This form of meditation is known to relieve many stress- and nervous-systemrelated disorders. Those with more obviously physical facets include:
The most common mental health issues that people come to see me about are:
And then there are issues more related to lifestyle, including:
We’ll be looking at some of these in our case studies that follow, along with tips
on how to use meditation to help overcome them.
There are many reasons for meditating. It seems to me that one of the main ones is to enjoy contentment. When we look at our life, contentment is usually fleeting. Instead, we often live day to day with a sense of lack, of dissatisfaction, of disease.
We all, regardless of nationality, religion, or beliefs, want to experience contentment in our life. We want something beyond feeling happy, because deep down we know that our feelings come and go like the clouds in the sky.
Contentment comes from within—from deep within our being. But the circumstances of our life and the actions of our body, speech and mind often prevent this contentment from rising up to express itself. Instead, we are caught up in looking for contentment in things—in food, in relationships, in money, in situations, and in fleeting experiences that, while they might be temporarily enjoyable, eventually dissolve, and then we are left with that familiar sense of lack.
Meditation can be a skillful means of discovering contentment. It takes us within ourselves, and points us in the direction of where contentment is found. As the Dalai Lama has explained, “Granted, external circumstances can contribute to one’s happiness and well-being, but ultimately happiness and suffering depend upon the mind, and how it perceives.”
These qualities of mindfulness (discussed above)– non-judgmental, bare awareness, and intentional – lead to the actual functions of mindfulness. Joseph Goldstein, an eminent meditation teacher, describes the functions of mindfulness (discussed below) as: increasing concentration, developing clear seeing and perception, guiding the mind, and balancing the mind. This section highlights the value of these functions for athletes both in training and high-pressure performance situations. Essentially there are four invaluable functions of mindfulness that are essential to sport performance.
Mindfulness improves the ability to concentrate, to “hold something in mind”. With enhanced mindfulness skills, you are better able to purposefully pay attention to what you choose to pay attention to and better able to maintain such attention over time. Simply put it means you can keep something you care about on your radar, more consistently. You may think that holding something in mind is easy. Yet when you consider the many times a coach will offer the same feedback to an athlete and how the same technical piece of advice seems to quickly dissolve from the athletes’ awareness, you can better appreciate the need for the capacity of concentration.
The challenge, of course, is that you have a myriad of things to think about each moment. You get bombarded with what is happening both internally and externally – from the coaching you receive, what your teammates are saying or doing, what your opponents are doing on the field to your own internal judgments and reactions, to all of these. Most of us tend to have very active minds and our minds can be filled with involuntary (i.e., uninvited) thoughts of what has happened, what we’d like to have happen, and some of what happening within our moment-to-moment experience. It takes great practice to purposefully sustain awareness on what you deem to be important (otherwise known as task-relevant cues for performance).
Our minds can easily be swayed by our hopes, desires, fears, and input from others. It is extremely normal to have hopes and fears, yet mindfulness helps you determine when it is wise to pay attention to such concerns and when it is best to focus on sport-specific tasks. When practicing and performing, we know that to optimize performance we must direct our attention. The challenge is keeping your attention focused where you choose to focus it and releasing yourself from the judgment, fear, and distortions that cause you to waste your energy and time.
As discussed in the previous section, when you release yourself from your judgments about things and connect with your direct experience through the clear lens of bare attention, you are able to see things as they really are. Your mind’s comprehension of what is happening becomes finely tuned with a sharpened accuracy. Jackson and Delehanty (1995) summarizes this quality of clear seeing in his book,
Basketball is a complex dance that requires shifting from one objective to another at lightning speed. To excel, you need to act with a clear mind and be totally focused on what everyone on the floor is doing. Some athletes describe this quality of mind as a “cocoon of concentration.” But that implies shutting out the world when what you really need to do is become acutely aware of what’s happening right now, this very moment.
Mindfulness supports this kind of panoramic specificity of awareness, where the mind is open and wide awake to exactly what is occurring in real time, free of distortions and at once able to focus on the specific areas of performance that will leverage best performance.
Mindfulness guards the mind
Just as a gatekeeper or guard monitors the kinds of people who are allowed to enter and exit a particular building, the habit of being mindful has the important function of guarding the mind. As you become mindful, our awareness monitors the kinds of thoughts that enter our stream of consciousness, both voluntary and uninvited (i.e., involuntary) thoughts.
Some thoughts are helpful and are given free entrance, while other thoughts are quite destructive and unhelpful. Being mindful helps you recognize such thoughts as they arise in our mind and can effectively help neutralize their negative influence. In this way, the mind is protected from the potential harm that can result from negative thinking. Mindfulness does not stop the negative thoughts, but offers each of us a different way to respond to them.
It is not just “negative” thoughts that can be problematic. Thoughts like, “I don’t need to get up and go to practice; I am the best on the team; and Everyone loves me,” can also be quite problematic. As great philosopher and psychologist William James (1842–1910) said, “The greatest weapon against stress is the ability to choose one thought over another.” And it is the power of mindfulness that gives you this ability. You can choose which thoughts to engage with, to believe, to value and you also can choose to watch unhelpful, unnecessary thoughts come and go like storm clouds in the sky.
Balancing the Mind
Related to the last function, mindfulness supports a balanced perspective on what is happening. Without this capacity to bring mindful presence to our thoughts and emotions, the conditioned tendency is to be swept away by a series of domino-like thoughts and feelings. Often a thought arises in consciousness and you tend to get lost in the content of the thought, very easily. You can think of thoughts as inner-advertisements. Imagine what would happen if, every time you heard or saw on advertisement on television, you were to pick up your credit card and buy the very thing being advertised. It might not be long before you were deep in financial debt.
This example may feel far from your experience, yet think of a time you have made a mistake and criticized yourself. And think about how that story of feeling badly about yourself, doubting yourself, lasted much longer than the initial disappointment from making the mistake.
This concludes the introduction and background to the basic concept of mindfulness and conceptually how cultivating mindfulness can contribute to sport performance. The following chapter provides an introduction to the practice of mindfulness
Top 9 Life Lessons from 100 Year Olds
By Greg Thurston
Creator of 7 Minute Mindfulness
Watching videos of centurions, you start to see a theme: they seem content.
That might be shocking to younger people, especially anyone who fears old age. Maybe we fear missing out on opportunities in life, and worry that we'll find ourselves too old to do things.
But we have many interviews of people 100 and older, and they love to share about their lives and offer advice to the rest of us.
Dr. Mercola (of the Mercola Video Library) interviewed three centurions for this very information, and many other people have as well.
Quite a few of us (more now than ever) have relatives or know someone who is 100 or over.
One lady I know who is 104 is full of sassy attitude and enjoys talking to people.
From this wealth of information, we can form the following ten lessons.
1. Happiness comes from what we do
At 100 years old, or older, people don't seem to sit around and smile about the things they accumulated in life.
Rather, it's more about their life experiences. Happy memories can go a long ways toward happiness later on!
One man over 100 years old said he did all he wanted to do. Now he wants to be helpful and keep going.
"I have so many beautiful memories," said a woman over 100. "I got to do all the things I wanted to."
That tells us to jump in and live life - remember that it's about really living and making memories with people we love.
Science backs this up as well. We know people derive more happiness that is long-term from experiences such as vacations rather than from possessions.
2. Happiness comes from a positive attitude and optimism
People over 100 seem to remember life through rose tinted glasses, making it sound like an adventure even through hard times, like war.
"I've always been lucky," says one centurion despite living through 2 great wars!
She also talked about how "everything makes me happy. I love talking to people... going shopping."
Common advice from people who are doing well at 100 is to "Decide to be content." Others say, "Don't chase happiness. Just be satisfied."
Deciding life is good changes our perception and makes life better, and apparently it helps you live much longer!
3. Happiness comes from living in the NOW
Age is only a number. You live for the day and keep going.
This is wisdom from someone with a very long past-but they enjoy the present.
The past is the past; we can't change it. But we can rob ourselves of our present happiness and good emotional health by hanging onto old regrets, grudges, and pain.
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4. Love and Partnership is critical for long life
Centurions often talk about their "good" marriage, all their happy memories, and all their good times together. It's another area where they might be applying rose-tinted glasses, but it's apparent that they got emotional support and felt like they have a life partner.
They also say that people today give up too easily these days-so there was hard work involved, but at the end of their life that part isn't really important anymore.
"Being happily married and happy in general is the remedy for all illness."
We don't have studies on how marriage or long-term relationships affect life span, but you don't have to be a scientist to take note: centurions all speak about their decades long marriage with a smile on their face.
Even people who have been widowed for a few decades say they have many, many warm memories about their married life, and that still makes them happy.
5. Eat natural, real food to feel good and live long
Many people who are 100 say they feel strong and like they're 69 or 79. These are the people who stay active physically and mentally, and have a lot to share with other people.
Many people over 100 talk about eating fresh food that they grew themselves.
And older people will tell you over and over: eat in moderation!
6. Learn to adapt for a better and longer life
"Life goes on regardless" is a common theme. People who live well into old age understand that there is hardship in life but they know life goes on and they must too.
If you live 7, 8, 9, 10 or more decades, you're going to see a lot of change.
People who adapt and change with the times do better. It's part of having a positive attitude-they're excited for new opportunities instead of fearing change.
7. Help others
Helping others is one way to build relationships and connections, and it makes you feel great.
It's another common theme among people who live to be over 100.
Being kind and helping others gives you a sense of purpose too, and it fights depression and anxiety. Not only that, it's a way of staying active and productive after you retire.
It's a win-win for everyone involved, and being older and retired can mean having more time for volunteering.
8. Always learn!
Older people will advise to get a good education to help you go far in life, and science has shown that people with a Bachelor's degree actually do live about a decade longer than people who don't have one. (From the U.S. Centers for Disease an Control Prevention)
Older people will tell you to keep learning all through life, both in and out of school.
Be curious-it makes life more interesting and fun. And it helps you stay engaged with life and the changing technology and times. That helps you adapt too.
9. Practice Mindfulness
People over 100 tend to live in the moment as it comes, rather than worrying about plans, regrets, and getting caught up in pressure and worry.
They cherish special time with family and friends, the colors and smell of a new flower in spring, or the feel of the grass on their feet.
When life is enjoyed in the moment, it's just better...
...And people who live in the moment more tend to live longer, happier lives!
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I'm talking about a method that will allow you to sink into relaxation, and feel abundantly positive and happy within minutes...
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Actively practicing mindfulness is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
When we disconnect from the mental chatter (the past, future, worry, expectations and judgements), we are able to approach life with greater perspective - we tend to see the opportunities, instead of carrying around the weight of worry and mental baggage.
There's a wealth of research on the long term and short term health benefits of mindfulness, including boosting your immune system, Preventing cellular aging, and reducing the likelihood of age-related diseases. (UCLA)
If you'd like disconnect from the mental chatter but don't have time for long drawn out meditation, then try 7 Minute Mindfulness.
In just 7 minutes you can release the stress that builds up, wipe away the mental chatter, and relax your mind and body... so you can enjoy a long and prosperous life!
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