The Western Origins of Mindfulness and why do it?

Today, at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, the word “mindfulness” is omnipresent in all the western contemporary literature concerning well-being. The word was once, during the last few decades of the 20th century, “meditation” but only hippies, new agers, yogis, buddhist monks and the beatles used it or were associated with it.

Now the new name” mindfulness” is on the lips of many mainstream conservative and hardcore medical model practitioners and in tons of their research journals. The latter are now publishing hundreds of studies which show positive result after positive result as to its efficacy for managing anxiety, depression, stress and a horde of other psychological and physical ailments. (check the links below of field specific research journals)

The world just cant get enough of mindfulness by whatever means possible. There’s a squillion apps, books, videos, programs, courses, certificates, niknaks and in fact a billion dollar a year industry has emerged from making meditation a highly profitable product over the past 40 years.

How did the western rebranding of meditation to mindfulness come about?

Changing the product’s name is a very common strategy in branding and marketing. In this case it was a phenomenal coup which came about in the early 80s.

The new name mindfulness was better accepted in scholarly research programs and more reachable to the mainstream population.

Psychology patients accepted this terminology of meditation more easily and it stuck. The technique grew in popularity and now mindfulness also called “mindfulness meditation” is fully known globally.

My postgraduate research thesis in Psychology in the late 90’s was titled ‘Mindfulness meditation and anxiety in women” and I was the first and only student in the department interested in this subject back then. Because of my yoga teaching background and positive personal experience I wanted to explore what science if any existed on meditation as a technique in psychological treatment.

Conducting my study offered me the opportunity to research thoroughly all the scientific literature on meditation available from around the world at the time. Most of the studies from the 60’s to the 80’s focused on Transcendental Meditation (TM) which is repeating a mantra during meditation. The studies were published in mostly Indian, some British and French as well as in very few american science journals. Many of these studies had serious internal validity issues. As for Buddhist meditation, or Zen meditation it was only written about in eastern religion journals and not mentioned in any western medicine or psychology journals.

Meditation in all its forms at the time especially the buddhist mindfulness meditation technique which is breathing and observing thoughts was a brand new seed of what is now a gigantic tree of scientific research.

That seed, named the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) was planted at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center by Jon Kabat-Zin with a formal, well funded and carried out plan to explore the benefits of Mindfulness as a useful technique to manage stress. The researcher removed the buddhist framework but utilized the teachings and the concepts of mindfulness. No Mantras, no yogis, no hippies.

Stress in the 90’s was the new big societal disease, the modern day plague, and was accused of being the cause of everything gone wrong in the body and mind and everybody wanted a cure. Hence the creation of the billion dollar industry “stress management”.

Kabat-Zin’s and other such programs experienced a roaring success and influenced, initiated, and inspired an entire field of Psychology in stress management where mindfulness is still the prominent technique recommended and taught.

My thesis ended up being a recap of Kabat-Zin’s research articles which created the framework for my study. Positive results were also shown in my experiment for practicing mindfulness to manage anxiety.

On a personal note, I certainly would not be who I am today, professionally and personally without mindfulness meditation and feel very grateful to Psychologists such as Dr Kabat-Zin who early in my career as a therapist inspired me.

So that was a very brief and somewhat mono view of the origin of Mindfulness in the west. Now why do it?

Why do it?

Because it works. Simple as that. Science shows it.

If you want to research the neuroscience of meditation and how all the synapses in the brain function whilst in a meditative state as shown on MRI photo data. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-018-0884-5

The Harvard Gazette published a great article about the science of Mindfulness with great research links if you need further nudging in terms of evidence.

Your self-care routine

Like with any good habit forming and/or modification it begins with THE decision.

Decide you want to practice a form of meditation daily for 10 minutes minimum and it becomes like brushing your teeth. After a disciplined first month it becomes routine. And boom in a few weeks you are meditating daily, you are less stressed, more peaceful, more aware, more “mindful”.

Why not try one of the squillions apps or ubiquitous videos and podcasts. No need to spend any money. However if you do want to spend money on fancy podcasts, videos and apps by wonderful teachers out there do it! spoil yourself. Better then spending on addictive, health destroying crap.

It becomes that bit of time just for you to close your eyes and recalibrate the brain. Regulate the emotions, even out the moods. Let the thoughts go by and detach. It’s only 10 minutes a day.

It’s worth it because it works. It’s easy and it’s free.

You just need to close your eyes and breathe. Observe the thoughts without judgment. Relax your body in the process.

Why not also use some of that time to (or not) pray to your god/power/universe/inner self.

End your meditation time by finding 3 things in your life that you are grateful for and say thankyou to yourself, your god etc.

That time of mindfulness is yours. It’s allocated. It’s the routine.

Self-care means prioritizing time for self in solitude and retreat from the external world to resource, to relax, to be still.

Try this 5 minutes guided Relaxation for stress release;

Research links

Positive Psychology: https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-brain-research-neuroscience/

Harvard gazette: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/

Springer: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-018-0884-5

Studies: https://scholar.google.fr/scholar?q=studies+on+mindfulness+meditation+and+stress+reduction&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart

St John’s Wort is good for the blues

It’s 2019 and there are still no recent studies showing anything conclusive with regards to the efficacy of St John’s wort on treating severe depression.

(If you wish to retrace my steps in the research please do so by all means and follow the links below.)

Many studies however have shown efficacy for assisting with mild to moderate depression which is a more common experience in the main population and to whom this article is directed.

“We all suffer the blues now and then” like the song says and here’s a plant that could help and has helped thousands throughout the ages from neolithic times to now.

Be it winter blues, hormonal blues, illness blues, christmas blues, whatever blues your song is about, this root extract may offer some comfort.

I say why not!

Tinctures and capsules are sold on the market now. Best to go to your local natural health store and get advice there.

Why not consult with a natural herb specialist, naturopath, phytotherapist, etc and have the accompaniment, the support, the knowledge that they can offer you.

Self-care means caring enough for oneself to get assistance from other humans whose job it is to assist. They do it all day, they’ve studied, it’s their bread and butter and I say use them. Just don’t lump all the responsibility on the professional you choose, do your own research, create your own path of well-being.

How and when to use St John’s Wort

Use it as an intensive ‘cure’ or regimen for a few weeks along with other self-care strategies such as a diet change, some exercise, some meditation or mindfulness, a good friend to chat with, a visit to your counsellor, massage therapist, manicurist, whoever brings you joy but especially go out to NATURE.

Visit a forest today!

Namaste

Cautionary note: if you are severely depressed and on medication, please abstain from listening to any wisdom given here apart from talk to a professional now.

Research Links:

NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5010734/

NHI https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stjohnswort/sjw-and-depression.htm

WEBMD https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/st-johns-wort#1

Yoga Bridge Pose for Menopause

When dealing with hot flashes and hormonal shifts, try a yoga-for-menopause pose to relieve symptoms.

Practice this Asana/pose for a 7 day self challenge and practice mindfully or intentionally for 5 to 10 minutes daily. Your body will start craving it and it will become habitual.

On days when Menopausal symptoms are intense your body will remind you to practice Yoga to assist in alleviating them.

The poses will become an integral part of your self-care routine.

Healing Meditation for Menopause:

# During the Asana practice Close eyes and Meditate focusing your intent, your relaxation, your breathing your healing energy to the pelvic region.

# Imagine a bright white light filling your pelvic region and then filling your entire body.

# Use positive compassionate thoughts about your pelvis and your entire body for example:

My pelvic region, my whole body and my hormones are in perfect harmony”

My body, my mind and my soul are in perfect harmony”

“My body is strong and flexible during change”

“I accept change. My body accepts change. My mind accepts change”

Add your own mantras, thoughts, prayers during your practice.

Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose can be whatever you need—energizing, rejuvenating, or luxuriously restorative.

(SET-too BAHN-dah)
setu = dam, dike, or bridge
bandha = lock

Benefits

  • Stretches the chest, neck, and spine
  • Calms the brain and helps alleviate stress and mild depression
  • Stimulates abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid
  • Rejuvenates tired legs
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort when done supported
  • Reduces anxiety, fatigue, backache, headache, and insomnia
  • Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sinusitis

Bridge Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1

Lie supine on the floor, and if necessary, place a thickly folded blanket under your shoulders to protect your neck. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible.

Step 2

Exhale and, pressing your inner feet and arms actively into the floor, push your tailbone upward toward the pubis, firming (but not hardening) the buttocks, and lift the buttocks off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel. Clasp the hands below your pelvis and extend through the arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders.

Step 3

Lift your buttocks until the thighs are about parallel to the floor. Keep your knees directly over the heels, but push them forward, away from the hips, and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees. Lift the pubis toward the navel.

Step 4

Lift your chin slightly away from the sternum and, firming the shoulder blades against your back, press the top of the sternum toward the chin. Firm the outer arms, broaden the shoulder blades, and try to lift the space between them at the base of the neck (where it’s resting on the blanket) up into the torso.

Step 5

You can go up and down slowly using the breath in the beginning to warm up the spine and legs.

Breathe in UP

Breathe out DOWN

After a few raises or when you are ready then Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.

Pose Information

Sanskrit Name

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

Pose Level

Contraindications and Cautions

Neck injury: avoid this pose unless you are practicing under the supervision of an experienced teacher.

Modifications and Props

If you have difficulty supporting the lift of the pelvis in this pose after taking it away from the floor, slide a block or bolster under your sacrum and rest the pelvis on this support.

Deepen the Pose

Once in the pose, lift your heels off the floor and push your tailbone up, a little closer to the pubis. Then from the lift of the tail, stretch the heels back to the floor again.

Just another self-help blog…

Giving is Receiving

Karma Yoga is about giving back..Namaste

I know what you’re thinking: “not another self-help blog” and the answer is “helas yes”. “yes it is.”

This blog joins the squillions of others that inundate our world wide web.

This blog participates in the mass consciousness of the self-help industry.

What is this blog’s product you may correctly ask as you impatiently need to scroll right and move on.

If you’re still reading, the answer is KNOWLEDGE.

Knowledge brings more choices and more discernment.

This blog’s mission is to impart current, past, global, and local knowledge gathered by experts and novices alike and perhaps to transform it into wisdom for you.

Lofty goals but a blog can dream, can’t it?

Namaste