23 February 2015

The stillness of meditation – the key to stress-free stress management

Some people suggest meditation needs to be free of effort; that if we make an “effort” to meditate, then the meditation can become just another source of stress. Yet many people seem to work very hard at meditation.

So this week, let us examine how to make sense of effort when it comes to meditation; and the 3 main benefits that flow from stilling the mind, but first



     Thought for the day

To be nobody but your self

In a world which is doing its best, 
Night and day, 
To make you everybody else,

Means to fight the hardest battle 
Which any human being can fight;

And never stop fighting.


           e e cummings 





Some people would tell you that meditation is all about letting go and going with the flow. Some give the impression there is nothing to do; again, just let go and allow yourself to be.

My sense is that this is a bit like saying to a young athlete – basketballer, footballer, runner, whatever – just wish to be a great athlete, no need to work at it, just go with the flow. Look at the great athletes; they make it look so easy!

When I was a teenager, my chosen field was athletics and I marvelled at the natural talent of many of my fellows. While not greatly talented myself, I worked hard. Trained hard. Studied. Listened to my coaches. Did all they told me to do and more.

As the years went on, many of the "naturals", relying on their natural talents, felt little inclination to train hard. So in fact, as we became older, the hard work overcame the natural talent and I began to shine. However, I never became a great athlete. To be that you really need both great natural talent and the hard work.

My experience with my own meditation and with observing thousands of others meditate is just the same as this. Some do have a natural talent for meditation. It just seems to come easily for them. But maybe even more so than with athletes, with meditation, beginners generally benefit greatly from making concerted, intelligent, well-guided effort.

Now, to be clear, when speaking of meditation, I speak of learning to relax deeply in a physical sense and keep still, and then to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind into a deeper stillness. These skills  can be learnt. Reliably. When we work at it.

So why bother? Well one thing that meditation helps to make abundantly clear is that the mind has two aspects - the active thinking mind and the still mind.

The thinking mind is the domain of many skills, including stress. Most reading this post will identify with Shakespeare’s quote


There is nothing either good or bad
But thinking makes it so.

The thinking mind regulates how we perceive things, how we interpret things. It analyses, visualises, discriminates, categorises, conceptualises....etc. In doing so, the thinking mind determines the stress we may or may not experience.

The still mind is beyond all this. The still mind is calm and clear. The still mind is the domain of deep, natural peace.

How then to help the thinking mind let go of stress, to become clear and calm, to become stress free? Meditation! For meditation provides a reliable way to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind and to directly experience the stillness of our mind. And in doing so, meditation offers 3 major benefits: Profound Peace, Natural Balance, and the View.

Profound Peace speaks for itself. There is a natural ease, an inner clarity and confidence that comes with meditation that provides a profoundly effective antidote to stress.

Natural Balance is the inevitable product of this profound peace being combined with deep physical relaxation. This is how meditation diffuses stress and anxiety – with a return to a natural, healthy balance.

Physically our body chemistry and physiology regains its natural balance. But there is more! This natural balance flows on to be experienced as emotional balance as well as mental balance; there is even a deep sense of connectedness, knowing what is right for us, and a natural inclination to be more loving, compassionate and altruistic – a spiritual balance.

And perhaps even more profoundly, meditation offers a new perspective. We begin to see the world, and our life, not just from the perspective of the ever-changing “thinking mind” and it's emotional patterns, but also from a more profound vantage point –the calm, clear still mind.

The View describes our perspective in a very full sense of that word. The View is how we view the world, how we interpret what is happening in our life. What meaning and purpose we experience in this life. Our View is tied up with our values, our ethics, our habits, and our beliefs. How we live our life.

Often times it seems as if we can get stuck with a somewhat rigid view of ourselves, our world, and our place in it. However, when our View changes, there is the potential for everything to change.

If we have a problem, as we see it, and we fixate on it, it is like holding an egg to our eye. With an egg that is very close to our eye, we can see nothing. We cannot even recognise that it actually is an egg and it is obscuring our capacity to see everything.

However, if we change our View, it can be like taking the egg away from our eye and holding it at arms-length. Now there is the possibility that we may recognise the thing for what it is. It is an egg! And as we know, an egg has loads of possibilities, loads of potential.

So meditation offers three great gifts: profound peace, natural balance and the view.

Truly meditation offers a unique pathway to being stress-free.

NOTICEBOARD

Pre- EASTER MEDITATION RETREAT with Ruth and Ian Gawler



Meditation in the Forest   March 27th to April 2nd  2015   Yarra Valley

During this meditation retreat, we will be focusing upon the deeper stillness of meditation. We will explore the understanding, but moreso, the actual practices and techniques. A time to rest and rejuvenate.

All amidst the magnificent big trees of the Upper Yarra Valley.

Accompanied by high-quality organic meals and juices, optional Yoga or Feldenkrais.

Deep, natural peace. A calm and clear mind. Deeply regenerative. So many possibilities follow…..

FULL DETAILS Click here 



A REMINDER

The Pearls are back 

Just the thing for that special, meaningful present, or for your own convenient, take them anywhere use.

Beautifully presented in a raw silk lined box, easily rechargeable, elegant mini MP3 players complete with their own earphones and specific meditations.





       Calm Pearl for stress management



       Sleep Pearl to assist with natural sleep


       Pain Relief Pearl for pain management.


                TO ORDER   CLICK HERE



16 February 2015

A passion for speaking out

After being declared cancer free in 1978, the story of my recovery was published in the Australian Medical Journal and soon hit the press. Almost immediately I was asked to explain my survival from community and veterinary groups in Adelaide where I was living and working.

To be frank, I was scared stiff. With little experience in the public arena, it took me ages to prepare for each of those early talks – both to get the content together and to get myself together!

Time has moved on. Adaptation and learning occurred, and I became used to appearing in public. Currently in 2015 I am stepping back a little from the steady round of public seminars, workshops etc, which has been a large part of my work in these last few years, so that Ruth and I can focus on the retreats we present – both for everyone interested in deepening their mindfulness and meditation practice, and the more specific residential programs we run together for people affected by cancer.

Also, we are both giving time for our own personal retreats – I am going into retreat for 12 weeks in the middle of the year – and it may well be that I am writing another book this year.

However, we have agreed to present a couple of public talks in 2015, the first is on quite soon in Sydney (this is the only Sydney event planned for 2015, the others will be in Brisbane and Cairns).

Greg Fitzgerald is the Sydney organiser - Ruth and I have joined him in a series of well-received events in the last few years - and he has contributed to this blog below.

If you are in Sydney and can join us, please come and say hello personally on the night. If you know anyone in Sydney who may be interested, please share the details with them.

Also, we have received a large number of enquiries asking when our Pearls will be back in stock and available again from the webstore after the first sold out in record time before Christmas.

Happily, we can announce that stocks have been replenished and the full range of Pearls is available once more - including the 'Pearls Collection' bundle.  Check them out : CLICK HERE.

So now, at the risk of self- aggrandisement, to help publicise the Sydney event I have decided to post the guest blog Greg has written - as he talks about what makes for a worthwhile speaker, but first




            Thought for the day

People do not care how much you know, 
Until they know how much you care!

                         Greg Fitzgerald









“During my 35 years in the natural health field, I have spoken at hundreds of seminars here and overseas, and shared the stage with countless speakers. I can honestly say only a handful of speakers have left a deeply unforgettable impression.

I have thought about this long and hard. How is it that that people’s lives can literally change in one talk at one seminar? Firstly, you have to know your stuff. If you talk nonsense, you will be seen through and lose all credibility.

Secondly, you have to have passion. If there is no “feeling” in your communication, you will become the best drug for insomnia ever discovered. In other words, passion for the subject is inspiring, and keeps the audience’s attention.

Thirdly, you have to care. People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care!

And lastly, and this applies to the health area particularly, the best teachers are those who have suffered themselves. What I call “wounded healers”.

Great communicators in the health field are as rare as great communicators in the political or financial field.

Dr Ian Gawler overflows in all 4 criteria.

He has studied the field of mind/body medicine for well over 35 years. He lectures doctors and the public alike. He knows his stuff, no question.

His words, knowledge and very presence is inspiring. The fact that he is alive and in wonderful health is inspiring. His presence forces you to listen to his message. He is certainly no drug for insomnia!

Thirdly, he cares. He and his wife, Dr Ruth, deeply care so much about the declining state of mental and physical health in the western world and the conflicts of interest which confuse so many people, that they have devoted their lives sharing this wisdom. He has been awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 1987 for services to the community.

He founded The Gawler Foundation in Victoria, where people travel from all over the world to learn the best ways to live and overcome or prevent chronic health issues.

Lastly, Dr Gawler has suffered. In his mid 20’s AFTER his entire leg had been amputated and his cancer returned, he was given only weeks to live. While he had palliative radiotherapy and chemotherapy, he was told there was no real prospect that modern medicine could cure him. He was told “Get your affairs in order”. 

But Ian thought there might be something he could do for himself. So he did. And from this transformative experience, Ian has helped change literally millions of lives directly and indirectly.

By utilizing mind/body techniques and dietary change, Dr Gawler not only survived but thrived.

My wife dawn and I are very excited to announce that Dr Gawler will be speaking at our first seminar of the year on 3rd of March, 2015 at Kareela Golf Club, 1 Bates Drive, Kareela in the south of Sydney.

Modern studies have shown the tremendous effect the mind has on the body. Our psychology affects our biology! The issues in our heads often become issues in our tissues!

Dr Gawler will be addressing the critically important subject of what to “feed" your mind. This covers the sort of thoughts and emotions that feed our mind for the better. He will also address what thoughts and emotions poison our mind, predisposing us to unhappiness, inner turmoil and chronic illness. 

Dr Gawler will also discuss what he calls “The Missing Link”. This link is what is lacking in most people’s lives today, something that almost guarantees unhappiness and a restless mind. 

He will also explain the wonderful benefits of simple meditation, and take the audience through a deeply relaxing practical session."

                                                        Greg Fitzgerald

Ian again: 
This is the only public seminar I am likely to present in Sydney for 2015, and I am very pleased to be doing so in conjunction with Greg Fitzgerald. Greg, a Naturopath, Osteopath and Chiropractor and Principal of Health for Life Clinic and Seminars, will speak on ways we can nurture our physical bodies.

What is the good of having inner peace but a body that is falling apart with pain and disability? Greg will cover 10 life-changing areas, including explaining the puzzle of why some people eat well but still suffer health problems and the biggest exercise mistake most people make. This one tip alone can change your life.

See you there?

FEED YOUR BODY, FEED YOUR MIND

Public Seminar with Ian Gawler and Greg Fitzgerald

South Sydney -  Tuesday, March 3rd 2015

When?  Tuesday 3rd March 2015

Time?    Registration  6.30pm  Seminar 6.45pm - 10.15pm

Where?  Kareela Golf Club,  1 Bates Drive, Kareela

EARLY BIRD OFFER $39.00 only - until 24-3-2015 or until seats sold
(Normal price $59.00)

How to register and pay for this event?  Register online : CLICK HERE 


For enquires please call Dawn at Health for Life Seminars on 9540 1962 or 0424246847



2015 CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Full details are on the website, click here

NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT

Meditation in the Forest        March 27th to April 2nd  2015   Yarra Junction




During this meditation retreat, we will be focusing upon the deeper stillness of meditation. We will explore the theory, but moreso, the actual practices that help us to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind into a more direct and profound experience of the still mind.

Deep, natural peace. A calm and clear mind. So many possibilities follow…..

FULL DETAILS Click here 

NEXT SPECIFIC CANCER PROGRAM

CANCER and BEYOND  May 2015   Monday 4th at 11am to Friday 8th at 2pm



Five Day Residential Follow-up Program at the Gawler Foundation in the Yarra Valley

This program is specifically designed for those with cancer along with their support people who have attended a previous Gawler Foundation program or equivalent such as with Sabina Rabold, CSWA, Cancer Care SA, CanLive NZ, or with the Gawlers

A unique opportunity to meet with like-minded people once again, to consolidate what you already know, to learn more from the combined knowledge, experience and wisdom of Ian and Ruth, to reaffirm your good intentions, and to go home refreshed and revitalised.

FULL DETAILS Click here 


NEWS

CANCER SUPPORT IN MELBOURNE

GOOD NEWS for people affected by cancer in Melbourne. Much respected colleague Liz Stillwell has recommenced the Cancer Support Group and is meeting each Tuesday at the Augustine Centre.

The group will meet in term-times and all are welcome, including caregivers of course.

Many of you will know the Library at the Augustine Centre/Habitat Uniting Church, a large & wonderful book lined place of comfort, well seasoned with history for this group (I was running groups there in the early eighties and for those who have seen the historical documentary Mind the Healer, Mind the Slayer that was made in those heady days, this building featured quite prominently).

Liz has an excellent volunteer in Katrina Jenner and is well resourced. She is very experienced having trained extensively including with me, we have worked together for many years and still do and she has just completed her first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Royal Melbourne Hospital.

PS : Sleep workshop:  Please note Liz is also facilitating a 3 session Sleep Improvement workshop at Sentient Being Wellness at Eltham on Friday 20th, Sat 21st & Friday 27th Feb.

A melting pot of sleep information and experiential Hypnotherapy.

For details contact Liz on 041 5665 822 or  www.stilwellinhealth.com

09 February 2015

Your food as medicine

Keen to live to a ripe old (healthy) age? While you are at it, want a nice trim figure, less stress and to save your memory?

Well it seems pretty obvious that what we eat has a lot to do with all this, but it also seems there is a fair bit of confusion around concerning what is best. So lets examine the latest research findings that point to the foods that make the biggest differences to our bodies and our minds.

Also, advance notice that I have accepted a short notice invitation to speak in South Sydney at a Public Lecture on the evening of Tuesday March 3rd on the topic Feed you body, Feed your mind (full details next week), but first




          Thought for the day

Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.


                        Viktor Frankl 





You are what you eat. Modern research is confirming it. Here is a hot selection of recent dietary related research findings.

Fruit and Veggies Reduce Death Risk
Fruit and vegetables reduced the risk of dying over observation periods ranging from 4.6 to 26 years, according to a new meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal. Researchers analyzed 16 separate studies, including one with 833,234 participants, and found that each serving of fruit and vegetables decreased the risk of dying by 6 and 5 percent, respectively.
Wang X, Ouyang Y, Liu J, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 2014;349:g4490.


Want to lose weight easily? Try a vegetarian diet…
Adopting a vegetarian diet leads to weight loss, without calorie counting or exercise, according to a new meta-analysis published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Researchers analyzed data from 15 studies which included a total of 755 participants, 197 of whom were prescribed vegetarian diets and 558 a vegan diet for at least four weeks, and found an average weight loss range of 7.5 to 10 pounds. People who were heavier to start with lost more weight.

Barnard ND, Levin SM, Yokoyama Y. A systematic review and meta-analysis of changes in body weight in clinical trials of vegetarian diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. Published online on January 21, 2015.

Eat more good carbohydrates, live longer - Low-Carb Diets take another blow
People who consume more whole grains live longer, according to a new study from Harvard. Researchers analyzed the diets and mortality of more than 118,000 men and women from both the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and found that, after an average of 25 years follow-up, more whole-grain intake was associated with lower death rates.

Every whole-grain serving was associated with a 5 percent lower risk for death in general and a 9 percent lower risk for death from heart disease.

Whole-grains, for this study, were defined as the whole grain (whole wheat, oats, brown rice, etc.) as well as its pulverized flour form (whole-wheat flour, oat flour, brown rice flour, etc.), which may be found in products such as breads and cereals. The benefits were independent of other lifestyle factors, including exercise and other dietary choices.

These findings support other studies that show that consuming more unhealthy processed carbohydrates and more animal products increases the risk for dying.

Wu H, Flint AJ, Qi Q, et al. Association between dietary whole grain intake and risk of mortality: two large prospective studies in us men and women. JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 5, 2015.

Vegans Have Less Stress and Anxiety
A vegan diet may lower your stress and anxiety levels, according to a new study. Researchers surveyed 620 vegans, vegetarians and omnivores about mood. Increased fruit and vegetable intake resulted in lower anxiety scores for male vegan participants, compared with nonvegans. Female vegan participants experienced reduced stress levels as a result of their animal-free diets as well as their lower intakes of sweets.

Beezhold B, Radnitz C, Rinnie A, DiMatteo J. Vegans report less stress and anxiety than omnivores. Nutr Neuroscir. Published online on November 21, 2014

Less bad fats - more memory    
As young adults increase their intake of trans-fat, memory worsens, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. Researchers from the University of California analysed the diets and memory of 694 20- to 45-year-old men and found that as trans-fat intake increased, word recall decreased. Findings were later replicated in women.

Golomb BA, Bui AK. Trans fat consumption is adversely linked to memory in working-age adults. Research presented at: American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014; November 18, 2014: Chicago, Ill.

Eating more animal protein while pregnant associated with overweight adults
Researchers followed the offspring of 684 pregnant participants for an average of 20 years and found that the females were more than three times as likely to be overweight and the males more than twice as likely to be overweight when the mothers ate the most animal protein during pregnancy.

Maslova E, Rytter D, Bech BH, et al. Maternal protein intake during pregnancy and offspring overweight 20 y later. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100:1139-1148.

A plant-based diet reduces migraine pain
Forty-two adult affected by migraine were either assigned to consume a low-fat plant-based diet or take a placebo supplement for 16 weeks. Participants then switched groups for a second 16-week period. During the diet period, participants consumed a plant-based diet and then an elimination diet to remove foods that are common migraine pain triggers.

The severity of the worst headache pain improved significantly during the plant-based diet period, compared to the supplement period. The decline in migraine pain may have been due to the elimination of dietary pain triggers such as meat and dairy products or by weight loss or hormonal changes brought on by the diet change.

Bunner A, Agarwal U, Gonzales JF, Valente F, Barnard ND. Nutrition intervention for migraine: a randomized crossover trial. J of Headache and Pain. 2014;15:69. doi:10.1186/1129-2377-15-69.

Jump in bowel cancer rates in younger people linked to diet
Although there has been a steady drop in incidence of colon and rectal cancers (CRC) between 1975 and 2010 among persons aged 50 years and older, the opposite is true for those in younger age groups, according to researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

On the basis of these trends, the authors estimate that by 2020 and 2030, the incidence rate of colon cancer will increase by 37.8% and 90%, respectively, for patients aged 20 to 34 years.

This figure represents a 131.1% incidence rate change of colon cancer by 2030 in younger patients, as compared with patients older than 50 years.

For those aged 35 to 49 years, the incidence rates are also projected to increase, but at a slower pace: 27.7% for colon cancer and 46% for rectal cancer by 2030.

Behavioral factors, such as obesity and physical inactivity may play a role the investigators note in their study. The prevalence of obesity has risen in the United States, and that is a known contributor to CRC, along with physical inactivity. The typical Western diet is high in red meat, fast food, and processed meats and is low in vegetables; it too has been associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.

One of the researchers, Dr Chang said. "we can all adopt healthier habits, such as exercising and improving our diets. Policy makers should encourage healthier behaviors."

JAMA Surg. Published online November 5, 2014.


Eating animal products creates metabolic waste products in the gut that lead to heart failure

The body produces trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) when it digests certain foods, including organ meats, red meat, and eggs.  A new study links higher levels of TMAO with death from heart failure. For five years, researchers followed 720 patients who had previously been treated for heart failure.

Those with the highest levels of TMAO in their blood had a 3.4 fold increase risk of dying, compared with those with the lowest levels. The presence of TMAO in the blood may also indicate other conditions such as stroke.


Tang WH, Wang Z, Fan Y, et al. Prognostic value of elevated levels of intestinal microbe-generated metabolite trimethylamine-n-oxide in patients with heart failure: refining the gut hypothesis. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;64:1908-1914.

Note There is a similar link that I have been referring to for many years between the metabolic waste products from meat and increased cancer rates.

Low-Carb Diets Increase Risk of Death for Heart Patients
Researchers analyzed the diets of 4,098 women and men who had previously had heart attacks and found they were 33 percent more likely to die from any cause and 51 percent more likely to die from heart disease if following a low-carbohydrate diet high in animal sources of protein and fat, compared with those whose dietary patterns consisted of fewer low-carb, animal-based products.

 Previous analysis of this same population showed that a diet lowest in red and processed meat products and sugar and highest in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables lowered the risk of death from heart disease by 40 percent, compared with no dietary changes.

Li S, Flint A, Pai JK, et al. Low carbohydrate diet from plant or animal sources and mortality among myocardial infarction survivors. J Am Heart Assoc. 2014;3:e001169.

Pre Type 2 Diabetes Increases Cancer Risk
Researchers analyzed 16 studies that included 891,426 participants worldwide and found Prediabetes increased the risk of developing cancer by 15 percent, particularly for liver, endometrial, and stomach or colorectal cancers.

The study notes that lifestyle changes can treat or even prevent this condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 86 million American adults—more than one-third of the adult population—have prediabetes, the same proportion as in Australia.

Huang Y, Cai X, Qiu M, et al. Prediabetes and the risk of cancer: a meta-analysis. Diabetologia. Published online September 8, 2014.




If all of this does not scare the public health people and the health insurers and bring about major policy changes, nothing will! 

Consider this – the mind decides what we eat and drink and how much of it. How can we have an effective public policy for eliminating the chronic degenerative diseases like Pre Type 2 (Adult onset) diabetes, cancer, MS, heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s, unless we integrate a program to train the mind?

Simple answer… No way!



2015 CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Full details are on the website, click here

NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT
Meditation in the Forest        March 27th to April 2nd  2015




During this meditation retreat, we will be focusing upon the deeper stillness of meditation. We will explore the theory, but moreso, the actual practices that help us to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind into a more direct and profound experience of the still mind.

Deep, natural peace. A calm and clear mind. So many possibilities follow…..

FULL DETAILS Click here

NEXT SPECIFIC CANCER PROGRAM
CANCER and BEYOND  May 2015   Monday 4th at 11am to Friday 8th at 2pm

Five Day Residential Follow-up Program at the Gawler Foundation in the Yarra Valley

This program is specifically designed for those with cancer along with their support people who have attended a previous Gawler Foundation program or equivalent such as with Sabina Rabold, CSWA, Cancer Care SA, CanLive NZ, or with the Gawlers

A unique opportunity to meet with like-minded people once again, to consolidate what you already know, to learn more from the combined knowledge, experience and wisdom of Ian and Ruth, to reaffirm your good intentions, and to go home refreshed and revitalised.

FULL DETAILS Click here 

NEWS
You Can Conquer Cancer released in the UK 
Harper UK/Thorsens was due to release a specific UK edition of You Can Conquer Cancer at the end of January. Here is the link for anyone interested: Click here

A Polish edition is about to be published and I shall post details as soon as I have them.

CANCER SUPPORT IN MELBOURNE

GOOD NEWS for people affected by cancer in Melbourne. Much respected colleague Liz Stillwell has recommenced the Cancer Support Group and is meeting each Tuesday at the Augustine Centre.

The group will meet in term-times and all are welcome, including caregivers of course.

Many of you will know the Library at the Augustine Centre/Habitat Uniting Church, a large & wonderful book lined place of comfort, well seasoned with history for this group (I was running groups there in the early eighties and for those who have seen the historical documentary Mind the Healer, Mind the Slayer that was made in those heady days, this building featured quite prominently).

Liz has an excellent volunteer in Katrina Jenner and is well resourced. She is very experienced having trained extensively including with me, we have worked together for many years and still do and she has just completed her first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Royal Melbourne Hospital.

PS : Sleep workshop:  Please note Liz is also facilitating a 3 session Sleep Improvement workshop at Sentient Being Wellness at Eltham on Friday 20th, Sat 21st & Friday 27th Feb.

A melting pot of sleep information and experiential Hypnotherapy. 

For details contact Liz on 041 5665 822 or  www.stilwellinhealth.com


02 February 2015

Media multi-tasking - are our children losing their minds?

Seen any of this? Kids browsing the web while at the same time listening to music and watching TV. Ever found yourself reading an email while talking to someone on the phone? Welcome to the new world of media multi-tasking – an activity that recent research has associated with a smaller brain size.

We live in a busy world. So is doing more than one thing at a time helpful or harmful? This week, we go Out on a Limb once more and learn what modern research has to say about media multi-tasking, crucial implications it has especially for our youth, and then what ancient wisdom has to offer in this area.

Maybe this is a post to share with those you value who have children or get distracted easily, but first




             
                   Thought for the day

The moment one gives close attention
to anything,
 even a blade of grass,
it becomes a mysterious,
 awesome,
indescribably magnificent world in itself.

                               Henry Miller 






From what we can observe, most of us these days seem to be getting caught up in more or less, but probably more, media multi-tasking. However, rather than a heightened new level of efficiency, many are concerned that this new found capacity represents a backward step, a deeper lapse into mindlessness, and that particularly our youth are suffering as a consequence.

A large body of research has already associated media multi-tasking with poorer performance on cognitive control tasks and higher levels of social and emotional difficulty. Now, to challenge us further, a recent study has shown that heavy media multi-tasking is associated with a smaller brain size.


It seems this form of multi-tasking, and the frequency with which it is practiced, leads to distraction, less capacity to hold concentration and generally higher levels of dissatisfaction along with an associated grumpy/angry mood.


This latest study examined the neural processes associated with media multi-tasking and found significant differences in brain structure. Using sophisticated Voxel-Based Morphometry analyses, the researchers found those with higher scores on a Media Multitasking Index (MMI) had smaller grey matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex.

The anterior cingulate cortex is an area of the brain that appears to play a role in a wide variety of crucial autonomic functions, such as regulating blood pressure and heart rate; but perhaps even more importantly is involved in functions such as decision making, impulse control, reward anticipation, empathy and even emotion in the general sense. Know anyone with problems in any of those areas?

Functional connectivity between this region of the brain and another, the precuneus, was negatively associated with MMI.

So just to be clear, these results do point to clear differences in the brains of those engaging in heavy media multitasking and those who do not. However, this study did not clarify whether the multi-tasking leads to a smaller brain, or those with smaller brains are more prone to mindless activity.

As they say, more research is needed. By contrast, what we do know from valid research is that mindfulness practice does “grow” the brain. For example, studies have shown that even 8 weeks of regular practise leads to measurable increases in brain size and density.

Certainly, the age old wisdom of “training the mind” by learning and practising mindfulness, meditation and other mind-body techniques makes good common sense. Happily, as these techniques become more and more mainstream, we may well have a realistic counter to some of the social and work practices that seem to becoming new norms.

What to do? 

Do not despair too much if the kids are watching TV while talking to their friends and playing a video game. Just all the more reason to encourage them to counter any potential hazard by training their brains.

All of us understand the value of going to the gym or going for a run to train our bodies. If we sit around a lot, formal exercise makes all the more sense.

Experience tells me young people really relate to the notion of training their minds. If all the training their minds receive is in distracted, what hope is there? It is obvious a counter measure is needed.

Good news. Many schools are adopting mindfulness and meditation programs; many work places as well. As parents, we lead by example. If we are known to be meditating, and the kids observe us the better for it, they are likely to be further enthused.



For resources, Ruth and I have made a CD Meditation for Children (for those 5 – 14), while for adults there are books, CDs and a DVD available via the webstore; while there is also the online program Mindbody Mastery that many find particularly helpful to support them to maintain a regular practice of meditation.

My sense is that if we multi-task with no counter balance, problems are highly likely. Learn to meditate, learn to focus, to concentrate, to be more mindful, and the mind will work at its clear, calm and confident best. Meditation delivers!

Reference Loh KK, Kanai R (2014) Higher Media Multi-Tasking Activity Is Associated with Smaller Gray-Matter Density in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. PLoS ONE 9(9): e106698. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106698  TO READ THE  REFERENCE CLICK HERE


2015 CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Full details of all programs are on the website, click here

NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT

Meditation in the Forest                March 27th to April 2nd  2015

During this meditation retreat, we will be focusing upon the deeper stillness of meditation. We will explore the theory, but moreso, the actual practices that help us to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind into a more direct and profound experience of the still mind.

Deep, natural peace. A calm and clear mind. So many possibilities follow…..

FULL DETAILS Click here

NEXT SPECIFIC CANCER PROGRAM

CANCER and BEYOND              May 2015  Monday 4th to Friday 8th 

Five Day Residential Follow-up Program at the Gawler Foundation in the Yarra Valley

This program is specifically designed for those with cancer along with their support people who have attended a previous Gawler Foundation program or equivalent such as with Sabina Rabold, CSWA, Cancer Care SA, CanLive NZ, or with the Gawlers

A unique opportunity to meet with like-minded people once again, to consolidate what you already know, to learn more from the combined knowledge, experience and wisdom of Ian and Ruth, to reaffirm your good intentions, and to go home refreshed and revitalised.

FULL DETAILS Click here


19 January 2015

Time to retreat?

Need a break? Want to review your priorities, maybe transform your life? This blog focuses on the busyness of modern life and the value of personal retreats, but first






Thought for the Day


Do you have the patience to wait

till your mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving

till the right action arises by itself?



Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-Ching 




Met an old friend recently. How are you I enquired? "Really busy thanks" came the common response, accompanied by a satisfied smile.

It seems that for many people these days being busy has become something of a badge of honour. Certainly there can be great value in being productive and useful, but what of balance? What if the busyness leaves no time for peace, no time for reflection, no time to reassess, reaffirm or redirect our priorities?

For some it seems busyness is actually a modern variation on old-fashioned laziness. These days, the more we have to do, the less we have to think! At least, the less we have time to think about what may be challenging, difficult or even just really important in our lives.

So amidst this busyness, there has never been more need to consider going on retreat. Retreats offer more than a holiday. They are best when they do combine the elements of some R and R along with time for learning, reflection, review and preferably meditation. Simple food, time to be on your own and ideally a spiritual theme or atmosphere. Time to spend time with your self. Time to get to know your self a little better. Time to reappraise priorities and to go forward in life.

So, do you need a break? Feeling stressed? Feeling like the busyness is a bit much and you have lost the plot a little? Feeling like you need to give some time to your self - to regain the balance, to refocus your priorities?

In my view, amidst this busy lifestyle so many of us seem to be caught up in, at least one retreat a year is mandatory. His year, as well as leading several, I will be going on three for myself.

Now I know it is easy to justify why we do not have the time or space to go on a retreat. We are so busy aren’t we? And how will everyone else cope? But if not now, when? If not now, maybe 20 years go by and you wake up one day wondering what was that all about?

Maybe going on retreat is not only good for us, but good for our family, our friends and our work. When we are in balance and have some inner peace and contentment, not only is our physical and psychological health sure to be better, our capacity to work and be helpful will be greatly enhanced. Maybe having the parents being away for a while is actually good for children and helps them with independence and appreciation. Now there is a radical thought.

There are a wide variety of retreats available. Many spiritually focused groups offer them, but so do more secularly aligned places. Ruth and I offer a range of meditation retreats where of course the primary focus is on meditation. We always touch on elements of what makes for a healthy lifestyle and provide time for personal development and reflection, rest and regeneration.

Also, each of our retreats has its own particular theme. This year, Meditation in the Forest will focus on the experience of the deep stillness of meditation – the essence of meditation. Meditation and the Inner Journey will provide instruction in how to access our own inner wisdom and intuition more directly, while Meditation Under the Long White Cloud will delve into the practice of contemplation.

Over the years Ruth and I have see many people transform their lives at these programs. However, while going on retreats with like-minded people is wonderful and has many benefits, some people I know simply take the phone of the hook, do not answer the door and arrange their own home retreat. Or go to a place of their own choosing and create their own retreat atmosphere and conditions.

Given it is the start of another new year, why not make a plan? Give yourself a real treat and go on a retreat! It all starts with the intention.

Ruth and I are currently attending Sogyal Rinpoche's annual retreat. Rinpoche teaches directly for 2 hrs or more each day. Then there are videos of his best recent teachings, along with time for meditation and other practices. 600 people including 120 children with their own specific program. Great company! This year's theme is "The Wisdom of Awareness". Very beneficial.

NOTICEBOARD
2015 CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Full details are on the website, click here

MEDITATION RETREATS for 2015




Take time out from the busyness of everyday life; spend time with your self
Slow down, reflect, contemplate – regain perspective, vitality, balance and clarity
Deepen your understanding and experience of mindfulness and meditation

Please note: While these retreats are designed to meet general needs, the programs are well suited to meditation teachers and health professionals seeking personal and professional development. Some health professional organisations may accept these programs for Continuing Professional Development requirements and they can be used by those applying for registration with ATMA. If you need more detail on this aspect of the retreats, please email info@insighthealth.com.au.

MEDITATION in the FOREST      
Yarra Junction    March 27th to April 2nd  2015

During this meditation retreat, we will be focusing upon the deeper stillness of meditation. We will explore the theory, but moreso, the actual practices that help us to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind into a more direct and profound experience of the still mind.

Deep, natural peace. A calm and clear mind. So many possibilities follow…..

FULL DETAILS Click here 

MEDITATION and the INNER JOURNEY 
Yarra Junction   8th – 12th June   2015

This retreat brings together 2 powerful experiences
- the deep natural peace of meditation, and a gentle process of introspection.

FULL DETAILS Click here

MEDITATION Under The LONG WHITE CLOUD  
Meditation and Contemplation
Mana Retreat Centre, New Zealand   Saturday 24th to Friday 30th October 2015:

This meditation retreat will provide a specific focus on the practice of contemplation. You will learn techniques that reliably help you to think things through more clearly, to overcome confusion, develop clarity and certainty in decision making; and more – how to access insight, intuition and inner wisdom.

Many have found learning these exercises profoundly helpful.

FULL DETAILS Click here 

GREAT OPPORTUNITY!!!

Public talk with the great Tibetan Lama, Zasep Tulku on Buddha Nature, and including Medicine Buddha mantra transmission. It is next Tuesday evening, 27th January, at Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne. 

Link to details on the Convent website