The Miracle of Awareness

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” – Aristotle
Probably the aspect of existence that is taken the most for granted is awareness. Additionally, it is also the least noticed and understood. I believe that this stems from the fact that awareness has always been there throughout our lives. It is a truism in Psychology that we learn to ignore things that do not change. Our nervous systems are tuned to note change and ignore constancy. So, our brains are designed to not notice our ever present, constant awareness.


But truly, our awareness is arguably the most miraculous component of our existence. Without realizing it, it is the presence of this awareness that convinces us that there is more to life than the physical and leads us to spirituality and religion. It is also our most mysterious component. It is extremely difficult to characterize, measure, or study making it almost impossible to explore in a scientific manner.


If one looks at their own awareness closely (in fact your personal awareness is the only one you can look at) you find that it’s your awareness that’s now looking for your awareness. It’s kind of like your ears trying to hear your ears. As we search, looking carefully and deeply, we don’t find anything there. The whole Buddhist notion of emptiness stems from this fact, that when you look you can’t find anything. But, it’s no wonder that nothing is found as what’s looking is what’s being sought.


Carefully looking at our awareness we can also come to realize that awareness is a seeing without being seen. It’s an unexperienced experience; a perceiverless perceiver; an effectless effect! In other words it’s an end point of thought and sensory experience. It’s having an experience but nothing is experiencing it. It is in essence the end point on a causal chain, with no further causes and effects. How remarkable!


Our minds are designed to analyze cause effect chains. That is what has given us the ability to analyze our worlds and learn to control them. Identifying the cause of something provides the ability to control the occurrence of the effects, making us masters of our environment. It’s no wonder that this ability was favored in evolution.


But what can we make of things at the beginning or end of these chains? Our mind boggles at the notion of a causeless cause or an effectless effect. We end up inventing gods as the beginning point, the prime mover, that which has always existed without beginning, the causeless cause. For that matter we’ve also invented the notion of soul as the everlasting thing without end that has no further effects, the effectless effect. But, a moments reflection, clearly reveals that this doesn’t resolve the issue at all. It simply places a label on it and doesn’t explain it or add any understanding to the issue. This should make it clear that we have no chance of understanding these phenomena though using the minds tools of logic, reason, or science.


So, our minds cannot analyze or understand our awareness. This underscores the fact that our minds are very limited, which is why Suzuki Roshi referred to it as the “little mind.” Our awareness, on the other hand he termed the “big mind.” It encompasses the “little mind” but is itself vaster. It makes sense that awareness, the “big mind” cannot be analyzed by its subcomponent, the “little mind.”


So how can we look at awareness? The answer is that we can’t, we can only experience it. This is why the Buddha called his teachings Dhammaehipassiko, which means “Come and see for yourself.” Don’t try to understand it, just see it for yourself, just experience it.


If you take this frame of mind and just kick back and let the experience happen without thought, analysis, labels, or judgments, you begin to see the amazing miracle of your awareness. Every moment becomes magical. You revel in its ever changing diversity and beauty. You realize how precious this existence is and how special you are to be able to have it. Every moment is unique, a never to be experienced again treasure.


This is why the great modern sage, Thích Nhất Hạnh, states that “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” 


There is some controversy as to whether Einstein actually said this but, it’s so meaningful that I’ll repeat it anyway; “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”


So, stop ignoring it and pay attention to the greatest miracle of existence, your awareness. Jesus said that “The kingdom of heaven is spread upon the earth but men do not see it.” I would contend that what Jesus was referring to was our awareness. It is heaven on earth, but we don’t see it.


So, open our eyes to awareness and experience the miracle of heaven.


Spirituality is meant to take us beyond our tribal identity into a domain of awareness that is more universal.” – Deepak Chopra


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Focus or Open up Attention with Meditation

Attention involves being able to not only focus on a target but also to screen out irrelevant stimuli. In our daily lives we are confronted simultaneously with a myriad of stimuli both within a sense, e.g. lots of different visual stimuli simultaneously present, but also across senses, e.g sights, sounds, smells, touches all simultaneously present. This creates quiet a daunting task for us to focus appropriately and not be distracted by all of the other stimuli present.


Laboratory research simplifies these situations to better discern what is actually occurring with attention. One method is to ask a person to detect a particular stimulus when it is presented in combination with a number of irrelevant stimuli, distractors. The characteristics of the distractors can be manipulated to discern the nature of the conflict that occurs to deflect attention.


Mindfulness practice is directed at improving attention. (see and But, not all mindfulness practices approach attention in the same way. Focused meditation requires a meditator to pay strict attention to a particular stimulus and not respond to other stimuli (see, while open monitoring meditation has the meditator simply let all stimuli drift in and out of awareness without thinking about, judging, of attempting to hold onto any of them. (see These two forms of meditation trainings would be expected to have different effects on attention.


Laboratory attention tasks may be able to differentiate the between the two forms of meditation’s effects on attentional processes. In today’s Research News article “Meditation-induced cognitive-control states regulate response-conflict adaptation: Evidence from trial-to-trial adjustments in the Simon task”

Colzato and colleagues test the effectiveness of focused meditation versus open monitoring meditation on the laboratory attention task called the Simon task. In the Simon task the individual is asked to press a key on the left if a stimulus is a particular color and a key on the right if the stimulus is another color. Competition is then set up by varying the position of the stimulus, either on the right or the left. Usually, when the position of the stimulus is opposite to the response key it takes longer to respond, indicating that the position was distracting attention.


Colzato and colleagues did not find a difference between the two meditation techniques on the Simon task as both groups showed delayed response times when the position of the stimulus and response were different. But, when the effect of one trial on the response on the next trial was analyzed, the focused meditation group showed much greater trial to trial fluctuations than the open monitoring meditation group. This suggests that learning to be open to all stimuli makes you less responsive to prior stimuli. On the other hand learning to focus on one stimulus makes changes more disruptive.


Hence, different meditation techniques prepare one differently for different tasks. Open monitoring meditation prepares one better for accepting varying stimuli while focused meditation prepares one better for shifting control from one mode to another.


Regardless, meditate to improve attentional mechanisms.


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Buffer Yourself from Neuroticism with Mindfulness

We have long observed that every neurosis has the result, and therefore probably the purpose, of forcing the patient out of real life, of alienating him from actuality.Sigmund Freud


We often speak of people being neurotic. But, do we really know what we’re talking about? Do we really know what it is? Neurosis is actually an outdated diagnosis that is no longer used medically. The disorders that were once classified as a neurosis are now more accurately categorized as post-traumatic stress disorder, somatization disorders, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, dissociation disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and adjustment disorder.


But, neuroticism is considered a personality trait that is a lasting characteristic of individuals. It is characterized by negative feelings, repetitive thinking about the past (rumination), and worry about the future, moodiness and loneliness. People who have this characteristic are not happy with life and have a low subjective sense of well-being and recognize that this state is unacceptable.


This relatively stable characteristic appears to be lessened by mindfulness training. Mindfulness training also has been found to improve individuals’ subjective well-being. So, it makes sense to think that mindfulness may be involved in the link between neuroticism and low subjective well-being. This possible link is explored in today’s Research News article “Curb your neuroticism – Mindfulness mediates the link between neuroticism and subjective well-being”

Wenzel and colleagues studied individuals high in neuroticism and found that they tended to have negative mood and low vitality and general interest in life; that is low subjective well-being.


Wenzel and colleagues then added mindfulness to the prediction and found that mindfulness in part mediated the relationship between neuroticism and low subjective well-being especially in individuals who had high levels of neuroticism. It thus appears that neuroticism lowers mindfulness which in turn results in negative mood and low vitality and general interest in life. This suggests that being mindful may in part protect an individual from the effects of neuroticism on their well-being.


There are a number of potential explanations for these effects of mindfulness. Neuroticism is characterized by rumination and worry, which are thought processes centered on the past and future. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is an ability to focus on the present moment. Hence, mindfulness could be seen as an antidote to the past and future orientation in neuroticism.


Neuroticism is also characterized by moodiness and loneliness. Mindfulness has been shown to improve emotion regulation; the ability to feel and recognize an emotional state but be able to understand it and respond to it appropriately (see and So mindfulness would also appear to be an antidote for the moodiness involved in neuroticism. Indeed, it has been shown that mindfulness can reduce feelings of anger and depression and improve self-control among people with high neuroticism.


So, buffer yourself from neuroticism with mindfulness.


Mindfulness has helped me succeed in almost every dimension of my life. By stopping regularly to look inward and become aware of my mental state, I stay connected to the source of my actions and thoughts and can guide them with considerably more intention.” – Dustin Moskovitz


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


See Things as They Are with Mindfulness

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” ― John Lubbock


There are two ways that we can process sensory information; top-down or bottom-up. The idea of top-down perception is that perception is an active process involving selection, inference and interpretation. In other words what we are thinking or expecting effects how we experience the world. On the other hand the idea of bottom-up perception is that perception is a simple interpretation of the exact stimuli that are present in front of us. In other words we build our world view from the stimuli present.


Top-down processing, sometimes known as motivated perception, results in seeing what we expect to see or what we’ve been trained to see. Hence, our perception is colored by what we’ve experienced in the past and what we expect to see in the current situation. This can produce something that psychologists term a perceptual set. It is “a perceptual bias or predisposition or readiness to perceive particular features of a stimulus“. – Gordon Allport


Perceptual set works in two ways where the individual focuses attention on particular aspects of the sensory data based upon his/her expectations and where the individual has learned how to classify, understand and name selected data and what inferences to draw from it. So, what we perceive is not necessarily exactly what is there. Rather it’s what we want it to be. So, if you’re expecting to see a friend approaching you may initially perceive a stranger to be your friend.


Mindfulness practice has been shown to make the brain more efficient in sensory and perceptual processing (see In addition, mindfulness practice is devoted to present moment awareness; seeing things just as they are. So, mindfulness practice may be seen as practicing bottom-up perceptual processing. It also schools the individual in non-judgmental awareness which is the antithesis of top-down processing. So, it would be expected that mindfulness would increase the likelihood of bottom-up processing and reduce the likelihood of top-down processing.


In today’s Research News article “Be open: Mindfulness predicts reduced motivated perception”

Adair and colleagues investigate this notion by correlating the level of mindfulness of the individual with their tendency for top-down processing. They found that the higher the level of mindfulness the more likely that the individual will perceive bottom-up and the less likely that they will use top-down processing.


Hence, mindfulness does what it is purported to do, helping us to see things as they are and not what our minds are telling us that they should be. In a previous post (LINK TO Free Your Mind with Mindfulness – with RN Kuo) we discussed the fact that meditation tends to free thought processes from prior training and experiences. Today’s Research News suggests that mindfulness also frees our perceptual processes. This suggests that mindfulness is liberating and puts us in closer contact with what is; experiencing the world more accurately and thinking more clearly about what is.


So practice mindfulness and see things as they are.


“In this treacherous world

Nothing is the truth nor a lie.

Everything depends on the color

Of the crystal through which one sees it”

― Pedro Calderón de la Barca


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Free Your Mind with Mindfulness

It took me a couple of years after I got out of Berkeley before I dared to start writing. That academic mind-set – which was kind of shallow in my case anyway – had begun to fade.Joan Didion
Our thinking is affected by many factors outside of the actual task at hand. Our previous training and experiences shape how we approach the problems in the present moment. Proactive interference is the psychological term for the fact that previous learning interferes with your ability to learn and remember new material. In other words, the more you know the harder it is to learn new things.


It has been noted that major breakthrough ideas in science and mathematics usually occur when the individual is young. For example, Einstein’s most inventive and breakthrough ideas including relativity occurred before age 26. This has been attributed to the notion that young minds have not been ingrained with established ways of thinking, so they can think in completely new and creative ways. The expression “think outside of the box” means thinking outside of the traditional established ways of thinking (the box).


To be a better, more creative thinker, we need to inhibit or release our learned habits of thought. These are termed our “set” in psychology. But, how do we do this? Mindfulness has been shown to improve attentional control and cognitive flexibility (see Perhaps, mindfulness training could help individuals overcome their prior “set” and “think outside the box.”


In today’s Research News article “Reset a task set after five minutes of mindfulness practice

Kuo and colleagues examine whether a brief mindfulness training (5-min breath following meditation) can help in overcoming a task set. They found that the mindfulness training reset their thinking such that there was no evidence of previous set interference with a current task. “The participants were able to put aside the past event while concentrating on the present requirement.”


In addition, Kuo and colleagues found that the mindfulness training allowed the participants to reconfigure their mode of attentional control. That is, the previous experience created a situation wherein attention was controlled by inhibiting (restraining) responses to a particular class of stimuli. After mindfulness training the method of controlling attention established by the previous experience was absent. This suggests that mindfulness training allows attention to reset and be freed from the effects of prior experience.


These findings are exciting and suggest that mindfulness training may allow us to get rid of the “box” around our thinking. It should be mentioned, however, that the study by Kuo and colleagues was very short term. There is a need to investigate whether these effects of mindfulness training are enduring. It would be cumbersome to have to meditate before tackling every new task, but would be wonderful if a regular practice was sufficient to maintain an open mind. The answer to this question is, at this time, not known.


So, practice mindfulness and free your mind!


I am thankful the most important key in history was invented. It’s not the key to your house, your car, your boat, your safety deposit box, your bike lock or your private community. It’s the key to order, sanity, and peace of mind. The key is ‘Delete.’Elayne Boosler


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies




Practice Yoga to Relieve Anxiety and Depression during Pregnancy


“The effort to separate the physical experience of childbirth from the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of this event has served to disempower and violate women.” ~Mary Rucklos Hampton


Depression is quiet common during pregnancy. More than 20 percent of pregnant women have an anxiety disorder, depressive symptoms, or both during pregnancy. The psychological health of pregnant women has consequences for fetal development, and consequently, child outcomes. Depression during pregnancy is associated with premature delivery and low birth weight. It is also associated with higher levels of stress hormone in the mother and in the newborns, which can make them more stress reactive, temperamentally difficult, and more challenging to care for and soothe. Long-term there’s some evidence that the children have more social and emotional problems, including aggression and conduct problems and possibly child IQ and language. But, while gestational diabetes is far less common than depression during pregnancy, women are routinely screened for this disorder, but not for depression, any psychiatric illness, nor even experiences of life stress.


It is clear that there is a need for methods to treat depression and anxiety during pregnancy. Since the fetus can be negatively impacted by drugs, it would be preferable to find a treatment that did not require drugs. Moderate exercise is also beneficial during pregnancy. Yoga has antidepressive and anti-stress properties and it is a moderate exercise, so, it would appear to be a good candidate to treat depression and anxiety during pregnancy.


In today’s Research News article “A randomized controlled trial of yoga for pregnant women with symptoms of depression and anxiety”

Goodman and colleagues examine whether yoga practice during pregnancy is effective for depression and anxiety. They found that in comparison to treatment as usual, and 8-week program of yoga practice significantly reduced depression and negative emotions. Anxiety levels decreased in both the yoga and the treatment as usual groups.


It is not known if the efficacy of yoga for depression is due to its exercise value or to an intrinsic property specific to yoga. Both study groups had high levels of exercise before, during and after the treatment. As such, the additional exercise contributed by yoga would not make a significant difference in the fitness of the women. This speculation suggests that there may be other aspects of yoga practice that relieve depression. One obvious candidate is the social nature of the yoga classes, particularly since they were with other pregnant women. The camaraderie and sharing could be responsible for the antidepressive effects. It is also possible that the stress relieving properties of yoga are responsible for the psychological improvements.


Regardless, practice yoga during pregnancy to prevent or treat depression and anxiety.


“Yoga practice can make us more and more sensitive to subtler and subtler sensations in the body. Paying attention to and staying with finer and finer sensations within the body is one of the surest ways to steady the wandering mind.” ― Ravi Ravindra,


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


Trauma May Reduce Mindfulness


“People with BPD are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.” ― Marsha M. Linehan


Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a very serious mental illness that is estimated to affect 1.6% of the U.S. population. It involves unstable moods, behavior, and relationships, problems with regulating emotions and thoughts, impulsive and reckless behavior, and unstable relationships. BPD is associated with high rates of co-occurring depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, suicidal behaviors, and completed suicides. Needless to say it is widespread and debilitating.


BPD has not responded well to a variety of therapies with the exception of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (BPT). It is interesting that DBT emphasizes mindfulness. This suggests that there may be a relationship between the etiology of Borderline Personality Disorder and mindfulness. In addition 30 to 90 % of BPD cases are associated with high rates of early traumatic experiences including sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Also, mindfulness has been shown to reduce the impact of trauma on the individual All of this suggests that childhood trauma may affect BPD by lowering mindfulness.


In today’s Research News article “Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness marked by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships.”

Elices and colleagues measure childhood trauma, personality and mindfulness in a sample of individuals with relatively severe Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). They found, although did not report, that the degree of mindfulness measured was very low in the BPD sample than occurs in the general population. They also reported high levels of childhood trauma in the BPD sample.


One of the most interesting findings was that the mindfulness characteristics of acting with awareness and non-judging were negatively associated with childhood trauma, but only with sexual abuse. That is for individual with BPD who experienced sexual abuse in childhood there were lower levels of acting with awareness and non-judging than with BPD sufferers who didn’t experience this form of trauma. Given the mindfulness scores were low to begin with and that sexual abuse is negatively associated with mindfulness, suggests that trauma may make a bad situation worse.


These are very preliminary results and do not clearly make a case for childhood trauma affecting Borderline Personality Disorder by lowering mindfulness, the results are compatible with this idea. It obviously needs to be explored further.


So, improve mindfulness to combat the effects of trauma.


“Thirty seconds of pure awareness is a long time, especially after a lifetime of escaping yourself at all costs.” ― Kiera Van Gelder


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies



Add Spirituality to substance Abuse Treatment to Amplify its Benefits

“What fascinates me about addiction and obsessive behavior is that people would choose an altered state of consciousness that’s toxic and ostensibly destroys most aspects of your normal life, because for a brief moment you feel okay.” – Moby


Substance abuse and addiction is a large and difficult problem for all groups. But, it is especially a problem for Native American and Alaska Native populations. The rates of binge alcohol use and illicit drug use are higher among American Indian or Alaska Native adults than the national averages (30.6 vs. 24.5 percent and 11.2 vs. 7.9 percent, respectively) and  the  need for treatment is higher than the national average for adults (18.0 vs. 9.6 percent). But only one in eight (12.6 percent) in need of treatment received treatment.


There is a great need for effective treatments for substance abuse overall, but particularly for the Native American and Alaska Native populations. Mindfulness based treatments have shown promise. The mindfulness based therapeutic technique Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has been demonstrated to be effective for the treatment of substance abuse. Similarly, spirituality has also been shown to be beneficial in recovery from addictions and alcoholism (see links below).


In the treatment of Native American and Alaska Native populations there has been a glaring lack of incorporation their spiritual beliefs into the therapeutic process. This is a problem as these spiritual beliefs are critical and central to their cultures and integration of them into therapy is critical in working with this population.


In today’s Research News article “Dialectical behavior therapy with American Indian/Alaska Native adolescents diagnosed with substance use disorders: Combining an evidence based treatment with cultural, traditional, and spiritual beliefs.

Beckstead and colleagues integrate Native American and Alaska Native spiritual beliefs into the evidence based treatment Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and applied it to treating substance abuse and addiction in Native American and Alaska Native adolescents. Remarkably they found that 90% of the 229 patients treated showed clinically significant improvement and 6% more showed improvement. No patients demonstrated deterioration.


These results are remarkable as reflected in the very large calculated effect size for the integrated treatment. This suggests that integrating culturally appropriate spiritual beliefs into treatment greatly amplifies the effectiveness of the treatment. As we discussed previously (see links below) spirituality has a number of positive characteristics that make it effective in recovery from addiction. So, its integration into secularly based treatments appears to have an amplifying effect, making these treatments even more effective.


So fight substance abuse with spiritually appropriate treatment.


“All the suffering, stress, and addiction comes from not realizing you already are what you are looking for.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies



Spirituality improves recovery from addictions

Spirituality improves recovery from alcoholism



Love thyself

“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” ~Malcolm S. Forbes


There is a widespread problem in the west that many people don’t seem to like themselves.  The term used to describe this in psychology is self-loathing, although this term is far too strong and is not an appropriate descriptor for the majority of people. In general, the dislike of self has a much smaller magnitude than the word loathing implies. As a result I prefer self-dislike.


The self-dislike sometimes means that the individual dislikes every aspect of themselves; but most frequently people only don’t like certain aspects of themselves. Often it is there physical appearance, their school achievement, their career, their social behavior, etc. Making matters worse, they tend to overlook their strengths and discount them, focusing instead in the parts that they find problematic.


The discounting and overlooking of strengths shows up in what psychologists call the Imposter Syndrome. Here very successful people do not appear to be able to assimilate their success and instead attribute it to luck. The esteem with which they’re held makes them feel like imposters. It is estimated that two out of five successful people consider themselves frauds that 70 percent of all people feel like impostors at one time or another.


When this issue of self-dislike was raised to the Dalai Lama he was totally perplexed and repeatedly asked for clarifications. Not liking oneself is unheard of in his culture. So, he was dumbfounded and without comment. Hence, the problem seems to be primarily one of western culture. This suggests that self-dislike is learned within a particular cultural context with western culture and its values particularly adept at producing it.


There are sometimes circumstances that underlie self-dislike. Abuse or bullying, belittling parents, learning disabilities, physical appearance or disabilities are apt to result in self-dislike. But, most frequently it originates from western culture’s tendency to promote unrealistic expectations.


Physical appearance is a good case in point where the media holds up extraordinarily attractive individuals as what we should strive to be. Very, very few people can ever measure up and so can end up disliking their appearance. Academic achievement is another case where for many anything less than an “A” is seen as failure. Once again few can measure up and most end up disliking their intellectual ability. Sports are another case where the media holds up professional athletes as role models. These are exceptional people and the vast majority of the population can’t perform anywhere near their level and thus feel inadequate. It is relatively easy to think of many other unrealistic expectations prompted by our hyper-success oriented culture.


What can we do to overcome self-dislike. Unfortunately, the self-dislike is usually deeply ingrained and becomes resistant to persuasion or evidence. No matter how successful the person becomes or how much praise is received the person cannot truly believe that he or she has value or worth. They believe themselves to be imposters.


Self-dislike is an indicator that the individual is unsatisfied with the way things are. There is a strong desire for them to be different and the individual believes that if one or more aspects of themselves changed, then things would be much better. This is in fact rarely true. An overweight person who loses a significant amount of weight doesn’t usually become happier instead it frequently produces depression. A far better approach is for people to learn to accept things, including themselves, just as they are.


Meditation is uniquely suited to promote accepting things as they are. So, it would seem appropriate for dealing with self-dislike. Meditation focuses on awareness of the present moment. As we’ve seen, self-dislike is often rooted in the past. By learning to focus on now, the past recedes in importance. When individuals learn to look closely at what is actually going on in the present moment they can begin to see that there is nothing wrong at all. In fact, there is tremendous good present. So, meditation can move the individual away from the past where the self-dislike originated and can then move forward in the present moment to develop self-acceptance.


Another method to address self-dislike is to employ what psychologists call counterconditioning where one behavior or belief is eliminated by replacing it with its opposite. Self-dislike can be eliminated by replacing it with self-love.  Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is designed to do just that. We practice loving ourselves and wishing ourselves well. It seems overly simple, but experience and research has shown that it can have remarkable impact.


Self-dislike is deeply ingrained. It will not be changed overnight. It will take practice and patience to weaken and eventually overcome it. But, contemplative practice can help.


So, engage in contemplative practice and learn to love thyself.


You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love & affection.” ~Buddha


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Don’t get Stroked Practice Tai Chi

“The medical literature tells us that the most effective ways to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many more problems are through healthy diet and exercise. Our bodies have evolved to move, yet we now use the energy in oil instead of muscles to do our work.”David Suzuki


A stroke results from an interruption of the blood supply to the brain, depriving it of needed oxygen and nutrients. This can result in the death of brain cells and depending on the extent of the damage produce profound loss of function. Strokes come in two varieties. The most common (87%) is ischemic stroke resulting from a blocked artery. But strokes can also occur due to leaking or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, known as hemorrhagic stroke.


Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke and it is the third leading cause of death, killing around 140,000 Americans each year. It is estimated to cost $34 billion each year in health care services, medications, and missed work. In addition, Stroke is the leading cause of serious long-term disability.


There are a number of risk factors for stroke that are unchangeable, such as family history, age, and genes. But there are a very large number of factors that are under our control including high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, poor diet, sedentariness, and obesity. Given this list it is clear that basic physical fitness and exercise would be excellent for stroke prevention.


The ancient mindful movement technique Tai Chi is a very safe form of gentle exercise that is even appropriate for the elderly. But, can such a gentle exercise help reduce strokes by altering the risk factors for stroke. In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi Chuan for the Primary Prevention of Stroke in Middle-Aged and Elderly Adults: A Systematic Review”

Zheng and colleagues review the literature investigating this very point and find that Tai Chi does significantly reduce the incidence of non-fatal strokes and reduces a number of risk factors for stroke.


The practice of Tai Chi was found to reduce the stroke risk factors of body weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), waistline and hip circumference, blood pressure, plasma lipids and cholesterol. It even was effective in reducing these risk factors for stroke in patients with chronic diseases. It had all of these positive effects without any reported adverse effects.


It should be mentioned that the effect sizes were small to moderate. Hence, Tai Chi cannot be seen as a magical treatment for the prevention of stroke. It simply makes it less likely that a stroke might occur. Since it is safe and has many other benefits particularly for the elderly, it should be seriously considered as an exercise to assist in healthy aging.


So practice Tai Chi so you don’t get stroked!


“The most important reason to study T’ai-Chi Ch’uan is that when you finally reach the place where you understand what life is all about, you’ll have some health to enjoy it.” – Professor Cheng Man-Ch’ing


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies