Mindfulness Area Research: Effects of Mindfulness with Adolescents

Mindfulness Area Research: Effects of Mindfulness with Adolescents


Adolescence is a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. Indeed, up to a quarter of adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and an even larger proportion struggle with subclinical symptoms. Mindfulness training in adolescents it has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to benefit the psychological and emotional health.


Summaries of recent studies of the application of mindfulness training for the treatment of addictions can be found at the Adolescents link http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/adolesence/ on the Contemplative Studies blog http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/ .


Links to the Research


Restrain Body Fatness Growth During Adolescence with Yoga



Mindfulness is Associated with Lower Anxiety and Depression in Adolescents Partly by Higher Emotional Intelligence



Mindfulness is Associated with Higher Emotional Intelligence



Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Adolescents with Yoga



Improve Adolescent’s Self-Compassion and Reduce Emotional Eating with Mindful Parenting



Improve Emotional Responding in Adolescents with School-Based Mindfulness Training




Improve Psychological Health of Youthful Criminal Offenders with Mindfulness



Improve Emotion Regulation and Gait in Obese Adolescents with Yoga



Improve Depression in Overweight Adolescent Girls with Mindfulness



Reduce Self-Harming in Adolescents with Mindfulness



Improve PTSD and Academic Burnout in Adolescents with Mindfulness and Parental Attachment



Decrease Adolescent Emotional Problems with Mindful Parenting



Improve Health Behaviors in Adolescents with Mindfulness



Reduce Psychological Symptoms of Trauma with Mindfulness



Improve Pain Responding in Adolescents with Mindfulness



Improve Children’s Absorption of Micronutrients with Yoga



Mindfulness is Associated with Reduced Inflexibility and Psychopathology in Adolescents



Improve Emotions of Ethnically Diverse At-Risk Students with Mindfulness



Improve Adolescent Mental Health and School Performance with Yoga



Improve Anxiety in Adolescents with Mindfulness



Improve Sleep Problems in Adolescents with Mindfulness



Decrease Alcohol Intake and Related Consequences in Teens with Mindfulness



Improve Adolescents Psychological Health Self-Compassion and Mindfulness



Reduce Adolescent Risk Taking with Mindful Parenting



Reduce Youth Dissociative Disorders with Mindfulness



Help Headaches in Adolescents with Mindfulness



Mindfulness is Associated with Less On-Line Reduce Dating Violence



Produce Better Diabetes Management in Adolescents with Mindful Parenting




Mindful Independence Day

Mindful Independence Day


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“If today is a celebration of freedom, I think we as a nation, as a people, have squandered an opportunity. We have sought outer freedoms and ignored inner freedoms. We have pursued these freedoms with scandal, exploitation, and domination. Today, instead, I urge you to consider inner freedom.” – Arnie Kozak


Virtually every country in the world sets aside one day each year to celebrate its independence. In the U.S. that day is July 4th. On this day the country’s citizens celebrate their freedom and independence and the fight that achieved it. It’s a pleasant holiday filled with patriotism, flags, parades, picnics, and fireworks displays. Although the founding of the great American democracy is something to celebrate, a mindful look at it produces a recognition that there are significant limitations on independence and freedom. We are nowhere near as free and independent as we think we are.


Independence from what? It’s certainly not from the imposition of government on the individual. July 4th only celebrates the changeover from government by the British monarchy to government by a more local political system. It’s certainly not independence from the imposition of laws and restrictions on the individual’s freedom. Perhaps there was a change of a few laws and regulations, but actually only a small number. It’s certainly not even the production of self-determination. In fact, the U.S. democracy was crafted and established by a few elite individuals and not by each individual in the country. In addition, democracy is rule by the majority, with the will of a significant number of people ignored. What we appear to be celebrating is the replacement of one system of control with another, perhaps better, system of control, but nevertheless a system of control; hardly independence.


Mindful reflection quickly produces an understanding that we’re never really independent. It’s certainly not even complete independence from another country. To this day the U.S. and the U.K. are very much dependent upon one another for trade of goods, ideas, culture, and mutual security. They’re locked together by treaties, cultural similarities, and close economic ties. The current political system that we’re celebrating is itself a recognition of how dependent upon one another we are. The system functions to set down the rules by which our relationships with one another are conducted. It’s there to insure orderly cooperation supposedly for the benefit of all participants.


Mindful reflection reveals that we’re not only dependent upon each other but we’re also dependent upon our environment, animate and inanimate. We’re dependent upon the air we breathe that is in turn dependent upon all other living organisms. We’re dependent upon the water we drink that is in turn dependent on global weather systems and solar evaporative power. We’re dependent upon the food we drink that is in turn dependent upon air, water, soil, and sun, and the farmers who grow it. In fact, we are so dependent upon everything and everybody that it may be more appropriate to be celebrating Dependence Day.


Well maybe then on July 4th we’re celebrating freedom and liberty. But, is any individual truly free. As the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said “Man is born free: and everywhere else he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they.” Regardless of the political independence each individual’s behavior is highly regulated by law and regulation. Our freedoms are actually very limited. They are bounded not only by law but also the practicalities of earning a living, maintaining a residence, having a family, and limitations on resources. Our freedom is also highly constrained by the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. After all, we can’t fly, become taller, change our eye color, stay underwater for protracted periods, stay awake continuously, or withstand cold or heat outside of a fairly small range, and we’re not faster than a speeding bullet. How much freedom do we actually have in any particular day?


Independence Day, though, does celebrate acquiring many soft freedoms. The freedoms to think and express our opinions and ideas, to worship as we please, to vote for whoever we like, to associate with whomever we choose, to live wherever we like, etc. Although there are bounds to many of these freedoms by the requirements of public safety, economics, cultural norms, and the practicalities of existence, these are very important and significant freedoms. Perhaps that is what we’re really celebrating, these soft freedoms that were provided by our Constitution as a result of the War for Independence.


Regardless, Independence Day should be celebrated mindfully. It is often spent with family and friends and the pleasure of these interactions can be amplified by doing it mindfully; by being truly present for them and deeply listening to them rather than thinking about our next response. By being mindful we can see them with compassion and understanding. Being in, and focusing on, the present moment we can enjoy these interactions, we can enjoy the picnics and parades, we can enjoy the fireworks, rather than thinking about where we would rather be or where we’re going next. We can find happiness precisely where we are.


But are we truly free. A bit of mindful reflection reveals that we find existence very unsatisfactory. In fact, unsatisfactoriness is everywhere. We’re not satisfied with things as they are and want them to be different. We’re not satisfied with where we live and want to have a nicer home.  We’re not satisfied with our appearance and want to lose weight. We’re not satisfied with what people think of us and want to be universally liked. We’re not satisfied with how we’re treated by our spouses and want them to be more understanding. We’re not satisfied with our children and want them to be obedient, respectful, straight “A” students and star athletes. We’re not satisfied with our health and want to have fewer aches and pains. We’re not satisfied with our jobs and want to make more money, have more time off and be appreciated by our bosses and coworkers. Even on the very short-term, things are not satisfactory. We want the car ahead of us to be moving faster, we want time to pass quickly so that we can be done with work for the day, we want to stop ruminating about past indiscretions, we want to finish a meal quickly so we can get back to the TV, etc. In other words, we’re not free from our desires. In fact, we’re slaves to them. We’re not happy with the way things are. In fact, we seem to want everything to be different. So, we can’t be truly free as long as we’re slaves to our desires.


True freedom can only be produced when we are liberated from our incessant needs and wants. That is not to say that we shouldn’t have desires, but rather that we will not be controlled by them. True freedom comes from equanimity. It comes when we’re able to desire something, seek it out, but be OK whether we get it or not. It comes when we not only accept the way things are but enjoy each second for what it is, a precious moment in a limited lifetime. It comes when what other people do and say is seen as a reflection of them and not of us and comes when we look at them with compassion and understanding. In other words, we can want ourselves, things, people, and circumstances to be different but we accept them as they are and appreciate and enjoy life and each experience as a gift.


This sounds wonderful, but is it achievable? It sure doesn’t seem so as ourselves and the people we know haven’t achieved it. Is it possible to actually get to this state of complete freedom? It is, but it takes effort and discipline. There have been many instances throughout history and there are many exemplars present right now of people who have achieved complete equanimity. Jesus is a wonderful example. He worked hard and suffered to make his world a better place but in the end accepted what was. The Buddha, Christian mystics, Sufi masters, Zen masters, Gandhi, and a host of everyday people have all achieved true liberation. So, it is possible.


We do not, however, have to be aiming only at complete liberation. It is far better to work to simply improve on our current state and thereby become more and more liberated. We can do this by engaging in mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, contemplative prayer, etc. we can learn to focus more and more on the present moment. We can learn to appreciate what is. We can learn to enjoy every moment. Just by improving a little we can become happier and happier, more accepting, and more liberated from our desires. We can achieve greater equanimity and with it greater freedom. But, we get there slowly and incrementally, building toward our complete liberation. Now wouldn’t that be a reason to celebrate Independence Day.

“Happy 4th of July.  Celebrate your freedom mindfully- express love and gratitude for all situations, people, places and things you encounter today. This practice of loving what is, is a mindful behavior. When we celebrate our freedom as a country, we bring love to the abundance we are free to encounter today. Take each situation you encounter as an opportunity to express your love, gratitude  – any kindness will do – that is freedom!” –  Regina Huelsenbeck


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

Improve Glucodynamics in Coronary Artery Disease with Meditation

Improve Glucodynamics in Coronary Artery Disease with Meditation


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Meditation can be a useful part of cardiovascular risk reduction/ I do recommend it, along with diet and exercise. It can also help decrease the sense of stress and anxiety.” – Deepak Bhatt


Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) disease is the number one killer, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.” (Centers for Disease Control). Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is highly associated with Type 2 diabetes and those with Type 2 diabetes have a significantly higher risk of death from CAD. So, control of blood glucose and insulin levels are important in the treatment and prevention of CAD.


A myriad of treatments has been developed for heart disease including a variety of surgical procedures and medications. But the safest effective treatments are lifestyle changes. These include quitting smoking, weight reduction, improved diet, physical activity, and reducing stresses. Cardiac rehabilitation programs for patients recovering from a heart attack, emphasize these lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, 60% of cardiac patients decline participation, making these patients at high risk for another attack. Other safe and effective treatments for cardiovascular disease are contemplative practices, such as meditation, tai chi, and yoga, have also been shown to be helpful for heart health. These practices have also been shown to be helpful for producing the kinds of lifestyle changes needed to prevent heart disease such as smoking cessationweight reduction, and stress reduction.


In today’s Research News article “Effect of 6 months of meditation on blood sugar, glycosylated hemoglobin, and insulin levels in patients of coronary artery disease. Int J Yoga.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: http://www.ijoy.org.in/article.asp?issn=0973-6131;year=2018;volume=11;issue=2;spage=122;epage=128;aulast=Sinha ), Sinha and colleagues recruited patients with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and prescribed for them a program of medications and dietary restrictions. They were then randomly assigned to either receive an additional meditation practice or no further treatment. Meditation was focused on breathing, the body, distress, and self-compassion and was practiced twice a week for 6 months. They were measured before during and after treatment for hemoglobin, blood sugar, fasting glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), and fasting serum insulin.


They found that after treatment the meditation group but not the control group had significant decreases in fasting and after meal blood sugar and fasting glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), a marker of good control of blood glucose levels. It is good to remember that all of these patients, meditation, and control, received standard dietary and drug treatments. So, the beneficial effects of meditation were additional to the effects of the usual treatment. Hence, meditation improved markers of the development of type 2 diabetes in these patients with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). Unfortunately, there wasn’t a control in the study for expectancy, experimenter bias, or attentional effects, so the conclusions must be tempered with caution.


Mindfulness training has previously been shown to be helpful in the treatment of diabetes. The importance of the present findings is that meditation can also help prevent type 2 diabetes in a delicate and vulnerable population of patients with CAD. This suggests that meditation training may help to promote the health and well-being and potentially the longevity of CAD patients.


So, improve glucodynamics in coronary artery disease with meditation.


“meditation, which includes mindfulness approaches and Transcendental Meditation, can be considered in addition to existing standard treatment for heart problems, including lowering cholesterol, losing weight and stopping smoking.” – American Heart Association


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Sinha SS, Jain AK, Tyagi S, Gupta S K, Mahajan AS. Effect of 6 months of meditation on blood sugar, glycosylated hemoglobin, and insulin levels in patients of coronary artery disease. Int J Yoga 2018;11:122-8


Background and Objectives: Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. It has been recognized that stress, diabetes, and hypertension are important in etiology and progression of CAD. This study is to evaluate the role of meditation in improving biochemical parameters such as blood glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin, and serum insulin levels in known CAD patients. Material and Methods: Sixty CAD patients are divided into two groups of which one group did meditation and other did not. Blood glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin, and fasting serum insulin levels were measured before and at the end of 6 months of study in both the groups. Results: At the end of the study, significant decrease was seen in patients who practiced meditation as compared to other group. Conclusion: Meditation may modulate the physiological response to stress through neurohumoral activation, which may be a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of CAD.


The Power of Retreat 5 – Meditation and Spirituality

The Power of Retreat 5 – Meditation and Spirituality


“Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.” – Alan Watts


In a prior essay ‘The Power of Retreat 4 – the Container of Silence’ (https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/insights/?section=navPosts), the effects of the container in which retreat is conducted were explored. But, the point of retreat is not the container, it is what transpires within it. Meditation and contemplation are the primary practices of the retreat. The amount varies with different types of retreats. The one we just returned from the amount of meditation varied between 3 to 4+ hours per day occurring in 6 to 8 periods beginning at 7:30 in the morning through 9:30 in the evening. The retreat not only allows for deep meditative experiences that build over the course of the retreat, but it also allows for time for contemplation. Just sitting or walking while reflecting on our environment, immediate experience, or the insights occurring in meditation is as important as the meditation itself.


The specific type of meditation practiced can vary with different retreats (see links below for explanations of meditation techniques). But, all practices emphasize quieting the mind, reducing the internal conversation and chatter, in order to better see and understand the operation of the mind. The amount of meditation is important as it is a ‘practice’ and over time the mind gets quieter. When the mind quiets all sorts of things can emerge, some expected, some a complete surprise, some sublime, but some very uncomfortable and upsetting. Be forewarned, meditation can produce wrenching experiences. We’ve seen many people spontaneously break out in tears at any moment. Most deal with it effectively, confronting and experiencing troubling experiences and the attached strong emotions. This is actually a very good thing as it can help to heal inner wounds that may have festered for decades. But, some participants are overwhelmed and need assistance or need to leave the retreat. Don’t be put off, these are important experiences and may constitute breakthrough moments, leading to self-transformation.


The intent of meditation is not to elicit thinking or emotions, even though thinking and emotions occur frequently during meditation. The intent is to allow inner silence to prevail. At the retreat we attended we all wore tags stating “I am observing silence.” This can be viewed very practically as a message to everyone around who may not be participating in the retreat, that we’re not open to conversation, or even everyday niceties. But, it’s true meaning is deeper. It suggests that we are observing silence itself, the silence within that is ever present and the foundation upon which all experiences emerge. It is a wonderful experience to be deeply immersed in the silence.


A powerful component of retreat is the commitment and intention that the participants bring. Most people coming to a retreat are very committed. The investment of money and especially a week’s time is a concrete expression of that commitment. The week taken away from work and everyday activities is dear to many. It could have been used to take a cruise, tour a foreign country, go to a beach or theme park, visit friends and family, etc. So, the choice to go on retreat instead is meaningful. This commitment provides the motivation for the individual to focus on the work of the retreat and particularly on their intention. Most come with an intention to work on self-understanding, which may paradoxically include a loss of self! In addition, the fact that there is a group of committed individuals with a shared intention present energizes the retreat.


For many the intention is for spiritual development. Some come to retreat with a specific intention to experience spiritual awakening or to experience a union with God. But, even those who come for personal development reasons often migrate toward spiritual development. This is a natural outgrowth of meditation. It is impossible to look deeply inside, particularly at the silence and emptiness and not be spiritually affected, to not glimpse the deeper aspects of existence. In fact, it is common in retreat for people to have awakening experiences. These frequently occur not in the meditation itself but during the contemplative time. That’s frequently where the fruits of meditation ripen. Additionally, the supportive environment of retreat can promote awakenings as the individual knows that these unusual experiences will be accepted and understood, whereas in everyday life they are not.


Silent meditation retreat is an opportunity to move away from our everyday lives. Some may see this as an opportunity to escape them but the power of retreat is not to escape our lives but to provide perspective on them. Yes, work, chores etc. must be done. But, by putting perspective on their true importance we become less stressed and anxious about them and don’t ruminate about unfinished tasks. Rather, we can begin to live our life with balance, making sure that we take care of what constitutes the to do list of our happiness and growth. It has been pointed out that absolutely no one, on their death bed, wishes that they had spent more time at work. Retreat can provide this same kind of perspective. We come away from retreat with a clear realization that we must give higher priorities and more time to our emotional and spiritual lives. We must invest the precious time of our lives in rest and contemplation. We must devote ourselves more to others and especially, to caring for ourselves. We can see how important our relationships, family and friends are to our inner reality. Retreat can provide this perspective for us and is part of its life-altering power.


We highly recommend retreat, especially silent retreat, for those who wish for personal or spiritual development. But, be prepared. It is often not the pleasant relaxing time off that many envision. It can be emotional and spiritual dynamite that needs to be approached with caution.


As gold purified in a furnace loses its impurities and achieves its own true nature, the mind gets rid of the impurities of the attributes of delusion, attachment and purity through meditation and attains Reality. – Adi Shankara”


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


The Noble Eightfold Path: Right View

The Noble Eightfold Path: Right View


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Our happiness and the happiness of those around us depend on our degree of Right View. Touching reality deeply — knowing what is going on inside and outside of ourselves — is the way to liberate ourselves from the suffering that is caused by wrong perceptions. Right View is not an ideology, a system, or even a path. It is the insight we have into the reality of life, a living insight that fills us with understanding, peace, and love.” – Thich Nhat Hanh


The Buddha described the path to follow to obtain enlightenment, which he called the noble eightfold path. “The stages of the Noble Path are: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Actions, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.” – Buddha. The first mentioned was “Right View” and is usually presented first but in fact any of the eight components could come first. They are highly interconnected and the practice of the other seven components of the path will help lead to “Right View.”


“Right View” is what the Buddha considered to be the correct way to look at existence. It is seeing things as they are. “Right View” is the wisdom to look at existence from the perspective of the Four Noble Truths. It involves understanding that suffering (or I prefer unsatisfactoriness) is a universal characteristic of human existence. If we live, we will suffer. “Right View” involves seeing that that there are causes to suffering. These causes are our thoughts, ideas, labels, and perceptions which are incorrect and delusional. “Right View” involves understanding that there is a way to transcend suffering. This is the removal of these delusions and thereby seeing things just as they are. And “Right View” involves knowing that the eightfold path is the way to move beyond suffering.


“Right View” involves both conceptual and experiential understanding; an intellectual appreciation for the Four Noble Truths and experiencing their truth. One of the keys is the discernment of those things and actions that lead to wholesome results and those that lead to unwholesome outcomes. There are no absolutes here. What is wholesome is very pragmatically determined. If the thought or action leads to greater happiness, wisdom, and well-being for ourselves and others it is wholesome. Conversely, if it interferes with happiness, wisdom, and well-being it is unwholesome. The action itself is not what matters, but its effects. The Buddha would occasionally get angry. But that action was very targeted. He expressed anger when it was needed to promote wisdom and understanding.


To be able to discern wholesome actions experience is necessary. It is difficult to know the effects of a thought or action without having tested it out and experienced the result. There are some forms of actions which are likely to be unwholesome. The Buddha identified some of these including destroying life, taking what is not given, wrong conduct in regard to sense pleasures, false, harsh, slanderous, or idle speech, covetousness, and ill will. But most thoughts and actions are not quite so easy to identify their wholesomeness without experience. That is why the experiential aspect of “Right View” is so important. We must see our actions in action and learn what works and what doesn’t and then put our knowledge to work creating wholesome outcomes.


“Right View” also include seeing how all things are interconnected and how our actions can have far ranging effects. If we lose our temper with a subordinate at work that can cause ripples that affect ourselves and our subordinate affecting how we interact with others including our families, how effectively we work, how safely we drive home after work, etc. These actions themselves have effects that continue the ripple into the future. “Right View” also involves seeing the roots of our actions, what were the events that led to the lost temper, how did our upbringing contribute to our having a temper, how did how we were treated at work affect our behavior, etc. The Buddha termed this Dependent Co-arising. So, the “Right View” is to understand how everything is interconnected, how past actions shaped the present and how our present actions shape the future.


Probably, most importantly, “Right View” is to see things as they really are. Seeing our experience as it truly is without ideas, memories, labels, judgments, expectations, beliefs or any thoughts whatsoever, just as it is right now. “Right View” is a clear present moment awareness unclouded by our minds. As we walk down the street the tree in front of us is a one of a kind living thing with great beauty and mystery. It is not like every other thing we call a tree, it is not an eyesore in the neighborhood, an indicator of our neighbor’s lax care for his yard, a reminder of trees we climbed as a child, a hazardous source of falling limbs, or even a tree. It’s unique, to be viewed as it is. That is the “Right View”


Needless to say, actually accomplishing “Right View” is daunting. This is not an easy path. But, with more and more practice we become better and better at having “Right View” more and more often. What we then can experience is how “Right View” can be such a source of happiness and wisdom and how it leads us to deeper understandings. So, “Right View” itself has roots and consequences and is part of Dependent Co-arising. It is an action that produces effects, wholesome effects, that reinforce and expand “Right View.” In this way, “Right View” begets “Right View” leading us down the path toward eventual true awakening.


So, practice “Right View” and move forward on the Eightfold Path.


“And what, monks, is Right View? It is, monks, the knowledge of suffering, the knowledge of the origin of suffering, the knowledge of the cessation of suffering, and the knowledge of the way of practice leading to the cessation of suffering. This is called Right View.” – Digha Nikaya

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

It’s the Suffering, Stupid

It’s the Suffering, Stupid


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


” If you want to understand suffering you must look into the situation at hand. The teachings say that wherever a problem arises it must be settled right there. Where suffering lies is right where non-suffering will arise, it ceases at the place where it arises. If suffering arises you must contemplate right there, you don’t have to run away. You should settle the issue right there. One who runs away from suffering out of fear is the most foolish person of all. He will simply increase his stupidity endlessly. We don’t meditate to see heaven, but to end suffering.” – Ajahn Chah


When I was first introduced to the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths I was underwhelmed, to say the least. They said first that there’s suffering. Yeah, I thought, that’s obvious, there’s lots of suffering in this world. So, what’s new. Then they said that there are causes for suffering. Again, I thought, of course, there are causes for everything. So, when do we get to the good stuff. Then they said that there’s a way to end suffering. That’s clear and obvious, I thought. Of course, if you know what causes it then there’s always ways to end it. Let’s get to the meat. Lastly, they said that there was a path to the end of suffering. Yeah, yeah, of course, let’s move on and get to how do we attain enlightenment. How do we get to nirvana and eternal bliss?


I don’t believe that my response was unusual as my unscientific discussions with peers has revealed similar responses. I believe that part of the reason that we missed the importance of what was being taught was the word suffering itself. It’s a translation from the Pali word “dukkha” that was the language that was likely used by the Buddha. But, it can equally well be translated as “imperfect”, “unsatisfying”, or “incapable of providing perfect happiness.” I happen to favor unsatisfactory. Using this translation, I began to see what was being taught here. Suffering implied to me an extreme and painful experience, agony, which I saw as relatively rare. But, unsatisfactoriness, now that’s a different story. Most things in life are to one degree or another unsatisfactory. So, the teaching now seems to apply to a much wider range of experiences. This was the beginning of the revelation as to just how seminal this teaching is. It’s when I realized that “It’s the suffering, stupid.”


I should have noted the clear and precise teaching of the Buddha. When asked about how to attain enlightenment the Buddha said “I teach one thing and one thing only: that is suffering and the end of suffering.” This should have been a clear message that the pursuit of enlightenment is actually the pursuit of the end of “dukkha”, the end of unsatisfactoriness. It should have been obvious that the key to enlightenment is unsatisfactoriness, its causes, and how to eliminate them. But somehow, I wanted to jump ahead and missed the most important teaching of all.


Looking carefully at existence from the perspective of unsatisfactoriness, it is clear that unsatisfactoriness is ubiquitous, it’s everywhere.


The alarm goes off in the morning and I think, I want to sleep longer, but I can’t. The day starts off with unsatisfactoriness. I notice a slight ache in my neck and want it to go away, and this is more unsatisfactoriness. Rising out of bed in the morning there’s a need to use the bathroom. My state is unsatisfactory. When picking out some clothes to wear I find the outfit I want to wear is out at the cleaners and I’ll have to wear something less satisfactory. I feel a bit shabby and old fashioned in the clothes. Being late, a breakfast bar is grabbed as I rush out the door, wishing I could sit down and have some scrambled eggs but have to eat an unsatisfactory breakfast. I go outside and feel the cold and wish the day to be warmer. The temperature is unsatisfactory. Driving to work I get caught at a red light and want it to be green, feeling frustrated and unsatisfactory. Traffic is moving slower than I want, so I find driving unsatisfactory. At work my co-worker looks at me with a scowl and I’m unsatisfied because I think that she doesn’t like me. etc., etc., etc. The entire day is filled from one end to the other with unsatisfactoriness.


The more I look at it the more I see that some of the unsatisfactoriness is due to external circumstances, the red light, the outside temperature, and the neck pain that I have little control over. But, I see that the more insidious type of unsatisfactoriness is of my own making. I make myself suffer by my interpretation of how I look in the clothes I’m wearing or how I think about events like my co-worker’s scowl. I assumed it was because she didn’t like me and I want to be liked. But, that was my interpretation. I brought that unsatisfactoriness onto myself. She may have just had a bad morning or been called on the carpet by the boss. I make so many assumptions and interpret a large number of events as suggestive of some personal failure or fault when they probably have nothing to do with me whatsoever.


Once we take this perspective it begins to dawn that life is replete with unsatisfactoriness. There is no end to it. Now I get what the Buddha was talking about. It’s the suffering, stupid. It’s the unsatisfactoriness. I am constantly dissatisfied with virtually everything. What a miserable way to live. Seeing the all pervasiveness of my suffering, it becomes evident that I’m rarely truly happy and even then when it’s over I feel unsatisfied. This reveals another way that unsatisfactoriness arises. One that is produced by the impermanence of all things. Everything is constantly changing and I find it unsatisfactory when good stuff goes away or when bad stuff begins. I want pleasurable experiences never to end and unpleasant ones never to begin. This is perfectly reasonable, but nevertheless a major source of the unsatisfactoriness that fills my day.


So, life is inherently unsatisfactory. How can one ever experience eternal bliss, if unsatisfactoriness is everywhere? I guess that’s what the Buddha was talking about. It has been said that the way to nirvana is through samsara or in plain language we must go through suffering to get to bliss. If this is true, then we must fully experience and understand our unsatisfactoriness in order to make progress on the spiritual path toward enlightenment. The first step is to carefully explore our experiences and see where and what we find unsatisfactory.


So, begin with the suffering, stupid.


“On top of the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness, and death, we encounter the pains of facing the unpleasant, separating from the pleasant, and not finding what we want. The basic problem lies with the type of mind and body that we have. Our mind-body complex serves as a basis for present sufferings in the form of aging, sickness, and death, and promotes future suffering through our usual responses to painful situations.” – Dalai Lama


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

Mindfulness Decreases the Impact of Abusive Supervision at Work

Mindfulness Decreases the Impact of Abusive Supervision at Work


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Mindfulness has stopped many workplace snafus from happening in the first place. Once the mind is calm, a resolution can be reached.”Diane Dye Hansen


Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. How we spend that time is immensely important for our psychological and physical health. Indeed, the work environment has even become an important part of our social lives, with friendships and leisure time activities often attached to the work environment. But, more than half of employees in the U.S. and nearly 2/3 worldwide are unhappy at work. This is partially due to work-related stress which is epidemic in the western workplace. Almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This stress can result in impaired health and can result in burnout; producing fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy.


To help overcome unhappiness, stress, and burnoutmindfulness practices have been implemented in the workplace. Indeed, mindfulness practices have been shown to markedly reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, it has become very trendy for business to incorporate meditation into the workday to help improve employee well-being, health, and productivity. For example, Google offers “Search Inside Yourself” classes to teach mindfulness at work. But, although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of meditation improving well-being and work performance, there is actually very little systematic research on mindfulness’ effectiveness at work. In addition, there is no information on the effectiveness of mindfulness to help overcome the effects of a hostile work environment.


In today’s Research News article “The Buffering Effect of Mindfulness on Abusive Supervision and Creative Performance: A Social Cognitive Framework.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01588/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_398354_69_Psycho_20170921_arts_A, Zheng and Liu recruited employees and managers from an electronics manufacturer. They had them complete measures of abusive supervision, mindfulness, self-efficacy. The supervisors also rated them for their levels of creative performance at work.


They found, as expected, that the higher the level of abusive supervision, the lower the level of self-efficacy and creativity and the higher the level of self-efficacy the greater the level of creativity. Further, they found that employees who were low in mindfulness were severely impacted by abusive supervision by showing significantly lower levels of creativity and self-efficacy when they were subjected to high levels of abusive supervision. On the other hand, when mindfulness was high abusive supervision had no significant effect on either creativity or self-efficacy. Hence, mindfulness appeared to buffer the employees from the negative impact of abusive supervision.


This is a correlational study, so causation cannot be conclusively concluded. But, the relationships are clear. Mindfulness is associated with an improved ability to function effectively regardless of the supervisory methods used. This may result from the ability of mindfulness to improve the individual’s physical and psychological responses to stress. In this way, mindful individuals do not react to the stress imposed by an abusive manager and thereby their performance is unaffected. It is also possible that the ability of mindfulness to increase the individual’s ability to respond to and regulate their emotions. As a result, they are able to cope with the negative emotions produced by abusive supervision and can be productive nonetheless.


So, decreases the impact of abusive supervision at work with mindfulness.


“Blunting the harm of a workplace stressor like abusive supervision may unwittingly promote acceptance of mistreatment, potentially interfering with adaptive responses, such as proactively addressing supervisor conflicts and behavior, filing a grievance, or changing jobs. So while mindfulness may leave individuals less affected by negative work events, an open question is whether it coincides with passivity, allowing unhealthy patterns to continue unchecked.” – Darren Good


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Zheng X and Liu X (2017) The Buffering Effect of Mindfulness on Abusive Supervision and Creative Performance: A Social Cognitive Framework. Front. Psychol. 8:1588. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01588


Our research draws upon social cognitive theory and incorporates a regulatory approach to investigate whyand when abusive supervision influences employee creative performance. The analyses of data from multiple time points and multiple sources reveal that abusive supervision hampers employee self-efficacy at work, which in turn impairs employee creative performance. Further, employee mindfulness buffers the negative effects of abusive supervision on employee self-efficacy at work as well as the indirect effects of abusive supervision on employee creative performance. Our findings have implications for both theory and practice. Limitations and directions for future research are also discussed.


Reduce Obesity with Yoga

Reduce Obesity with Yoga

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

“You get to thinking that yoga and its health benefits, such as stress reduction and improved fitness, are best for thin people, and not so much for the 36 percent of U.S. adults who are obese. Not true. Yoga is for all types of shapes and sizes if you just know how to start.” – Laura McMullen

Obesity is a serious health problem. In the U.S. the incidence of obesity has more than doubled over the last 35 years to currently around 35% of the population. Obesity has been found to shorten life expectancy by eight years and extreme obesity by 14 years. This occurs because obesity is associated with cardiovascular problems such as coronary heart disease and hypertension, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and others.

Obviously, there is a need for effective treatments to prevent or treat obesity. But, despite copious research and a myriad of dietary and exercise programs, there still is no safe and effective treatment. Mindfulness is known to be associated with lower risk for obesity, alter eating behavior and improve health in obesity. This suggests that mindfulness training may be an effective treatment for overeating and obesity alone or in combination with other therapies. Yoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of physical and psychological benefits. These include significant loss in weight and body mass index (BMI), resting metabolism, and body fat in obese women with Type 2 diabetes and improve health in the obese. Hence, it would seem reasonable to investigate the benefits of yoga therapy on the weight and body composition of the obese.

In today’s Research News article “Sleep quality and body composition variations in obese male adults after 14 weeks of yoga intervention: A randomized controlled trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: http://www.ijoy.org.in/article.asp?issn=0973-6131;year=2017;volume=10;issue=3;spage=128;epage=137;aulast=Rshikesan, Rshikesan and colleagues recruited obese adult male participants and randomly assigned them to receive either no treatment or integrated yoga therapy for 1½ h for 5 days in a week, for 14 weeks. Yoga therapy includes relaxation, postures, breathing practice, and meditation. They were measured before and after treatment for body composition and sleep quality.

They found that the yoga therapy group had statistically significant reductions in obesity, including body weight, body mass index, and mineral content and increases in sleep quality and efficiency. In addition, there were no adverse events produced by the yoga practice. Hence, they found integrated yoga therapy to be a safe and effective treatment for obesity in adult males.

The benefits of yoga practice, though, appear to be small. The yoga group on average only lost about 2 pounds of body weight despite intensive treatment over 14 weeks. So, it doesn’t appear from this study that integrated yoga therapy is a cost-effective treatment. But, yoga practice is known to produce many improvements in the physiology that were not measured in the present study. These include improvements in cardiovascular symptoms, joint problems, and diabetes. These benefits would tend to counteract the negative health consequences of obesity.

So, although there are suggestions here that integrated yoga therapy may be useful in the treatment of obesity it’s cost-effectiveness is still questionable.

“Yoga is designed to help practitioner reduce body fat, increase flexibility and increase strength. The benefits of yoga to obese people also include increased blood flow, reduced pain and increased respiratory function.” – Hannah Wahlig

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available at the Contemplative Studies Blog http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/
They are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

Study Summary

Rshikesan P B, Subramanya P, Singh D. Sleep quality and body composition variations in obese male adults after 14 weeks of yoga intervention: A randomized controlled trial. Int J Yoga 2017;10:128-37

Background: Obesity is a big challenge all over the world. It is associated with many noncommunicable diseases. Yoga known to be add-on treatment may be effective for obesity control. Aim: To assess the effect of integrated approach of yoga therapy (IAYT) for body composition and quality of sleep in adult obese male. Subjects and Methods: A randomized controlled trial was conducted for 14 weeks on obese male of urban setting. Eighty individuals were randomly divided into two groups, i.e., yoga group (n = 40; age; 40.03 ± 8.74 years, body mass index [BMI] 28.7 ± 2.35 kg/m2) and control group (age; 42.20 ± 12.06 years, BMI 27.70 ± 2.05 kg/m2). The IAYT was imparted to yoga group for 1½ hour for 5 days in a week for 14 weeks. The control group continued their regular activities. The body composition by InBody R20 and sleep quality by Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) were assessed. Statistical analysis was done for within and between groups using SPSS version 21. The correlation analysis was done on the difference in pre-post values. Results: The results showed that weight (P = 0.004), BMI (P = 0.008), bone mass (P = 0.017), obesity degree (P = 0.005), and mineral mass (P = 0.046) were improved in yoga group and no change in control group (P > 0.05). The global score of PSQI improved (P = 0.017) in yoga group alone. Conclusion: The results indicate the beneficial effects of IAYT on body composition and sleep quality in obese males. The yoga practice may reduce obesity with the improvement in quality of life.

Develop Your Eulogy Virtues


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?” – David Brooks


The renowned columnist David Brooks likes to contrast two differing sets of virtues that we aspire to. One he terms the resume virtues, the other the eulogy virtues.


For the most part the resume virtues predominate for the majority of our lives. We strive for success and achievement. We work for years to attain an academic degree that we can place on our resume and use as the basis for the next entries on our resume revolving around our career. We measure our success by our titles and the wealth we accumulate.


The resume virtues are important and striving to do well in life and make a comfortable living are good things. They can, of course, become a problem when they are overemphasized and become the predominant focus in our lives. Too great of a stress on the resume virtues can result in the exclusion of the other aspects of life that are the true source of happiness and satisfaction. These are the eulogy virtues.


On the deathbed, people virtually never wish that they had spent more time or effort on developing their resumes, on working harder or being more successful. Rather, they most often decry the fact that they didn’t spend enough time and energy on developing their eulogy virtues. A palliative care nurse once recorded the top five regrets of the dying. They were

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.


It is clear that to live a full life we have to develop our resumes but it is far more important in the long run that we develop the eulogy virtues. But, how do we do this when the rewards of society and the urgings of our egos all push us towards developing our resumes. The answer may well be contemplative practice. These practices, meditation, yoga, tai chi, contemplative prayer, etc. have been shown to help in developing the exact abilities and experiences longed for by the dying.


Contemplative practice focuses us more on experiencing the present moment and doing so without judging it. This provides a better perspective on our lives, seeing ourselves as we are without judgment. This can lead us to follow our hearts and be true to ourselves rather than being a slave to what we perceive others expect. By appreciating the present moment we can learn to enjoy where our lives actually play out, the present moment. This can lead us to even having greater appreciation and enjoyment throughout our lives, even during the time we spend working.


Contemplative practice helps us to accept our flaws and accept and appreciate others. As a result it improves relationships and social interactions. It helps us to become better listeners and more compassionate toward others. Increased understanding and compassion for others is a motivator to becoming involved in improving our world.


Contemplative practice helps to develop the ability to regulate emotions and improve emotional intelligence. So, we get in better touch with our true feelings and become better able to express them to others.  Importantly, contemplative practice has been shown to increase happiness. We enjoy life and appreciate the wonders that surround us every day.


Finally, contemplative practice has been shown to help to develop acceptance of ourselves. Many people do not like themselves. Contemplative practice is an antidote for self-loathing, tending instead to improve self-love. It can help us accept and like ourselves more. It is difficult to truly love others if you don’t love yourself. So, the self-love developed in contemplative practice is a requirement for loving others. It leads inevitably to caring more for others and be willing to express that love.


So, engage in contemplative practice and develop your eulogy virtues.


“What do most people say on their deathbed? They don’t say, ‘I wish I’d made more money.’ What they say is, ‘I wish I’d spent more time with my family and done more for society or my community.” – David Rubenstein


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

It’s a Wonderful World

Image result for double rainbow

It’s a Wonderful World


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


(What a) Wonderful World – Bob Thiele and George David Weiss

 I see trees of green, red roses, too,
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white,
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky,
Are also on the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, sayin’, “How do you do?”
They’re really sayin’, “I love you.”

I hear babies cryin’. I watch them grow.
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world

This is such a beautiful song that was sung by Louis Armstrong and has become a standard. It is what I consider a ballad of mindfulness. Its optimism and positive view of the world is exactly what is experienced when we are truly mindful, when we are centered in the present moment, when you take the time and open up to it without judging it.


If you look mindfully, carefully, with an open mind at everyday thing like “trees of green” and “red roses, too” you can witness the incredible beauty in a single leaf or the bloom of a flower. They’re a testament to the miracle of nature in which we are immersed. As eloquently stated by Georgia O’Keeffe “Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” To truly appreciate it you have to mindfully spend some time with it. But, if you do, you will be immensely rewarded. The flower that we so take for granted will suddenly become a thing of incredible beauty and complexity. You will see in this simple thing more than you could ever imagine. It will make you happy just to be alive and think what a wonderful world.


If you look up mindfully, carefully, with an open mind at the “skies of blue, and clouds of white” the “colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky” you will witness the power and glory of nature right in front of your eyes. If you take the time you will experience its’ ever changing nature with every moment a unique vista that has never happened before and will never happen again. You will see all movement of the air and moisture that our so essential to not only our lives but to every living thing on earth. As Joni Mitchell sung in “Both Sides Now”, Bows and flows of angel hair, And ice cream castles in the air, And feather canyons everywhere, I’ve looked at clouds that way.” The simplest everyday things are a treasure if you invest the time to experience them deeply. It too will make you happy just to be alive and think what a wonderful world.


If you look mindfully, carefully, with an open mind at the “the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night,” you can witness the daily cycle that is so fundamental to the planet and so influential to our entire being. Impermanence is on display. Everything about us changes from moment to moment over the day and night. These are called diurnal rhythms that encompass our activity cycles, our hormone levels, our mood, and even our cognitive abilities. Watch them carefully and you’ll see that you are never the same. Each moment, you and your world are different than they’ve ever been before or will ever be again. Treasure each and every moment throughout the day and night as they never will be repeated. The wonder of them too will make you happy just to be alive and think what a wonderful world.


If you look mindfully, carefully, with an open mind at “the faces of people going by” you can witness the extraordinary uniqueness of each and every one. Look deep into their being and see the struggles and burdens they bear and send loving kindness wishes their way. Recognize that

beneath the masks, below their insecurities, they are just like you. Recognize that their smile is “really sayin’, “I love you.” Looking deeply in yourself you will also find a sincere love for each and every one of them. Breaking through our judgments, our stereotypes, our assumptions and just seeing them as they are will open up an appreciation and wonder at every human life. The experience of this love that surrounds you and is in you will make you happy just to be alive and think what a wonderful world.


If you look mindfully, carefully, with an open mind at “babies cryin” and you “watch them grow” you’ll witness the wonder of a human life developing and thriving. Everyone loves a baby and your heart will glow with love and wonder if you just take the time to witness the good feelings in yourself. Don’t rush as the baby will never ever be the same again. It’s growing and changing moment to moment and you’ll be amazed to watch it acquiring more and more ability as it explores and test its’ world. Let yourself savor the love that the infant sends back to you. Simply allow yourself the time and focus to truly experience it. This too will make you happy just to be alive and think what a wonderful world.


The message of the song and this essay is to look carefully and mindfully at everything in your day to day experience. There is so much wonder, beauty, and love that you’ll experience a genuine happiness that comes from within. The simplest most common things are a source of joy if you take the time and open up to let them. It truly is a wonderful world.


“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” ~ Henry Miller


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies