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Archive for the ‘Focus’ Category

The 80-minute guided meditation CD Breathe Fully Live Free: Meditations to Release Anxiety and Fear is now available at Whole Foods Princeton, Ridgewood, and most other Whole Foods stores in New Jersey, lower Connecticut, and Long Island. It is also on CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon (see links on Mahasri Yoga). The CD includes some core personal teachings of Swami Buddhananda Saraswati who was a key, well-loved Australian teacher (especially for yoga nidras and kriya yoga!) at the Bihar School of Yoga. He is the author of Moola Bandha:The Master Key.

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breathe-fully

The guided meditation CD, Breathe Fully Live Free: Meditations to Release Anxiety and Fear, is ready at last and available on www.cdbaby.com/cd/meenamodi2.  It is a recorded adaptation, in response to all the feedback, of the BVMI fundraiser “Yoga for Fear and Anxiety” we did last July. Amazon, Google Play, iTunes will have it in a week or two–will post links. New Jersey Whole Foods stores will carry it but this is a longer process and will take more time.

The 80-minute audio guided meditation CD combines wisdom from the East and West, science and contemplative traditions, clinical research and psychotherapy, talk and practice. For 2014, the profits will be given to charities that fight human trafficking and care for the victims.

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David Brooks, the political commentator at The New York Times, has an interesting column today titled “Forecasting Fox” (March 22. 2013). His writing provokes broader thinking, whether there is agreement on his views or not. Today’s column is not about a political viewpoint but about the ability to make better forecasts.

What caught my attention was this:

The teams with training that engaged in probabilistic thinking performed best. The training involved learning some of the lessons included in Daniel Kahneman’s great work, “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” For example, they were taught to alternate between taking the inside view and the outside view.

Training the mind to alternate between taking the inside view and the outside view is precisely what my guided meditation CD Being in Flow: Meditations for Peace, Insight, Clarity, and Focus does.

The track Insight into Problems (13 minutes and 24 seconds) trains the mind to have an inside view and an outside view for better problem solving. It makes the mind more open and  less subject to conditioned thinking and behaviors. The thinking process is more divergent. This way of perceiving is helpful in everything from research, family relationships, challenging situations, political predictions or policy making, math problems, artistic or writing creativity, innovation of any kind, making corporate decisions, looking at a legal case, trading and quantitative analysis, really anything.

There are many points where we can observe direct convergence of behavioral economics, psychology, science, and yoga/meditation philosophy. Each seems to affirm the other on several aspects, and yoga meditation provides practical training to theory.

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It is so difficult to let go of that which tortures us, to let go of our pain. Why do so many feed and nurture and grow the pain? Often, we do not even know the real cause of suffering in our lives as it is so deeply embedded. I see people clinging to the very things that drive them insane, unable to let it go, to free themselves. No space is allowed to live with joy, to live free. This is where numerous studies support meditation. There are so many meditation techniques and they all have varying effects so it is important to distinguish between methods instead of having the generic term “meditation” or “Yoga”.

One of the most effective practices is Satyananda Yoga Nidra–there are many who have “borrowed” this practice without giving the source due credit. We suggest going to the original source and reading Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda. There are several transcripts in the book.

Satyananda Yoga Nidra is a the modern adaptation of the tantric practice of nyasa which works at five levels or bodies–physical, energy body, emotional, mind, and spirit. Repressed emotions manifest themselves at all levels as they are an intricate web and not distinct. The practice is ingeniously simple on the surface and safely allows emotions to surface. They are witnessed with awareness, not judgment or reaction. This process saps the emotion of energy and it is free to dissipate. The emotion no longer has the powerful grip over the mind and no longer consumes the person.

Yoga Nidra is a pratyahara (sense withdrawal) method in the eight limbs of Patanjali Yoga (yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyhara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi--see What is Yoga). Disturbances from the mind, and by implication the unresolved issues of life, must be settled before dhyana can begin.

Experience beats theory and so readers are invited to try out the Yoga Nidras from Mahari Yoga–they are all free on-line tracks. Begin with the first one and then gradually work your way up. These are shared freely with all who seek peace within themselves.

Being a Witness

In this practice, we will learn to be a witness, a neutral spectator, without actively participating in the physical breathing or mental processes. Simply being, observing, has a significant effect in calming the body, mind, and emotions. You will feel it in this practice.

Who Am I?

This meditation reveals the perpetual and consequential programming, or the conditioning process, of the mind that began at birth. Think of the body and mind as hardware and software that are constantly growing, and being shaped and formed, by everything the body-mind is exposed to. This body-mind complex takes, absorbs, processes, and stores everything. As we witness it, is “I” the body-mind? Who is the silent witness? Who am “I”? Even if there is no burning desire to seek an answer, just being aware of the continuous, ongoing, cumulative process of conditioning can empower us to reprogram ourselves consciously in positive ways. Conscious thinking can lead to a deeper, compassionate understanding of relationships and less conflict. It does this by slowly breaking down identification of Self with the mind and the thinking process.

Up to the Summit

In this meditation, we begin shedding some of the conditioned programming. We learn to discard excess baggage that weighs us down and prevents us from getting where we need to go. The visualization of climbing to the summit, top of the mountain, and the inner guide part is based on a Yoga Nidra done 30 years ago during a course in Mumbai with Swami Buddhananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga. Over the course of the years, like an evolving recipe, our interpretation and wording of it has also evolved. This is our version, which too will change over the course of time.

Role of Purpose and Beyond

This fourth meditation is about looking at various roles each one of us plays. Some roles are easier and more comfortable than others. Do others see us the way we see ourselves? Who plays the roles? Who watches as the spectator? Exploring these questions is a critical step in self-transformation for a more peaceful life for ourselves and others.

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“MEDITATION and mindfulness: the words conjure images of yoga retreats and Buddhist monks. But perhaps they should evoke a very different picture: a man in a deerstalker, puffing away at a curved pipe, Mr. Sherlock Holmes himself. The world’s greatest fictional detective is someone who knows the value of concentration…. ” is the introduction to “The Power of Concentration” by Maria Konnikova published in The New York Times on December 15, 2012.

Many of us believe that concentration is the inevitable by-product of meditation and the heart of meditation is mindfulness or awareness. When we practice, we are training our mind to be aware of itself–we are mindful of the activities of the mind. We do not force the mind to be quiet but it becomes quiet. We do not dismiss distractions but we acknowledge them and then guide the attention back to the breath or feeling or sensation, whatever we have been told to use as an anchor. And the distractions learn to remain in the background and not take over the control of the mind. In this way, we learn to observe the present and do not constantly remain entangled in the past and the hypothetical future. Concentration is awareness or mindfulness of what is now.

This is the process through which meditation enhances stress-free learning. Two reviewers of the guided meditation CD Being in Flow: Meditations for Peace, Insight, Clarity, and Focus wrote about their personal experiences in using the CD: enhanced productivity, greater creativity and innovative abilities, better ability to solve math problems and piano playing.

The New York Times article supports the reviewers’ experiences with studies and here is a brief summary.

  • The article cites improvements on measure of cognitive and vital functions in adults.
  • In a University of Wisconsin 2011 study, researchers demonstrated that meditation caused a shift in frontal brain activity toward positive emotional states for better emotional regulation (I have called this greater emotional fitness and immunity in my classes).
  • With mindfulness, “attentional flightiness”, associated with multi-tasking seems to disappear and there is improved concentration.
  • Mindfulness has positive behavioral as well as physical effects as it improves connectivity inside our brain’s attention networks.
  • The practices even affect the brain’s default network. There is greater and more consistent access to information regarding internal states and there is better ability to monitor the surrounding environment.
  • A 2012 Ohio State University study found that older adults who scored higher on mindfulness scales, the two areas (information processing hubs) that showed increased brain connectivity were the areas known to be “pathophysiological” sites for Alzheimer’s disease. So meditation may potentially help those areas of the brain stay healthier.
  • By strengthening areas of the brain most prone to cognitive decline, meditation and mindfulness (terms used differently by various groups) may have a prophylactic effect on the mind-body.

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The Ridgewood, NJ, Whole Body Whole Foods has fully endorsed and backed the guided meditation CD, Being in Flow: Meditations for Peace, Insight, Clarity, and Focus. It is available in the yoga section of Whole Body. All profits go to Sivananda Math, the charitable trust associated with the Bihar School of Yoga. The trust feeds, educates, and provides medical care to some of the poorest and most neglected children in the world. It also has many outreach programs for several villages.

Here are some of the ways in which the CD has been helpful to people who have used the meditations:

Benefits to Creativity

Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of meditation in terms of fostering creativity; a group of Dutch researchers, for instance, found that the practice promoted “divergent thinking”, in which many new ideas are generated. After listening to this CD, I definitely agree: while my mind often feels freighted with clutter, these tracks have brought a sense of calm and awareness, which in turn bring about heightened perception and creative abilities. I can see why Disney’s creative team has hired a meditation teacher! 

There are a couple of features that set this CD apart from the other meditation offerings. For one, the narrator has a wonderfully soothing voice that allows me to instantly relax and achieve the desired mental calmness. With other meditation tracks, I feel that this relaxation often spirals into a deep stupor and leads me to eventually fall asleep; here, however, the relaxation does indeed promote Insight into Problems and convert Stress to Rest.

Furthermore, each track has clearly been carefully considered, with a clear and logical progression guiding the individual through the practice. I have given this CD to a couple of friends, who have similarly spoken of a clear mind and enhanced creativity after going through the tracks. There is something very peaceful, almost addictive, about the ability to redirect your mind away from endless distractions and toward a more useful goal.

Barry J.

Improve productivity

When I first read about flow in a paper by the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the idea of complete immersion in a single, well-defined task sounded great. I had even experienced being in flow at times — it felt like the distinction between a task and my performing that task completely disappeared. The only problem was that I couldn’t get myself into this state whenever I wanted: sometimes I happened to fall into it, but most of the time I didn’t and wasted a lot of time trying to force it.

This CD actually helps me get into flow whenever I want. Different tracks work well for different types of tasks. For example, if I’m about to practice the piano, I will listen to Still Body Clear Mind, whereas if I’m about to work on a math problem, I will listen to Insight into Problems. Now, I’m finding that I don’t always need to listen to those two tracks whenever I want to get into flow since the CD effectively trained me to get into flow on my own. So while I do continue to listen to both of those tracks, now I’m listening more to Stress to Rest and Sound of Silence to get into flow for tasks that are less well-defined than music practice or math problem sets.

If you’re looking for something that’s relaxing, this CD works very well, but its real benefit comes from improving productivity. Once you’re in that state of flow in which you get things done so much faster than before, stress goes away on its own.

Max W.

The CD is also available from:
select Whole Foods Whole Body stores on the East Coast
select yoga studios in New York
iTunes
Amazon
Namaste Books (Union Square, NY)

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***** Review by Max W. www.cdbaby.com/cd/meenamodi

Improve productivity
When I first read about flow in a paper by the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the idea of complete immersion in a single, well-defined task sounded great. I had even experienced being in flow at times — it felt like the distinction between a task and my performing that task completely disappeared. The only problem was that I couldn’t get myself into this state whenever I wanted: sometimes I happened to fall into it, but most of the time I didn’t and wasted a lot of time trying to force it.

This CD actually helps me get into flow whenever I want. Different tracks work well for different types of tasks. For example, if I’m about to practice the piano, I will listen to Still Body Clear Mind, whereas if I’m about to work on a math problem, I will listen to Insight into Problems. Now, I’m finding that I don’t always need to listen to those two tracks whenever I want to get into flow since the CD effectively trained me to get into flow on my own. So while I do continue to listen to both of those tracks, now I’m listening more to Stress to Rest and Sound of Silence to get into flow for tasks that are less well-defined than music practice or math problem sets.

If you’re looking for something that’s relaxing,  this CD works very well, but its real benefit comes from improving productivity. Once you’re in that state of flow in which you get things done so much faster than before, stress goes away on its own.

Note: As I cannot review my own work, this review is greatly appreciated. Thank you Max for your thoughtful, in-depth look at the meditations and the specific ways in which the individual tracks are helpful.

Profits will be donated to charity. As CD Baby (link above) deducts the least commission, we prefer the use of CD Baby as there will be  more funds for donations. CD Baby also has hard copies available for gifts that the other distributors don’t. Digital downloads are available from Amazon and Apple iTunes as well.

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