A Series on Mindfulness – the Scientific Benefits

May 28, 2016


Part 1: Personal Benefits from frequent mindfulness meditation with Headspace

The research that is growing around the benefits of mindfulness meditation is impressive. There is one individual, Andy Puddicombe, who has created an inspirational mediation app to help harness these benefits. The app is called Headspace, with the catch phrase ‘a gym membership for the mind.’ You can see Andy on TED Talks. I am impressed with this app. It not only speaks to the scientific research, but offers an excellent product, both for those wanting to explore meditation firsthand and those who have experience with it already. I find the app professional, fun, interesting, playful and inherently clever. It has fun animations at the beginning to help explain the straight forward concepts. Having practiced mediation for many years, I can see the integrative nature of the guided sessions. This resonates with me. Since using it daily over the last couple of months…., OK, at least a couple ten minute sessions a day, over the last couple of months, my life is changing.

How is it changing? I am finding an improved quality in my relationships. With my daughter, who is eight, there is a difference in the quality of exchange. Our conversations are more integrative, I am more responsive to her, I can be clearer in my requests, more playful and clever in how I present these requests and I am able to attune to her more skillfully. I can read her needs and acknowledge her experience more fully than I have been and this leads to an increase in the quality of our interaction. She is initiating conversations between us that are integrative and fulfilling for both of us. I suspect as she recognizes my increased attunement to her, and she is feeling a new sense of ease between us. We are getting tighter that we were! Sweet!

How else? Spending more time doing NOTHING is galvanizing me into action when I am not doing nothing. I am getting more ideas on how I want my practice to grow, more creative, and I actually am motivated to write blogs. My long term block towards this is shifting, I believe, to a growing interest in sharing about the science and application of this subject that I use both personally and professionally on a daily basis. I am not so intimidated about trying to figure out my Facebook Professional Page, which, sadly, I could not have possibly neglected any more than I have in the last year or so, or two. Wahhhg! Now it seems easy and I’m figuring it out.

I am more at ease with myself. I am better equipped to handle challenging emotions when they arise (we all have our moments, don’t we?) in that I can label the issue more readily or ride it out or ask for help when I need it. It is fascinating. I still get challenged at times, but I have more internal resources when needed. I have meditated for many years, but I have not utilized these short 10 to 15 minute bursts with such frequency. I believe this is making all the difference. I am applying this skill differently.

Meditation is not new to me. I was introduced to mindfulness in the early 1990s. I was confronted with an unknown illness that was eventually incorrectly diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by the Mayo Clinic. While I did indeed have chronic fatigue, it was generated by the parasite Giardiasis, not a syndrome. The remarkable physician I found in Tucson, Arizona, Dr. Jesse Stoff, orchestrated a collaborative health care clinic and I was introduced to mindfulness here. It was, for him, an essential part of my multi-disciplined care in addressing my immune issues, which were severe.

Close to the same time, I began working at the Tucson Resort, Miraval, in preparation for its opening. Miraval’s philosophy was based off the work of Jon Cabot-Zinn, the meditator, researcher and author who wrote ‘Full-Catastrophe Living.’ Those of us who were creating programs of equine therapy, massage, team building events, meditation or yoga, were asked to integrate this mindfulness philosophy into our programs. It was a spectacular time of my life to be introduced to all of these practices and make such good friends. It was a spectacular time, but also an emotional one. I felt I was being unmade in some ways, and needed support and direction in how to focus my energy, my health, how to better manage my emotions, and the new and uncharted direction in life. I am so thankful for the stability meditation offered me and the supportive and understanding staff at Miraval. My experience here was a catalyst that started a new enriching chapter in my life that continues now.

What about the science around this brain stuff? Many cultures across the world have used various forms of mindfulness for thousands of years, at least. In the last 20 or 30 years, science has been validating a plethora of benefits, and this coming from multiple scientific disciplines. Click HERE for a statistical graph showing the growing peer-reviewed research and the funding provided by the NIH (National Institute of Health) towards the conteplative sciences. David Vago instructs at the Harvard Medical School , and worked with the Mind and Life Institute. Dr. Dan Siegel, popular psychologist-researcher in his audio book ‘The Neurobiology of WE’ lists and discusses many of the latest scientific benefits. In my next blog, however, I am going to encapsulate some of the benefits mentioned on the webpage Headspace by Andy Puddicombe, author, speaker and creator of this cool app. All this information is referenced well on his webpage. I’ll address Dr. Dan Siegel’s findings in a subsequent blog.

What is all the excitement about with this neuroscience and the brain? Scientific evidence shows that when we bring mindfulness to our internal process, that is, when we direct compassion, openness, attention and kindness to ourselves, to our internal world, it literally begins to rewire key areas of the brain. It sets us up for changing behavioral traits. Using our minds, we can affect our brains, and this in turn can improve our physiology by supporting the immune system, enhance our relationships with ourselves and others, and bring deeper meaning and a sense of well-being.

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