Meditation is a form of mental discipline. There are many forms and styles of meditation. One is to follow or focus on your breath. Other people may meditate while focusing on an icon or object. Reciting a mantra can be useful for other people. Guided meditation in which one imagines a scene or event can also be used. The regular practice of meditation has been found to be useful in reducing stress, enhancing physical and emotional health, and improving life satisfaction.
It has become common knowledge that meditation masters like Buddhist monks can achieve amazing things through the power of their minds. Now scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have identified the brain area involved. A report in Science Daily revealed that the anterior cingulate cortex that governs thinking and emotion and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex that controls worrying are both impacted by meditation. The activation of these two areas can reduce anxiety ratings by almost 40%. Just think of it – no medications, no side effects, no doctor bills, increased tranquility, and increased wellbeing.
Give it a try. I’ve included a basic meditation exercise for you below.
Following the Breath Meditation.
- Sit comfortably. You can sit on a floor, a cushion, or a chair. Avoid positions that are so relaxed that you might fall asleep.
- Close your eyes. This will help to reduce distraction. If closing your eyes causes anxiety for you, gaze gently at an object.
- Take a few deep breaths. Then, breathe naturally. Some people find it helpful to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Focus on your body sensations including the points of contact between you and the world. Is there warmth, tingling, pressure, or vibration?
- Focus your attention on your breathing.
- Whenever your mind wanders away from your breath (and it will!), gently return to noticing your breathing. It is not necessary to judge these thoughts or reprimand yourself for your mind wandering. The ability to disconnect from our thoughts takes practice.
The complete Wake Forest study can be found at:
F. Zeidan, K.T. Martucci, R.A. Kraft, J.G. Coghill. Neural Correlates of Mindfulness Meditation-Related Anxiety Relief. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1093/scan/nst041.
I’m not sure what I thought Breaking Free by Chet Vosloo was going to be about. It was on my Kindle and I was bored and needed something to read so I opened it up. At first I thought it was going to be a contemporary romance. It seemed to be a guy hanging out in bars, sleeping around, and generally sailing aimlessly though life. Then, it seemed to be an adventure story. He started traveling to remote places and bicycling across continents and getting altitude sickness while climbing a mountain.
Then came the spiritual and psychological stories. The main character experienced significant anxiety issues and had physical consequences from that anxiety. The book then follows his quite interesting and unique journey to “Break Free” from his limiting beliefs while living in Asia, an ashram, and in an entourage following a guru.
There were several things that really captured my interest. First was the author’s description of monkey mind, that distinctly annoying thing that happens when one first attempts to meditate and control one’s thoughts. The weekend meditation workshops that I participated in were some of the most physically, emotionally, and mentally draining activities I have every chosen to attend. When I first became aware that I couldn’t purposefully harness my thoughts for more than a few seconds at a time it was quite an eye opener. Even more shocking was the “no way, no how” reaction that my brain expressed when I made the attempt.
Second, the author did a fantastic job describing the physical manifestations of emotional dis-ease. The physical problems are real, but the origin isn’t necessarily in the body. This is something I experience personally and have seen in my professional practice for decades. This is proof again that the body, mind, and spirit and completely and inextricably intertwined.
If you enjoy reading about intercontinental adventures, this book is for you. If you benefit from reading self-help books, this book is for you. If you suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, or low self-esteem, this book is for you. If you need an entertaining reminder of the importance of self-control, spiritual development, and the connectedness of the universe, this book is for you.
I know that many people have developed the habit of starting the morning with the news, whether print or digital. That habit can have some merit since you can prepare for the weather, have the latest news to discuss with colleagues, or enjoy a chuckle if you are reading the comics. The downside is that you are also exposing yourself to all of the negativity that has accumulated in the world the night before. Have you ever wondered how reading about murder, theft, hunger, poverty, corruption, and deceit might impact your day?
I have found that I often start my day at a full sprint. I pop out of bed and fly through my morning performing tasks at superhero speed trying to get as many things done in as short a time as possible. Again, this has both positive aspects as well as hazards. When in sprint mode I can cross many things off of my to-do list and give the appearance to myself and others that I am amazingly efficient and effective. But at what cost? After this sprint to get things done I am usually too tired and too grumpy to enjoy the free time that I expected to have later. Truthfully, when in that mode I suspect that I’m not all that pleasant to be around either.
At different times in my life I have made the effort to exercise first thing in the morning. I got up very early and dedicated that time to riding my stationary bike. Most of the time I also had some positive attitude or personal growth CD playing in the background. The combination was fantastic. I know other people use yoga, meditation, spiritual study, prayer, or running as a way to get their day started in the right direction.
Other times, and prior to the time change (now sunrise comes after my work day begins), I took my dogs on a short walk to get some fresh air and exercise and to enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery. They felt better. I felt better. That feeling persisted throughout my morning at work. Once darkness and black ice interfered with our early morning walks I began using inspirational CDs during my commute to gently lead my mind where I wanted it to go. Most mornings you will find me listening to Wayne Dyer, Anthony Robbins, or the Dalai Lama. I confess that during the Christmas holiday season (starting around Halloween for me) I listen to endless hours of Christmas music instead becauase I adore it.
I am trying to be more aware of my mindset at the beginning of my day and have noticed that when I do plan for a peaceful start that I have a more peaceful day. I can tell a difference in the way I feel about the world, myself, and the people I meet when I have made a conscious choice to start my day in this manner. It does take some planning and intention to manage my time in the morning so that this is possible. It is all too easy for me to just hit the floor running. But, much like the garbage in – garbage out metaphor in computing, peace in – peace out seems to be every bit as true.
Are you impressed with my French? Don’t be. Not only do I not speak French, I stink at mise en place. I watch many cooking shows. In fact, I’m somewhat addicted to them. I’ve heard Alton Brown and others preach mise en place. But do I practice it? NO!!! For example, one day I started putting together a great Tuscan Bean Soup but dumped the onions in the oil to saute long before I had even retrieved the garlic from the cupboard or the carrots from the refrigerator.
I’ve been pondering this personal deficit for a while now and it truly baffles me. I’m a person who makes lists. My daily schedule in on an Excel spreadsheet and I dutifully remove things as they are completed. Usually the tasks are even recorded in order. The list might include thawing meat for tomorrow’s dinner, or staging the items I plan to take to the office the next day. So my mise en place failure isn’t an inability to plan ahead.
I’m not a terribly patient person though. I can look patient, but on the inside I’m usually quite the opposite. I do find it hard to wait for the things I want or the activities I want to do. I’ve learned to cope with it though, so I can generally stay within a financial or time budget.
After reading an article about mise en place I think I may have found the answer. Mise en place can also be about attitude. If I fail to prepare my attitude or thoughts, the behavior is more erratic. I think this could be a lesson that far transcends the kitchen.
If you have a pre-cooking attitude adjuster that works for you…..please share.