“The real meditation practice is how we live our lives from moment to moment to moment.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
What exactly is mindfulness?
There is quite a lot of confusion around mindfulness and what it is and does. Mindfulness is often associated with any kind of meditation practice and there has been a deluge of using the word “mindful” onto things that are not meditation practices. To explain mindfulness more, we need to go back to its origins starting with Buddha.
Buddha systematically created a new form of meditation called the Satipatthana (mindfulness meditation) which is the one step in the noble eightfold path of enlightenment that the Buddha taught his followers. The goal is not to get closer to the divine or to open your mind, it is to pay attention. Most of the time people don’t actually know what their minds are doing. They are pulled by the forces around us, so part of the practice of mindfulness is bringing awareness to the things our minds are really doing.
When your mind wanders it goes to the past or the future. When this happens, parts of our brain light up called the Default Mode Network (DMN) which allows us to call up memories or think about the future, but it can also endlessly ruminate about regrets and fears.
The moment of noticing that your mind is lost is so important, because it is a moment of awakening. In that moment, when you direct your attention back to the breath, the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC or DL-PFC) lights up. It is one of the parts of the brain that sets us primates apart from other animals and allows us to focus. Meditation strengthens its connections to the DMN and brain scans show that expert meditators DMN’s are less active.
What happens to the brain during mindfulness meditation practice?
A Carnegie Mellon University study showed that an eight-week mindfulness meditation course shrunk the Amygdala (the brain’s “fight or flight” centre, involved with fear and stress). As the Amygdala shrinks the Prefrontal Cortex becomes thicker which is the region of the brain involved with awareness, focus and decision-making. Our responses to stress are then overtaken by thoughtful and calm ones.
According to statistics released by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), the rate of anxiety and depression are reaching disturbing proportions with as many as one in six South Africans suffering from anxiety, depression or substance-use problems.
Stress and anxiety are major triggers of depression, and meditation can alter your reaction to those feelings. “Meditation trains the brain to achieve sustained focus, and to return to that focus when negative thinking, emotions, and physical sensations intrude — which happens a lot when you feel stressed and anxious,” says Dr. John W. Denninger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
Over time, it has become increasingly clear that taking time to rest in order to pursue the restoration of mind, body and spirit has a positive impact in each area of our lives.
At Amani, with each experience, we hope to encourage you to pause and move away from our ‘busy-body’ states to allow for calm and inner peace to make a home around and within yourselves. In this way, we begin to bring balance to our bodies.
To start your journey to wellness, you can book online or in spa with one of our friendly receptionists.
We’ll be sharing easy techniques to bring mindfulness into your life in our next blog series.
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Almarie Venter is a certified Mindfulness Teacher, Transformational Yoga Teacher, Certified Pranic Energy Healer, Kinesiologist, and Holistic Wellness consultant. With over 13 years of experience in health and wellness industry, Almarie effortlessly integrates holistic modalities and create bespoke treatment plans for her guests. As a holistic wellness consultant, she offers an environment where it is safe to create changes in living and learning using a unique integration of kinesiology, neuro-training techniques, mindfulness, meditation, vibrational sound and pranic energy healing.