Time-travel, Mindfulness and Practice

The thinking mind is a funny thing – agile, adaptive and inquisitive by nature – genius at solving problems, planning and moving us toward goals and aspirations. This same mind, on a moment’s notice, can take us back in time to cherish a memory, ruminate on past difficulties and then to leap ahead again in worry and anxious anticipation.

We humans truly are time travelers – and if you pause to consider your own experience, it may not surprise you to learn that recent research confirms the mind’s tendency to roam. It turns out that the human mind is a wandering mind.   If what’s happening right now isn’t compelling, the mind will predictably meander into the past, fly to the future or sink into commentary about what has been, what is and whatever might come.  The results of one very large study (see below) showed that across gender, age, income and culture, human minds tend to wander away from the present moment nearly 50% of the time.  

The same research suggests what we may already suspect: That a “wandering mind is an unhappy mind” and greater wellbeing is associated with spending more time right here, in the present moment.  Exercising the mental capacity for presence turns out to correlate closely to increased happiness overall.

Living more in the present is a skill we can develop – and mindful movement, yoga and meditation are some of the most effective ways to cultivate that skill – moment by moment. Practicing presence through the doorways of sensation, breath, movement and stillness, we develop neural pathways in the brain that allow us to choose living more fully into the “here and now” instead of in the “there and then”.

Here’s a link to a TED talk and an article in Scientific American describing this ingenious study on the wandering mind…

Stay tuned for more on the relationship between mindfulness and movement and how nurturing that connection supports greater resilience and wellbeing.

 

 

© 2017 -2018 Centerpoint Network LLC

Balancing

 Balanc-i-n-g…

What an amazing thing we accomplish every day just by rolling out of bed, pushing off and swinging up to vertical on the soles of our feet.  From that moment, to the time we sink back between the covers, we are dancing with gravity and mostly don’t even know it. In fact, unlike the other senses, balance is something we don’t really want to be aware of for the most part. If it’s off the radar, it’s probably working just fine.

We encounter balance every time we take a step or climb a stair.  Practice brings balance into focus through walking meditation or mindful yoga as we cultivate a relationship with our own center of gravity moving through space. Playing with balance can be a great teacher, a mirror, and a metaphor.

The more I practice, the more curious I become about just what balance is - on and off the mat. Each time you visit tree pose or find yourself on tippy toe reaching for the top shelf you'll notice that balance is not static, in fact it's a dance of constant motion

Balance, it turns out, has a lot of moving parts

The information the brain needs to orient you in space comes from at least five separate systems.

The vestibular apparatus in the inner ear contains little floating particles of calcite that allow the brain to sense where the head is in relation to gravity when nearby receptors are stimulated.

The semi-circular canals, also part of the inner ear, signal acceleration and deceleration as the body moves.

The visual system provides orientation by sensing eye movements and tracking objects in space.

The muscular system assists in maintaining balance by controlling posture and also through receptors in muscles and tendons that communicate with the spinal cord and brain about the way they are stretching and contracting. This feedback is vital, because maintaining balance on two feet requires constant, minute adjustments.

Ever wondered how you can tell exactly the position of an arm or leg even with your eyes closed?

The skeletal system has receptors in the joints that provide feedback about the position of the limbs. In addition, the skin also has receptors that register the amount of stretch over a joint, giving additional information about location in space.

Finally, the soles of the feet have pressure receptors that register pitch and sway; whether you are tipping back, forward or to the sides.

It is a seamless orchestration, interrelated and humming along outside of awareness; but not to be taken for granted.

Balance naturally deteriorates to some degree with aging but the good news is there is a lot we can do to prevent those effects, and it doesn’t take heroic efforts or hours at the gym. 

Begin by being aware - Notice and appreciate the way you navigate through the literal ups and downs of your day; sitting, walking, standing still - the many ways you experience being on and off balance, moment to moment.  Introduce moments of simple balance building throughout your day.

Finally, keep in mind that balance is not a fixed state of equilibrium, frozen and unchanging. Balance is fluid, always in flux, a process of adjustment and accommodation to changing circumstance.

Playing with balance can free up some space to explore - to breathe into an edge gradually, expand your current comfort zone, welcome the sensation of coming back to center, again and again...and again

 

© 2012 and 2017 Centerpoint Network LLC