A recent study conducted at the Universite de Montreal discovered what many practitioners of this centuries-old practice already know: Zen meditation helps reduce pain.
The goal of the study, according to the researchers, was to determine whether people trained in Zen meditation perceived pain differently than people who did not practice it. Previous studies have shown that people who have chronic pain can be taught to cope with their pain using Zen meditation. However, this was the first study with the goal of finding out how or why meditation might have an impact on the perception of pain.
A total of 13 Zen meditators and 13 non-meditators participated in the study. The Zen practitioners had a minimum of 1,000 hours of practice. The pain test consisted of a computer-controlled heating plate being intermittently pressed against the calves of the subjects at varying temperatures.
Zen practitioners had much lower pain sensitivity, even when they were not meditating, than non-practitioners. When the Zen practitioners did meditate, they reduced their breathing rate to 12 breaths per minute, which coincided with reduced pain, compared with 15 breaths for non-practitioners.
Overall, those who practised Zen meditation experienced an 18 per cent reduction in pain intensity. So while previous studies have shown that Zen meditation has a positive impact on the emotional aspects of pain, this study found that the sensation of pain itself is positively affected as well.
Another recent study from Emory University neuroscientists noted that Zen meditation may help treat anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, obsessive/compulsive disorder, and depression, among other mental illnesses.
The ability of Zen meditation to effectively deal with pain or any of the other challenges mentioned lies with the fact that practised Zen meditators have an enhanced ability to control their mind’s focus and prevent it from distractions.
Daijo, the monk, was just finishing his ash mountain and was preparing to light a piece of charcoal and bury it in it. After the lighted charcoal is buried, it’s covered with ash, except for a tiny hole at the top to let oxygen in and the heat out. Then it’s covered with a mica plate, and some finely ground incense is placed on top. He rocks back and forth and chants softly as he does it, his face a perfect model of concentration. An ash mountain is one of the ways that the Buddhists burn incense. It’s called “empty burning” or “sky burning.”
Monks can spend up to four hours building the perfect ash mountain and then destroy it a few minutes later, as nothing in this life is permanent. A few minutes later, the sweet smell of sandalwood fills the room. Two candles dimly light Daijo’s face on either side of the podium as he prepares to give his talk on meditation.
Focusing on the candles, we close our eyes and chant. Pretty soon, everyone’s voices fill the room with a low murmur. At that time, there was no stress, no kids, no work, only the sounds of our breathing, our voices, the smell of the incense, and the light of the candles. We are practising what the Buddhists call “Mindfulness.”
Mindfulness is also practised in Tai Chi, Yoga, and Pranic breathing. According to CNN, it is a great way to relieve the stress of everyday life and reduce blood pressure and is being adopted by more and more people in the workplace.
Mindfulness is being aware of everything around you; your breathing and heart rate, the slightest noise in the room. It goes hand-in-hand with meditation. Meditation increases your awareness of things around you, but with more focus, shutting down that busy, scattered “monkey brain” we all seem to have.
Turning this off is essential because everyday stress has been shown to become internalized. It builds up and can affect our blood pressure, digestive system, and even our sex lives. In the workplace, mindfulness can help us handle annoying colleagues and stressful situations.
For mindfulness to be successful, you need something to focus on. This can be music, a candle, incense, or something as simple as focusing on your breathing. You can start with this simple exercise: try to notice things around you that may have escaped your attention before: The smell of a flower, the sound of a water fountain. Try to keep a mental image in it and recall it in great detail later. The better you get at this, the more quickly you will become mindful in ordinary situations.
Can we develop skills that enable us to enrich our lives by thinking in the moment? By taking a look at how mindfulness can be immersed within personal development we can identify how the strategies can collectively help us to accept that life is the way it is but with an outlook that can remain positive and appreciative. Can mindfulness take us to a place of humble gratitude?
Bringing About Change With Mindfulness
Mindfulness allows us time to gain self awarenes, building upon self esteem and confidence. To be able to believe in ourselves without self judgement and feel secure enough to invest in ourselves is an ability to achieve a state of mind that lends itself to feeling contentment, gratitude and appreciation. Mindfulness. Being present without judgement in every moment.
Please allow me to take you on a snap shot of mindfulness discovery to show how mindfulness can be part of personal development, for life.
Imagine living a life thinking of worst case scenarios while enduring real physical reactions because of those fictional thoughts. The feeling of being crippled by such pointlessness is matched by the feeling of endured negativity. Being mindful focuses on the present moment, negating the ability to look for the untruths of the future and when meditation alone can’t focus the mind and body, yoga can assist in combining physical poses and controlled breathing with relaxation. Childs pose is especially helpful, releasing tension in the neck, back and shoulders while encouraging steady conscious breathing.
As meditation slows down our busy thoughts, it is thought that focusing on the present in a meditative state enables a reduction in cortisol levels, lowering stress on a neurochemical level. Thoughts that are mindful enable us to become aware of what is going on within ourselves. As we tune into our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations we can learn to accept our experiences as they are, responding with a skillful awareness instead of acting, and reacting, out of habit and conditioning.
Being mindful when eating helps to slow the process down while giving the opportunity to savour. Purposefully thinking in this way helps you to feel more in control as you consume when you are hungry and appreciate what you consume. When positives are applied to food consumption we can begin to apply positives to how we perceive ourselves in terms of our body image. The act of slow purposeful eating facilitates good digestion therefore negating the need to eat more to gain the feeling of satisfaction.
Every day stresses take their toll on our ability to sleep. Research by Hulshegar et al suggests that even a small amount of mindfulness can calm our mind to improve our sleep. Their research found that those who meditated experienced improvements in sleep quality and sleep duration.
How do you help yourself to better sleep?
• Don’t look at the clock when you do struggle to get to sleep or remain asleep. Watching time pass adds to the stress and frustration of not sleeping.
• Keep to a sleep routine. Get up and go to bed the same time every day, even at weekends. This will help your body clock get in to sync.
• Try to unwind with meditation to focus the brain and relax the body. Exercises that engage breathing will help to quieten your mind and body, bringing a sense of calm that enables you to drift off to sleep.
Instead of focusing on how badly we want our pain to stop, being mindful allows us to think of the pain in a way that is not natural for the brain. The pain sensation ensures our minset surrounds negativity, annoyance and upset possibly feeding anxiety and sadness. Little do our hurting negative selves know but that approach makes the pain appear much worse. A change in our thinking will enable us to relate to the pain differently. We should focus on what is noticable about the pain and it’s attributes (for want of a better word!) bringing forth an awareness to the severity patterns, peaks, troughs and differing sensations. In other words, in times of chronic pain try to focus on learning about what you’re experiencing rather than enter a frantic search for answers and endings.
Lowering Blood Pressure
Taking a few minutes to relax each day could help you lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Being mindful and in control of stress, anxiety, sleep and having good eating practices can all have a positive effect on blood pressure. It is recognised that mindfulness alone isn’t enough to lower blood pressure but being mindful and adopting positive lifestyle changes can be a complementary treatment for blood pressure in the prehypertensive range.
To be able to successfully pay attention the mind needs to be aware of how we’re paying attention. Our minds will naturally wander but an empathetic person will experience compassionate thoughts about the ‘interuption’, embracing an attitude of ‘I’m interested and care that this is in my present’. To be able to show compassion for others we should endevour to show compassion for ourselves. If we’re able to be patient wth all of our unresolved issus, we can learn to love the questions too.
As we sit down to consider what we’re actually grateful for, we take a moment to picture each item in our mind. The feeling of gratitude enables neurons to light up areas of the brain that facilitates happiness. In term of mindfulness, we can’t feel grateful for things that we don’t notice. The two go hand-in-hand helping us to appreciate lovely moments in life whilst enabling us to make lovely moments for others.
The humble amongst us are able to see and accept their own strengths and weaknesses without being defensive or judging themselves. In possessing self acceptance we can expect to show little value in showing others that we can accomplish to feel accepted in the society in which we live. It mens we don’t place our seelf worth on those extermal things, keeping ou self esteem in tact when we can’t live up to expectations. The trick, it seems, is self compassion.
We can let ourselves become laden with worries that take their toll on our body and our mind. The need to rejuvenate our physical and emotional self becomes apparent at some stage as we have an innate ability to know that when the mind and body are struggling we should slow down. By learning to live in the moment we can use awareness and positivity to reconnect to our inner self, breathing slowly to calm the body.
Mindfulness offers us the chance to change the conditioning that has occured through experiences and our perceptions of them. It enables us to take back control of ourselves and the way we think, feel and act while helping us to live with greater joy, contentment, and kindness. We can learn to embrace difficult feelings and emotions both in mind and in body. Mindfulness is no quick fix but it can be a desirable strategy for coping with what life throws at us. Mindfulness isn’t a life changer but could well be seen as a life enrichment tool.
Mindfulness pioneer Sylvia Boorstein suggests ”Mindfulness doesn’t change life. Life remains as fragile and unpredictable as ever. What changes is the heart’s capacity to accept life as it is. It teaches the heart to be more accommodating; not by beating it in into submission’ but by making it clear that accommodation is a gratifying choice”.
As the current culture continues to grow and evolve, certain words and phrases are becoming more common as people continue to embrace them. One of the many words that has been thrown around is “mindfulness.”
Undoubtedly, most people have heard this word before and think that it is important, yet few people actually know what it is. Today, many people find themselves multitasking on a regular basis. Perhaps people do the laundry while helping the kids with their homework. Maybe someone is on the phone with their boss while continuing to type away at their current assignment.
Kids seem to always balance multiple text message conversations while doing their homework (perhaps poorly) at the same time.
Mindfulness is the practice of taking the time to focus on the present moment instead of on the distractions that can overwhelm someone’s life and soak up every ounce of their attention.
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of focusing on the present moment in an active manner. Think about everything that people miss out on when they don’t take the time to focus on themselves and the moment at hand. Mindfulness meditation helps prevent this from happening. In fact, the benefits of mindfulness and meditation have been studied scientifically.
Mindfulness Meditation can Improve Someone’s Mental Health
As people’s lives continue to get busier, it is easy for people to lose their mental and emotional health in the shuffle. People may start to feel like they’re simply being stretched too thin and may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms as a way of dealing with the stress. In fact, substance abuse disorders involving drugs and alcohol remain one of the major health problems that society has to deal with. Furthermore, people develop mood disorders, including anxiety and depression, from trying to balance everything that is taking time out of their day. In the past few years, many scientists and researchers have studied the practice of mindfulness meditation and the benefits that it can bring to someone’s state of mental health. It can even help with:
When people take the time to be mindful of their emotional state, it can help them accept the emotions that they’re feeling in their life, whether they are good or bad. By accepting what has happened, they are able to process what they’re feeling instead of turning to avoidance of these emotions through unearthly means. Mindfulness has even been incorporated into cognitive behavioral therapy, one of the backbones of treatment employed by psychiatric providers. This meditative state helps people find a new, healthy perspective that improves their mental health.
Mindfulness has Numerous Benefits on Physical Health
In addition to the many benefits that mindfulness can have on someone’s mental state, it can even improve various facets of someone’s physical health as well. When someone takes the time to meditate and think about their current state of mind, it provides a calming influence on both their mind and their body, which is reflected in the numerous physical health benefits that mindfulness meditation can bring. Among the many health benefits are:
It is important for people to realize that many of their chronic health problems stem from a cluttered mind, anxious emotional state, and a lack of sleep created by many of the problems above. When all of these areas of life are improved, their emotional health translates to an improved state of physical well-being and is reflected as an improvement in many of the health parameters discussed above.
Mindfulness Meditation can Improve Someone’s Well-Being for the Future
When people start to incorporate mindfulness meditation into their daily routine, they start to see many of the overall benefits as they move into the future. When the mental and physical health benefits of mindfulness are rolled into one, it creates a general sense of improved well-being in many ways, including:
Enjoying the Moment: When people take the time to be mindful and remain in the present moment, they are able to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. This means that people are more engaged in the present activities and are less likely to miss the important moments that occur from day to day.
Less Likely to Have Regrets: People who are able to practice mindfulness regularly are less likely to have regrets over the past because they know that they have lived in the present moment. They will not be concerned with their own success and self-esteem which allows them to take chances that they otherwise would not have taken. It also helps people to open themselves up to the ability to form deeper connections with loved ones and others around them.
Overall, mindfulness meditation will help people develop the attitudes that are necessary for not just success but fulfillment as well.
Ultimately, this is only a brief overview of the practice of mindfulness, meditation, and the numerous benefits that it can bring to someone’s life. Remember that mindfulness is an important part of maintaining a healthy mind, spirit, and body while meditation can help focus the mind on the moment at hand without having to miss out on what’s happening around a person. By incorporating mindfulness and meditation into the daily routine, it can help someone gain a new perspective on their life that can bring about a healthy change in someone’s emotional, physical, and mental state.
If you searching for a new way to get healthier then try doing yoga! This is a unique practice that can improve your health in a very holistic way; meaning your mind, body and soul. Yoga is a very traditional and ancient practice that has been used by many to detox and energize the body and the mind. When practiced regularly it can bring an inner peace within a person and an increased wellbeing. Below are just some of the many benefits yoga can have on your health.
• Relax those nerves
When practicing yoga continuously, you will see a change in how your body’s nervous system functions. The techniques and positions used in yoga can calm your nervous system and reduce stress. By using different stretching poses and breathing practices of yoga, the result will be a huge relaxation of nervous system. As a result, this will also provide relief in other parts of your wellbeing such as foggy thought processes, negative emotions and sluggish behavior. In addition to this, since your nervous system is more relaxed, there is a stronger connection with your mind and body.
• Better Digestion
When it comes to digestion, several people can suffer from chronic constipation and in general a sluggish system. With the help of yoga, constipation can be greatly relieved, because yoga improves the health of the body from the inside out. With certain yoga poses, you can actually massage the inside of your digestive system thus improving flow and blood circulation. When the circulation of your digestive system has been improved, your digestive system with soon follow and improve as well. With a proper functioning digestive system your body will start to function at its optimal level, and therefore you will have more energy and fewer toxins in your system.
• Detox Detox Detox
Detoxing the body is very important and a healthy process to undertake in general. It is the best way to eliminate toxins that are festering within the body’s system. When practicing yoga on a daily basis, you will be able to enable the body to clear out toxins that are causing havoc within your body. With fewer toxins in your body, the more energy you will have to tackle on the day. The detox that yoga provides not only pertains to physical toxins in the body, but also emotional toxins and psychological toxins, perhaps it could be cleansing yourself from the bad emotions of a previous relationship, a bad friendship and negative thoughts and emotions that you yourself might be hanging on to. Yoga can help you let go of this and have peace of mind. With a clear mind you can make better decisions in life, adopt a healthier lifestyle and form more positive connections, relationships and friendships that benefit your life.
• Inside out improvement!
Get your glow on! With continuous practice of yoga, you will see a definite improvement of your body from the inside out. So besides the improvement of your digestive system, relaxation of your nervous system, and the detox benefits, you can also expect your skin to glow! Due to the increase blood circulation in your system, your metabolic rate will increase, which can lead to glowing skin and lighter body weight.
When practicing yoga, most students also adopt healthier eating habits. So instead of consuming deep fried foods, you might make a smarter choice and opt for a nice kale salad instead.
At the end of the day yoga ultimately leads to healthier lifestyle, more positive outlook and glowing skin. So what are you waiting for? Give yoga a try!
To take advantage of meditation and its benefits it is important to make meditation your new daily habit, like brushing teeth. It will present challenges similar to those you experienced when embarking on a new physical exercise program. At first you notice your body is weak and can hardly cope with what is asked of it, but with time you’ll see it gets stronger, healthier. When you first start on meditation exercise you will notice disturbing restlessness in your body as you try to sit still. Restlessness in a body is a sign of neglected, untrained mind. With time you will learn to control your body better, you will be able to sit without moving a muscle for hours if you chose to. Your body will listen to you faithfully, you will learn to create and remove pain at will, make yourself happy, improve your luck, there is no limit to positive things you can do from there.
In the beginning sit straight and still on a chair with your eyes closed in a quiet place for 10 minutes twice a day, increase the time gradually. In the beginning you may have to use suggestions to quiet your body, keep repeating in your mind: I am relaxed and comfortable, I can sit without moving a muscle for hours, with time you will train your body to listen to your suggestions after the first time. As you notice your body slowly begin to relax and stop bothering you concentrate on an imaginary object, it could be anything you want, for example a book. Observe it closely in your mind, stare at it, keep it alive in your mind, this exercise will push all other thoughts and worries out of your head, but you will notice slowly they begin to creep right back, observe the thoughts like they were no longer yours without judgment and let them go as you continue to hold the book in your mind. When the thoughts relinquish you in stillness of mind you can put you attention and intention on anything you want, it will flourish and be anything you want it to be as long as it is good and positive.
Too much in modern life can be stressful. This article, the fourth in a series on meditating with the senses, explores ways to relax with sound. The following simple meditations use water, nature, music, and one’s own voice so that hearing becomes a joy.
Flowing Water Meditation
Running water can soothe a tired mind. The following meditation using flowing water offers the person meditating the opportunity to release his or her burdens and let the water carry them away.
Relaxing Music Meditation
Music has the power to inspire, entertain, and relax. The following meditation offers an opportunity to rest with one’s favorite song or another relaxing piece of music.
The human voice has the power to connect people and the individual to himself or herself. The following meditation invites a person to talk to himself/herself using a meaningful phrase that promotes relaxation.
Noise doesn’t have keep being stressful with some simple exercises to relax the body and make hearing a pleasure again.
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.
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.
Meditation is a listening process that has been around us for thousand years, and is mentioned everywhere regardless of religions. Due to the fact that humans have two ears and only one mouth, we should listen twice as often as we speak. However, some people are always in the talk mode and enjoy talking, and many people can’t stand silence and even sleep with the television on all night. That’s why we increasing need meditation to help us.
Imagine if you would be listening to a full-integrated 78-person-Orchestra and watching as each instrument stops playing until just one single violin is left playing by itself, and we are listening carefully for that single note, all else is silent. The idea of being still and quiet does not appeal to many people who fill the air with noise. But at any one time there must be about fifty million people in the world who are meditating so we know that we are joining a large group and partaking of that energy.
The mystics tell us in their writings that we live in a “closed” system where nothing (energy) is ever lost. The “cosmic mind” that surrounds the planet earth contains every thought that ever was and this is why inventions occur in many places at the same time, as people tap into the cosmic mind from wherever they happen to be. They all get it at the same eureka moment.
Isaac Bentov’s book called “Stalking the wild pendulum” demonstrates how we can be two places at once, and that the pendulum is actually our heartbeat. Each time the pendulum swings to one end and stops to return back, the heart is stopping beating before it swings back. At that moment we can flip out and be in another place altogether, such as another city. This is how mystics appear in two places at the same time.
Stopping time and living longer. When the heart comes to rest, we do not age. This is why people who meditate appear younger than those who don’t. We are actually stopping time and living longer.
Alice Bailey, the author of some thirty gigantic books on esoteric subjects such as the “The Seven Rays” stated that we have a finite Number of breaths allotted to us, and to breathe deeply and live longer. Those of us who take short breaths will use up our allotment sooner, which ties in with smokers dying younger because of shorter breaths, makes sense.
When we meditate, we take deeper breaths and thus prolong our life. What we hear in our meditations. As we sit in the silence we receive ideas, thoughts, inspirations, messages that are answers to our questions that have been posed by our subconscious mind, which have been sitting there waiting to get out. In fact, if we pose a question and then listen for the answer, we will find that we do have all the answers if we take the time to listen. This brings up the point of the quickest way to get in the zone.
If we meditate in a symmetrical way, that is, at the same time and place each day, we build up an energy vortex in that spot so that when we get into that space, we are in the zone, and can connect much faster than having to energize a new place.
Other energy boosters are devices such as crystals that are really batteries with their own energy added to our energy.