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Why practice mindfulness meditation?

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Kelly Michas

on 4 June 2014

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Transcript of Why practice mindfulness meditation?

Why practice
mindfulness meditation?

Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
to be fully present in the now
to experience unpleasant thoughts/feelings safely
to become aware of what we are avoiding (ED's)
to become more connected to ourselves and the world around us
increase self-awareness
to decrease reactivity to unpleasant experiences
to see the distinction between us and our thoughts (our thoughts create our reality)
to learn that everything is in a state of change,; thoughts/feelings come and go like the weather
emotional regulation: balance in expressing and feeling
to experience calm and peace vs. stress response (cortisol)
to develop self-acceptance/self-compassion (ED's , Addictions (Rough Guide to Mindfulness)
Mindfulness can be employed across all disciplines
Mindfulness practice builds your capacity to stay in the moment of an experience. To be present, allows you to experience sensations and feelings more intensely and positively.
Meditation a Daily Practice
“Mindfulness allows you to surf difficult thoughts without being swept away by them”
"A Mindfulness Exercise

A personal experience of mindfulness will help you understand the process.

Start by closing your eyes and choosing a focus for your breath. It can be at your nostrils, your chest, or the rise and fall of your abdomen, wherever you feel your breath most naturally. Keep your focus on your breath at that place, and follow the breath in and then out again for the duration of the exercise. When you notice that your attention has gone elsewhere, such as to thoughts like “I’m breathing too fast or too slow” or “I’m not comfortable” or when your attention has wandered completely away, out of the room even, notice that and acknowledge the source of the distraction in an accepting, non-judgmental way. Then gently bring your attention back to your breath.

When you’re ready, take a few deep breaths and open your eyes."
Let's Meditate
Links and references
: athletes instead of being stuck on their past performance, can develop intense focus to the moment and thus improve their performance overall. Imagine gymnastics, mountain climbing, surfing, snowboarding, longboarding, running etc.
Mental Health
"Mindfulness means “paying attention in a particular way: On purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment” (Jon Kabat-Zinn).

Much of our stress, pain, and suffering comes from being pulled away from the present moment, with regrets about the past, worries about the future, and judgments about the present. Several mindfulness-based training programs have been shown to be effective for improving health and coping in clinical settings.

To date, most mindfulness-based clinical programs have been developed for adults. BC Children’s Hospital is currently developing youth-friendly adaptations of these programs for adolescents with chronic health conditions and/or depression." Kelty Mental Health website

Physical Health
"If greater well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered the benefits of mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in a number of ways.
Mindfulness can:

help relieve stress
treat heart disease
lower blood pressure
reduce chronic pain
improve sleep
alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties
From the:
Harvard Health Help Guide

In recent years, psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including:

substance abuse
eating disorders
couples’ conflicts
anxiety disorders
obsessive-compulsive disorder

Some experts believe that mindfulness works, in part, by helping people to accept their experiences—including painful emotions—rather than react to them with aversion and avoidance.

It’s become increasingly common for mindfulness meditation to be combined with psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy. This development makes good sense, since both meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy share the common goal of helping people gain perspective on irrational, maladaptive, and self-defeating thoughts.
Harvard Health Help Guide
Mindfulness Techniques: (from the Harvard Help Guide: Health)

There is more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. This allows the mind to refocus on the present moment. All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation.

Basic mindfulness meditation –

Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.

Body sensations –
Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.

Sensory –

Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.

Emotions –

Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.

Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.

Urge surfing –

Cope with cravings (for addictive substances or behaviors) and allow them to pass. Notice how your body feels as the craving enters. Replace the wish for the craving to go away with the certain knowledge that it will subside.
In Tibetan, the word meditation means "being familiar with or getting used to something.."
What is mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn
Is a world authority on mindfulness training. Describes MT as "paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment-and non judgementally." It is the "art of conscious living." Profoundly enhances emotional/psychological resilience, more life satisfaction.
"Meditation, it's not what you "think"."

Mindfulness requires us to be fully present. Surfing, long-boarding, dancing, enjoying music and creating art bring us to a focus where we are in the here and now. That space, is not encumbered with worry, doubt, thoughts of future or past. We can simply "be".
Self-regulation of attention
: describes
is done, and "
open orientation to experience
", shown in orange, describes
it is done & with what attitude.

self-regulation of attention
, the attention is focused on something, most commonly the breath.

When attention is distracted from the breath, either by an external distraction,(noise) or an internal distraction (physical sensation,thought, feeling), this is acknowledged and then attention is redirected back to the breath.

How attention is regulated
is very important. There must be a
attitude of
of the experience. (Dr. Andrea Grabovac is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UBC)


During the self-regulation of attention, attention is brought to the breath and when it wanders from the breath, as it will, this is acknowledged and then attention is redirected back to the breath. The illustration below shows these steps visually.
Three Types of Attention

While you are performing the mindfulness exercise, your brain is using all three main types of attention:




is used to
have the intention to focus on the breath
in the first place. Your anterior cingulate cortex is involved in allocating your attentional resources.

allows us
to select specific information from various incoming sensory stimuli
. The superior parietal cortex of the brain is involved in voluntary shifts of attention, and is active as you are switching your attention from a “distraction” back to the breath again.

is key in
sustaining attention
on a particular focus. It is also involved in
readying the mind to be open
to what arises, which is part of
the attitude brought to mindfulness
. The right inferior parietal lobe of your brain became active during the mindfulness exercise with both internal distractions as well as external stimuli. (mindfulness matters website)

"Mindfulness practice strengthens the ability to choose where to put attention and then to keep it there."
Non-Elaborative Awareness

...leads to a state whereby you gently acknowledge where our attention has wandered to, and to redirect it back to the breath
rather than becoming emotionally or intellectually engaged in the distraction.

Let’s look at an example to make this clearer.

After you stub your toe, what’s the very first thing that happens?

First, there is probably a sensation of physical pain. This is often rapidly followed by thoughts of self-blame, blaming others, anger and so on. These thoughts and feelings about the experience, this mental elaboration of the original sensation, cause emotional distress above and beyond the initial event.

Adventitious suffering”
is the extra pain we can create for ourselves beyond the initial pain of the stubbed toe, through the process of
mental elaboration

With non-elaborative awareness,
we feel the pain
, we have thoughts that start to come up afterwards -
but here is the difference -
the thoughts and feelings, we
them, but
we do not become emotionally invested in them
and then we gently redirect our attention elsewhere. This has the effect of preventing the mental elaboration that leads to additional suffering. I want to emphasize that
this process does not involve attempting to repress or suppress thoughts.

Non-elaborative awareness can be applied not just to physical sensations, but to mental and emotional events. With non-elaborative awareness,
a negative thought can become “just another negative thought”, rather than the first thought that triggers a downward spiral, through the process of mental elaboration, to become a depressive episode.
This has significant clinical implications and forms an important part of mindfulness based clinical interventions, such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. (mindfulness matters.org)
An Open Orientation to Experience

An accepting attitude towards our experience is key. For example, we may become aware of areas of tension or pain in our body, and notice that
we do not want the pain to be there
Both the pain and the thoughts or feelings
that can follow so quickly afterward
should be observed and acknowledged

labeled - with interest and acceptance.

Acceptance does not mean being passive or submissive. Acceptance is
an active process of being with what is actually happening.
It requires a conscious decision to let go of our desire to be having a different experience and instead to be present for what is occurring.
(Mindfulness Matters.org)
Mindfulness Causes Changes in Brain Function

Open orientation to experience
during mindfulness practice
results in changes in how the brain processes emotions.

1. a decrease in avoidance of negative emotions / emotional distress. Emotional distress
is experienced as less unpleasant/threatening.

leads to an improved ability to experience more difficult emotions without resorting to psychological defenses/maladaptive coping strategies to decrease the intensity of the emotions. (Eating Disorders and Addictions)

2. An increase in the openness with which both unfamiliar and familiar situations are approached (
dispositional openness
). ....leads to curiosity and receptivity to new experiences, rather than withdrawal from them.

Short discussion:
(Sympathetic <fight or flight> vs parasympathetic <rest and digest> (Autonomic nervous system)
Default mode network
; the part of the brain accessed during mind-wandering, simply being awake.
Intrinsic network:
Extrinsic network
: pays attention to external stimuli- ie driving. Experienced meditators show better connections between the default mode network and the extrinsic network, they can simultaneously keep both active compared to non-meditators who can not .
Thus feelings of oneness

Mindfulness practice brings intensive intensive self-observation resulting in increased cognitive complexity, improved emotional awareness and psychological mindedness.

Perhaps most importantly, a decentered perspective develops.
is described as
“the capacity to take a present-focused, non-judgmental stance in regard to thoughts and feelings and accept them”
(Fresco et al 2007). Thoughts and feelings are experienced in terms of their
(rather than an assumed validity) and
their transient nature
(rather than their
assumed permanence
). Increases in ability to adopt a decentered perspective have been shown to be associated with a lowered risk of depressive relapse (Fresco et al 2007)

There is an increasing body of evidence showing that
metacognitive awareness
, which is the
process of how one relates to one’s thoughts
, plays an important role in depressive relapse. People who adopt a more decentered perspective (ie. increased metacognitive awareness) generally have a lower risk of becoming depressed again (Corcoran and Segal 2008).

To summarize, we see that mindfulness practice leads to
a decentered perspective
and to a
decrease in adventitious suffering.
And, above all, it is a learnable skill! (mindfulness matters.org)

Discussion of examples....
: Family, romantic partnerships, friendships, improved communication, decreased conflict, increased self-awareness, increased satisfaction
School performance
: better grades, greater receptivity to new information and ideas, increased learning (you can't learn when you are in flight or fight mode). Try meditating before studying.
Increases openness to new experiences, abstract thought, new ideas, new people and connections. Mind wandering in creativity is important (default mode network), however mindfulness brings attention to the mind wandering in noticing connections and patterns.
Physical health:
your body responds to prolonged stress (increased cortisol levels) in negative ways. It can lead to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, decreased sexual health (dysfunction 43% of population- ( UBC studies on sexuality), pain tolerance, immune failure, obesity- metabolic syndrome, negative brain changes etc.
: Mindfulness based stress reduction therapy (MBSR): used to treat a host of psychological dysfunctions such as post traumatic stress disorder, depression, personality disorders, anxiety, (Longboarding therapy which includes mindfulness!) (Reduces depression relapse rate)
Addictions & ED's:
valuable in treating addictions and eating disorders, where you 'surf the urge', sit with the discomfort, through MBSR and DBT techniques, acceptance of negative feelings without judgement, awareness of painful emotions and thoughts, labeling them, seeing patterns. A good fit with DBT and CBT therapy.

It is
your belief
about a situation that creates your reality. Your thoughts create emotions which create moods. Your thoughts create your beliefs. Change your relationship to those thoughts and thus your experience of emotions/moods. You can change how you experience any given situation be it negative or positive. You
can't change reality,
of what is;
but, you can change your thoughts about it and thus your reactions to it. Mindfulness helps us to observe patterns in our thinking, our reactions, our feelings and informs us in how we operate with the world around us.
: using emotional intelligence to build effective leadership and productive companies. Being aware/mindful in your coworkers/ subordinates relationships and communications allows you to build resonant leadership. It fosters a deeper loyalty and commitment to a greater purpose and unity.
On purpose
In present moment
Acceptance and Openness
: slows the aging process; builds gray matter, may affect the length of telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of your chromosomes - meditation may balance hormones, and reduce cognitive stress/stress arousal-all serving to protect the aging process of the brain. (studies on Alzheimer's seems to show slower decline with meditation practice)
Immune function
: study on AIDS, showed meditation stopped the decline of T-cell production (one contributor to immune failure in AIDS)

Another study on Flu vaccines and how to make them more effective: 3 groups- exercise only, meditation only, and no action- Mediation was almost equal to exercise in decreasing dramatically the number of days sick with flu and the number of people who got sick in spite of vaccination (27/49 (257 days) for meditation, 26/49 (241 days)for exercise, neither action 40/49 (453 days) .
With purpose, nonjudgmental, in the present
Example discussion: running up the mountain in very cold temperatures
Brain Function Changes
Immune Function
Addictions & Eating Disorders
Spirituality & Global Responsibility
Examples: Chronic pain, pain -dentist experience
Neuroplasticity and the Brain
"Richard Davidson, Ph.D. is popularizing the idea that based on what is known about the plasticity of the brain, we can learn happiness and compassion as skills just as we learn to play a musical instrument, or train in golf or tennis.[6] Happiness, like any skill, requires practice and time but because we know that the brain is built to change in response to mental training, it is possible to train a mind to be happy.[6]" Wikipedia
The Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama was invited to work with scientists from many disciplines to study how mindfulness practice affects human beings on a physical and psychological level, including scans of the brain. -Society for Neuroscience, world's largest organization of physicians and scientists who work to understand and study the brain
Books by John Kabat-Zinn founder of the 8 wk mindfulness base stress reduction program: See Full Catastrophe Living for dealing with stress, anxiety and illness, or Wherever You Go There You Are: a simplified introductory book on the subject: http://www.mindfulnesscds.com/pages/books-by-jon-kabat-zinn
It happened on a day that started just like any other, but then again, isn’t that how it usually goes? I woke up and meditated, then I read a bit, wrote a bit, caught up on emails and so forth, the normal routine.....As soon as I stepped outside, I noticed my surroundings seemed exceptionally beautiful that morning. It was a quintessential fall day in New England, complete with color changed leaves, a beautiful blue sky with soft white clouds and a gentle breeze. This kind of beauty obviously needed a soundtrack I thought to myself, so as I set out on my run I found no more suitable companion than that of Swedish metal band At The Gates. I mean, it was October and nothing says Halloween quite like metal, and Swedish metal at that (except of course for Norwegian black metal, but that’s another conversation entirely.)

I was roughly ten minutes into my run while making my way down one of the main roads here in this rural town when out of nowhere something very strange and beautiful happened. While still running—Christ, how do I even word this—it was as if everything both exploded and imploded simultaneously in my reality, which resulted in a completely abstract sense of perfection.

I’ve had some similar experiences like this in the past, but none that I recall being this powerful, and definitely none of this magnitude while running. My body kept moving forward as a euphoric, almost overwhelming feeling of rapture engulfed my entire essence of being—both inside and out—and the next thing I knew, I was crying.

Before I go any further on this woo-woo sounding, esoteric journey, let me assure you that one, I’m not over exaggerating it at all, and two, yes, you’re picturing it correctly—I, a grown ass man, was jogging down a main road in a rural town with tears streaming from my eyes and a big ass smile from ear to ear.

The experience was short lived however (lasting maybe a minute or so,) because I did eventually become aware of how insane I must have looked to the motorists passing me by, and that was all it took to pull me back into my “normal” waking existence.

It was in that minute however, that I experienced, well, everything—the unabridged totality of life. I really don’t know how else to explain it, and I’m sure that might leave some of you scratching your heads, but this experience absolutely defied the logic of my rational thinking mind. I mean, I was still visually aware of my surroundings, but everything else had faded away; my body, the music from my iPod, everything, leaving me only with the experience of a very precise stillness, within which, resided everything.

And within that everything was also you… yes, you. Not the physical you reading these words right now, but rather, the conscious awareness that makes it possible for you to read them in the first place. The You underneath the you. You were there with me, and together, we were in the vast place that gives birth to all things—both manifest and unseen.
Chris Grosso, The Indie Spiritualist, an independent culturist, freelance writer, spiritual aspirant, recovering addict, and musician. Author of the "Indie Spiritualist -the no bullshit exploration of spirtuality.
Mindfulness can be a profound, spiritual experience...
Mindfulness = Resilience

Practiced for centuries
in a broad range of Eastern philosophies, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism as well as Christianity.
Jon Kabat Zinn
was one of the people who brought it the nonsecular world, our western world and made it accessible to westerners. He developed the mindfulness stress reduction program now used in thousands of medical centres, schools, workplaces around the world
It is about "waking up"
and connecting with ourselves and the present moment. We spend 95% of our time out of the present moment, either occupied with future thought or past thought or on automatic pilot.
Mindfulness practice is about exercising the mind like a muscle
. You strengthen the mind's capacity to focus without being overwhelmed or consumed with worries, stress or stuck in judgement and ruminations. Scanning the brains of Monks who practice regularly, we see that they have extremely, powerful, connections between the two hemispheres of the brain.
Mindfulness has a number of components
paying attention on purpose
, you stay with your experience whether it be your breathing, a powerful emotion or simply a behaviour such as eating.
In the present moment:
when the mind wanders, you bring yourself to focusing on the breath, and repeat
Nonjudgmental and Open to experience:
with the thoughts that emerge and rise in the mind, you observe them with a sense of curiosity, and nonjudgmentally. You observe them in a matter of fact approach and can choose if you want to, to label them and let them go. You might label a thought simply as "thinking", or with words such as "anger", "fear", "ego", "judgement", "boredom" "doubt- am i doing it right? I can't do this", or feelings "sadness", "grief" or physical sensations "hot" "pain" "cool" etc.
Thoughts are not facts, they are simply just thoughts
. Therefore, we can change our experience by detaching ourselves from the power of those thoughts which can create emotional and physical pain.
For further info....watch this.
It's a way of life, it's a way of being
Iphone Apps and website: http://www.getsomeheadspace.com/what-is-headspace.aspx
The Science: part 1
The Science: part 2
Using the analogy of Surfing and Mindfulness
A short video showing brain scans and the effect of meditation: http://www.getsomeheadspace.com/benefits-of-meditation.aspx
A surfing documentary... we compare surfing to mindfulness. Enjoy the movie later, I will share the link!
Tibet's Lama Sakyon Mipham Rinpoche . Sakyon means 'earth protector'. He is one of the most respected and highest of the incarnate Lamas.
University of Irvine, CA
You can't stop the waves but you can learn to surf. It isn't to stop the waves of feelings of sorrow, joy, grief, etc. but to be with them with an open heart and a wise perspective.
Did you know surfers think of surfing as the ultimate practice of mindfulness?

This is because when riding a wave nothing else seems to matter. No thoughts about “to do” lists, daily chores, or any of that busy chatter. Your mind is blank. It’s just you and the beautiful ocean. Surfing requires a quick, reactive, and sharp mind. When surfing, at any time the environmental conditions can change and you’ll need to be able to quickly adapt.

It could be an incoming breaking wave coming at your head or a game-time decision to take a drop in a steep barrel.

What is Mindfulness, a one page summary:
Pema Chodron: http://pemachodronfoundation.org/store/buy-books/
Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher, author of The Power of Now: http://www.eckharttolle.com/
Full transcript