Mindfulness - using the mind to change the brain to change the mind for the benefit of self & others - is not just an act of Compassion, Sanity & Wisdom, but of Wholeness, engaging the left brain and right brain ~ Mindfulness, a real know-brainer!
What is MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced by anyone regardless of their religious beliefs or faith.
Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Mindfulness is the awareness that arises by paying attention in a particular way - On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally"
What is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)?
MBSR uses meditation, yoga and inquiry as a way of training people to relate differently to stresses in their lives and in fact, relate differently to each moment of their lives. It was originally developed for patients in chronic pain, undergoing intensive treatments for cancer, AIDS and other serious illness, but has since expanded and been incorporated into the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of people whether they are dealing with the serious stress of illness or simply the day to day stress which at times seems like it can be too much to handle. Research over the past 40 years indicates that a majority of the people who complete this program report a greater ability to cope more effectively with short and long term stressful situations; an increased ability to relax, lasting decreases in physical and psychological symptoms; reduction in pain levels and enhanced ability to cope with chronic pain and most importantly a greater energy and enthusiasm for life.
Today, over 850 medical institutions use the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) model to help patients. The MBSR course can benefit anyone who wishes to better cope with health challenges, life changes, stress and cope with the fast pace of modern life. A growing body of scientific research suggests that MBSR programs significantly benefit a wide range of participants, from those suffering with chronic physical and mental illness, to those looking to enhance resiliency, compassion and productivity. This program is open to anyone interested in improving their health, well-being and Wholeness.
In an MBSR course, we meet for 8 weeks, usually in the evenings or weekends, for 2.5 hours. There is an "All Day Session" between classes 6 & 7. Mats, cushions, chairs, meditation recordings, course manual, and more are provided. Participants will be guided thru and learn to practice seated meditation, body awareness meditation and moving meditation (gentle yoga-stretching, walking) while exploring mindfulness in one’s daily life. They learn to become aware of their surroundings and how to find balance and peace of mind. Recognizing their inner wisdom, participants develop an attitude of mindfulness, which includes purposefully accepting situations in a composed, curious and non-judgmental manner.
Gus Castellanos is a Mindfulness and MBSR teacher and researcher that has taught the MBSR and related courses throughout South Florida since 2009 and has trained thousands of participants.
Skills people can learn in MBSR courses:
Practical coping skills to improve your ability to handle stressful situations
Methods for being physically and mentally relaxed and at ease
Gentle full body conditioning exercises to strengthen your body and release muscular tension
To become increasingly aware of the interplay of mind and body in health and illness
To face change and difficult times in your life with greater ease
Some research supporting the benefits of MBSR & mindfulness based programs
19 – Improves your ability to be creative & think outside the box (see research by J. Schooler)
20. It Makes You WISE(R)
It gives you perspective: By observing your mind, you realize you don’t have to be slave to it. You realize it throws tantrums, gets grumpy, jealous, happy and sad but that it doesn’t have to run you. Meditation is quite simply mental hygiene: clear out the junk, tune your talents, and get in touch with yourself. Think about it, you shower every day and clean your body, but have you ever showered your mind? As a consequence, you’ll feel more clear and see thing with greater perspective. “The quality of our life depends on the quality of our mind,” writes Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. We can’t control what happens on the outside but we do have a say over the quality of our mind. No matter what’s going on, if your mind is ok, everything is ok. Right now.
It Keeps You Real
Once you get to know your mind, you start to own your stuff and become more authentic, maybe even humble. You realize the stories and soap operas your mind puts you through and you gain some perspective on them. You realize most of us are caught up in a mind-drama and become more compassionate towards others.
And…the more you meditate, the more you seem to benefit, research studies such as this one suggest.
Myths about Meditation
Having an empty mind—nope, in fact, when you start meditating, you’ll find its quite the opposite
Sitting in lotus position—nope, you can sit on the couch (just don’t lie down, you’ll fall asleep)
Sitting for an hour a day—nope, small doses work just fine, (see here and – by yours truly – here)
Chanting in a language I don’t understand—nope, not unless that floats your boat
Buddhist, Hindu or religious—nope, not unless you make it so
I can’t clear my mind—no worries, while you’re sitting there you’ll experience the noisy chaos of a wound up mind that’s unwinding: tons of thoughts, feelings and emotions. Don’t worry about how you feel during, notice how you feel after and throughout the rest of the day
I can’t sit still—that’s ok, just sit comfortably, fidget if you need to
I get anxious—that’s also normal, all the junk’s coming up, learn some breathing practices to calm yourself down, exercise or do yoga before meditatingI hate sitting still—that’s fine, then go for a walk without your earphones, phone etc; or start with yoga; or do breathing exercises…give yourself time to just “be” without constantly “doing” something
I tried and I hated it—there’s not just one kind of meditation, there’s a whole menu out there, look for the shoe that fits: mindfulness, Transcendental, compassion, mantra, Vipassana, Art of Living breathing practices, yoga nidra, yoga, insight, loving-kindness, tai chi etc…
I don’t have time – if you have time to read an article about meditation all the way through, you have time to meditate. Think of all those minutes you waste every day on the internet or otherwise, you can definitely fit in 20 minutes here or there to give your life a boost! Gandhi is quoted as saying “I’m so busy today, that… I’m going to meditate 2 hours instead of 1.”
The potential risks and adverse effects of mindfulness meditation
To begin with, Mindfulness is NOT a panacea or cure-all
it is Not for everything, Not for everyone & Not the only thing for a particular issue, symptom or disease.
The more severe and significant risks and adverse effects of mindfulness meditation are rare in MBSR and other multi-week mindfulness-based programs. These are grouped as follows:
Physical – because many Mindfulness Based Programs include yoga and other movement practices, as mild and simple as they may be, care is advised if a pose or movement does not feel right or causes discomfort or pain. Participants are encouraged to practice self-care at all times and advised to back off, modify, or skip anything that is causing discomfort.
Emotional – negative and unpleasant emotions could seem or become stronger as practice develops. Hence, screening all potential attendees for a history of trauma, abuse, significant recent loss or major life changes, substance use disorders (addiction), untreated psychosis, acute depression, suicidality, PTSD, and Social Anxiety
Time – finding time for the daily practices can be a significant challenge, although setting aside time for practice increases a sense of spaciousness in the rest of the day for many
Social - requesting assistance from family, friends and/or co-workers to come to class on a weekly basis and to allow private time for the daily practices can be challenging, cause resentments and negatively impact these relationships; however, with practice, participants may find that their relationships change as attention deepens and as empathy and compassion are cultivated and new behaviors evolve.
A recent study published in PLOS One, available for free LINK HERE attempts to list & quantify and discusses the adverse effects in meditators. The varieties of contemplative experience: A mixed-methods study of meditation-related challenges in Western Buddhists. Lindahl, Fisher, Cooper, Rosen, & Britton. PLOS One May 24, 2017
From the article:
Finally, it is important to specify what claims can and cannot be made based upon the causality assessment results of this study. First, the results do reduce the likelihood that all of the experiences reported were entirely unrelated to meditation, or only reflect a pre-existing condition that happened to co-occur with meditation practice. Similarly, the results also challenge other common causal attributions, such as the assumption that meditation-related difficulties only happen to individuals with a pre-existing condition (psychiatric or trauma history), who are on long or intensive retreats, who are poorly supervised, who are practicing incorrectly, or who have inadequate preparation. However, this is not to say that these and other factors do not play a role. Indeed, both experts and practitioners identified various ªinfluencing factorsº that they thought impacted the likelihood of meditation-related challenges, their duration, and their associated degree of distress and impairment. These data are most suggestive of an interaction- based model where meditation practicesÐon their ownÐmay produce challenging effects, but the specific type of effect, as well as its likelihood, duration, and associated distress and impairment, is influenced by a number of additional factors.
This table is from that article:
Other potential adverse issues that might occur:
Meditation can make you more emotional. Meditation can also release suppressed emotions, participants may or may not want to address these; or are should not address these without professional help.
It is possible to develop the habit of repressing thoughts and emotions from meditating if you push unpleasant thoughts and emotions away in order to maintain concentration.
Meditation can cause changes that can interfere with career and relationships; usually temporary but sometimes long lasting especially after long time practicing.
Meditation can change one’s world-view which can be disconcerting and leaving one facing a completely new reality that is unfamiliar.
Long sessions of meditation can cause temporary forgetfulness. This is a natural consequence of calming the mind. When the effects of meditation wear off, normal memory function will return.
Longer sitting meditations can cause pains and injuries to the joints of the leg and spine.
After meditating regularly, some people report having psychic experiences such as improved intuition, synchronicities, and seeing spirits. These can be quite positive, but at times can be disturbing.
Some people might find some forms of meditation to be "addicting," rarely to the point of ignoring one’s responsibilities.