Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Meditation Round Up - Some New Articles

Mindfulness meditation helps to anchor someone in the present. A   new study has found it also stops people from anticipating pain

In just the last couple of days, several new articles on meditation have popped up in my feeds - although one of them is from a while back (like 2008 or so). First up, an article on how meditation can help make physical pain more emotionally bearable.

Meditation 'reduces the emotional impact of pain making it easier to bear'

People who meditate regularly find it easier to cope with pain because their brains anticipate it less, a study has found.

The findings could help develop new treatments from those who suffer from conditions that cause chronic pain.

Scientists from Manchester University compared non-meditators with a group who had meditated. Although they had varying levels of experience they had all tried mindfulness meditation, which seeks to anchor the person in the present.

Brain scans revealed that the most advanced meditators were the least likely to anticipate pain induced by a laser device, which made the experience more bearable.

Lead researcher Dr Christopher Brown, said: 'Meditation is becoming increasingly popular as a way to treat chronic illness such as the pain caused by arthritis.

Read more.

The next one is Susan Piver's most recent article for Huffington Post.

3 Misconceptions About Meditation

Susan Piver

Posted: June 1, 2010

Meditation has been getting a very good rap lately. Very good. Scientists have proven that it actually makes you happier. It is included in mental health programs. It is being taught at gyms, schools and in the workplace. It has stopped being associated with gurus, swamis, or anyone who wears robes to work. Somehow it has become acceptable and not scary. This is wonderful. But it has also made for some misconceptions.

I've been practicing meditation for 15 years and my main knowledge of these misconceptions comes from holding them myself and refusing to let them go because they just seemed so ... convenient.

I've also been teaching meditation for four years. Between my own pigheadedness and that of my students, I've had ample opportunity to observe these misconceptions from close range.

There seem to be three primary ones.

1. Meditation means you have to stop thinking.

2. Meditation turns you into a peaceful person who is unruffled by anything.

3. Meditation is a means of self-improvement and stress reduction.

Go read the whole post to learn more.

Wildmind Buddhist Meditation offers a post on using meditation for healing trauma.
Meditation for overcoming trauma

Meditation News
(May 31, 2010)

Seaneen and Vimalasara

Award winning mental health blogger Seaneen Molloy sets out on a quest to meet people who have a different take on working with emotional distress. This month, Seaneen meets Valerie Mason-John, a writer and anger management coach who advocates ‘mindfulness’ practice for mental wellbeing.

With my feet firmly in the 21st century, I see Buddhism as something belonging to the past – irrelevant to the modern world, except perhaps to the most laid-back of hippies. As for meditation, I can’t even imagine assuming the lotus position, and humming, “Ommm…” without wanting to guffaw!

Mindfulness is said to encourage a calm awareness of, and connection to, the body and the world around us. Its practice has been used to help people suffering from depression, personality disorders, anxiety and eating disorders. I want to know if the techniques can help me, so I visit the London Buddhist Centre and meet experienced meditation teacher Valerie Mason-John.

She’s nothing like I imagined a Buddhist to be – casually dressed and with an authoritative, yet easy manner. But Valerie’s life wasn’t always so calm. She spent her childhood between an abusive home life and social care. It was a traumatic time and by her twenties she was living in the “fast lane”, clubbing and taking recreational drugs.

I ask Valerie how she made the transformation to ordained Buddhist. She says “I used to laugh at people who went on retreats and meditated. But in my late twenties, I knew I needed a change.”

Valerie recalls, “Transcendental meditation was a profound experience and after a month, I thought the world had changed. But I was changing and becoming more compassionate”.

I reflect that a lot of people with mental health problems often take anger out on themselves. But, I ask Valerie, does it always need to be destructive?

“Anger is an energy, but when we hold on to it it becomes this toxic luggage we carry”, she says, adding “mindfulness of anger allows us to be creative and constructive with it instead. When we become angry we lose mindfulness and the body sends us warnings. We need to be aware of our bodies to read these signs and realise the need to pause. Mindfulness gives us an opportunity to do something different.”

Read more.

Finally, a Google Tech Talk by Philippe Goldin on the cognitive neuroscience of mindfulness meditation.

Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation

Google Tech Talks February, 28 2008


Mindfulness meditation, one type of meditation technique, has been shown to enhance emotional awareness and psychological flexibility as well as induce well-being and emotional balance. Scientists have also begun to examine how meditation may influence brain functions. This talk will examine the effect of mindfulness meditation practice on the brain systems in which psychological functions such as attention, emotional reactivity, emotion regulation, and self-view are instantiated. We will also discuss how different forms of meditation practices are being studied using neuroscientific technologies and are being integrated into clinical practice to address symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress.

Speaker: Philippe Goldin
Philippe is a research scientist and heads the Clinically Applied Affective Neuroscience group in the Department of Psychology at Stanford University.

He spent 6 years in India and Nepal studying various languages, Buddhist philosophy and debate at Namgyal Monastery and the Dialectic Monastic Institute, and serving as an interpreter for various Tibetan Buddhist lamas. He then returned to the U.S. to complete a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Rutgers University. His NIH-funded clinical research focuses on (a) functional neuroimaging investigations of cognitive-affective mechanisms in adults with anxiety disorders, (b) comparing the effects of mindfulness meditation and cognitive-behavioral therapy on brain-behavior correlates of emotional reactivity and regulation, and (c) training children in family and elementary school settings in mindfulness skills to reduce anxiety and enhance compassion, self-esteem and quality of family interactions.

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