Dharana – Mindfulness/ Meditation
The art of thinking without thinking
The second pillar of the 3 pillars that the Mindful Warriors program is built on is Mindfulness.
There is extensive research available on this topic particularly amongst adults, there is reasonably strong evidence for the positive impact of mindfulness on a wide range of mental and physical health conditions, as well as social and emotional skills, well being and on learning and cognition.
American developmental biologist Bruce Lipton (https://www.brucelipton.com/) has done a lot of research on the benefits of Yoga and Meditation, and there is also good evidence from neuroscience and brain imaging that mindfulness reliably and profoundly alters the structure and function of the brain to improve the quality of both thought and feeling.
Research on the effects of mindfulness on young people is not as extensive as work with adults, but there is growing research in schools and in clinical settings with wide age ranges and participants, which suggest that mindfulness training is well worth doing.
“The weight of evidence from studies on the benefits of mindfulness with school aged children concludes that:
• Mindfulness for young people is easy to carry out, and fits into a wide range of context
• Well conducted mindfulness interventions can improve the mental, emotional, social and physical health and well being of young people who take part. It has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, reactivity and bad behavior, improve sleep and self esteem, as well as bring about greater calmness, relaxation, and the ability to manage behavior and emotions, self awareness and empathy
• Mindfulness can contribute directly to the development of cognitive and performance skills and executive function. It can help young people pay greater attention, be more focused, think in more innovative ways, use existing knowledge more effectively, improve working memory and enhance planning, problem solving and reasoning skills.
Mindfulness is therefore likely to have beneficial effects on the emotional well being, mental health ability to learn and the physical health of students. The great thing is that such interventions are relatively cheap to introduce, and impact fairly quickly, they can fit into a wide range of contexts and are enjoyable for pupils and staff” as published in the paper by Mood and Disorders center in association with University of Exeter and Southampton (https://mindfulnessinschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/MiSP-Research-Summary-2012.pdf).
At Mindful Warriors we recognise that it can be challenging to move from busy school/ work environments straight into a deep Mindfulness practice. We believe in a gentle, more organic approach to Mindfulness that is easy to incorporate into everyday life. Mindfulness/ Meditation is a sister practice to Asana’s (postures/ movement), and the two complement each other perfectly, we start our classes with Asana’s that first relax the body of any tension, focus the mind and make students more still and present, making them naturally more receptive for the Mindfulness practice at the end of the class.
Firstly during the Mindfulness sessions as our attention and senses is directed inwards, we become more aware of our “inner self”. It can be very useful particularly for young people to be more aware
of their inner world. How do I feel today? Am I well? What's on my mind?, Often in life we don't stop to check in with ourselves and it takes for something to go wrong for us to realise that we are not doing well. So this brings our wellness at the fore front of our attention, and maybe if something doesn't feel at ease, we can just notice it and address at earlier stages. It will also give young people self awareness to be able to experience and express how they feel better.
Secondly, as we practice Mindfulness, we become more aware of our thoughts. The mind is supposed to be used as a tool to solve problems and make important decisions. But as a consequence of busy life styles and information overload of the digital age, we are thinking non- stop, were thinking even as we sleep, with dreams just being higher forms of thought. This excessive thinking uses up a lot of vital energy and can lead us to feeling mentally fatigued and confused. Through Mindfulness we learn to notice our thoughts and self introspect, are our thoughts conscious, useful and aligned with what's important to us or are they quite random, repetitive and unconscious, are we able to make a connection of how our thoughts make us feel?. In Mindfulness we are not encouraged to judge our thoughts but just be aware of our thinking patterns, as we begin to become more aware of our thoughts this can give us a better perspective and help us to choose and manage our thoughts better.
When our mind is still, this is our precious time, this is when our mind and body can truly relax and use that time to recharge its batteries. Most our thoughts sway from our past to future like a pendulum and it can be overwhelming. Mindfulness helps us to “arrive” at the present moment, it can be truly restorative to re-connect and “just be” in the moment without the pressure of being anywhere or doing anything.
If Mindfulness is taught from a young age when we are most receptive, it can help us to feel better and enjoy life a bit more, whilst forming strong foundations for being able to manage better stressful situations in future.
We become more in tune with ourselves, are better able to control our thoughts and access that space of stillness within, even in the most challenging situations in our lives, we are naturally more present and as a result everything that we do is more effective.
There is an inner joy and pleasantness associated with being able to relax, not just physically but also mentally.
When our mind is more still and focused it can help us to access creative intelligence within that is beyond our limiting thoughts, which can be associated with releasing our full potential.
Dalai Lama has said:
“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within generation” (https://www.dalailama.com)
As if more motivation is needed to practice Meditation after that statement.
We are truly inspired to share simple Mindfulness techniques in all our School programs.