Meditation is a gift that you can offer to yourself. A time for learning and self reflection. Mindfulness Meditation is one form of meditation that has taken the principles of Buddhism and adapted them for the ‘western’ world to create a better fit with our modern lifestyles.
Meditation is easy and yet it can present its own challenges. It is often through these challenges that we find out about our own repeated patterns of behaviours and how they impact on our living that enables us to make positive changes so that we can live more comfortably. Mindfulness Meditation is about living in the moment and being fully present in that moment. Contemplate that there is only one moment which is Now. You will never be here again, in this moment, now. Such awareness can influence how you experience and view life.
Meditation is experiential and can help you to understand the link between the mind, body and feelings. It enables stillness and deep rest and is an altered state of consciousness and where the individual remains in control (Feldman 1998).
The Mindfulness Meditation that I use has been developed for the western world by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The success of his Stress Reduction and Relaxation Programme is reported in his book ‘Full Catastrophe Living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using Mindfulness Meditation. Kabat-Zinn’s programme has been the foundation from which other programmes have been adapted and developed and researched thus building on the successful outcome of his original work.
So what are the founding principles upon which Mindfulness Meditation is based?
(Adapted from John Kabat-Zinn, 1990)
- Non striving – This is about paying attention to ‘what is here’
- Patience – Is a form of ‘wisdom’. Being able to accept that some things need to unfold in their own time. Being completely open to each moment enables ‘patience’
- A Beginners mind – Being open to new possibilities and experiencing each things as though it were ‘the first time’ reminding us that ‘each moment is new’
- Non judging – Stepping back from the tendency to always need to ‘label and categorise’ that which is observed. Being aware of automatic judgements can help handle stress.
- Acceptance – Seeing things as they actually are in the present moment
- Trust – In yourself – enabling a link between you instinct / intuition and inner wisdom and being able to be ‘your own person’
- Letting go – Of those things that ‘trap us’ either emotionally, physically, spiritually or psychologically and even socially. People often express concern that they cannot ‘let go’. Perhaps then it is helpful to realise that each night when you fall asleep, you do ‘let-go’. What evidence is there that anything like this makes a difference?
The body produces endorphins during meditation as the brain waves move from a usual waking state of beta waves to that of alpha within the relaxed state. Within very deep meditation even delta and theta states can be experienced. Research by Patricia Carrington (an American Psychologist) amongst others have identified many benefits of meditation. It was Dr Herbert Benson in the early 1970’s who first coined the term ‘The Relaxation Response’ when researching the effects of the use of transcendental meditation by students. Lowered heart and breathing rates and lowered blood pressure being a part of this response. More recently in a programme on ‘Alternative Therapies’ screened on BBC 2 this spring, Dr Kathy Sykes was looking for proven research evidence on Meditation and other therapies. She reported on a study by Professor Richard Davidson that found people who meditate regularly are happier and less anxious. Research by Sara Lazar was also shared. Lazar is researching the effect of Meditation on neuroplasticity – this is the ability of the brain to change structure as it learns new tasks – Lazar has found that the cortex of the brain which governs thought processes are thicker in those people who meditate compared to those who do not. It is not unreasonable to suggest that there is perhaps a lot more to find out about the effects of meditation and its part in perhaps reducing stress and illness and in improving health.
Working with cancer and palliative care patients over many years Helen was able to see the benefits, to their lives, of programmes including relaxation and meditation which were clearly voiced. Transformation of mind, body and spirit being one possible outcome. Patients reported being able to view the world through ‘different eye’s’ and even though their circumstances might not have changed for the better, individuals ability to cope had. To this extent they were better able to ride the ‘waves of life’. This perhaps reflects a basis of psychoneuroimmunology where the link between the mind and body is so important. So, positive thinking / belief can create a place from which healing can evolve. This healing state does not necessarily mean ‘cure’ of such conditions as cancer, for example, and yet it creates a new basis from which individuals can live and in this way relieve stress and distress that can so often lead to ‘dis-ease.’ There is already much research into psychoneuroimmunolgy and more that need to be done.
The benefits of meditation are available to those whom are both ‘healthy’ or experiencing ‘ill health’. Some of these are listed below
- lowered heart rate
- lowered breathing rate
- lowered blood pressure
- Reduced stress
- Reduced anxiety
- Better control of depression (see bibliography)
- Increased productivity
- Increased concentration (this and the above are sited in Carrington work and relates to the productivity of postal workers)
Meditation can also enable
- a quiet mind
- insight into our own behaviours
- Spiritual renewal
- Positive change
In addition… It’s free
And doesn’t contain artificial colours or additives ! (Macbeth 1990)
Helen has attended the Mindfulness Teacher Development Retreat Programme run by the University of Bangor, and she is also taking the programme as a participant (an important part of being able to teach it!) and has a regular meditation practice herself. Helen is now working on a ‘Living Free’ Programme which has features of the successful programmes which she created within the NHS and those of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Meditation programmes. It incorporates aspects of cognitive behaviour therapy to enable positive changes in the way thoughts are dealt with to enable new ways of thinking and in dealing with life events and circumstances. It is though such changes that ‘freedom’ in living can be felt. This mediation programme is planned for the Autumn. It will run as a small group. If you would like to find out more and to understand the benefits of meditation either individually or if you are interested in offering this for your employees at a corporate level then please contact Helen at Lucks Yard Clinic or directly via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning 07810 792929.
References / bibliography
Carrington P 1998 Learn to Meditate; Element
Feldman 1998 A beginners guide to meditation
Kabat-Zinn 1990 Full Catastrophe Living: How to cope with stress, pain and
illness using mindfulness meditation.
Macbeth J 1990 Moon Over Water: Meditation made clear with techniques for
beginners and initiates. Gateway
Segal Z V 2002 Mindfulness – based Cognoitive Therapy for Depression
Williams J M G A new Approach to preventing relapse
Teasdale JD The Guildford Press
Williams M 2007 The mindful way through depression. Freeing yourself from Teasdale J Chronic Unhappiness.
Segal Z The Guildford Press