Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Daily Mail: Take the stress out of family life

On 27th May 2014, The Daily Mail online newspaper published an article as part of a series in the Femail>Femail home section titled: Take the stress out of family life.

Here are some key quotes:
"...this major series shows you how you can conquer stress  using mindfulness...  Yesterday, we taught you ingenious ways to stay calm at work. Here, in part three, we reveal how mindfulness can  de-stress your family life, too...
Psychotherapist Padraig O’Morain, author of the new  book Mindfulness On The Go, says: ‘When it comes to parenting, mindfulness on the go is the gold standard. Maintaining an attitude of mindfulness is immensely valuable in dealing with the demands of parenting.’  The benefits can be huge, as O’Morain explains: ‘If your attention vanishes into the business of parenting, you stand a good chance of ending the day in a state of physical and mental exhaustion.  ‘However, if you remain mindful as much as you can, you could meet the same demands and end the day in much  better shape.'"

Monday, 19 May 2014

YiQuan: Holding the Tiger and Push hands

YiQuan Master Yao Chengguang performing 'Holding the Tiger' posture.

At the beginning of May 2014 I attended another YiQuan Academy residential intensive for 8 days.

I began practicing a new posture called 'Holding the Tiger' which further opens the hips. The visualisation involves imagining one is holding a tiger that wants to get away.

The author in the 'Holding the Tiger' YiQuan posture.
I also began practicing single arm push-hands - the same as shown in this video of the Yao brothers:

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Guardian News - Google's head of mindfulness: 'goodness is good for business'

On 14th May 2014, The Guardian online posted an article in the Professional>Guardian Sustainable Business section titled: Google's head of mindfulness: 'goodness is good for business'.

Here are some key quotes:
"...he hopes that one day, his role will become commonplace. A growing awareness of the importance of our emotional fitness, he says, is mirroring the same journey of acceptance that physical exercise took in the last century. And he believes that scientific evidence of the benefits of the Buddhist practice of mindfulness will be instrumental into catapulting it into the very heart of the business world.
"If you are a company leader who says employees should be encouraged to exercise, nobody looks at you funny," Tan says. "The same thing is happening to meditation and mindfulness, because now that it's become scientific, it has been demystified. It's going to be seen as fitness for the mind."
But what has all this got to do with the cutthroat world of business?

Tan says that mindfulness opens the doorway to loving kindness, which is at the heart of business success.

"In many situations, goodness is good for business," he says. "If you, as the boss, are nice to your employees, they are happy, they treat their customers well, the customers are happy to spend more money, so everybody wins.

"Also if you treat everybody with kindness, they'll like you even if they don't really know why. And if they like you, they want to help you succeed. So it's good for your soul and it's good for your career."
But if that is so obvious, why is it so difficult for companies to practice altruism? Tan points to the fixation with the short-term which rewards those managers who drive profits at any cost, even if it eventually leads to a loss of talent and productivity.

He suggests the other main reason is that employees often fall into the psychological trap of engaging in destructive behaviour by acting out their unconscious judgments.

"If you don't have the foundation of peace, joy and kindness it is very hard, day to day, to always do the right thing," he says. "If somebody says something negative, your first thought is 'that guy is an asshole' and you want to defeat that guy. So it takes a certain amount of practice to say 'Wait a minute, that guy's just doing his job. He's a good person and so I have to work with him by understanding why he's doing that, and then help him succeed.'"
For those who worry that mindfulness takes years to have any impact, Tan insists that it can create a measurable change in 100 minutes. For those who want a more fundamental impact that can change their lives, this can be achieved in 52 hours, although Tan says there are innumerable depths that mindfulness can help you to uncover.
So far, around 2,000 Google employees have been through its Search Inside Yourself mindfulness course, the most popular of the company's training programmes. Tan says research on long-term impacts hasn't yet been done, and he has only anecdotal evidence of the program's success.

But the main barrier to expanding the programme is a lack of experienced trainers, whom Tan insists need to have completed at least 2,000 hours of meditation practice. That's because "when you're in front of a class, they don't remember what you say, they don't remember what you do; what they remember is how they feel, and that comes from how the trainer personifies the practice, even if they just sit there and say nothing."
"I always align the qualities of peace, joy, compassion with success and profits," he says. "It's starting from where people want to start and helping people succeed in the way they want to succeed.

"And I would say that if you want to try it, you're free to try it and if you don't try it and Joe does, Joe's going to make more money than you and you're free to come and try this any other time."
"The current view of practice has been you have to work so hard to gain these states," he says. "I would like in my lifetime to reframe the whole practice, not as a sacrifice but as a doorway, as a path along which every step is joyful. If I can do that, then the practice becomes far more accessible, and then I can die."

New York Times Blog: Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits

On 12th May 2014, The New York Times posted a blog article in the Well>Mind section titled: Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits.

Here are some key quotes:
“There are no long-term, lasting benefits from taking A.D.H.D. medications,” said James M. Swanson, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, and an author of the study. “But mindfulness seems to be training the same areas of the brain that have reduced activity in A.D.H.D.”

“That’s why mindfulness might be so important,” he added. “It seems to get at the causes.”
According to a recent report in Clinical Neurophysiology, adults with A.D.D. were shown to benefit from mindfulness training combined with cognitive therapy; their improvements in mental performance were comparable to those achieved by subjects taking medications.

The training led to a decline in impulsive errors, a problem typical of A.D.D., while the cognitive therapy helped them be less self-judgmental about mistakes or distractedness.
Stephen Hinshaw, a specialist in developmental psychopathology at the University of California, Berkeley, said the time was ripe to explore the utility of nondrug interventions like mindfulness.
Dr. Swanson agreed. “I was a skeptic until I saw the data,” he said, “and the findings are promising.”"

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Guardian News: Politicians joined by Ruby Wax as parliament pauses for meditation

On 7th May 2014, The Guardian online posted an article in the News>Society>Mental health section, titled: Politicians joined by Ruby Wax as parliament pauses for meditation.

Here are some key quotes:
"Sceptical MPs have joked it is becoming "a cult in parliament", but mindfulness meditation stepped into the political mainstream on Wednesday when MPs and peers gathered at Westminster, closed their eyes and went silent for a minute.

Joined by the comedian Ruby Wax, now the poster girl for the benefits of mindfulness to overcome mental health problems, politicians including former ministers Lord Haworth and Jim Fitzpatrick straightened their spines and focused on their breath at the launch of an all party group to explore the potential for mindfulness in health, education, criminal justice.
It was just a taste of what 95 MPs, peers and parliament staff have already experienced on mindfulness meditation courses inside parliament. The practice – based on Buddhist meditation but updated for secular users – is catching on across a stressed-out Britain.
Its popularity has spawned more than 800 courses nationwide and a Headspace meditation app with 50,000 paying users. The most popular guide book is selling 2,000 copies a week and mindfulness based cognitive therapy is now recommended by the NHS to prevent relapses into depression. Now politicians are falling back on it too.

Lord Andrew Stone told the meeting he used it to steady himself after he became "scared" when he was dispatched to Cairo for meetings with Egypt's military leadership earlier this year.
"I didn't know how to cope," he said. "But these practices made a massive difference. I was talking to some pretty serious people there, but I was being compassionate to all sides."

Co-chair of the group, Tracey Crouch MP, one of only a small number of MPs to publicly admit using anti-depressants, revealed mindfulness practice had helped her come off the drugs.
"I have given much better speeches in the House since I started mindfulness," she said. "We genuinely can turn the UK into a mindful nation."
But there are concerns. "There is still no quality control and there is no standards people need to stick to to deliver this important therapy," said Dr Florian Ruths, clinical lead for mindfulness at the Maudsely hospital. "I worry that quite vulnerable people with quite serious problems might being going to courses led by people who aren't aware of the consequences."

Nevertheless it was the testimony of a group of school children, thousands of whom have been exposed to the practice in the last few years, that most moved the politicians."

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Daily Mail News: Forget Greed is Good... now Mindfulness is City's mantra: Growing number of financiers finding solace in form of stress relief

The Daily Mail online published an article on 5th May 2014 in the News home sectioned titled: Forget Greed is Good... now Mindfulness is City's mantra: Growing number of financiers finding solace in form of stress relief.

Here are some key quotes:
"A so-called ‘quiet revolution’ is gripping the City of London – with soaring numbers of fast-paced financiers finding solace in ‘mindfulness’.
The CFA Institute for investment professionals is said to be considering launching a meditation programme, while KPMG, Goldman Sachs and Unilever have promoted mindfulness in wellbeing seminars.  The Bank of England has also run meditation ‘taster’ sessions attended by dozens of staff as part of a series of ‘Working Lives’ seminars.

Other firms are said to be reluctant to publicise their meditation initiatives for fear of being perceived as ‘new age’.  But Sally Boyle, a human resources director at Goldman Sachs, said: ‘In years to come we’ll be talking about mindfulness as we talk about exercise now.’  Professor Stephen Palmer, founder and director of the Centre for Stress Management in London, believes the credit crunch has prompted business executives to look for an outlet for anxiety.   He said: ‘We can blame Lehman Brothers. When people have their worlds turned upside down like that, it offers a chance to reflect on life and ask “What am I doing?”' "

Guardian News: Why we will come to see mindfulness as mandatory

On 5th May 2014 The Guardian online published an article in the Comment is free section titled: Why we will come to see mindfulness as mandatory.

Here are some key quotes:
"Once a poorly understood New Age fad, it has moved from the margins to the mainstream. Nothing demonstrates that better than the launch of an all-party parliamentary group on mindfulness on Wednesday.
...increasingly, academics such as Willem Kuyken, a psychologist at Exeter University, are asking whether, if mindfulness can work for depression and pain, anyone else might benefit? What role could it play in schools, and could it help our national epidemic of mental ill health in adolescents?  The analogy that Kabat-Zinn uses is with jogging. In the 1960s when he started running, people thought him a bit odd. Now on a Sunday morning parks and streets are full of people pounding away. The take-up rate for mindfulness, Kabat-Zinn says, is much sharper than for jogging. In another decade, one can imagine that it will be widely accepted and understood as a valuable way to look after your mental health. Just as physical exercise is vital to a desk-bound workforce, so mindfulness will come to be seen as vital for dealing with the complexity of our information-rich lives.
Another risk is that it becomes the privilege of the stressed middle classes who can afford the courses. Some of the most inspiring work is being done by people like Gary Heads in County Durham who is working with unemployed people. Or the project in Cardiff which taught the single mum who recently stood in front of a gathering of Welsh Assembly members to describe movingly how mindfulness had helped her to be a better parent, as well as to find the confidence for public speaking.  The point is that, diligently practised, it very quietly and slowly revolutionises lives in multiple ways – sometimes small, sometimes big. And when you start noticing that process of change – both in yourself and in others – it is quite simply astonishing."