A Beginner's Guide to Meditationun guide de débutants à la méditation
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO MEDITATION
Animation by Katy Davis
Narrated by Dan Harris
Animation by Katy Davis
Narrated by Dan Harris
I set out to discover the why of it, and to transform my pleasure into knowledge
Why! Why! Why! Ask it of everything your mind caresses. If spectacle, revelry and mystery are missing in your everyday life, it may be simply that you have forgotten where to look! Curiosity is the offspring of mystery and wonder and it is the inspiration of the true adventurer. When is the last time you experienced moments of insight and meaning, your eyes sparked with revolutions, your hair stood on end with astonishment? When is the last time you lived outside prescribed boxes, daring to live until you discover the treasured purpose of your one and only life?
From the drumbeats of our primal ancestors to today’s unlimited streaming services, music is an intrinsic part of the human experience. Music has the ability to make you ecstatic, happy, amused, sad, fearful or irritated. Music has also been shown to have the wonderful power to awe humans. Scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute, for instance, have found dramatic evidence on brain scans that the “chills,” or a visceral feeling of awe, that people report listening to their favourite music are real.
Music that a person likes – but significantly not music that is disliked – activates both the higher, thinking centres in the brain’s cortex, and, perhaps more importantly our ancient circuitry, the motivation and reward system. It is this ancient part of the brain that, often through the neurotransmitter dopamine, also governs basic drives such as for food, water, and sex, suggesting the tantalising idea that the brain may consider music on a par with these crucial drives.
So where does our love of music come from and how do our preferences develop? One of the most popular theories at the moment is that mothers are responsible for our musical development. As we evolved away from our ape-like cousins, female humans started making special sounds to their babies such as lullabies and, as a result, humans gradually developed the ability to listen and respond to a variety of sounds.
According to Dr Nina Kraus, humans and songbirds are the only creatures that automatically feel the beat of a song. The human heart wants to synchronise to music, the legs want to swing, metronomically, to a beat. Quite simply, our bodies are made to be move to music and be moved by it. In another interesting study “We found that the same neural reward system is activated in female birds in the breeding state that are listening to male birdsong, and in people listening to music that they like,” says Sarah Earp, who led the research at Emory University.
There is not doubt that there is just something about music that excites and activates the body. There is a growing movement of music therapists and psychologists who are investigating the use of music in medicine to help patients dealing with pain, depression and Alzheimers disease.
Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife
― Kahlil Gibran
However, the notion of using song, sound frequencies and rhythm to reduce stress is gaining momentum. Dr Daniel J. Levity, PhD and author of the book “This is Your Brain on Music” has found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a healthcare role in settings ranging from the operating room to the family clinic. The researchers found that listening to and playing music increase the body’s production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and boosts the immune system’s effectiveness. Music also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Another exciting study in full melodic swing is a sleep project being conducted by the University of Sheffield to find out what people listen to when they are slipping into sleep and how it improves their sleep. They discovered the top rated composer of sleep music in their sample is Johann Sebastian Bach. He was followed by Ed Sheeran, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Brian Eno, and Coldplay. Using sophisticated computer programs they were able to pin down the consistent musical features that support sleep among these many diverse musical sounds.
And in the near future they hope to be armed with the necessary evidence that will allow us to move from this “instinctive approach” to a more informed and optimised application of music as an effective aid in the battle against insomnia.
Music, because of its ubiquity in our society as well as its ease of transmission, has perhaps the greatest potential among alternative therapies to reach people who do not otherwise have access to care. Psychology, neuroscience and medicine studies all acknowledge that music is one of the most powerful neurobiological tools we have to change our mood, mindset and behaviour. Already some online music stores tag music according to mood. It is only a matter of time before music is given a firm scientific foundation and it will be possible to search for therapeutic music according to the emotional content and and it’s ability to fundamentally change the way we interact with music, and more importantly lift our mood.
Music is a cost effective, personable and side effect free form of complementary care. Can you imagine a day when your GP will prescribe music to soothe, comfort and regulate your mood. That day is closer than you think. A music prescription for the blues……..
Some say we have come a long way, some say we have a long way to go. But picture this The Flying University was a clandestine school that frequently changed locations because it was illegal for women to attain any higher education in German and Russian occupied Poland, at the the time.
Women, however, like the imminent scientist Marie Curie were not to be deterred and found more creative ways of educating themselves. The first Flying University began in Warsaw in 1882, when women began inviting other women into their homes for secret classes. Curie was one of the first to join the University along with her sister prior to earning degrees in France. Women scholars initiated a brave underground movement where anything from philosophy or arts to science were taught.
The classes floated between private homes for years because their organisation was illegal, hence the name the Flying (or Floating) University. Here, the women did not just exercise their intellect, but they also celebrated their native heritage free of influence from the controlling political parties at the time.
Gone are the days when higher education and lifelong learning is reserved for a fraction of the population – either the absolute best and brightest or wealthiest – or indeed based on your body parts.
And the question now being asked is how can education be delivered more creatively to everyone. Of course, the idea of creating a more authentic and fun learning experience is gaining momentum. Authentic learning engages all the senses and allows students to create a meaningful, useful, shared outcome where the content collected is organised into their unique portfolio.
We are in the early days of online learning. And the possibilities are limitless. You can now take practically every MIT course on iTunes University should you so desire. We now have easy access to top quality lecturers online and in many cases even being able to interact with those lecturers in real time through two-way video connections.
The aptly named Floating University, an online educational initiative that debuted in Harvard in 2011, is seeking to upset the status quo, evolve the structure of higher education and democratise access to the world’s best thinkers. No fees, no sign-ups, with unfettered access to the original e-learning platform. Just pure unadulterated learning. Oh Yes! I do believe we have come a long way…..
Modern gurus can agree on one point and it is that multi-tasking does not work. Of course there are moments when you have no choice but to juggle. However, try to focus on one thing at a time. If you are having lunch, just have lunch. Do not attempt to eat a sandwich crouched over a computer or answering text messages. Focus on what you are doing and let the background noise stay where it belongs – in the background.
Rushing is the original sin of modern life. Everything is just in time: we are out the door 3 minutes later than we should be; we walk into meetings still on the phone; pull into the driveway with just enough time to shuttle the kids into the living room and throw on the dinner. Where possible-step back. Carve out time for the tasks that are important. Be deliberate and contemplative. By not rushing, long-term you will achieve more. Try it – you will be amazed.
We like to pat ourselves on the back about our super-human productivity. High-soaring career, rewarding family life, a multitude of hobbies – we are so hard at work trying to be the best version of ourselves we can be, we do not notice how incredibly exhausted we are, all the time. Here is one simple solution. Do less. Leave blank spaces in your diary – at the weekend schedule an hour or two when you have absolutely nothing to do. How will you fill the free time? Who knows? Who cares? With nothing to distract or divert you will find you are fully inhabiting the moment.
Are you the sort of person who is forever fretting about next week, next year, what you will be doing in a decade? These thoughts can have an enormous drain on your resources. Consciously set them aside: focus on where you are, what you are engaged in. This moment is yours: allow yourself to enjoy it.
Eating used to be a ritual: a part of the day set aside for quietness and contemplation. Today, this is no longer the case; nowadays people rush through their mealtime like…..In fact, mealtimes are the perfect opportunity for mindfulness. Focus on your meal, the tastes, the textures. Savour the flavours and also the opportunity to shut out the world and its incessant …….hubbub.
Often we are too caught up in thinking ahead to give due attention to the person in front of us. It is said there are three types of listening: 1. Waiting for a gap to give our view 2. Judgemental listening 3. Attentive listening. Don’t let your eyes glaze over. Consciously lend an ear to the person opposite; understand what they are saying, and what they may be trying to communicate with their tone and body language.
With the school run imminent obviously you do not have time to fold yourself into the lotus position and think about shafts of sunlight penetrating your soul. But you can practice mindfulness in other ways: such as while carrying out ‘boring’ tasks like cleaning, cooking, cutting the grass…you can be away in another world. Concentrate utterly on the task – live in the now and enjoy the benefits it brings.
Step outside the rough and tumble of the everyday for just five minutes. Listen to your thoughts, concentrate on your breathing. Let the silence – where ere you find it – wash over you, guiding your mind where it will.
Throughout the day, our muscles will contract as stressful situation is piled upon stressful situation. Over time, these physical blocks can cause emotional and physical distress. Take a moment several times each day to ‘reset’ your body, by breathing deeply, stretching and rolling your shoulders, shaking the stress out of your body. Mindfulness is, in part, learning to know our bodies better. By taking these physical timeouts, we are taking the first steps towards achieving that.
If you are distressed or overwhelmed, a straightforward walk can work wonders. It will help you feel ‘grounded’; especially if you focus on the simple sensation of placing one foot on front of the other. If possible, avoid ear plugs. Listen to the sounds around you; the wind in the tress; the hum of traffic, the traffic, the squawk of birds. These sensations will help in anchoring you in the here and now.
Anxiety can build inside us, like steam in a pressure cooker. Eventually the stress requires release. Consider sharing with a friend; just verbally acknowledging your fears and worries can help put them in perspective and bring you back to the moment. Otherwise, you may sink deeper and deeper into distress, your fears rattling around your head until they are all you can hear.
We have all hear it: that voice in our heads telling us we are no good, that we are constantly letting ourselves and those around us down. Try not to be too harsh on yourself. Often it is the standards we set ourselves that we find hardest to live up to. Be kind and compassionate towards yourself – as much as you would towards someone else. Long-term this will make your life more rewarding and productive. Stewing in your perceived failure is no use to you.
Breathing focuses your body and helps anchor you in the now. Try to find somewhere relatively private to do it. You should inhale so deeply that, were a person sitting next to you, they would be able to hear it. Breathing steadies your attention, and helps in screening out needless distractions.
Life can drag us down and become a dreary drama in which nothing feels new or different. With a little conscious effort, you can refresh the page. Very deliberately, turn off the autopilot in your brain. Learn to look anew at everyday things. Embrace the senses – be fully aware where you are and what you are doing. And remember, don’t live the same year 75 times, and call it a life….
Lifelong learning’ is defined as the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development, but also self-sustainability, rather than competitiveness and employability.
The concept of Lifelong Learning was introduced in Denmark as early as in 1971.
The term recognises that learning is not confined to childhood or the classroom but takes place throughout life and in a range of situations.
During the last fifty years, constant scientific and technological innovation and has had a profound effect on learning needs and styles. Learning can no longer be divided into a place and time to acquire knowledge (school!) and a place and time to apply the knowledge acquired (the workplace!).
Instead, learning can be seen as something that takes place on an ongoing basis from our daily interactions with others and with the world around us. It can take the form of formal learning or informal learning, or self-directed learning.
The concept of lifelong learning has become of vital importance with the emergence of new technologies that change how we receive and gather information, collaborate with others, and communicate.
The emergence of Web 2.0 technologies has great potential to support lifelong learning endeavours, allowing for informal, just-in-time, day-to-day learning. In order to survive and thrive, organisations and individuals must be able to adjust, and enhance their knowledge and skills to meet evolving needs. This means the most important thing someone can learn is how to learn.
In India and elsewhere, the “University of the Third Age” (U3A) provides an example of the almost spontaneous emergence of autonomous learning groups accessing the expertise of their own members in the pursuit of knowledge and shared experience. No prior qualifications and no subsequent certificates feature in this approach to learning for its own sake and, as participants testify, engagement in this type of learning in later life can indeed ‘prolong active life’.
In Sweden the successful concept of study circles, an idea launched almost a century ago, still represents a large portion of the adult education provision. A study circle is one of the most democratic forms of a learning environment that has been created. There are no teachers and the group decides on what content will be covered, scope will be used, as well as a delivery method.
The learner in this system is not restricted by time, space or age. A learner can think and learn at his own will, at his own place and at any time whenever he/she feels free to learn.
Jet lag can be a major problem when traveling abroad whether you’re going on holiday or for work. It takes your body one day per time zone to adjust. Putting that in perspective, if you’re going on holiday to California for a week, you’ll still be suffering from jet lag by the time you leave.
Jet lag, or dysrhythmia, occurs after east-west air travel when your body clock isn’t synchronised with your new time zone. It can disrupt more than 50 physiological and psychological rhythms. Unfortunately it also gets worse with age particularly after age 50. Unaided, it takes your body one day per time zone to readjust. It may take 2 to 3 weeks to completely realign your rhythms. Until recently, jet lag was dismissed as merely an unpleasant side effect of air travel. New research suggests that it may also cause memory loss, shrinkage of parts of the brain and negative side effects on blood pressure. The good news is: it can now be virtually eliminated.
Clinical research conducted at NASA and elsewhere demonstrates that with a properly timed exposure to bright light in specific wavelengths, and a similarly timed avoidance of light, it is possible to safely and efficiently shift our body clock up to 6 time zones in 1 day, and up to 12 time zones in 2 days. With proper use of light therapy your energy, mood, concentration, performance and sleep patterns can all be reset to your new time zone in as little as 60 minutes.
What is special about the light therapy in preventing jet-lag?
Traditionally, light therapy meant sitting in front of a large light-box (about the size of a regular mirror) and looking directly into it for an hour. While effective, it was awkward, boring and time consuming. Thankfully, the light therapy glasses are revolutionising light therapy and making it quick and incredibly easy.
The glasses size and built-in rechargeable battery means it can be used anywhere; on a train, aero plane, or simply at your desk or table at home or work. You are free to get on with other things such as eating breakfast or reading a newspaper. It has never been so easy to get the light you need into your routine.
How to use light therapy glasses in preventing jet-lag?
LIGHT AVOIDANCE: Avoid bright light (sunlight) at specific times. This is just AS IMPORTANT as seeking bright light at specific times.
If you receive exposure to bright light at the wrong time, you WILL make your jet lag worse – your body clock could end up Tokyo time instead of Paris time! It is not critical to avoid interior light, such as in a hotel room, office, or restaurant, although many frequent travellers report best results when they avoid any source of light during specified times.
Thankfully this question can never be answered. For centuries, art has been classified and labeled. There have been periods, schools, visions, techniques….. By breaking with traditional classifications, WELLSENSE would like to present a fresh and original approach to art and a celebration of this rich and muti-faceted culture. So no! Art shall not be defined. There are no rules.
Art is another way of making sense of the world. In your home, choose a piece of art that you really like and have it somewhere/anywhere you can see it every day, just hanging around, loitering in your life, as opposed to grandly! on show. Remember you are only trying to impress yourself.
Art can be anything that makes you feel good, that lifts your heart, that brings you comfort. For me, it is the image of a piece of luggage lingering in my hallway, waiting to wheel me out to explore my world. Luggage turns me on.
For you, it might be a painting, a sculpture, a piece you picked up at a market, in a junk store, an object that reminds you of your childhood. If it reminds you of a personal memory, If it means something to you, if it evokes positive thoughts and wellbeing, if it touches you, it is art! it is your art.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
― Pablo Picasso
The aim of the artist is usually to create a piece the excites our senses. They try to dig deep into our psyche, our primitive side. Naturally each of us responds differently based on our unique likes/dislikes, life experience, but when we succeed in harmonising with a piece of art, it is like a key unlocking our inner selves.
We all have a creative spark and let no one tell you otherwise. For human beings are naturally creative people. Creativity is often left up to artists and taken out of everyday life….of living. It can manifest itself daily in the most simplest of tasks such as writing a letter, arranging some freshly picked flowers, dressing a table for dinner, dressing yourself for dinner, undressing yourself in the name of…..
“We are all aware of our body language when we are awake but this is the first time we have been able to see what our subconscious posture says about us. What’s interesting is that the profile behind the posture is often very different from what we would expect.”
Following are Professor Idzikowski’s findings, based on a survey taken by 1,000 participants.
The Fetus (41%)
Those who curl up in the fetal position are described as tough on the outside but sensitive at heart. They may be shy when they first meet somebody, but soon relax. This is the most common sleeping position, adopted by 41 percent of the survey participants. More than twice as many women as men tend to adopt this position.
The Log (15%)
The log is characterized by lying on your side with both arms down by your side. These sleepers are easygoing, social people who like being part of the in-crowd. They are trusting of strangers; however, they may be gullible.
The Yearner (13%)
People who sleep on their side with both arms out in front are said to have an open nature, but can be suspicious or cynical. They are slow to make up their minds, but once they have made a decision, they are unlikely ever to change it.
The Soldier (8%)
This position is characterized by lying on your back with both arms pinned to your sides. People who sleep in this position are generally quiet and reserved. They don’t like a fuss, but hold themselves and others to high standards.
The Freefall (7%)
People who lie on their front with their hands around the pillow and head turned to one side are often gregarious and brash. They can be nervy and thin-skinned underneath, and they don’t like criticism or extreme situations.
The remainder of those in the poll said the position in which they fell asleep varied or they did not know.