Friday, February 26, 2016

MINDFULNESS PROMOTES HEALTHY GLUCOSE LEVELS


It is well-established that elevated glucose levels tend to increase the risk of Type-2 diabetes.

Those who score high on mindfulness are significantly more likely than people with low scores to have healthy glucose levels.

That is the finding of a new study published in the American Journal of Health Behavior.

The researchers also sought to identify factors that might explain the connection they saw between higher mindfulness and healthier glucose levels.



Journal article: Loucks E, Gilman S,  Britton W, Gutman R, Eaton C, Buka S. ‘Associations of Mindfulness with Glucose Regulation and Diabetes.’ American Journal of Health Behavior. 40:2, Mar 2016, pp 258-267(10).


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IMPORTANT NOTICE: Please read the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on or linked to this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blog or elsewhere. For immediate advice or support call (in Australia) Lifeline on 13 1 1 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For information, advice and referral on mental illness contact (in Australia) the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) go online via sane.org. In other countries call the relevant mental health care emergency hotline or simply dial your emergency assistance telephone number and ask for help.




Thursday, February 18, 2016

INTERNATIONAL LAW FIRM PROVES THAT MINDFULNESS REALLY WORKS


Having conducted mindfulness courses and seminars for not only law firms but firms of all shapes and kinds I am not surprised to read in the Australasian Lawyer today that one international law firm has actually demonstrated that mindfulness really makes a difference in the workplace. Not that I am surprised to hear that.

Listen to these results from a six-week program in mindfulness run by the major law firm Herbert Smith Freehills:

*  a 12 per cent increase in employee focus

*  a 10 per cent increase in employee performance

*  a 10 per cent increase in employee efficiency

*  a 17 per cent increase in employee work/life balance

*  an 11 per cent increase in employee communication skills

*  a 14 per cent decrease in employee multitasking (yes, out with multitasking).

Here’s the link to the article.



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Friday, February 12, 2016

LOOK WITHIN!

The great theme throughout the ages is this---look within.

For years and years I looked outside of myself for the answer to life’s problems. I looked to others for help, especially my friends. I demanded their approval, attention and admiration. Not surprisingly, I lost most of them a few decades ago. I also beseeched a deity I thought was outside of myself for deliverance from my woes. Nothing happened. No, that’s not actually correct. Quite a bit happened. My problems and woes greatly increased in number and intensity.

When Gautama Buddha was on his deathbed he noticed that one of his ten principal disciples was weeping. 'Why are you weeping, Ananda?' Buddha asked. 'Because the light of the world is about to be extinguished and we will be in darkness.' Buddha replied: 'Ananda, be a light unto yourself.'

The same theme is present in Christianity as it also is in the other major religions of the world. Jesus may have said, ‘I am the light of the world’ (cf Jn 8:12) but he is also reported as having said, ‘You [that is, you and me] are the light of the world’ (Mt 5:14). He never claimed anything for himself that he didn’t also claim for you and me. Never forget that. 

Here’s something else Jesus reportedly said: ‘The kingdom of God is within you’ (Lk 17:21). In Matthew's Gospel the expression 'kingdom of heaven' is used (cf 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand' [Mt 3:2]) but it means the same thing as the expression 'kingdom of God'. 'Heaven', as Jesus used the term, refers not to some future place but to an inner and very present potentiality and power. It is within all of us, whether we be ChristiansJews, MuslimsBuddhistsHindusatheists or something else altogether. The kingdom of God is like the oak tree which is always present within the acorn---both presence and potentiality. In one of his many parables Jesus used this analogy: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches’ (Mt 13:31-32). In other words, we are talking about the invisible essence of reality. So, when Jesus said that 'your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom’ (Lk 12:32) he was saying that the creative spirit of life (the 'Father') indwells everyone. It is individualized in you as you and in me as me

The Japanese swordsman and rōnin Miyamoto Musashi [pictured above], in his wonderful text Go Rin No Sho (The Book of Five Rings), said more-or-less the same thing, albeit in different words and thought forms:

There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Seek nothing outside of yourself.

The great Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius gave us the same piece of wisdom:

Look within; within is the fountain of all good. Such a fountain, where springing waters can never fail, so thou dig deeper and deeper. 

I also like this Sufi saying:

Within your own house swells the treasure of joy, so why do you go begging from door to door?

You see, the theme of 'look within' is truly universal. I think it must be part of the phylogenetic heritage of the human species.

Be a light unto yourself. Look within. The answer to all your problems and woes is within you. More importantly, the power to solve and overcome those problems is also within you. And don’t listen to anyone who says anything to the contrary.


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Friday, February 5, 2016

STUDY SHOWS HOW MINDFULNESS IMPROVES HEALTH

New research from Carnegie Mellon University, published in Biological Psychiatry, reports on the actual brain changes that occur as a result of practising mindfulness meditation.

The study shows that training in mindfulness meditation training, compared to relaxation training, reduces Interleukin-6 (‘IL-6’), an inflammatory health biomarker, in high-stressed, unemployed community adults.

The biological health-related benefits occur because mindfulness meditation training fundamentally alters brain network functional connectivity patterns and the brain changes statistically explain the improvements in inflammation.

‘We've now seen that mindfulness meditation training can reduce inflammatory biomarkers in several initial studies, and this new work sheds light into what mindfulness training is doing to the brain to produce these inflammatory health benefits,’ said Dr David Creswell [pictured left], lead author and associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

For the randomized controlled trial, 35 job-seeking, stressed adults were exposed to either an intensive three-day mindfulness meditation retreat program or a well-matched relaxation retreat program that did not have a mindfulness component. All participants completed a five-minute resting state brain scan before and after the three-day program. They also provided blood samples right before the intervention began and at a four-month follow-up.


The brain scans showed that mindfulness meditation training increased the functional connectivity of the participants' resting default mode network in areas important to attention and executive control, namely the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Participants who received the relaxation training did not show these brain changes. The participants who completed the mindfulness meditation program also had reduced IL-6 levels, and the changes in brain functional connectivity coupling accounted for the lower inflammation levels.

‘We think that these brain changes provide a neurobiological marker for improved executive control and stress resilience, such that mindfulness meditation training improves your brain's ability to help you manage stress, and these changes improve a broad range of stress-related health outcomes, such as your inflammatory health,’ Dr Creswell said.


Journal article: Creswell, J D et al. ‘Alterations in resting state functional connectivity link mindfulness meditation with reduced interleukin-6: a randomized controlled trial.’ Biological Psychiatry. Publication stage: In Press. Accepted Manuscript. Published online: January 29, 2016. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.01.008


IMPORTANT NOTICE: Please read the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on or linked to this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blog or elsewhere. For immediate advice or support call (in Australia) Lifeline on 13 1 1 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For information, advice and referral on mental illness contact (in Australia) the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) go online via sane.org. In other countries call the relevant mental health care emergency hotline or simply dial your emergency assistance telephone number and ask for help.


IL-6 Crystal Structure


MINDFULNESS ‘THE BRAND’

Guest blogger and author: Alister Gray.


I recently attended the Mind & Matter conference in London at the beginning of December 2015. What an amazing event! It was incredibly well run and the amount of people and businesses attending was extremely encouraging. Mindfulness has arrived, it has captured the attention of business leaders, the media and the general public—and that is truly fantastic.

The conference was a defining moment for me personally and also for my business as it left me asking so many questions about mindfulness and how the journey continues.

The term ‘Look out for the mindfulness cowboys’ was said on a number of occasions. It was mentioned by Juliet Adams [pictured above left], Mindfulness at Work conference organiser and author, in her introductory remarks and the phrase punctuated the first day at several points. The phrase never sat well with me at the time and it never has, to be honest. It felt somewhat judgemental to me but I know that Ms Adams did not intend that. She was simply offering some helpful advice and a warning.

What is a ‘mindfulness cowboy’?

After meditating on the subject a number of times and speaking to some close friends and mentors I reached a conclusion. My good friend and mentor is Lorraine Murray [pictured right], who is the founder and owner of the accredited teaching program Connected Kids™ which empowers parents, educators and other professionals with the skills to teach children of all ages meditation and mindfulness. Lorraine is also the internationally celebrated author of the books Calm Kids and Connected Kids. She said to me ‘I interpret the term “mindfulness cowboy” as someone who delivers mindfulness from the mind and not from the heart.’ Wow! What an insight! Wise words from a wise woman. Lorraine’s interpretation makes complete sense to me.

Last year, Lorraine taught me how to teach children meditation, and it is the most amazing course. I would highly recommend it to anyone who delivers meditation. You learn how to connect from a heart space, the most effective way to engage a child. Unlike adults, the attention span of children is still developing and therefore can’t self-regulate or pretend to be engaged. They simply won’t engage if you teach from the mind.

The Mind & Matter conference ended on a question I asked, namely, ‘Does a certification or accreditation mean that the person is authentic to deliver mindfulness?’ Unfortunately, there was not enough time left for an answer, so I will ask the question again, ‘Does a certification or accreditation mean that a person is authentic to deliver mindfulness?’

It surprised me the number of times meditation was described as a form of mindfulness. That is not so. Mindfulness is in fact a form of meditation. It is meditation applied throughout the whole of one’s day—and life.

Mindfulness is now becoming a ‘brand’, a ‘product’, and we have to be very wary of this development. Now brands and products are necessary in the commercial world, so that we can distinguish one product from another, but you simply cannot brand or make a product out of truth, also known as reality, and also known as life---and mindfulness is all about … life! 

The renowned spiritual author and teacher J. Krishnamurti [pictured left], who railed against brands, products, methods and techniques all of his life, would tell this story:

You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, “What did that man pick up?” “He picked up a piece of Truth,” said the devil. “That is a very bad business for you, then,” said his friend. “Oh, not at all,” the devil replied, “I am going to let him organise it."

The moment you turn truth into a ‘brand’, a ‘product’, you have destroyed it.

I recently read an article written by Dawn Foster in The Guardian, ‘Is mindfulness making us ill’, in which mindfulness was described as the relaxation technique of choice. Unfortunately, the experience that the author had was not pleasant because mindfulness is not a relaxation technique at all. It is meditation in which you come to see things as they really are—the good, the bad and the ugly—except that you adopt a non-judgmental approach to your observation and experience. Mindfulness helps you to choicelessly observe thoughts and often provides a clear window to your subconscious, and once you open the window to your subconscious many other thoughts, feelings, memories and fears may present themselves and rise up into your conscious mind. We have to prepare people for this experience otherwise we risk 'turning people off’. We need to ensure that people feel ‘safe’ and understand the potential side-effects.

Mindfulness the ‘brand’ and ‘product’ is at risk of being misunderstood. An 8-week programme will not ‘fix’ everyone and there has to be support to help people on their journey. The yoga world is facing many challenges with authenticity. We do not want to lose the authenticity of the practice or forget that it has to be delivered from a heart space.

I [the guest author—ed] am not formally accredited in mindfulness. I do not hold a certificate or have letters after my name. However, I practise daily and live mindfully. I meditate on decisions and on my thoughts and feelings. Tapping into my deeper wisdom each and every day, I try to understand myself on a deeper level. At the Mind & Matter conference, did I feel like a cowboy without my certificate or accreditation? The answer is--no.

I encourage the mindfulness community, including myself, to stay true to the practice of mindfulness. Remember the fundamentals. Mindfulness without right intention and all the other ‘rights’ is an abomination. Only once at the conference was the word ‘compassion’ mentioned. Maybe twice. Instead, we choose to use ‘pro-social behaviour’ to make it more palatable to business leaders. I ask why? It’s all about mindfulness and the bottom line, mindfulness will make your business more profitable, and so on. Where is the heart in all of this?

If this post has stirred up any emotions, thoughts or feelings in you, then I encourage you to meditate on it first. Then feel free to contact me to discuss.


Editor’s note.
The author of this post, my good friend Alister Gray [pictured left], is a director of Mindful Talent Limited, an innovative and right-minded firm which provides executive coaching and recruitment solutions to sustainable businesses and projects. The company's contact details are as follows: 
t +44 (0) 131 668 3783    e info@mindfultalent.co.uk




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