, everything, you can understand why we’re champing at the bit to get on board.

Although, there’s one problem: We’re not 100 per cent sure what mindfulness is. And—while we’re being honest—our understanding of meditation doesn’t extend much further than sitting on the floor, cross-legged and chanting the word ‘om’ until we run out of breath.

According to Kate Kendall, Co-Founder & Director of Yoga at Flow Athletic, mindfulness is a state of …

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Students drawn to mindfulness on campus

wildmind meditation newsMichaela Paul, The Vermont Cynic: At UVM I always hear the term “mindfulness,” yet I never have a complete understanding of what it is and how I too, can practice it.

Mindfulness practices are actually informed by Buddhism, said Lindsay Foreman, director of Engage Mindfulness for Living Well.

But, she explained, one does not have to be Buddhist to engage in mindfulness.

“Actually, many people of different religions practice the techniques of mindfulness to deepen their spiritual experience,” she said. “There is no dogma or belief system, so one does not have to have any …

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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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Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain

wildmind meditation newsBrigid Schulte, The Washington Post: Sara Lazar, a Harvard neuroscientist, was one of the first scientists to take the anecdotal claims about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and test them in brain scans. What she found surprised her — that meditating can literally change your brain. She explains:

A friend and I were training for the Boston marathon. I had some running injuries, so I saw a physical therapist who told me to stop running and just stretch. So I started practicing yoga as a form of physical therapy. I started realizing that it was very powerful, that it had some real …

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A silent journey to the centre of the self

wildmind meditation newsDebra Black, TheStar.com: Reporter Debra Black attends a six-day silent retreat, where she practices yoga and mediation and tries her best to live in the moment.

“When we relax the breath, the mind temporarily becomes relaxed. The breath is free from greed, hatred, delusion and fear. Relaxing the breath, breathe in. Relaxing the breath, breathe out. The joy arises naturally.” Bhante Gunaratana, The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English.

It is odd to eat in silence. I’ve lined up for today’s lunch — miso mushroom soup; cold vegetarian rolls of rice noodles, cabbage and avocado; and fresh fruit — without uttering a …

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“Sit With Less Pain” by Jean Erlbaum

Sit-With-Less-PainJean Erlbaum’s Sit With Less Pain is subtitled “Gentle Yoga for Meditators and Everyone Else.”

As most meditators know, finding a comfortable way to sit in meditation for long periods of time can be challenging. We can end up futzing around with our equipment, trying out different chairs, benches, and cushions, and constantly adjusting the height and tilt of our seat, and still find that we end up with sore shoulders, or a sore neck, or an aching back. Often the problem is that we’re expecting a body that lacks flexibility to be still for long periods.

Sit With Less Pain addresses that problem, offering us exercises to bring more flexibility to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of various parts of the body. It’s the only book I know of that does this specifically with an eye to meditating. Unlike most other yoga manuals you’ll see, this one doesn’t consist of a series of (for me and many others) impossible asanas. Although there are some recognizable asanas, I’d describe this more as a book of yoga-inspired stretching exercises.

Title: Sit With Less Pain
Author: Jean Erlbaum
Publisher: Wisdom Publications
ISBN: 9780861716791
Available from: Wisdom, Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com.

The descriptions are clear, and the book is amply illustrated with shaded line drawings. I was pleased to see that the figures in the illustrations resemble normal people rather than the ultra-thin, young, hyper-flexible, and invariably beautiful “yoga babes” that you’ll come across in yoga magazines. The illustrations show people of various ages, both sexes, a variety of races, and with normal (i.e. unathletic) body types.

The book is rather hefty, at 180 or so pages. And the author points out that readers might want to record themselves reciting the instructions, given the difficulty of consulting a manual while twisting one’s body in various ways. But how many people are going to go to those lengths? [Edit: I’d missed that companion CDs are available at www.sitwithlesspain.com] I can’t help thinking that a more slender book focusing on a smaller number of exercises would be useful.

There’s a relatively short section at the start, showing various ways to sit in meditation. A trouble-shooting guide for various kinds of discomfort related to specific ways of sitting might have been an asset here. There are also some breathing exercises and relaxation exercises included, although since the book is aimed at people who need to deal with pain that’s arising in their existing meditation practice I’m not sure these sections are strictly necessary.

Still, Sit With Less Pain is a very useful book, which could potentially benefit many meditators who aren’t confident about attending formal yoga classes, yet who need help dealing with the inevitable aches and pains that arise during meditation, and its imperfections are largely those inherent in the attempt to describe physical exercises in book form.

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Handling blocks to any inner practice—meditation, yoga, gratitude, mindfulness

When you try to change your life for better, sometimes you bump into a block, such as distracting thoughts. Blocks are common. They’re not bad or wrong—but they do get in the way. What works is to explore them with self-acceptance, and see what you can learn about yourself. One valuable aspect of taking in the good is that it often reveals other issues, such as an underlying reluctance to let yourself feel good. Then you can address these issues with the suggestions below. With practice and time, blocks usually fade away.

Blocks to Any Inner Practice

• Distractibility—Focus on the stimulating aspects of positive experiences, which will keep your attention engaged with them.

• Just not in touch with your body or your feelings—Explore and get used to simple pleasant sensations, such as the taste of pancakes with syrup, the feeling of warm water on your hands, or the ease in exhaling.

• Uncomfortable tuning into your own experience—Put yourself in a safe setting, and remind yourself that you don’t have to be externally vigilant. Look around for objects or people that give you comfort and a sense of protection. Bring to mind what it feels like to be with someone who cares about you. Remember that you can shift your attention away from your experience at any time you want. Be aware of something pleasant in your experience, such as a pretty sight or enjoyable sound, and notice again and again that continuing to be aware of it is all right for you, that nothing bad is happening to you. Overanalyzing, pulling out of the experience—Bring attention back into your body and emotions. For example, follow one breath from beginning to end, or gently name what you’re feeling to yourself (e.g., revved up . . . exasperated . . . calming . . . feeling better).

Blocks Specific to Taking In the Good

• It’s hard to receive, including a good experience—Inhale and sense that it’s okay to let something in. Pick a simple positive emotion such as relief or gladness, open to it and let it come into your mind, and recognize that you’re still fine.

• Concern that you’ll lose your edge in business or life if you no longer feel “hungry”—Realize that building up in- ner resources such as confidence and happiness can only aid your success. On a foundation of well-being, you can still be very determined and ambitious. Additionally, taking in the good trains your mind to see the whole picture, which could help you spot more opportunities.

• Fear that you’ll lower your guard if you feel better, and that’s when people get whacked—Remind yourself that you can still be watchful while also feeling good. Focus on building up inner strengths such as determination, resilience, confidence, and feeling cared about so you can become less worried about lowering your guard.

• Belief that seeking to feel good is selfish, vain, or sinful, or that it’s disloyal or unfair to those who suffer, or that you don’t deserve it—It’s moral to seek the welfare of all beings, and “all beings” includes the one wearing your name tag. You matter, too. Increasing your happiness will not increase the suffering of others, nor will increasing your suffering make them happier. In fact, developing your inner strengths, including peace, contentment, and love, will provide you with more to offer others. Taking in praise or a sense of accomplishment won’t make you conceited; as people feel fuller inside, they’re less likely to get puffed up or arrogant.

• Fear that if you let yourself feel good, you’ll want more but be disappointed—Recognize that if you feel good today, there’s a good chance you will also feel good tomorrow, and thus not get disappointed. Even if you do become dis- appointed, know that this will be unpleasant but not over- whelming. Put the risks of disappointment in perspective: What’s greater, the cost of occasional disappointment or the benefit of feeling good and building up strengths in- side?

• As a woman, you’ve been socialized to make others happy, not yourself—Your needs and wants have the same standing as theirs. And if you want to care for others, you have to nurture yourself.

• As a man, you’ve been socialized to be stoic and not care about your experience—You need to refuel or you’ll run out of gas. Also, building up your inner “muscles” makes you stronger, not weaker.

• Positive experiences activate negative ones—This is counterintuitive, but it’s actually common. For example, feeling cared about could stir up feelings of not being loved by the right person. If something like this happens for you, know that whatever is negative does not change the truth of what is positive. Then refocus on the positive experience, particularly its enjoyable aspects (which will help keep your attention in it). There are payoffs in not feeling good—Sometimes, let’s face it, there can be a certain gratification in being out- raged, aggrieved, hurt, resentful, righteously indignant, or even blue. But, at the end of the day, what’s better for you: these payoffs . . . or actually feeling good?

• You’ve been punished for being energized or happy— Really recognize that you spend time with different people today than those in your childhood. Notice the people who are fine with you feeling good. Wouldn’t you have liked it if someone had stood up for you when you were young and lively and joyful? Well, you can be that person for yourself today.
hardwiring
• Belief that there is nothing good inside you—The good that others see in you is not a delusion of theirs. It is real, as real as your hands. Hold on to the knowing of the reality of your helpful actions, good intentions, and caring feelings. If people put you down or shamed you in the past, recog-nizing the realness of your goodness is a way to be fair and kind toward yourself today. (For more, see the section on recognizing the good in yourself in chapter 6, and the practice “Feeling Like a Good Person” on page 213.)

• Belief that there’s no point in feeling good since some things are still bad—Know that the bad things that exist do not remove the good ones; the hole does not get rid of the donut. Plus, one way to deal with the bad is to grow the good. I love this proverb: Better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.

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Research finds yoga, meditation can help women after cancer

Heather Yourex, Global Toronto: Susan Ockey has been practicing yoga for nearly 5 years. She started her practice after her cancer treatment finished.

“I just got through everything and then about a year later went, ‘oh my goodness… what happened? I had cancer.”

According to clinical psychological, Dr. Linda Carlson, many cancer survivors experience stress and anxiety long after therapy ends.

“It’s a huge problem for many cancer patients. They’re dealing with uncertainty, fears of recurrence, lingering side effects, pain, swelling in the arm, sleep difficulties… and fatigue is a big problem as well…

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Mindfulness meditation can ease stress

Sara Rae Lancaster, Kenosha News: Donna Mosca had practiced yoga for several years and taught it for five. But it wasn’t until she took a mindfulness-based stress reduction course that she realized how much deeper her own yoga practice and teaching could become.

“We’re constantly pulled away by the stuff going on in our lives,” said Mosca, owner and teacher at Peace Tree Yoga in Burlington. “Adding in elements of mindfulness meditation made me look more closely at my choices, from the books I read and movies I watched to the people surrounding me and the foods I ate.”

Like yoga, mindfulness meditation…

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Yoga, meditation being pushed as ways to cut prison violence, boost well-being

Douglas Quan, Postmedia News: Even though some politicians have derided prison yoga programs as unnecessary inmate “coddling,” there’s a growing push for their expansion across Canada.

Advocates say yoga and meditation boost inmates’ mental well-being and help to reduce prison violence. They point to the success of programs in the U.S., including one at California’s San Quentin State Prison, notorious for housing some of the most dangerous offenders.

The question – can the downward dog really benefit those doing hard time? – will be the focus of a discussion next month at a conference of the Canadian Criminal Justice Association…

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