Tag Archives | Mindfulness

Does Mindfulness Mean Anything?

“Mindfulness” is a current buzz word, but what does it really mean, if anything? NPR‘s Adam Frank attempts an answer:

We are in the middle of a mindfulness revolution.

meditation

According to TimeThe Huffington Post and a host of other media outlets, mindfulness and meditation are having their moment in the spotlight. From hospitals to corporate wellness programs, mindfulness is — supposedly — a new path to relieving stress, lifting depression and increasing happiness.

But, depending on your perspective, the advent of mindfulness and meditation in America is either a milestone in the evolution of the culture — or a mighty avalanche of hype.

Given our ongoing discussion of science and religion here at 13.7, there are two particularly relevant questions the mindfulness explosion asks us to tackle. First, what exactly does mindfulness mean in relation to the spiritual practices it emerged from (mostly Buddhism). Secondly, how much do health claims made for mindfulness bear up under scientific scrutiny?

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Why meditation should be taught in schools

Moyan Brenn (CC BY 2.0

Moyan Brenn (CC BY 2.0

Lea Waters, University of Melbourne

New research in the fields of psychology, education and neuroscience shows teaching meditation in schools is having positive effects on students’ well-being, social skills and academic skills.

A recent meta-review of the impact of meditation in schools combined the results from 15 studies and almost 1800 students from Australia, Canada, India, the UK, the US and Taiwan. The research showed meditation is beneficial in most cases and led to three broad outcomes for students: higher well-being, better social skills and greater academic skills.

Students who were taught meditation at school reported higher optimism, more positive emotions, stronger self-identity, greater self-acceptance and took better care of their health as well as experiencing reduced anxiety, stress and depression. This was compared to before the meditation programs and compared to peers who were not taught meditation.

The review also showed that meditation helps the social life of students by leading to increases in pro-social behaviour (like helping others) and decreases in anti-social behaviour (like anger and disobedience).… Read the rest

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Mindfulness has lost its Buddhist roots, and it may not be doing you good

Harry Koopman (CC BY 2.0)

Harry Koopman (CC BY 2.0)

Miguel Farias, Coventry University and Catherine Wikholm, University of Surrey

Mindfulness as a psychological aid is very much in fashion. Recent reports on the latest finding suggested that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is as effective as anti-depressants in preventing the relapse of recurrent depression.

While the authors of the paper interpreted their results in a slightly less positive light, stating that (contrary to their hypothesis) mindfulness was no more effective than medication, the meaning inferred by many in the media was that mindfulness was superior to medication.

Mindfulness is a technique extracted from Buddhism where one tries to notice present thoughts, feeling and sensations without judgement. The aim is to create a state of “bare awareness”. What was once a tool for spiritual exploration has been turned into a panacea for the modern age — a cure-all for common human problems, from stress, to anxiety, to depression.… Read the rest

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Mind Your Own Business

Surian Soosay (CC BY 2.0)

Surian Soosay (CC BY 2.0)

Barbara Ehrenreich writes at the Baffler:

At about the beginning of this decade, mass-market mindfulness rolled out of the Bay Area like a brand new app. Very much like an app, in fact, or a whole swarm of apps. Previous self-improvement trends had been transmitted via books, inspirational speakers, and CDs; now, mindfulness could be carried around on a smartphone. There are hundreds of them, these mindfulness apps, bearing names like Smiling Mind and Buddhify. A typical example features timed stretches of meditation, as brief as one minute, accompanied by soothing voices, soporific music, and images of forests and waterfalls.

This is Buddhism sliced up and commodified, and, in case the connection to the tech industry is unclear, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist blurbed a seminal mindfulness manual by calling it “the instruction manual that should come with our iPhones and BlackBerries.” It’s enough to make you think that the actual Buddha devoted all his time under the Bodhi Tree to product testing.

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Nihilistic Mindfulness

Harry Koopman (CC BY 2.0)

Harry Koopman (CC BY 2.0)

Andrew Gonsalves writing at Don’t Feed the Animals:

I’ve been bad. I haven’t practiced meditating in a long time and I would easily classify most of my thoughts during the day as “mindless.” That is, of course, the opposite of “mindful.” Mindfulness is a skill that takes a fair amount of work to acquire. The most recognized route to mindfulness is through meditation, wherein you practice acknowledging your thoughts for what they are and then let them go. This leads to what is often called being “in the moment,” a state where you neither pine for the past, nor mull about the future, but instead appreciate your here and now.

The benefits of mindfulness meditation are so numerous that it may as well be considered a superpower (as close as you can get to one in this world). From various health improvements to a calmer, happier disposition, mindfulness will likely improve your life, if only a little bit.

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Meditation Sweeps Corporate America, But It’s For Their Health. Not Yours

There must be money in meditation: its going corporate. Oliver Burkeman explains at the Guardian:

As a fairly regular meditator, I naturally responded with only a slight smile and a deep sense of imperturbable inner peace to the latest crop of articles asserting that mindfulness has conquered the highest levels of American corporate life.

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Photo: Jemasty (CC)

This most recent coverage has been triggered by Mindful Work, a new book by the New York Times reporter David Gelles, which documents – and largely celebrates – the discovery of meditation by hedge fund managers, health insurers, Ford, Target, Goldman Sachs and the Bank of America as a way to reduce stress and boost employee productivity. Arianna Huffington is thrilled by the news; the Wall Street Journal is excited; even the Marine Corps is interested. Now, obviously, I wouldn’t want to suggest that Goldman SachsBank of America or the US military don’t always have humanity’s best interests at heart in everything they do.

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The Meditation Boom

Apparently there’s a boom in the number of people who meditate, at least in California as reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Meditation, primarily a 2,500-year-old form called mindfulness meditation that emphasizes paying attention to the present moment, has gone viral.

"Deep meditation" by Karoly Czifra (CC)

“Deep meditation” by Karoly Czifra (CC)

The unrelenting siege on our attention can take a good share of the credit; stress has bombarded people from executives on 24/7 schedules to kids who feel the pressure to succeed even before puberty. Meditation has been lauded as a way to reduce stress, ease physical ailments like headaches and increase compassion and productivity.

Religious practitioners have long claimed that, adopted by enough people, meditation could bring us world peace. Now we hear that from Chade-Meng Tan, a Google executive charged with making the company more mindful. You needn’t even put down your phone, with apps like Insight Timer, which has guided meditations and ways to track your stillness.

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The McMindfulness Craze: The Shadow Side of the Mindfulness Revolution

Harry Koopman (CC BY 2.0)

Harry Koopman (CC BY 2.0)

Jeffrey B. Rubin at Truthout writes:

In case we had any doubt after watching Anderson Cooper on “60 Minutes,” mindfulness is the new yoga – and we are in the midst of a mindfulness revolution. It’s been embraced by celebrities, business leaders, politicians and athletes; and recommended by doctors, clergy, psychotherapists and prison wardens. Apps and bestselling books touting the benefits of meditation proliferate. Google “mindfulness” and you’ll get over 24 million hits.

It’s not surprising that with unbridled enthusiasm about mindfulness come exaggerated claims and problems that are eclipsed. Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the architects of the mindfulness revolution, claims mindfulness “has the potential to ignite a universal or global renaissance that . . . would put even the European and Italian Renaissance into the shade . . . [and] that may actually be the only promise the species and the planet have for making it through the next couple hundred years.”

Backlash was inevitable.

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How to visit Ancient Sites – Mindfulness & Meditation

How to visit Ancient Sites – Mindfulness & Meditation

Giza-Plateau-panoramic

This is the first in a series of short articles highlighting the approach I use when visiting ancient sites. I regularly organize and co-host tours to many powerful ancient sites around the world. During my tours I have observed the different ways people interact with sacred space. On one hand we have mainstream tours with guides reciting dates and names over a microphone while the tour members wear headsets. At the other end of the spectrum we have people visiting ancient and sacred sites to meditate. After witnessing these different ways of interacting, I felt compelled to share the techniques I use. I hope my insights will help others to maximize their time on location.

Ancient ritual

Anyone that has visited a museum or studied books on ancient cultures will no doubt have run into two labels “ancient ritual” and “ceremonial purposes”, these labels among others are used to explain in very broad terms what archeologists believe our ancestors were up to.… Read the rest

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The Weaponization of Mindfulness?

240px-Mindfulness-present-moment-here-now-awareness-symbol-logo

Pic: RadicalCourse (CC)

Via ScienceDaily:

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Naval Health Research Center have found that mindfulness training — a combination of meditation and body awareness exercises — can help U.S. Marine Corps personnel prepare for and recover from stressful combat situations.

The study, published in the May 16, 2014 online issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that incorporating meditative practices into pre-deployment training might be a way to help the U.S. military reduce rising rates of stress-related health conditions, including PTSD, depression and anxiety, within its ranks.

“Mindfulness training won’t make combat easier,” said Martin Paulus, MD, professor of psychiatry and senior author. “But we think it can help Marines recover from stress and return to baseline functioning more quickly.”

Drawing on the teachings of Zen Buddhism, scientists describe mindfulnes as a mental state characterized by “full attention to the present moment without elaboration, judgment or emotional reactivity.” Mindfulness training, traditionally practiced through sitting meditation, attempts to cultivate this mental state by quieting the mind of extraneous thoughts.

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