Thursday, March 31, 2011

Meditation To Go

Need help staying on focus? Find yourself distracted by off-topic mind wandering? Mindfulness can restore balance and help you stay tuned-in to the things that matter most to you.

Several research studies point to the benefits of meditation for physical and emotional well-being, including the reduction of the stress hormone, cortisol, and improvement in overall mood. Meditation has been shown to help people coping insomnia and depression and medical illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease and multiple sclerosis.

The classic mindfulness technique of following the breath, keeps your attention on the very center of things, where all your options wait to be discovered. That's great news but who has time to practice mindfulness? Just about everyone it seems. Formal mindfulness meditation may be learned in quiet, still places, but it is meant to be practiced in everyday life, no matter how fast paced or stressful. In fact, the more stressful, the more immediate the benefits.

Here are a few simple tips for bringing mindfulness into everyday situations:

At the office....
When you arrive at the office and are waiting for your computer to boot up, try sitting comfortably in your chair, settle into your body, and concentrate on your breathing for three minutes. Do nothing else. No talking, no reading, no listening to music. Simple sit, breath and pay attention to your breath. This technique, practiced every day will help break the cycle of launching yourself into the pressure cooker before the workday begins.

When you find yourself in the slow lane coming home from work, instead of mentally asking "Why me?", concentrate on the rhythm of your breathing, acknowledge the frustration as a temporary annoyance, and realize that what is happening is simply happening. It is not happening "to" you.

Washing your hands...
It's important. Hospitals now train their health givers to wash their hands thoroughly and often to prevent the spread of germs. Public health offcials tell us that simply washing our hands often helps to prevent colds and flu. Next time you wash yours, take your time. It takes all of a full minute. Stop talking. Don't think about what your going to do next. Follow the breath and come home to the body. Carefully adjust the water temperature and notice the sensory experience of the soaping and massaging the hands. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry, being aware of how each activity feels.

That's all it takes to experience all the physical and emotional benefits of meditation. A few minutes each day that you are going to devote to the activity anyway. The only thing you need to do differently is be intently aware of what your doing.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Live Life on Life's Terms

In his wonderful book, "The Miracle of Mindfulness", Thich Nhat Hanh writes...

"But active, concerned people don't have time to spend leisurely, walking along paths of green grass and sitting beneath trees. One must prepare projects, resolve a million difficulties, there is hard work to do. One must deal with every kind of hardship, every moment keeping one's attention focused on the work, alert, ready to handle the situation ably and intelligently.

Then how are we to practice mindfulness?

My answer is: keep your attention focused on the work, be alert and ready to handle ably and intelligently any situation which may arise--this is mindfulness. There is no reason why mindfulness should be different from focusing all one's attention one's work, to be alert and to be using one's best judgment. During the moment one is consulting, resolving, and dealing with whatever arises, a calm heart and self-control are necessary if one is to obtain good results. If we are not in control of ourselves but instead let our impatience or anger interfere, then our work is no longer of any value."
-- Thich Nhat Hahn, The Miracle of Mindfulness, An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Key to Creativity

"When we daydream, we're at the center of the Universe," says neurologist Marcus Raichle of Washington University in St. Louis, who first the described, in 2001, the neural network that is most active when we are daydreaming.

In 2009, Jonathan Schooler and his colleagues at the University of British Columbia, published the first study to directly link creativity with mental activity in this network, now dubbed the "default network" because it is the region of mental activity that engages when our minds are not focused on specific tasks, a condition that Schooler calls "off-task thinking."

To enhance creativity, it is important to pay attention to daydreams. "What we find," says Schooler, "is that the people who regularly catch themselves [daydreaming]--who become mindfully aware that they are doing it--seem to be the most creative."

Creativity is an innate ability in human beings. We have practiced creative thinking and creative problem solving over the millenia and our continued presence on the Earth is evidence of our mastery of the process. But modern society has conditioned our minds to constantly analyze our outer environment and to ignore the inner.

Artful Meditation workshops teach the mindfulness techniques of moment-by-moment awareness and the willful "coming back" to the here-and-now. With these techniques and with exercises that promote daydreaming, we become connected to our creative powers through the "default network."