Course Objectives By the end of this session students will be able to : Identify mental fitness Identify the importance of mental fitness Identify the relationship between mental fitness and physical health Identify the mental physical spiritual connections of mental fitness
Mental Fitness in Action The worse day fishing is better than the worse day at work!
Spiritual practices Religious Belonging to a religious community – church, synagogue or mosque Attending religious services Participating in religious ritual Meditation & Prayer Reading religious material Retreats or pilgrimages Secular Meditation Reading “wisdom books” Volunteering in the community Deep reflection, contemplation, aesthetic appreciation of the arts Participation in local or community sports team, or dance club that creates a special kind of fellowship
In the Middle Ages Early Roman medicine focused on treating whole person: mind , body & spirit. Medieval Medicine focused on treating whole person: mind, body & spirit. Early philosophers begin to study the human mind – asking questions such as “what is the mind?” research is started and psychology as a discipline is eventually founded. Mind & spirit are separated.
Benefits of Meditation Physical Benefits Psychological Benefits Deep rest-as measured by decreased metabolic rate, lower heart rate, and reduced work load of the heart. Lowered levels of cortisol and lactate-two chemicals associated with stress. Reduction of free radicals- unstable oxygen molecules that can cause tissue damage. They are now thought to be a major factor in aging and in many diseases. Decreased high blood pressure. Higher skin resistance. Low skin resistance is correlated with higher stress and anxiety levels. Drop in cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is associated with cardiovascular disease. Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier breathing. This has been very helpful to asthma patients. Younger biological age. On standard measures of aging, long-term Transcendental Meditation (TM) practitioners (more than five years) measured 12 years younger than their chronological age. Higher levels of DHEAS in the elderly. An additional sign of youthfulness through Transcendental Meditation (TM); lower levels of DHEAS are associated with aging” (1stHolistic.com, 2009). “Increased brain wave coherence. Harmony of brain wave activity in different parts of the brain is associated with greater creativity, improved moral reasoning, and higher IQ. Decreased anxiety. Decreased depression. Decreased irritability and moodiness. Improved learning ability and memory. Increased self-actualization. Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation. Increased happiness. Increased emotional stability” (1stHolistic.com, 2009).
Meditation Research First Empirical Study of Yoga & Meditation Scientific studies of meditation have only recently taken on some semblance of importance. In 1931, Koover Behanan an Indian graduate student in psychology at Yale received the Sterling Fellowship to study in what has become the first empirical study of yoga & meditation. He was supported in this research by Walter Miles, an prestigious professor of psychology. Behanan wrote a book about yoga that described quantitative studies of his own yogic breathing. During 72 days of experiments at Yale, Behanan discovered that one breathing exercise the pranayama actually increased his oxygen consumption by over 24.5%; a second by 18.5% and a third by 12%. His research helped pave the way for such studies to be conducted in the laboratory (Murphy 2004).
Research Continued… Therese Brosse In 1935, French Cardiologist Therese Brosse took an electrocardiogram to India to study the heart and pulse rates of the yogis who claimed that they could stop their heart. She described one participant during his meditation period as having a heart & pulse rate that went down to almost zero for almost where they stayed for several minutes. Her findings were ultimately criticized yet she is remembered because it once again showed that meditation could in fact be studied using scientific equipment and methods (Murphy 2004).
Zen Masters Studied Kasamatsu & Hirai The study also showed that the control subjects would exhibit alpha waves during a click stimuli, but ultimately became habituated to the stimuli. The Zen masters on the other hand showed no sign of habituation indicating that they were able to continue blocking the stimuli as long as the stimulus continued. This finding indicates that Zen practice promotes a serene, alert awareness that is consistently responsive to both external and internal stimuli (Murphy 2004) In the 1960’s two Japanese physicians, Akira Kasamatsu and Tomio Hirai from the University of Tokyo studied the EEG changes of Zen masters and their disciples from the Soto & Rinzai Centers, a total of 48 subjects. For their control, they used 22 subjects without any meditation experience and studied their EEG’s. They recorded their EEG’s, recorded their BP’s, pulse and respiration rates. In addition galvanic skin responses were monitored, and responses to stimuli were noted during meditation. The studies of the Zen Masters and their disciples took place during a weeklong retreat at a Zendo. The Zen teachers and their most experienced students exhibited a typical progression of brain-wave activity during meditation, which Kasamatsu and Hirai divided into four stages: “Stage 1: Characterized by the appearance of alpha waves in spite of opened eyes. Stage 2: Characterized by an increase in amplitude of persistent alpha waves. Stage 3: Characterized by a decrease in alpha frequency. Stage 4: Characterized by the appearance of rhythmical theta trains (as reported by Kasamatsu and Hirai, 1966; Murphy 2004).”
Six Principals of Integral Health “The goal of integral health is to alleviate needless suffering and promote human flourishing. Which aspects of our life causes us the most distress? Where is our greatest possibility for growth?” (Dacher 2006 p 105) As we begin the process of assessing for integral health, we must not be afraid to ask ourselves some difficult questions…. Even if we don’t know the answer.
Principles No. 2 “Integral Health recognizes the distinction between short-term relief of needless suffering and a permanent relief” (Dacher 2006 p 105) Both the short term and permanent solutions need to be considered. The short term treatment of a cardiac patient might include surgery, but the long term treatment includes lifestyle and attitude changes. Without that – no surgery will be permanent.
Principal No. 3 Integral health recognizes the distinction between immediate pleasure and long-term flourishing (Dacher 2004 p 106). Immediate pleasure is external, while long term flourishing comes from the inside – it is a permanent, sustainable sense of contentment. “This allows us to enjoy worldly pleasures without the suffering of attachment or loss.” (Dacher 2004)
Principal No. 4 Psychospiritual development is an essential component of integral health” (Dacher 2004 p 106). “Expanding our consciousness strengthens our capacity for attention: It focuses our intention and opens our heart which reveals a penetrating wisdom - All of which serves to bring to life the qualities of human flourishing” (Dacher 2004).
Principle No 5 “Integral assessment relies on deep listening and guidance” (Dacher 2006 p106) Assessing ourselves means having an open, clear and unbiased state of mind. It means being able to listen to that still, quiet voice that resides within us
Principle No. 6 Since we live in real time, (dynamism) it is necessary that we modify our personal assessments to keep pace with our ever changing circumstances. “Integral assessment addresses the aspects, levels and lines of development that are relevant to our current,” (Dacher 2006 p 106)
The Integral Assessment Healing Find yourself a comfortable position. Sit back & relax. If you desire, you may close your eyes – if not find a single spot upon which to focus your gaze. Move forward into the witnessing mind. Acknowledge the thoughts that come in, and let them go, allowing yourself the right to come back to them when the time is right. Breathing deeply in to the count of 10, and releasing your breath to the count of ten release the mental activity that continues to come at you and let it simply go. Rest in the stillness and the quietness of your mind & body. Once you have been here for a while, ask yourself “what aspect of my life – psychospiritual, biological, interpersonal or worldly – is the source of difficulty and suffering?” (Dacher 2006 p 115). Focus on this one area “What line of development is the most essential for me at this time? Where am I in terms of that development? Where do I go from here?” (Dacher 2006 p 115) Write down what you discover as you will explore this over the next few weeks.
Integral AssessmentPromoting Integral Development Return back to the center in stillness and in quiet. Allow it to envelop you and wrap you – much like a receiving blanket enfolds a newborn. You are safe and secure here. “Now ask yourself what area of my life is ready for growth and development? Is it the same area that needs healing or is it a new area? What would the next level of development look like?” (Dacher 2006, p115). Write down what you discover as you will explore this over the next few weeks. As we become more experienced and adept at integral assessments, during our sessions we can begin to ask ourselves how did I handle this or that experience? The point of this exercise is to understand that this not a once a month or once a quarter exercise – it is rather part of a daily exercise regime to help promote both emotional, mental and psychospiritual health.
After you have experienced the witnessing mind – allowing the peace to envelop and engulf you.
Now gently unwrap the blankets that once enveloped you.
Slowly take a deep breath in counting to ten, and slowly exhaling out counting to ten.
Come back, waking up and stretching. Move around. Don’t forget to journal your experiences.
Exercise Guided Meditation In the next few minutes, I will take you on a short guided meditation. Find a place and a position that is comfortable for you. I often times do my meditations in my office chair, in front of my computer, and frequently hold a cup of coffee in my hands – very important in this cold weather as it helps to keep my hands warm! It is not necessary to close your eyes – how ever once you’ve seen the scene before you, imagine yourself as part of the scene… actively participating. Take a deep breath counting to 10 as you breathe in and then release the breath counting to 10 as you exhale. Do this slowly – don’t rush… there is no need to hyperventilate and we’re certainly not in a race! Enjoy… This is designed to share just a little bit of my part of the country with you and to provide a little bit of color in what is seemingly a grey winter.
Simple Gifts Music to meditate by Christopher Parkening Guitarist
It is early morning and you walking along the levy trail.
The birds are chirping and speaking amongst themselves To your left, is the river flowing quietly – endlessly ever onward. You are alone on this trail – no one shares the path with you. The air is crisp and clear, the trees are adorned with all of their fall colors. You are at peace – the area is at peace and all is good. You take in all of the visual expressions of nature: the squirrels chattering away, the fish jumping from the river the occasional turtle that slips silently into the water after sunning themselves on the rocks below you.
You have walked this path many times before and you know it much like you know the back of your hand… and yet it is not the same for it is ever changing – like us, ever growing and that is good. Simple Gifts
And we accept it because it is good. Simple Gifts
It is time to come home now – the walk did us good as it allowed us to stretch our muscles and breath deeply from the cool crisp winter air. Come home now Simple Gifts
Summary In this program, I attempted to identify mental fitness, the importance of mental fitness and the relationship between mental fitness and physical health. Further, I discussed the connections between mental, physical and the spiritual aspects of mental fitness. I hope that you’ve learned as much watching this as I’ve learned making it. Thank you.
References 1stHolistic.com. (2009). Benefits of Meditation. Retrieved January 10, 2010, from 1stHolistic.com: http://www.1stholistic.com/Meditation/hol_meditation_benefits_psychological.htm Dacher, E. S. (2006). Integral Health: The path to Human Flourishing. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc. Murphy, M. (2004). The Physical & Psychological Effects of Meditation. Santa Rosa, CA: Institute of Noetic Sciences.
Musical Acknowledgements Bridge over Troubled Water By The Rainbow Orchestra from the album, Celtic Heart, 2007 Three Spirituals: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship, Deep River, Jesus We Want to Meet By Christopher Parkening, from the album Simple Gifts, 1990 Simple Gifts (Traditional Shaker Hymn) By Christopher Parkening, from the album Simple Gifts, 1990 Simple Gifts (Traditional Shaker Hymn) By Mormon Tabernacle Choir from the album Choral Adagios, 2007 Music for Meditation – Following the Inner Path to Wellness ByMusic for Meditation from the album Spa Music – Personal Wellness, 2009 Wisdom is Found in the Silence and Relaxation ByMusic for Meditation from the album Spa Music – Personal Wellness, 2009
Photographic Credits All photographs included in this presentation were taken by srluke (aka Carol Kent). srluke (aka Carol Kent) holds all copyrights to the photographs included herein.