Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Introduction to Meditation Series

On Tuesday, April 16th, I'll begin teaching a four-week beginner's meditation class at Mama's Wellness Joint in Center City Philadelphia.  If you're in the area and want to start meditating, or if you have tried it before and couldn't stick with the practice, please join me.  You can find the details on the Mama's Wellness Joint website here.

And I should mention again the workshop I'm giving for NAMI PA, Main Line.  It's on mindfulness meditation for people with mental illness and those who support them, and will be held on April 14th in Ardmore, PA.  A previous post about this workshop is here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Focused Attention

I write about, and teach, mindfulness meditation as an adjunct therapy for mental illness.  Many in the mindfulness community extol the practice’s benefits of increasing non-judgment, compassion, and acceptance.  These, of course, are wonderful things.  But I most want to help people manage their lives in a way that makes them self-reliant, productive, and true to their ideas of how they can be most successful.  So of all of the components of mindfulness, the one that helps achieve these goals most immediately is focused attention.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Moving Toward Greater Creativity

Much of the recent focus on mindfulness and meditation has been on stress management.  Few things help one deal better with the stressors of everyday life.  Just several minutes of meditation each day can reduce blood pressure, improve sleep, and mitigate the severity of episodes and symptoms of mental illnesses.  But there is more.  Meditation quiets the mind, and a quieter mind is more likely to have room for new and better ideas about the challenges one faces in life, business, and art.

Researchers at the Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition of Leiden University in the Netherlands found a tremendous impact of focused-attention (mindfulness) and open-monitoring meditation (observing without judging) on creativity.  “First, open-monitoring meditation induces a control state that promotes divergent thinking, a style of thinking that allows many new ideas of being generated (sic).  Second, Focused Attention meditation does not sustain convergent thinking, the process of generating one possible solution to a particular problem.”  Meditation equals more ideas.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How to Begin Meditating

(Repost from July 2012)

Meditation is quite different from sitting there doing nothing, thinking nothing.  It is instead a focused attention on one’s present experience.  A chance to minimize the distractions that pull one away from the present. Pleasant events are often spoiled by comparison to other good experiences or worry that this wonder may soon end.  Difficult experiences are often tempered by a desire for escape and the fantasy of being somewhere else doing something else.  The mind will wander all over the place and our present experience, good or bad, may be missed.

So meditation becomes a practice.  A practice to remain here, in the present moment, fully aware.  It is something that must be practiced to achieve benefit, and the practice, though simple, can be extremely challenging.  But the benefits, as described in other posts and in countless others’ experience, are worth it.

So how does one begin?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

When Mindfulness Becomes Mindlessness

For an updated version see PsychCentral here.

Mindfulness meditation has been unequaled in helping me navigate the stressors that can rob me of the beauty of each moment.  It has helped me manage a serious mental illness, and it has helped me confront major and minor roadblocks that threaten to derail all of my plans.  I believe that anyone can benefit from this practice.  And therein lies the problem.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Mindfulness and Hypomania

I wrote in a post titled Discipline and Diagnostics that one of the benefits of meditation to a person with a mental illness is the ability to detect episodes early.  Well, I’m in one.

It’s been hard to sit at all, let alone for the thirty minutes I do each day.  I find myself agitated and fidgety.  My thoughts are all over the place.  This is not unusual during meditation, but in taking note of the subjects of my thoughts, I can see hypomania creeping in.  I’m thinking of buying stuff.  I’m thinking of trading stocks.  I’m thinking of another career change, discarding good ideas for more exciting, if undoable, ones.  All of my thoughts are about getting and doing.  Anything.  Right now I feel smarter, more creative, and more energetic than I usually do.  That might be dangerous, but that’s what I’m feeling, and that’s what I encounter during meditation.