REMEDY BLOG | OVER THE COUNTER DEPRESSION
REMEDY BLOG | THE NEWEST M&M
The Newest M&M
July 13, 2018 | Chad Hildebrand
For the past couple of weeks, news coming out of Thailand regarding the soccer team of 12 boys (ages 11-16) trapped in a cave has captivated the world. Once it was reported that every single boy was rescued, we all shared in on a collective sigh of relief. I cannot imagine being trapped in a cave with little to no light, food or potable water for one day let alone more than two weeks. So, how did they endure such a traumatic ordeal? Their coach turned to meditation.
Deciding Never To Cave In
Before we go into any further details, let’s take a step back. I’ve been asking myself, “hey meditation, where did you come from so fast?” Well, back in 2012 about 18 million people in the United States were meditating. That number has (lotus) blossomed to as high as almost 40 million today, due (in large part) to the growing number of companies putting out meditation apps. Headspace alone went from having some not-too-shabby 10 million users last year to over 30 million already this year. So, meditation is basically the new girl in school? Actually, there is nothing necessarily new about it; unless you want to count the growing amount of evidence scientists are churning out that confirms the benefits of the practice.
Back to the boys. When the boys were rescued there was no crying, or screaming. They were simply waiting patiently and calmly to be rescued. Luckily for the boys, coach Ekapol Chanthawong had spent 10 years training to be a Buddhist monk and understood the value of meditation. He knew that teaching the boys meditation would be a useful practice in an extremely stressful situation… such as… let’s say… being trapped in a cave. Buddhist meditation has been used as tool for achieving clarity and peace of mind, and ultimately, liberation from suffering for over 2,600 years. Even in highly regulated clinical settings, meditation has proven to reduce anxiety and depression, as well as pain.
So, cheers to Ekapol for cultivating an environment of peace, kindness and clarity so that it could be offered to the boys. I think senior disciple of the Zen Buddhist master, Brother Phap Dung, said it best, “when you sit with someone who’s calm, you can become calm. If you sit with someone who’s agitated and hateful, you can become agitated and hateful.” Lesson learned.
If you want to read a little more from the Vox article, click here.
A Cautionary Tale (for the sake of balance)
Along with meditation, the word mindful (and mindfulness) has been thrown around quite a bit lately. And according to the Chicago Tribune, it’s not just a buzzword it’s a multibillion dollar industry… that’s billion with a B. In fact, “mindfulness is now so pervasive that even researchers who study it professionally find it hard to get their hands around it.” The reality is that the term mindfulness has changed and may be partially misunderstood in Western culture. Jeff Wilson, a professor of religious studies at the University of Waterloo in Canada has said, “it’s a gigantic American story of charlatans and quacks and guardian angels and good Samaritans and … you name it. It’s all going on.” There was even a recent study from researchers at University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management and Católica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics that stated “meditation diminishes motivation and thus might seem counterproductive in a workplace setting." Although the study has several limitations and has been highly criticized by the masses, maybe meditating at your desk looks more like sleeping to your superiors.
You can read about that by, clicking here.
Um. OK? How did we get here?
Well, let’s start with Sara Lazar, a researcher and professor of psychology at Harvard University. She has been researching meditation since 1998 and co-authored a study showing that the brains of long-term meditators have a thicker cortex. To which, she has been quoted as saying, “we know these changes are associated with enhanced functioning” of the brain. Sounds like a good thing to me. So, is this a question of he said, she said?
In my opinion, it’s good to have balance… to be able to understand both sides of the coin. We have a practice that is clearly rooted in evidence over thousands of years, but can be misunderstood and taken out of context. This is where we lean on the experts. We cannot always take everything into our own hands. We are smart, but maybe not that smart. Most us fall into the “knowing enough to be dangerous” category. Therefore, proceed with caution.
I was recently reading an article from Forbes that highlighted a study out of Penn State University entitled “Marrying Mindfulness and Movement Reduces Stress, Boosts Mood.” Although the study only set out to show correlational (meaning there is a relationship but without a proven cause) data, the study demonstrated very clearly that people were more positive (and thus less negative) when mindfully moving about. Thank you for the research PSU, but personally I don’t need a study to prove something to me that seems so completely obvious. Not sure we needed the experts on that one.
This upcoming week, we turn to our own expert, Bonnie Williamson, to talk us through the newest (and most colorful) M&M… mindfulness meditation. What is it? And how do we do it? Not only does Bonnie have her master’s degree and work as a clinical counselor, but she moonlights as a yoga teacher and mindfulness meditation instructor. She will lead us through an experience on mindfulness practices using the sights, sounds, sensations and smells of nature. AKA moving mindfully… so, let’s put that PSU study to the test and prove the nay-sayers wrong.
Friday Fun Fact:
Meditation is considered anti-aging therapy… as it elongates telomeres (those protective caps on the ends of our chromosome that fight deterioration).
We will always be disappointed that a group of squid isn't called a squad.
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