Can empathy and compassion meditation help reduce stress? This was the focus of a study published last year by researchers at Emory University in the US.
Sixty-one healthy students were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group participated in six weeks of twice-weekly classroom training in a secular compassion meditation while the other group (the control group) spent a similar amount of time in health discussions.
When was the last time you missed a turnoff, misplaced your cell phone, lost your car keys or overlooked an important detail at work?
If you counted the number of times these small errors of mindlessness occur in a single day, you might be taken aback. In fact, a great deal of time, energy, and money can be lost through these simple mishaps of mis-attention.
Mindfulness is not just an esoteric practice for monks ensconced in Himalayan caves. It actually has a very powerful and practical application at work and in daily life. It can increase your effectiveness and productivity, bring more presence into your interactions, and foster more joy in your family life.
I have somewhat of an interest in trying to make my work as efficiently as possible, so I can spend more time meditating and doing other things. I guess it's a casualty incurred from having lived in the US for many years. Anyway, a technique I have recently been experimenting with is the pomodoro technique in combination with the well-known meditation advice of practising short sessions, many times over. The idea of a pomodoro is a period of 25 minutes you devote to a single task with a clear goal, followed by a few minutes break. After this you are ready for another pomodoro. By breaking up your day like that in small chunks, you are motivated to really focus on one task, and feel like you have accomplished something rather than wasting your whole day doing everything and nothing. I then realized this was a perfect chance to bring meditation in the workday: every time you accomplish a pomodoro, you simply drop in for one minute, do whatever you need to do, and get ready for your next pomodoro. No chance to forget your next meditation session. Such brief meditation sessions are surprisingly powerful because they renew your focus, clarity and calm. Normally I always forget to take these brief meditation breaks, but in this way they happen naturally--they are part of the schedule! So the productivity gurus of today are reinventing what meditators have known for a long time.
Gaps fascinate me. They have a great and completely underestimated potential. They separate things, they are the space between. One could even say that it would be really difficult to distinguish anything, to say where one thing ends and another starts, without gaps. And the interesting thing about them is that they do not only separate physical objects, but also mental "objects". And that's where they become really relevant for meditation.
Just now, I had a treatment at the dentist. To be exact, it was one long treatment in two steps on two days. It was one of those really unpleasant treatments, opened by a countless number of injections all over the mouth, followed by horrible noises and massive mechanical interaction during which the little snatches of pain arriving at your nerves give you a glimpse of what it would feel like if you wouldn't have a tea cup of anesthetics inside your gums. So in one phrase: the whole program of experiences that make those visits at the dentist a nightmare for 9 out of 10 people.
But this time it was different. Or, it was the same but it felt completely different. Why? Because I had made a decision before.
Imagine for 8 days you have no mobile, no television, no email, no mp3 player, no radio, no newspaper, no Internet and you are not supposed to talk at all except once a day. You spend these 8 days in a retreat place sorrounded by a lovely countryside together with a few others in complete silence.
Would you be willing to participate in such an experiment, to see what effect silence or more precisely a full week spent in silent contemplation and meditation has on you?
Sogyal Rinpoche offers advice on how to find inner peace and contentment.
Sogyal Rinpoche explains how we can integrate meditation into our everyday lives
Two of my favourite things in life are meditation and football.
I know what you’re thinking—the two don’t exactly share much common ground. Meditation is all about solitude, stillness and silence, a spiritual odyssey that brings you up close and personal with your own mind, so that you can get to know how it works and emerge a calmer, kinder and more healthy human being.
Football, on the other hand, is about speed, conflict and emotion, a physical test that brings you up close and personal with a group of sweaty, competitive and often aggressive individuals, and where winning is pretty much all that matters.