Researchers have found evidence that mindfulness meditation can cause brain changes. Here is a description of their findings and a guide to getting started.
Advocates have long claimed that mindfulness meditation can improve the regular practitioner’s mental state. Now there is evidence that it may change the brain.
A study included in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging found changes in grey matter concentration in brain regions associated with learning and memory, regulating emotions, self-referential processing and perspective taking as a result of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR). Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital based their findings on brain images of 16 healthy adults. The images were taken before and after the group underwent an eight-week meditation program.
What is mindfulness meditation?
According to the New York Insight Meditation Center, mindful awareness, also known as Insight or Vipassana Meditation, is the practice of living in the present moment without judgment, which over time can help the meditator cultivate a more peaceful mind and change relationships with stresses. It is developed through walking and sitting mindfulness practices where the meditator focuses on breathing, sounds from outside or inside the body or sensations. The Center said the practice dates back 2,500 years to the time of the Buddha and is mainly practised in Southeast Asia. Americans brought it to the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
How to do it yourself
While the evidence is building up about the benefits of a daily mindfulness meditation practice, incorporating it into your daily life may seem daunting. But plenty of resources are available on the web to help the beginner get started, including guided meditation podcasts, books, CDs and written directions.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is known for pioneering the clinical application of mindfulness practice in medicine. He has authored several books on the subject, including “Wherever You Go, There You Are,” available for $9.05 on Amazon.com. His guided meditations can be viewed on YouTube.
Also known in the mindfulness community are Sharon Salsberg and Joseph Goldstein, co-founders of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass. Both spiritual teachers have authored audio and written books on the practice. Salzberg has podcasts available through her website.
Jack Kornfield, an American Buddist teacher whose website describes him as one of the founding directors of vipassana meditation in the west, also has audio, video and meditation instructions available. Find them on his site or zencast.org.
So explore these spiritual teachers, set up a calm environment, choose the best time of day for practice and get started living in the present moment, and maybe even changing the landscape of your brain.…
One of the most powerful antidotes to children’s everyday stressors is for them to develop the Buddhist notion of mindfulness, which entails paying full attention and being fully engaged in the present moment. Mindfulness often sounds like having a conversation with yourself. Here is an example of a teen mindfully preparing to take an exam. “I am getting ready to take a test; I feel butterflies in my stomach; I can feel my fingers getting tense; I hear the teacher passing out papers; I hear the students rummaging for their pencils; I am having thoughts about failing the test; I am so stupid; I will focus on my breathing; I am breathing in through my nose; I am breathing out through my mouth; ” The teen is observing everything in his environment including all his senses as well as his thought processes and bodily feelings. When he starts to perseverate and have worries about failing that are based in the future, he uses his breath to bring him back to the present moment. Mindfulness involves bringing non-judgment to his situation as well as loving kindness. While the teen may have automatic negative thoughts about himself, he is encouraged to notice them but not to identify with them or avoid them, but view them objectively, which ultimately allows for more clarity. To engage with such thoughts would often involve an escalating stream of increasingly negative judgments which would take him out of the present moment. To be kind to himself, he might say something compassionate such as “I am observing myself get stressed out about this test and saying mean things. I have studied a lot for this test and I will put my best effort forth. I am a hard-worker”
Children who are able to “live in the now” versus stressing about the future or ruminating about what has occurred in the past experience significant benefits. As a result, they are better able to regulate their emotions and avoid the extremes of being bored or depressed, or on the other hand, overwhelmed and anxious as their coping style. Children who practice mindfulness are better able to relax, show decreased levels of impulsivity, and handle conflict more readily.
All children have experienced “mindlessness.” For example, getting driven to a familiar place and not remembering passing any landmarks or exits on the way there. Similarly, many children go about their lives performing a series of very automatic routines that they barely notice. (i.e. getting up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, waiting for the school bus, being seated before the bell rings, etc.) where they go through the motions mindlessly. Interestingly, mindfulness is actually inherent in very young children. All experiences are new to them and so they attend to each new sensation and feeling. A 2 year old who stares at a dog’s shiny coat, runs her fingers through the dog’s fur, laughs when the dog licks her, and imitates the dog’s bark is engaged in the present moment. Hence, while mindfulness is present in the very young, it must often be cultivated and practiced with most school-age children and adolescents.
Mindfulness can also be developed through children’s unstructured play as kids unconsciously practice mindfulness when they are involved in imaginative play, which can occur either with peers or playing alone. However, as children’s lives become busier and filled with activities, mindfulness may dissipate. Children today spend much of their time in organized activities as opposed to the unstructured, creative play which dominated their free time in the past. Their lives are often filled with activities such as soccer games, music lessons, and after-school tutoring which leaves less time for creative, child-led play. Unstructured play has many well-documented cognitive, social, and emotional benefits. Parents can help their children to engage in mindful play by allowing them the time and space to do so while ensuring they are not overbooked with too many structured activities or schedule demands.
Even if you don’t teach your children any mindfulness skills, parenting with mindfulness can be very beneficial for yourself as well as your children. As parents, we are often overwhelmed with work, errands, and a never ending to-do list. Our culture values multi-tasking and efficiency, but unfortunately, we may inadvertently sacrifice being in the present moment with our children, as a result. We play with them while thinking about what to make for dinner, we talk to them while planning activities for the weekend, we drive them to school while worrying about upcoming bills that need to be paid, etc. Mindfulness may allow for a welcomed transformation in our own perspective, where we begin to experience the small parenting miracles that occur in our lives, as each moment unfolds
Exercise #1: Mindful Drawing Ask your child to select an item to draw from memory (a shoe, telephone, clock, etc.). Remind them that drawing ability is not important. Then have your child spend time looking at the actual object. Have them draw the object again. In most cases the second drawing will be more detailed then the first. Compare the drawings and have your child identify the details missing from the first drawing. Ask your child what it was like really looking at the object that they may have never noticed before.
Exercise #2: Mindful Eating: The Hershey Kiss Meditation
Place three Hershey kisses in front of your child (you can do this with any type of food such as grapes, apple slices, carrots, etc. as long as it is something that your child enjoys eating). Ask your child to pretend he or she has never seen a Hershey kiss before. You may do the exercise along with your child. Read this script in a calm voice:
Let’s look at the Hershey kiss and pretend that we’ve never in our whole lives seen a Hershey kiss.
Pick up the Hershey kiss. Think about how it feels between your fingers. Notice its color. Notice any thoughts you might be having about it. Slowly unwrap it and listen to the sounds that makes. Feel the texture of the foil paper and think about that sensation. Lift the Hershey kiss to your nose and smell it for awhile. Now slowly bring the Hershey kiss to your lips, trying to notice everything you are thinking, feeling or smelling. Notice your arm moving your hand to position the Hershey kiss correctly. Notice your mouth salivating as your mind and body anticipate eating it. Take the Hershey kiss into your mouth and chew it slowly, experiencing its taste. Hold it in your mouth. When you feel ready to swallow, notice if your body automatically wants to swallow it. When you are ready, pick up the second Hershey kiss and just eat it as you normally would if you weren’t practicing mindfulness. When you finish, practice mindfulness again with the third Hershey kiss, eating it as you did the first.
After you complete the exercise, discuss with your child:
Exercise #3: Mindful Breathing
Breathing is one of the fastest ways to bring your attention back to the present moment. Stress and worries often take place in future moments while guilt or upsetting thoughts often transpire when we reflect on past moments. Therefore, when we are living in the present moment, our emotions are often more centered. The practice of becoming more aware of your breathing results in slower breathing and increased feelings of calm, as it triggers the relaxation response. Take 5 to 10 minutes to practice this exercise with your child. Have them practice mindful breathing in a comfortable environment where they can sit or recline in a relaxed position and without any distractions. Explain that you are going to do a relaxation exercise with them and that this may be helpful for them to use at a later point when they are feeling angry, upset, or stressed. It would be helpful if you do the exercise alongside with them. Together, take a deep breath in, for about 3 to 5 seconds and slowly let the air out, for about 3 to 5 seconds. With each inhale say, “In” and with each exhale say, “Out”. One breath cycle is made up of one inhale and one exhale. Instruct your child that their mind will often wander away from their breathing and that’s okay. When it happens, they should simply return their attention to their breathing.
In order for them to be able to use this exercise when they experiencing strong, negative emotions, they must become skilled at it during more relaxed times. Try and practice this exercise several times a week with your child
Weeping Willow Tree’s Strength and Flexibility Inspiration for Meditation – Amy Ivy
A weeping willow empowers personal strength and awareness in a nature-based guided meditation.
Weeping willow trees are common sights by lakes. Their pendulous branches float effortlessly in the wind, and their roots run deep seeking sustenance. For someone experiencing stress, grief, conflict, or other difficulties that prevent the self from enjoying life, imitating the willow’s flexibility and persistence may increase self-empowerment.
Preparing for the Weeping Willow Guided Meditation
Set aside ten to twenty minutes. Minimize distractions by turning off the cell phone and putting other obligations on hold. Take off your shoes, so that your feet are either bare on in socks. Drink some water to prevent dehydration. The meditation may be performed sitting or standing, depending upon what’s more comfortable for you.
Close your eyes and settle comfortably into a position where your body won’t disturb you for the following meditation:
Be careful not to get up too soon, as your body may not move as quickly as desired. Instead, spend several more minutes reflecting on the experience and any personal insights gained from it.
Variations of the Weeping Willow Guided Meditation for Self-Empowerment
For additional reflection, try the following variations and activities after meditating with the willow:
With a simple guided meditation exercise, the natural beauty and strength of a weeping willow tree can inspire and empower for relaxation and increased self-awareness.…
There is nothing like new sheets made with certified organic cotton. The fabric is a new innovation for consumers interested in buying into the Global Oganic Textile Standard (GOTS). This cotton is grown without chemicals and pesticides and needs to pass a certification process by the recognized and independent organization known as GOTS. It is supplied by communities that use traditional farming methods based on whole earth practices.
Sleeping on natural sheets that are produced through a clean and environmentally safe process can help consumers buy locally while thinking globally; one of the small steps towards making a transition to a cleaner, safer home environment.
Cost of Organic Cotton and the Environmentally Conscious Home
Plan on spending anywhere from $90 for a set of organic sheets to upwards of $100 per sheet depending on the quality. Putting into practice an eco-friendly lifestyle often requires some interaction between the product design, its components and the human dimension.
Buying into the concept and product line is the first step. Next are influential sources such as books on managing an eco-friendly home that could help the consumer to transform their surroundings and the time, cost management needed.
Creating an Eco-Friendly Home Environment
The challenge of creating a healthy home environment and lifestyle requires some committment, but it can translate into a lifelong practice. Buying items like environmentally friendly packaging and water-friendly washing detergent over a lifetime can be a personal lifestyle choice that can achieve the kind of small impacts that begin as a trickle and eventually grow to a flood.
There are lots of books and consumer products to help consumers make wise choices. Implementing the plan and living the lifestyle requires more than just a good price and good product; it requires commitment. There are so many choices available, and deciding what works for everyone is never easy.
Implementing Greener Lifestyle Choices
Browse the stores and websites to find the right product at the right price and then see what happens. Saving money by shopping for a sale price can have a big impact on the decision to redesign a home with organic products. Living an environmentally conscious lifestyle usually requires simplification and streamlining. Decide which areas of the home environment can be restyled with organic products to implement a lifestyle decision.
Evaluating an Environmentally Conscious Lifestyle
Make the purchases needed to create a lifestyle based on sound eco-friendly practices can have other benefits as well. An individual’s lifestyle change can eventually bring about larger changes and help bring about a truly eco-friendly textile industry.…
The brain produces an electrical current that pulsates at a particular frequency. Delta occurs during deep sleep at .5-4 cycles per second; Theta during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep at 4-8 cycles per second; Alpha during a relaxed, wakeful state at 8-13 cycles per second; and Beta during a regular waking activity at 13-39 cycles per second.
Alpha frequency, which produces feelings of well-being, is increasingly recognized as a helpful reference point for mental relaxation.
The Silva Method and Training in Alpha
Jose Silva spent decades researching the creative and rejuvenating effects of living in the Alpha state; after concluding that Alpha held tremendous potential for discovering one’s true purpose, shedding negative habits and relieving stress and anxiety, Silva developed a comprehensive course of training.
The Silva Ultramind ESP System uses a guided meditation backed by a rhythmic sound to train the mind in the alpha state. After attuning oneself to the alpha frequency, the instructors attest that one will be able to alleviate stress, contact higher intelligence for guidance, and use vivid imagery to make goals manifest.
What are Biofeedback Devices?
When the term ‘biofeedback’ was first coined in the 1960s, it was hoped to eliminate the need for medicine. While that has proven untrue, biofeedback is a powerful tool for relieving stress in a long-lasting way – without the need for pharmaceuticals.
Biofeedback refers to using measurements of biological indicators, such as temperature, to change conditions in the body. Recently, the use of a particular class of biofeedback devices for training the mind and relieving stress has come into vogue; these devices provide data on such factors as skin temperature and muscle tension, which relate to stress levels and their associated brain waves.
The Benefits of Training in Biofeedback Therapy
Adults function mainly at the beta level while awake, and the beta state is where people can feel stressed and anxious. For optimal functioning, people could spend most of their time at Alpha; Alpha is restoring and relaxing for the body and mind, while beta is only optimal for involved thinking and times of high activity. Biofeedback therapy provides the biological indicators for people to habituate themselves to the alpha state.
Natural Stress Relief with Wild Divine
Wild Divine produces biofeedback training games for PC and Mac, which immerse the player in a sumptuous and relaxing world of colour and music. The Journey to Wild Divine: The Passage and Wisdom Quest presents a narrative that includes numerous biofeedback training activities. Relaxing Rhythms uses a non-linear format with various modules to centre the mind and deepen one’s familiarity with the alpha state.…
The Ferber Method is a sleep technique for infants developed by pediatrician Dr. Richard Ferber that encourages infants to use "self-soothing" techniques to achieve a better night’s sleep. Ferberization is suggested for infants at least 6 months old and has been cited as a highly successful sleep training method for babies that have difficulty sleeping through the night.
Step 1: PROVIDE BABY WITH DAYTIME ACTIVITIES
Ensure that baby's day is full of fun and exploration so that the infant will indeed be tired at nighttime. Excessive napping during the day can sabotage your efforts for getting baby to bed as they will already be rested. One tactic is to not allow your infant to sleep past 5pm, but the exact time will depend on baby's wake time, nap schedule, and ideal bedtime.
Step 2: DEVELOP A BEDTIME RITUAL
It's important that baby can distinguish between daytime (play) and bedtime (sleep). To do this you will need to develop a bedtime ritual that helps the infant calm down and prepare for a good nights sleep. One example of this would be a relaxing bath, story time, and a lullaby followed by goodnight kisses from Mom and Dad. Other popular bedtime rituals include infant massage, lavender scented bubble bath, the playing of a Heartbeat CD, or even listening to a song on a crib mobile. It doesn't matter which bedtime activities you decide to include, but ensure that the room is dark enough to signal its nighttime, that baby is warm but not too hot, and that the crib is free from any toys that may be distracting.
Step 3: LEAVE BABY IN BED AND LEAVE THE ROOM
At this point you will have completed your planned bedtime rituals and baby is dressed, diaper changed, and ready for bed. Let baby know it is time to sleep and quietly leave the room without hesitation. Your infant may start to cry and become upset, but it is important to leave the room without emotionally reacting to him or her.
Step 4: FOLLOW A "PROGRESSIVE WAITING" SCHEDULE
This final step is critical to success with the Ferber Method and the cornerstone of Dr. Ferber's sleep training technique. "Progressive waiting" is the practice of progressively waiting longer and longer between comforting the baby at bedtime to encourage the infant to learn how to soothe itself to sleep. For example, on the first night you may wait three minutes before returning to baby's crib and reassuring him/her and that it is time for sleep. Do not lift the infant out of its crib, but simply comfort the child with pats on the back, stroking of their hair, or giving the baby his pacifier. After briefly comforting the baby, once again leave the room as before. However, instead of waiting only three minutes before re-entering the room, wait five minutes instead. Keep practicing the "progressive waiting" at intervals such as 7 minutes, 9 minutes, and so on until baby falls asleep. The first night will most likely be the hardest, but with time baby will learn to soothe itself to sleep without your intervention.…
Bring the baby into the room where she will sleep.
Keep the stimulus level low. Turn on a dim light, talk in soft voices if at all, and cut out any possible distractions that may exist, no mobile, music, toys, or playing with the baby.
Make sure that the baby has a clean diaper and then swaddle him.
Feed the baby then burp her on your shoulder. If you breastfeed pump some milk in the morning to give to your baby at night because breast milk is much richer in the morning and will satisfy your baby more.
Once you are done burping, keep the baby on your shoulder, do not hold in your arms. This eliminates the feeling of being held tight. If you hold the baby in your arms, she gets accustomed to the warmth and closeness this provides and expects to feel so snug, however, once you lay the baby down she soon realizes that she is missing that security and wakes up.
Once the baby is asleep, directly lay him down. Do not rock, sway, or create any extra movement because the baby will expect to feel it while sleeping. If the baby begins to wake up or get fussy, place your hand on his stomach until he drifts off again.
Hop into bed and enjoy your two to four hours of sleep until the next round starts. When the day begins, now you can hold your baby in your arms, rock, sway, dance, sing and play!…
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, affects everyone at some point, but for many people is a long-term problem. There are endless factors that can cause bad breath, such as bad oral hygiene, smoking, dry mouth, diet factors and dental problems such as tooth decay and gum disease.
The most important step in treating bad breath is treating the cause. Oftentimes this takes time, such as dental work or diet changes. It's also important to make sure to follow proper oral hygiene. However, there are also some simple methods can be used to help with bad breath. This includes homeopathy, which is a form of alternative medicine. Homeopathy works to help treat bad breath that is caused by specific factors, making it more effective than most general treatments for bad breath.
Mercurius Solubilis and Pulsatilla for Bad Breath
The homeopathic medicine known as mercurius solubilis should be taken by those with offensive bad breath that is caused by tooth decay. This homeopathic treatment works especially well if the tongue is coated in yellow and the person has excess salivation. Ideally around 30C potency of mercurius solubilis should be taken twice daily.
The homeopathic medicine known as pulsatilla should be taken by those with bad breath that is sour. Oftentimes this bad breath is caused be eating lots of foods that are high in fat, so this treatment works best for those with a high fat diet. This treatment works especially well for those that eat a lot of meat, especially meat that is high in fat such as red meats. Ideally around 30C potency of pulsatilla should be taken twice per day.
Nux Vomica for Bad Breath
The homeopathic remedy known as nux vomica should be taken by those with bad breath that is accompanied with either heartburn or constipation. This treatment works best for those with bad breath that drink a lot of alcohol, or have bad breath that is caused or worsened by drinking alcohol. Ideally around 30C potency of nux vomica should be taken twice per day.
Although homeopathy can be very helpful with the treatment of bad breath, it should always be used along with proper oral hygiene. Homeopathic remedies are readily available at many grocery stores, especially large chains and natural based grocery stores. Although homeopathic medicines require no professional diagnosis, it is easy to find a licensed homeopath that can assist in finding the best homeopathic remedies for an individual.…
The history of life on earth is littered with evolutionary mistakes, natural disasters and mass extinctions.
It is thought by some that human beings are the pinnacle of creation, an example of evolutionary perfection that was an inevitable consequence of the development of life. In reality, this view couldn’t be further from the truth.
Human beings are no more and no less evolved than any other species on earth. Homo sapiens have evolved to cope with certain environments and perform particular tasks. A bat, for example, is just as evolved, but has developed to live in a very different environment.
Accidental Development of Species
If all life on Earth became extinct tomorrow and the whole evolutionary process began again, Homo sapiens would not eventually re-evolve in several billion years time. There have been literally trillions of accidental events that led to the existence of all current life on the planet.
Take, for example, the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. It is now accepted by scientists that this event was caused by the impact of a meteor, in what is today the Gulf of Mexico.
Up until this point, the ancient ancestor of Homo sapiens was a small, shrew-like mammal that generally kept a low profile in the shadow of its larger reptilian cousins. It was not until the dinosaur population was decimated, that the mammals could evolve into new areas and start on the path to humanity.
Other mass extinctions are also known to science. These too shaped the future state of all life on Earth.
The Role of Chance Extinction
Beyond natural catastrophes such as meteor impacts and ice ages, many other chance factors have shaped life on Earth. One mechanism of evolution is mutation. This is where mistakes appear in the genetic code of an organism, and this alteration leads to some form of physical difference.
The vast majority of mutations are either harmful or have no effect at all. Some, however, are beneficial. This benefit leads the organism to have a better chance of survival, and consequently reproduce more. This beneficial mutation is then passed on to the next generation, which also have an increased chance of survival.
The key point here is that mutation is random. Human beings have well developed eyes thanks to a series of chance mutations, but those mutations were haphazard. Evolution does not plan for the future, and so if an immediate advantage is less than a perfect design, so be it. This has led to Homo sapiens having a blind spot, the area on the retina where the optic nerve enters the eye. Other animals, for example some squid, do not have a blind spot. This is purely down to chance mutation.
The fact that through hundreds of millions of years of extinction, mutation, suffering and pain, Homo sapiens exist is something amazing that shouldn’t be underestimated. For billions of years, life on earth had no need for the level of intelligence that leads to civilisation, and if humanity disappeared tomorrow, it may never happen again.
This underscores the importance of protecting the planet and life on earth, to make sure that the incredible series of chance of events that have brought humanity to this point was all worth it.…
Recently, pesticides have been in the news more often than usual. That is because there have been new studies coming out proving pesticides cause symptoms of ADHD, increased risk for cancer, autism, and birth defects.
We don’t usually think about this when picking out apples at the grocery store or eating blueberries at a cookout. We tend to trust that no one would put dangerous chemicals into our food. These recent studies, done by the University of Montreal, the National Academy of Sciences, and numerous physicians around the world, have come to many of the same conclusions. Pesticides are harmful to humans and cannot be as easily washed of as we believe. They can cause learning disabilities in our children and cancers in adults. They can cause birth defects when eaten too often during pregnancy.
There are many things you can do to lessen your exposure to chemical pesticides. One it to use an organic, plant based pesticide on any garden or lawn you keep. Peeling your skinned fruit and veggies is another way to avoid harmful chemicals. Because most of the nutrients and anti-oxidants from these foods are found in the skin, buying organic would be optimal. Organic fruits and vegetables can be found in grocery stores and are always labeled “USDA Organic”. You can also often find organic produce at nearby farms. This would also help small businesses in your area thrive.
Some fruits and vegetables cannot simply be washed of the pesticides. The USDA did studies on which produce has the highest amount of pesticides. Here is a list of foods to always buy organic in order to reduce your exposure:
Buying organic produce can be difficult for many reasons. Some being they are not even available or they are too expensive. Keep in mind that consumers have the control. Vote with your pocket book. Organic produce is continuing to decline in price because it’s increasing in popularity. The more we buy organic, the more will be available at a cheaper price.
There are many farms who need people to buy shares of the farm. These farms are called co-op farms or Community Supported Agriculture farms. The way they work is by charging an upfront fee of around $400 dollars. This is a once a year cost. Then you pick up organic produce weekly. You can get anywhere from 2-6 bags of produce a week. Most CSA’s run from May to November.
Get creative and don’t give up. A goal of an organic diet can take a year to achieve. But it will be worth it and you will notice a great difference. Not to mention you will feel great about doing your part on this planet by helping reduce the amount of chemicals sprayed onto the soil.…