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Mindfulness: Science-based practice to change your brain and improve body and mind

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umop_3pisdn

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Dec 22, 2008
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Yeah, that's definitely a big part of it. I'm definitely aware that I'm going to have some bias against it because it sounds "mystical" or whatever. And I do see a lot of data coming out that purports to be scientific evidence for the benefits of meditation. I'm still not totally convinced, but I'm looking for more to read.

For example, a common one I see pointed out is the thing about "meditation leads to thickening of this part of your brain and shrinking in this part" and they list all the good things the growing part does and all the bad things the shrinking part does. The conclusion is supposed to be that meditating makes the good things happen more often by growing that bit of the brain, and it makes the bad things happen less often by shrinking that bit. But I don't know enough about neuroscience to know if that's true. Like, I'm willing to believe the amygdala shrinks when you meditate, and I'm willing to believe it's associated with fight-or-flight or stress or whatever. But does shrinking that section mean anything? Does it actually make a difference with how I behave? I dunno. But I'd love to believe it, and it sounds plausible. So I'm going to keep looking into this stuff.

Why I don't like the public discourse about meditation being dominated by neuropsychological studies, is they say nothing about why people practice meditation. The question is how did it feel to adopt this practice, and did you like it? What effect did it have for you in your daily life? Cortical thickening means practically nothing, just like we know exercise and good posture confers a lot of benefits, those benefits are only compelling insofar as they motivate people to exercise. Practically no one is going to exercise because it increases their cardio capacity or whatever, but they'll do it because they find enjoyment in it and it improves their perceived quality of life. That's the sort of thing we should be talking about with meditation and its benefits. The provisional studies are just to 'legitimize' it in the view of science, but the far more meaningful questions can be answered far easier just by trying it out for like a week.
 

Orbis Tabula

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Aug 20, 2010
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Why I don't like the public discourse about meditation being dominated by neuropsychological studies, is they say nothing about why people practice meditation. The question is how did it feel to adopt this practice, and did you like it? What effect did it have for you in your daily life? Cortical thickening means practically nothing, just like we know exercise and good posture confers a lot of benefits, those benefits are only compelling insofar as they motivate people to exercise. Practically no one is going to exercise because it increases their cardio capacity or whatever, but they'll do it because they find enjoyment in it and it improves their perceived quality of life. That's the sort of thing we should be talking about with meditation and its benefits. The provisional studies are just to 'legitimize' it in the view of science, but the far more meaningful questions can be answered far easier just by trying it out for like a week.

Hmmm. That's very true. The benefits of exercising are everywhere, but I still don't do it enough. However, I know I should excise and eat better, and I do make attempts, even though I often fail. I think that, even if I knew meditation and mindfulness were good, I might still not do it, out of laziness or apathy. However, if I knew that it were beneficial, I would definitely try to make it a habit, much like I do with exercise. Even if I failed, I would want to do it. Right now, I'm not convinced I should want to do it. Especially when the only argument offered is "people find enjoyment in it." I also find enjoyment from playing video games, so if meditation is trying to take some of my time from my hobbies and obligations, I think it needs to demonstrate its benefits.

Now, granted, I am trying my best to be open minded about it. I'm actually forcing myself to be more skeptical than I usually would be expressly because I want to believe it works. My instincts are pulling me towards mindfulness, not away. But I'm trying to resist it until I'm convinced about it. I've even practiced meditation a couple times before in my life, but only for at most a couple of days in a row. OP's resources were good, so now I'm looking for more.
 
Feb 13, 2013
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This is basically a rehash of self improvement/meditative disciplines that span the ages. Buddhism utilizes a form of this, as do various spiritual schools. The mystic Gurdjieff was a proponent of this sort of detached awareness of emotional states and learning how to better control or "embody" them. Even the theatrical occult orders used this kind of rigorous scientific observation of inner states and experiences in order to achieve greater self awareness and control. The less hoodoo lexicon baggage the better though I say, so I can see this iteration being a good alternative to those wary of the other traditions.

edit: So they do recognize the history behind the methods, good. Doesn't help I just watched the Going Clear Scientology documentary last night, repackaged spiritual disciplines propped up to be "new solutions" always makes me leery at first glance.
 

nelsonroyale

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Sep 16, 2006
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I practice mindfulness and have done so for the last few years. Specifically I incorporate the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, which is an engaged practice. There is nothing hockey about it. It is basically a practice to realign yourself and live in a coherent and compassionate way (through cultivating loving kindness). For me, one of the most powerful things is the basic ethic. Personally, I think western society needs a new basic ecological ethic if we want to trully deal with the current ecological crisis which will increasingly be exacerbated by climate change effects.

I think something that people don't quite get is that some of the tradition in which mindfulness is rooted, has gone beyond mere pronoucements on human phsychology, to providing insights into how to pursue a meaningful and satisfying life. I don't really consider myself a Buddhist, but I don't have much truck for the idea of pursuing mindfulness without consideration of the ethic. 'Secular' mindfulness is something of a misnomer.

I would recommend it. I think mindfulness is one key to ecological thinking. And yes, I am an ecologist.

Incidently, meeting Thich Nhat Hanh...he was pretty damn impressive. He was 87 years old at the time and just by looking at him I could see a youthful vitality. Made me thing, 'damn, I want to cultivate some of that vitality'.
 

BorkBork

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Oct 11, 2004
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I practice mindfulness and have done so for the last few years. Specifically I incorporate the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, which is an engaged practice. There is nothing hockey about it. It is basically a practice to realign yourself and live in a coherent and compassionate way. For me, one of the most powerful things is the basic ethic. Personally, I think western society needs a new basic ecological ethic if we want to trully deal with the current ecological crisis which will increasingly be exacerbated by climate change effects.

I think something that people don't quite get is that some of the tradition in which mindfulness is rooted, has gone beyond mere pronoucements on human phsychology, to providing insights into how to pursue a meaningful and satisfying life. I don't really consider myself a Buddhist, but I don't have much truck for the idea of pursuing mindfulness without consideration of the ethic. 'Secular' mindfulness is something of a misnomer.

I would recommend it. I think mindfulness is one key to ecological thinking. And yes, I am an ecologist.

/highfive

Just did my second weekend mindfulness retreat in six months. Couldn't get all the way into it, as my brain was in creative overdrive, but to notice that and accept it, without judgement, knowing that the mindstate will come and go, was an interesting experience. Still a lot to learn.
 

doofy102

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Nov 21, 2013
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Bullshit... I'm depressed as fuck

The positive spin on mindfulness is misleading. I've been dealing with it most my life. But to be fair, I was kind of "tossed into the deep end," which is unlike the various programs and classes going around, which cast a safety net.

Take this quote, for example:

Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.

I'll remove the safety net for a sec.The missing detail there is that the same thing applies to your positive thoughts and emotions, too. Mindfulness is about growing your self-awareness, which allows you to feel "outside" your emotions. Actually achieving this across all your emotions, instincts, and feelings is, well, a disaster and a miracle all at once.

Also, btw, mindfulness eventually makes you stop hating. You start to unconditionally open up to humans. It's good for you, but fair warning, it isn't practical for our culture, or socially acceptable, and it's also easy to understand why that is justifiable.
 

Piecake

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Jun 11, 2004
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The positive spin on mindfulness is misleading. I've been dealing with it most my life.
Take this quote, for example:



The missing detail is that the same thing applies to your positive thoughts and emotions, too. Mindfulness is about growing your self-awareness, which allows you to feel "outside" of your emotions. Actually achieving this for all emotions is, well, troubling for the best of people.

Also, btw, mindfulness eventually makes you stop hating. That isn't practical for our culture, or socially acceptable. It makes you a better person in a way that will be used against you.

The positive emotions and possible depression help likely comes from Loving-Kindness meditation.

Kindness-based practices, on the other hand, may improve immune functioning by increasing the proportion of positive subjective experiences, such as positive emotions
and social closeness, that are known to predict resistance to the common cold (Cohen,
Doyle, Skoner, Rabin, & Gwaltney, 1997; Doyle, Gentile, & Cohen, 2006). One longitudinal
study tracked the effect of 8 weeks of loving-kindness meditation on participants’
self-reports of positive emotions. Results showed that, relative to participants in a wait-list
control group, meditators reported steady increases in daily positive emotions, which in
turn predicted growth in a range of resources, including mindfulness, positive social relations,environmental mastery, and self-reported physical health (Fredrickson, Cohn, Coffey, Pek, & Finkel, 2008). Additional studies show that only 7 minutes of lovingkindness
meditation is enough to elicit feelings of social connection in naı¨ve participants
(Hutcherson, Seppala, & Gross, 2008)

http://www.unc.edu/peplab/publications/Kok Waugh Fredrickson 2013.pdf

So while we can’t exhaustively conclude that compassion can be trained, the results of this study certainly suggest it is possible and perhaps even likely, providing a great starting point for future research.

http://neuroconscience.com/tag/neuroplasticity/

And you are quite cynical. I highly doubt that mindfulness meditation makes you a gullible dupe who lacks common sense.
 

doofy102

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Nov 21, 2013
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The positive emotions and possible depression help likely comes from Loving-Kindness meditation..

I am great at loving-kindness meditation. My self-awareness; my honed distance to myself (which came from mindfulness) is actually what led to me being able to trigger joy and happiness at will. I am actually a very happy person. It's just that happiness doesn't blot out the self-awareness, but that's not necessarily bad.
 

leakey

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Apr 10, 2013
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Mindfulness is great. I highly recommend pairing it with practicing meditation and stoicism. To hell with paying for learning this shit, though. Unless you have to justify practicing something by spending money, you're just as well off reading about it and putting it into practice in a way that works for you.
 

Piecake

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I am great at loving-kindness meditation. My self-awareness, my mindful distance (which came from my mindfulness) is actually what led to me being able to trigger joy and happiness at will. I am actually a happy person. It's just that happiness doesn't save you from clinical self-awareness that hardcore mindfulness leads to.

Ah, sorry for misunderstanding. Are you glad that you did 'hardcore' mindfulness though? Do you think loving-kindness is an essential practice if you do mindfulness?

Just curious since I am going to do Loving-Kindness anyways since it seems like it would be very beneficial.
 
Jun 21, 2014
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I took a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class and the main thing I got from it was this:

There is a space between stimulus and response. Mindfulness helps to expand that space and create a response, not a reaction.

I find myself quick to anger, jump to conclusions, and make assumptions. Mindfulness has helped, but damn the daily practice takes discipline.
 

doofy102

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Nov 21, 2013
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Ah, sorry for misunderstanding. Are you glad that you did 'hardcore' mindfulness though?.

It was a terrifying and beautiful period of my life. It was both those things simultaneously. I'm glad and eternally thankful, but I'm also a giant weirdo now, too.

When I start asking myself, "What led to what?" it gets very muddled and circular. I think that, at a certain point, you can find loving-kindness by yourself through mindfulness, but that can also work in the opposite, too. These abilities share some mutual ground.

But having loving-mindness is probably a must.

Honestly, with regards to "hardcore" mindfulness and whether or not it's useful, it depends on where you want to go in life. Do you want to attract the attention of sociopathic people? The very good and the very evil? Because that's what happens.
 

Piecake

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It was a terrifying and beautiful period of my life. It was both those things simultaneously. I'm glad and eternally thankful, but I'm also a giant weirdo now, too.

When I start asking myself, "What led to what?" it gets very muddled and circular. I think that, at a certain point, you can find loving-kindness by yourself through mindfulness, but that can also work in the opposite, too. These abilities share some mutual ground.

But having loving-mindness is probably a must.

Honestly, with regards to "hardcore" mindfulness and whether or not it's useful, it depends on where you want to go in life. Do you want to attract the attention of sociopathic people? The very good and the very evil? Because that's what happens.

Oh, I don't want to go that far. My plan right now is basically to do it about 20-30 minutes a day and leave it at that. I want to get some of the benefits without it consuming my life.

Why do you think it attracts sociopathic people? Just kinda curious because I really can't see the connection.
 

doofy102

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Nov 21, 2013
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Oh, I don't want to go that far. My plan right now is basically to do it about 20-30 minutes a day and leave it at that. I want to get some of the benefits without it consuming my life.

Fair enough. Does it have a good effect on life outside the classes, though?
 

Piecake

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Jun 11, 2004
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Fair enough. Does it have a good effect on life outside the classes, though?

Beats me. Like I said in the OP I just started doing it and I don't plan on taking any classes. That could be a mistake, but I am not in some sort of vulnerable mental state so I think it'll be alright.
 

mantidor

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Jul 24, 2009
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Wait those quick informal meditation practices say stuff I do all the time, specially contemplating a natural object or realizing all that is happening to a simple action like mopping the floor, I had no idea I meditated already!

I specially love watching the skies and the full moon, my whole schedule is based around how, where and when to catch the full moon, I could stare at it for hours.

I'm going to try to do the more self awareness ones like feeling my breathing, I had never done that.
 
Jun 22, 2013
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Mindfulness meditation is one of the key things that helped Dan Ryckert (Giant Bomb) get control over his (once) crippling anxiety issues. It's one of the things he talks about in his book, Anxiety as an Ally.

Though I haven't stuck with it everyday as I want, I've been doing it for ten minutes a day and really enjoy it. I really like how I feel afterward, and it even comes recommended from doctors/therapists I've talked to. There's hard science behind it, and you don't need to get involved with any of the things you find weird or off-putting that can surround this type of stuff. Just follow the basic instructions in the OP of this thread and you're set.
 

umop_3pisdn

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Dec 22, 2008
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Hmmm. That's very true. The benefits of exercising are everywhere, but I still don't do it enough. However, I know I should excise and eat better, and I do make attempts, even though I often fail. I think that, even if I knew meditation and mindfulness were good, I might still not do it, out of laziness or apathy. However, if I knew that it were beneficial, I would definitely try to make it a habit, much like I do with exercise. Even if I failed, I would want to do it. Right now, I'm not convinced I should want to do it. Especially when the only argument offered is "people find enjoyment in it." I also find enjoyment from playing video games, so if meditation is trying to take some of my time from my hobbies and obligations, I think it needs to demonstrate its benefits.

Now, granted, I am trying my best to be open minded about it. I'm actually forcing myself to be more skeptical than I usually would be expressly because I want to believe it works. My instincts are pulling me towards mindfulness, not away. But I'm trying to resist it until I'm convinced about it. I've even practiced meditation a couple times before in my life, but only for at most a couple of days in a row. OP's resources were good, so now I'm looking for more.

That's fair, and it is a bit of a learning process, which means that some motivation has to be there. But from my perspective saying that it's enjoyable is a failure of language. It's almost like regaining a sense faculty, like if a blind person were to regain their sight. It's really difficult to communicate how something like that would enrich your experience.
 
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