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No Time Off

The approach of mahayana, or the great path of the bodhisattva, is one of not taking time off or looking for relief. You are not looking for a way to take a break, or to comfort yourself by running away from the challenge. You just stay put; you are on the spot. You stay with the pain or the discomfort, and you continue to carry on with exertion and the vision and joyousness of wakefulness.

From The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma. Volume Two: The Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion by Chögyam Trungpa, page 9

THE MANUAL WORLD SAVES SANITY

“In Tibet, before the automation of machines, everything was manual. If you had to put up a tent, it took a lot of time to do that. If you wanted to move camp, that involved a journey. Everything was very manual, all the time. If you were tired or sick, you couldn’t reach anybody by calling them up on the telephone, saying, “Save me!” You couldn’t take a taxi. Unavailability of that kind is very, very powerful. Everything had to be done manually. The manual world saves sanity.”

“Tent Culture” in The Mishap Lineage: Transforming Confusion into Wisdom by Chögyam Trungpa, page 35

With a rapidly aging society it becomes increasingly important to counter normal age-related decline in cognitive functioning. Growing evidence suggests that cognitive training programs may have the potential to counteract this decline. On the basis of a growing body of research that shows that meditation has positive effects on cognition in younger and middle-aged adults, meditation may be able to offset normal age-related cognitive decline or even enhance cognitive function in older adults. In this paper, we review studies investigating the effects of meditation on age-related cognitive decline. We searched the Web of Science (1900 to present), PsycINFO (1597 to present), MEDLINE (1950 to present), and CABI (1910 to present) to identify original studies investigating the effects of meditation on cognition and cognitive decline in the context of aging. Twelve studies were included in the review, six of which were randomized controlled trials. Studies involved a wide variety of meditation techniques and reported preliminary positive effects on attention, memory, executive function, processing speed, and general cognition. However, most studies had a high risk of bias and small sample sizes. Reported dropout rates were low and compliance rates high. We conclude that meditation interventions for older adults are feasible, and preliminary evidence suggests that meditation can offset age-related cognitive decline.

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2014 Jan;1307(1):89-103. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12348.
Gard T1, Hölzel BK, Lazar SW.

Individuals can improve their levels of psychological well-being (PWB) through utilization of psychological interventions, including the practice of mindfulness meditation, which is defined as the non-judgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment. We recently reported that an 8-week-mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course lead to increases in gray matter concentration in several brain areas, as detected with voxel-based morphometry of magnetization prepared rapid acquisition gradient echo MRI scans, including the pons/raphe/locus coeruleus area of the brainstem. Given the role of the pons and raphe in mood and arousal, we hypothesized that changes in this region might underlie changes in well-being. A subset of 14 healthy individuals from a previously published data set completed anatomical MRI and filled out the PWB scale before and after MBSR participation. PWB change was used as the predictive regressor for changes in gray matter density within those brain regions that had previously shown pre- to post-MBSR changes. Results showed that scores on five PWB subscales as well as the PWB total score increased significantly over the MBSR course. The change was positively correlated with gray matter concentration increases in two symmetrically bilateral clusters in the brainstem. Those clusters appeared to contain the area of the pontine tegmentum, locus coeruleus, nucleus raphe pontis, and the sensory trigeminal nucleus. No clusters were negatively correlated with the change in PWB. This preliminary study suggests a neural correlate of enhanced PWB. The identified brain areas include the sites of synthesis and release of the neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and serotonin, which are involved in the modulation of arousal and mood, and have been related to a variety of affective functions as well as associated clinical dysfunctions.

Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Feb 18;8:33. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00033. eCollection 2014.
Singleton O1, Hölzel BK2, Vangel M1, Brach N3, Carmody J4, Lazar SW1.

Meditation is gaining popularity as an effective means of managing and attenuating pain and has been particularly effective for migraines. Meditation additionally addresses the negative emotional states known to exist with migraines. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of meditation as an immediate intervention for reducing migraine pain as well as alleviating emotional tension, examined herein as a negative affect hypothesized to be correlated with pain. Twenty-seven migraineurs, with two to ten migraines per month, reported migraine-related pain and emotional tension ratings on a Likert scale (ranging from 0 to 10) before and after exposure to a brief meditation-based treatment. All participants were meditation- naïve, and attended one 20-minute guided meditation session based on the Buddhist “loving kindness” approach. After the session, participants reported a 33% decrease in pain and a 43% decrease in emotional tension. The data suggest that a single exposure to a brief meditative technique can significantly reduce pain and tension, as well as offer several clinical implications. It can be concluded that single exposure to a meditative technique can significantly reduce pain and tension. The effectiveness and immediacy of this intervention offers several implications for nurses.

Pain Manag Nurs. 2014 Mar;15(1):36-40. doi: 10.1016/j.pmn.2012.04.002. Epub 2012 Jun 20.
Tonelli ME1, Wachholtz AB2.
Copyright © 2014 American Society for Pain Management Nursing. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

A SIMPLE WORLD

“The world is a very simple world, an extremely simple world which is made out of concrete, plastic, wood, stones, greenery, pollution, and thin air. Actually every one of us is sitting or standing on that world. Shall we say this is the real world or should we pretend that the world is something else? You and I are both here. This is our world, here, right now.”

from Journey without Goal: The Tantric Wisdom of the Buddha by Chögyam Trungpa, page 103

Something to keep in mind before we become too swallowed up in all our devices and our time becomes consumed by vicarious pixelation!

This slogan is an expression of compassion and openness. It means that whatever you experience in your life—pain, pleasure, happiness, sadness, grossness, refinement, sophistication, crudeness, heat, cold, or whatever—is purely memory. The actual discipline or practice of the bodhisattva tradition is to regard whatever occurs as a phantom. Nothing ever happens. But because nothing happens, everything happens. That “nothing happening” is the experience of openness, and that percolation is the experience of compassion.

from “Ultimate Bodhichitta Slogans” in Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness by Chögyam Trungpa, page 17

“Our task is not purely trying to save ourselves alone—whether you are ninety-nine years old or whether you are ten years old doesn’t make any difference. Our task is to see our situation along with that of our fellow human beings. As we work on ourselves, then we continuously work with others as well. That is the only way of developing ourselves. ”

“Bardo” in Transcending Madness: The Experience of the Six Bardos by Chögyam Trungpa, page 8

A new study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation.

The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice,” says study author Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” says Perla Kaliman, first author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain (IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS), where the molecular analyses were conducted.

The study was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Mindfulness-based trainings have shown beneficial effects on inflammatory disorders in prior clinical studies and are endorsed by the American Heart Association as a preventative intervention. The new results provide a possible biological mechanism for therapeutic effects.

The results show a down-regulation of genes that have been implicated in inflammation. The affected genes include the pro-inflammatory genes RIPK2 and COX2 as well as several histone deacetylase (HDAC) genes, which regulate the activity of other genes epigenetically by removing a type of chemical tag. What’s more, the extent to which some of those genes were downregulated was associated with faster cortisol recovery to a social stress test involving an impromptu speech and tasks requiring mental calculations performed in front of an audience and video camera.

Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers say, there was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups of people at the start of the study. The observed effects were seen only in the meditators following mindfulness practice. In addition, several other DNA-modifying genes showed no differences between groups, suggesting that the mindfulness practice specifically affected certain regulatory pathways.

However, it is important to note that the study was not designed to distinguish any effects of long-term meditation training from those of a single day of practice. Instead, the key result is that meditators experienced genetic changes following mindfulness practice that were not seen in the non-meditating group after other quiet activities — an outcome providing proof of principle that mindfulness practice can lead to epigenetic alterations of the genome.

Previous studies in rodents and in people have shown dynamic epigenetic responses to physical stimuli such as stress, diet, or exercise within just a few hours.

“Our genes are quite dynamic in their expression and these results suggest that the calmness of our mind can actually have a potential influence on their expression,” Davidson says.

“The regulation of HDACs and inflammatory pathways may represent some of the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic potential of mindfulness-based interventions,” Kaliman says. “Our findings set the foundation for future studies to further assess meditation strategies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions.”

Study funding came from National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (grant number P01-AT004952) and grants from the Fetzer Institute, the John Templeton Foundation, and an anonymous donor to Davidson. The study was conducted at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the UW-Madison Waisman Center.

Sadness hits you in your heart, and your body produces a tear. Before you cry, there is a feeling in your chest and then, after that, you produce tears in your eyes. You are about to produce rain or a waterfall in your eyes, and you feel sad and lonely, and perhaps romantic at the same time. That is the first tip of fearlessness…In the Shambhala tradition, discovering fearlessness comes from working with the softness of the human heart.

from “Fear and Fearlessness” in Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chögyam Trungpa, page 49

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