Is mindfulness enough?

Many scientists claim that mindfulness is both a ‘non-judgemental’ approach and holds congruence with Buddhist forms of meditation. Are these two positions mutually exclusive?

Meditation without ethics is like a ship without a rudder - directionless

Mindfulness has attracted sustained criticism from within the scientific community over the last few years. Claims that the science supporting mindfulness lacks a reliable evidential base are growing. In addition, religious scholars1 and traditional meditation practitioners have discussed the implications of the lack of  judgement or ethical frameworks, closely associated with some mindfulness practices.

In a recent article2 a leading Buddhist teacher from the Tibetan Nyingma tradition, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, has stressed the need for meditation to be seen in a relevant ethical context. Rinpoche talks about not ‘blindly meditating’, that our meditation should be directed by study and understanding. Although these points are being made from a Buddhist perspective, their relevance can apply to both secular and spiritual meditation practices. Psychologically speaking, meditation and mindfulness are simply forms of brain training, changes in behaviour leading eventually to functional and structural modifications in the brain. So if your meditation practice is based on reducing judgement of the reality of your day to day life, this is likely to be the result of the practice. Developing an understanding of why you are meditating and what it means in the real world, ensures your practice has direction and is relevant to you.

“We can’t just blindly meditate”

Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche

Practicing with forms of meditation that lack any coherent ethical or judgemental context may lead to a reduction of reasoning and introspection, two functions linked to essential intrinsic network activity in the brain. Whilst it can be acknowledged that non-judgemental practices are common in Buddhism, they are always set within a wider ethical framework. The points Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche made, are consistent with my own understandings of the science of mindfulness and meditation. That self-transformation (the goal of meditation technologies), requires a sound theoretical framework to be successful. A sound theoretical framework would include an explanation of our being (the ontology that supports meditation) and an understanding of the effectiveness of the methods used (epistemology).

policeThere are no restrictions of the forms of meditation that can be created and practiced, and there is evidence that mindfulness may be able to deliver some benefits. But based on the available data, it may be that meditation practices that are not embedded in stable frameworks might deliver unpredictable results. Not simply because ethical frameworks are in some way morally advantageous, but for the reason that they create the conditions where the practice becomes embedded in both the meditation student and the real world. I would suggest that anything less, risks strengthening dualistic concepts rather than weakening them.

 

Notes

1 King, R. (2016). ‘Paying Attention’ in a Digital Economy: Reflections on the Role of Analysis and Judgement Within Contemporary Discourses of Mindfulness and Comparisons with Classical Buddhist Accounts of Sati. In Handbook of Mindfulness (pp. 27-45). Springer, Cham.

2 https://www.lionsroar.com/why-meditation-isnt-enough/

Student mental health in decline

Student mental health is in decline, financial pressure on undergraduates is a key issue. Meditation and mindfulness may be able to help.

University students are reporting increasing mental health issues
University students are reporting increasing mental health issues and problems with wellbeing.

Students are increasingly calling upon mental health and counselling support while at university according to Open Access Government1. Almost 9 out of 10 students are experiencing stress, and 3 out of 4 report feelings of anxiety. The proportion of students identifying as having a mental health condition grew five-fold in the last decade.

The exact reasons for the spiralling rates of poor mental health amongst students are unclear. However, because of the universality of the problems, widespread trends in society are likely to have a mediating role. Amongst the factors thought to be contributing to these high levels of stress, financial pressures play a prominent role. With more student taking on unprecedented levels of debt at a young age, there is inevitably a greater risk to mental health. Worry about student debt can lead to increased anxiety, linked to both academic performance and long term employment prospects.

adult blur business close up

The thought of having to pay back a large student loan can translate to increased pressure on individual assignments, ‘to pay back the loan I will have to get a well-paid job, for which I will need to get good grades’. Put simply, for some students, success in their undergraduate studies can appear to be absolutely essential for life long success. Given, the cost of buying a home, decreasing job security, worsening employment conditions, some undergraduates are experiencing a heightened fear of failure. Fear not only linked to their grades but the prospect of long term debt, low wages, and general financial insecurity.

When academic stress provokes a sense of challenge it is typically seen as a good thing, linked to self-efficacy and a sense of competence and achievement. However, if stress becomes a threat, a whole range of different mental constructs engage which can include fear and anxiety. A review of the evidence from cognitive psychology provides clear indications of how meditation and mindfulness can be used to develop resilience to stress in higher education, improving wellbeing and quality of life. For more information visit the student meditation classes page.

 

Notes

1 https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/student-mental-health-services/63324/

Can meditation help student wellbeing?

Students reporting mental health and wellbeing issues had risen fivefold in the last decade. Yet there is evidence that specifically designed meditation and mindfulness methods can help.

Can meditation halt the slide in student mental health?
Can meditation halt the slide in student mental health?

There is growing evidence that the mental health and wellbeing of young people in the UK is in decline. This pattern is particularly pronounced among students in higher education (HE). According to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)1, the proportion of university students reporting a mental health condition grew five-fold in the last decade. However, studies from cognitive psychology and contemplative science have started to signpost approaches able to offer support for students dealing with issues such as anxiety, stress, procrastination and motivation.

Not unsurprisingly problems with mental health and wellbeing can have a profound impact on a student’s ability to perform academically and their willingness to complete their chosen course of study. Serious mental health problems are rarely restricted just to academic matters and can influence all areas of life. In some universities, as many as 25% of the total student body has engaged with or are waiting to engage with wellbeing services1.

man in black and white polo shirt beside writing board

From a scientific perspective, there is a range of mixed messages coming from meditation research. There are individual studies that suggest meditation or mindfulness can have a positive impact on specific mental health and wellbeing issues, but regrettably, the results are rarely replicated or strongly supported by strategic reviews. However by approaching student mental health using instruments from cognitive psychology and neuroscience, some clear strategies for using meditation and mindfulness emerge. These centre largely on understanding the known constructs that underpin obstacles to successful engagement with HE

Although every student is different and the challenges each faces is unique, the science indicates there are common factors to many of the academic obstacles they face. It would be an oversimplification to suggest that the same meditation is beneficial for every student. But an appropriate method (one able to tackle their underlying problems) is likely to bring some benefit leading to a more positive engagement with academic work and improve all-round wellbeing.

Follow these links for more information about Meditation for Students and Mindfindfulness for Students.

 

 

Notes

Thorley C (2017) Not By Degrees: Not by degrees: Improving student mental health in the UK’s universities, IPPR. http://www.ippr.org/publications/not-by-degrees

Mindfulness in Rochester, Kent

Eight week mindfulness course in Rochester

background balance beach boulder

Eight Week Mindfulness Course (April 4th – May 23rd, Rochester, Kent)

“Training in mindfulness, like anything needs to be consistent to bring results and that’s what a structured eight week course, complete with group work and individual home practice is designed to do. It is perfect for those who are completely new and those looking to commit more to their current practice with the support of the course, the group and an instructor.

The course will provide you with the opportunity to learn a combination of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Cognitive Therapy techniques, through formal and informal practices that can be easily integrated into your daily life, including mindfulness of eating, breath, bodily sensations, thoughts, feelings, sounds and movement, as well as a number of other positive psychology techniques and thought experiments that support the process.”

For more details visit www.cesaremindfultherapy.com/courses

Mindfulness for Runners; Chatham

sunset men sunrise jogging
Mindfulness foe runners in Kent

Mindfulness for Runners: Module 1 – Foundation and focus

Sunday 24th March sees the half day 1st Module Foundation and focuses “From Autopilot to Presence” at Fort Amherst, Chatham. the event takes place between 10 am and 1 pm

“This half-day module designed by RUNZEN introduces participants to the key elements that help us bring mindful awareness to the experience of the body and mind whilst running.

The module includes mindfulness meditations in stillness, gentle movement and running. We will guide you through a range of mindfulness practices before enjoying an easy-paced run around the Great Lines Heritage Park. The invitation for the whole day is simply to be curious about our experience, and each practice is followed by an opportunity to share as a group what we may have discovered.”

Full details available on the RUNZEN website.

Blueberries linked to a younger brain

A strong correlation between cognitive decline and berry consumption is well established.

Blueberries and strawberries linked to slower cognitive decline.
Blueberries linked to slower cognitive decline.

As regular visitors to this blog will know we are committed to delivering improved brain function through reliable meditation methods. However it’s clear that practicing meditation while maintaining habits linked to cognitive decline like smoking or eating unhealthy foods will reduced the benefits of your practice. This is one of the problems of researching meditation, regular meditators tend to adopt lifestyles generally associated with improved health and wellbeing (like eating berries), so separating the benefits of regular meditation from eating less meat or not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol becomes problematic. This is a key point to consider, adopting one measure likely to boost brain health has to be seen in a wider context. The benefits from meditation will be meditated positively or negatively by a range of factors.

Scientific findings confirm that many berries are generally a good source of a substance called flavonoids, particularly anthocyanidins which in turn are correlated to improved brain function. I recently followed some links posted by Michael Gregor MD to key research into this area. The Nurses’ Health Study1 found that a greater intake in blueberries and strawberries appeared to slow down the rate of cognitive decline across a very large population. Allowing for a number of other confounding factors the participants that consumed berries had an improved performance in a range of cognitive tests indicating a brain age 1.5 to 2.5 years younger when compared to non berry consumers.

berry blueberries blueberry cake

In conclusion regular meditation has been shown to reduce cognitive ageing by 7 years at the age of 50. It seems probable that additional support to brain health can be achieved through combining meditation with changes to lifestyle such as an improved diet.

 

 

Notes

Header photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com, berry photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com.

Canterbury Meditation Classes

Canterbury meditation classes every Wednesday.

Brain Renewal Meditation – Compassion based mindfulness designed to improve wellbeing and maintain cognitive function for all ages.

Canterbury meditation classes
Canterbury meditation classes

Meditate in Canterbury

Brain Renewal Meditation (BRM) is a compassion based mindfulness meditation which helps to maintain brain function and supports wellbeing. It is secular, can be practiced by anyone and is simple to learn. No previous experience or special training is necessary, just come and practice. This method requires meditators to sit comfortably, typically in a chair and to follow the instructions of the experienced teacher.

Based on a traditional method, BRM is now available to people that want to meditate in Canterbury and across Kent.  This approach has been developed through engagement with the latest scientific research and is taught by an experienced meditation teacher trained in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, Stephen Gene Morris. A weekly BRM class is held in Canterbury, it is suitable for adults of all ages. Contact us for more details.

It has long been established that aspects of brain health and physical wellbeing can be improved by regular meditation. BRM is simple and intuitive and includes three elements closely associated with a range of health benefits; compassion, mindfulness and awareness of both self and other.

Unfortunately the performance of the human brain typically starts to decline before the age of 30, signs are apparent in our 40’s and mild cognitive impairment and dementia can develop in later life. The evidence shows that regular meditation is linked to maintaining a younger healthier brain, this obviously can have great benefits no matter what our age.

FAQs

Is it suitable for non meditators?

Many people attending are likely to be new to meditation or have limited experience.

Will I be able to do it?

Almost everyone can do it, it is a form of mind training so it may require some concentration but it is appropriate for adults of all ages.

Is the teacher qualified or experienced?

Our teachers tend to be among the most qualified and experienced of any meditation teachers. The Canterbury class is run by a trained cognitive psychologist/neuroscientist with extensive experience of traditional and contemporary meditation systems.

Are discounts available for advanced bookings?

Yes as we teach relatively small groups we cut down on a lot of admin time if people book several weeks at a time. We pass these savings on to our meditators. Significant discounts are available for bookings of 3 weeks, 5 weeks or 10 weeks. Contact us for more details: stephen@brainrm.com

I can’t get to a class but I want to practice

We also run online meditation classes and 1 to 1 sessions, get in touch for more details.

Are there minimum age requirements to enter the event?

This is an adult meditation class so it is open to everyone over the age of 18.

What are my transport/parking options for getting to and from the event?

There is very limited parking at the venue, a range of public car parks are within walking distance. Canterbury can be accessed through a range of public transport options.

What can I bring into the event?

Just yourself, no special clothing or equipment is necessary

How can I contact the organiser with any questions?

Email – stephen@brainrm.com

Phone – 07710039146

Join the mailing list.

What’s the refund policy?

Cancel within 24 hours for a full refund

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

That’s up to you

Is my registration fee or ticket transferrable?

Yes anyone over the age of 18 can use the ticket

Is it ok if the name on my ticket or registration doesn’t match the person who attends?

No problem

Terms & conditions

  1. If you have any special requirements let us know in advance.
  2. The basic cost of a lesson is £10, buying your ticket through Eventbright or using the PayPal service attracts a small surcharge.
  3. You can always pay at the venue before the class begins.
  4. We offer discounts for advanced bookings of 3, 5 and 10 classes.
  5. Concessionary tickets of £7 are available for people not in paid employment.
  6. Online training and 1 to 1 instruction is available, confirm the availability of the teacher before booking.

Notes

Header photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com