Month: March 2016

The One-two Punch of Meditation and Running

Scroll down to learn how a $25 contribution in Kickstarter will give you full access to the upcoming Running with the Mind of Meditation Online Course. New study proves meditation and running to be an effective therapy for depression and general mental well-being. There’s been a lot of discussion about running and meditation around the internet the last couple days, all corresponding with an opportunity to take part in a 7-week online course with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche on the subject. More on that below. Scientific research identifying meditation and running as key components of a holistic approach to managing depression are well known, and just a couple days ago the New York Times published an article based on a study discovering that meditation and running actually have a synergistic effect, enhancing the overall benefits. The article cites a study published in Translational Psychiatry that found meditation and running to reduce symptoms of depression including rumination—the tendency of the mind to dwell on negative emotional experiences. The study makes an argument that the joint discipline of running and meditation is an effective alternative therapy for treating clinical …

The Science of Meditation: Recalling the Shamatha Project at SMC

In 2007 the most comprehensive longitudinal study of meditation occurred here at Shambhala Mountain Center. It was called the Shamatha Project. Researchers from UC Davis teamed up with B. Alan Wallace and 60 participants for two 3-month retreats in which the meditation practitioners participated in an intensive study to record and analyze the effects of meditation. B. Alan Wallace instructed the participants in three increasingly subtle forms of shamatha (calm-abiding meditation) as well as a complementary practice to cultivate compassion, loving-kindness, empathetic joy and equanimity called the brahmavihāras or Four Immeasurables. Through shamatha the participants developed concentration, mindfulness and introspection while the Four Immeasurables created an ethical motivation and context for practice. The study employed a variety of measurement techniques taken before, during and after the retreat, including interviews, computer-based experiments, physiological measures, behavioral measures, and questionnaires. This led to a tremendous amount of data that is still being analyzed 9 years later. But a number of conclusions have been made: meditation improves attention, one’s sense of well-being, emotional responses related to compassion, and even …

Can I trust the present moment to take care of me?

By Vidan Gonthier ~~~ On the fourth day of a recent meditation retreat, I found myself struggling for what seemed like hours, unable to relax my body or settle my mind. As I wound myself into a tighter and tighter psychic ball, suddenly, out of nowhere, I started ranting: “I don’t trust the present moment! What’s it ever done for me?! I have to be in charge!!!” Thank Buddha I wasn’t in a group setting or I might have been carried off. But in that moment I felt liberated: the voice of my deep mistrust in letting life be in charge came roaring out. A voice that obviously was operating below the surface, even as my conscious mind held the intention to let be and let go. So after a few seconds of horror and embarrassment, I just went for it, metaphorically shaking my fist at God, or more accurately, shaking my fist at the here and now. And then came this realization: as much as I practice mindfulness in my daily life, which in …

Wake up to the Wild… the Wildly Good!

By Kay Peterson ~~~ As this spring unfolds, I’m struck by the environmental and social changes happening world-wide.  It feels like each of us is being called to search deep inside and decide how we’re going to take better care of ourselves, each other, and the earth. The combination of mindfulness-awareness practice with time in nature is the proverbial one-two punch for our health and well-being as well as for our ability to live in harmony with each other and the planet.  Nature provides valuable lessons for how we can live our lives in healthy balance if we pay attention to them.  When we synchronize our bodies and mind in nature with mindfulness practices, we develop a deeper understanding of that balance.  We can train ourselves to continue to open to a bigger perspective and that state of openness, vitality, and potential that exists within all of us. We’re making technological advancements faster than we can imagine, yet getting through the day seems to be becoming more and more of a struggle.  As a culture, …

Our Bodies Hold Our Lives

By David Rome & Hope Martin ~~~ Our bodies hold our lives. They hold wisdom and energy for living and growing—and they hold the things that get in the way of living and growing: fear, anxiety, stress and more. When negative holding patterns are not recognized, tensions build up and space for living constricts. Awareness and acceptance of the body’s holding patterns allow their release and transformation into positive energy for living. Human beings are hard-wired with the “fight or flight” reaction, an evolutionary inheritance that served us well when the everyday environment was more physically dangerous and instant reaction could make the difference between life or death. In the safer but far more complex world of the twenty-first century, we face multiple challenges that can’t be solved either by fighting or running away. This leads to chronic stress and anxiety and what psychologists call “experiential avoidance”—disconnecting from the fight-or-flight-based signals our bodies are still trying to give us. To reverse the stress and anxiety, first we have to allow ourselves to really experience what’s …

Life Since Meditation

The first time I tried to meditate I was nine or ten years old, with my best friend Emily in the basement laundry room of my house. We picked out some cushions, played a Native American flute CD on my boom box, lit some incense and repeated “oommmmmmmm” over and over in unison, hands resting on our knees, thumbs and pointer fingers pressed together. In retrospect I’m not sure what we thought we were doing — but we had a good time doing it.  This was a typical kind of activity for us — exploring something we’d probably heard about through our new-agey liberal moms — or just trying to understand our world, ourselves, looking for magic, wonder, new frontiers. These pursuits also included writing letters to fairies (with the occasional response), mixing up flower petals and household chemicals for spells in our Potion Room, doing rain dances, and contacting spirits with the Ouija Board. At the heart of our adventures was a quest for something of the supernatural — a glimmering reflection of what …

Relationship as Spiritual Path: Couples Retreat Master Ben Cohen

  Intimate relationships are both an opportunity and a challenge to our capacity for love and vulnerability.  Once we get past the romantic love stage, we often find ourselves surprised by these challenges.  Drawing from the work of Harville Hendrix, PhD, (Imago) Ben Cohen works with couples in exploring the essential principles and practices of conscious relationships — both in his private practice and as a leader of couples’ retreats. Click here to learn about our upcoming weekend retreat: Relationship as a Spiritual Path: Getting the Love You Want (A Couples Workshop), May 20-22 Watch our interview below, or scroll down to stream/download the audio. If you’d like to download the audio file, CLICK HERE and find the “Download” button.  Otherwise, you can stream the audio below. Click here to learn about Ben Cohen’s upcoming retreat at SMC: Relationship as a Spiritual Path: Getting the Love You Want (A Couples Workshop) ~~~ Ben Cohen, PhD, is a psychologist in private practice in Boulder and Denver specializing in relationship counseling. He has also had an active meditation practice for over 25 years …