Category: Holistic Nursing Articles

The Deceptively Simple Art of Living in the Moment

By , August 4, 2009

Two holistic health practitioners at New York University Medical Center recently launched an innovative program to help staff and patients begin the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of moment-to-moment awareness. Mindfulness exercises can improve your attention span, mental clarity, memory, mood, and self-esteem. With regular practice, you can experience a reduction in anxiety, muscle tension, blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates.

Alex Tatarinov-Levin met recently with the founders of NYU’s Mindfulness program,  Jackie Levin, RN, MS, and Tara Piergrossi, a Masters candidate in Public Health at Hunter College. Jackie and Tara talk about the concept of mindfulness and how to begin your own practice in this in-depth interview.

It’s All in Your Mind: an Introduction to Mindfulness

Alex Tatarinov-Levin: How did you get involved in the concept of mindfulness?

Jackie Levin: I have a master’s degree in holistic nursing, and as part of that I became interested in the practice of meditation. I studied mindfulness first with Jon Kabat-Zinn [Associated Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School] and learned about his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, and that became a foundation of my own personal strategy for becoming centered, focused and aware.

Alex: What kind of stress are you referring to?

Jackie: All types of stress are interconnected, so while we might see emotional stress manifested physically, for example, tense shoulders, aches, pains, and the beginnings of disease – we can also experience it emotionally through anxiety, lack of focus, forgetfulness, mood swings or spiritual distress, in which you don’t feel a connection to others or to a spiritual being.

Alex: Is mindfulness intended to relieve stress?

Jackie: No, but it can be a byproduct. Mindfulness is the moment-to-moment awareness of what is going on around you. It’s a practice of becoming more aware and awake. So many of us are spending most of our time distracted, consciously or unconsciously, thinking about memories of the past or worrying about the future, but the only moment that really exists is this one. The practice of mindfulness helps you become a better observer and non-judgmentally aware of what’s going on in your environment.

Alex: What’s the importance of non-judgment to mindfulness?

Tara Piergrossi: You’re not trying to change the moment, just to accept it without judging it, and without trying to hold on to it or labeling it as good or bad.

Jackie: Your judgment says, if I were to see a dog going down the street and as a child I was bit by a dog and maintained that fear my whole life, I would see that dog as threatening. So is that dog threatening? I don’t really know, but if I take a moment I can become a non-judgmental observer of the dog walking down the street, I can then better understand if that dog is a threat or not, and whether I should turn and run or whether I could actually stop and pet the dog.

Alex: What if I’m restless or have trouble clearing my mind for five minutes?

Tara: Then you’re probably normal.

Jackie: Yes, very normal. You’re not trying to clear the mind; you’re trying to wake up the mind. We think our minds are awake, but mostly they’re asleep to what’s going on.

Alex: So mindfulness helps you step back and assess each situation on its own merits?

Jackie: Yes, that’s it. Each moment is unique. It doesn’t mean you don’t have memories and it doesn’t mean you don’t utilize those memories to make current analyses but you’re not letting those past memories dictate your current experience.

Alex: Is there a relationship between mindfulness and meditation?

Jackie: Mindfulness is a type of meditation practice.

Tara: You can sit in meditation position and notice your thoughts. So thoughts come in, you notice them and just go back to your point of focus, whatever it is, and you do that as many times as you need to, without judgment.

Alex: So it’s intended to help you make sense of your thoughts?

Jackie: Most of the time, we’re not aware of what we’re thinking. Those thoughts are just having random effects on us. So if I stop and I just sit there, I see sometimes I have a repetitive thought. Which means I can begin to attend to it and say, oh, that’s a worry I didn’t realize I had, and what is it I’d like to do about that? Is it really as big a problem as I think it is? So you can begin to discharge some of the tension through natural stress reduction and observe it. And you develop a compassion for yourself—a softness. Saying, oh, I did something I wasn’t so happy about. Most of the time, we end up being hard on ourselves. In mindfulness you’d be able to say, well, ok, I can now see how I did that in a clearer way, and I have lots of options and choices now. I can go talk to that person, I can redo the situation, I can get more information.

Alex: What other benefits are there to mindfulness?

Jackie: In the mental realm, it can increase focus, memory, clarity of thought. In the emotional realm, it can improve your mood. In the relationship realm, it can improve how you connect to others. In the physical realm, it may lower your blood pressure and regulate your heart rate and respiratory rate. Relaxation enhances your metabolism, so it can help your digestive processes because it’s actually activating the parasympathetic system.

Alex: What is the parasympathetic system?

Jackie: There are two systems: the stress response and the relaxation response. The stress response stimulates the sympathetic system that puts me in a fight or flight mode, and that raises the blood pressure and sends your blood out into the extremities so you can run or fight as you might need. It also narrows your focus, so you’re only able to focus on that stress. The relaxation response is the opposite and stimulates the parasympathetic system. It’s about the bodily processes that can go on when you’re not in a fight or flight situation. For example, you don’t need to digest food when you’re trying to fight or flee. The relaxation response reduces your blood pressure. Your heart rate is more regulated; your digestive system is working better and your body releases muscle tension. A lot of energy goes into stress-related anxiety. Stress requires a lot of energy in the body. Sort of like if you’re in a car and revving in the engine but not going anywhere, you’re wearing the engine down.

Take a Minute to be Mindful

Alex: What’s the best position for mindfulness practice and what can people do if they’re not comfortable with it?

Jackie: People should find a position in which they’re comfortable and not in pain, whether sitting or lying. If you’re sitting, your feet should be on the floor, your spine should be tall, but not rigid, and your neck should be long. You’re trying to give enough room for your ribs to breathe and take tension out of your spine. Arms are in your lap so there’s no tension in your shoulders. If you feel tension in your shoulders, put a pillow in your lap to reduce it. If your feet don’t reach the floor, put a pillow underneath them so that there’s no tension in your legs. You can also sit on the floor cross-legged, if that’s comfortable, with a little pillow under the buttocks so that your hips are higher than your knees.

Tara: Or lying down, but it’s sometimes hard not to fall asleep.

Jackie: If you’re lying down you may need a pillow under your knees. You can do it lying down, but the trick is not to fall asleep. Sleeping is not meditating. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, it’s sometimes helpful to meditate first. There’s also yoga meditation, anything that has a point of focus that captures your attention in which you practice not letting your mind wander off your point of focus. Walking can be a form of meditation, chanting is also a form of meditation.

Alex: What connection, if any, is there, between mindfulness and yoga? Between mindfulness and Buddhism or spirituality in general?

Jackie: Mindfulness meditation is a form of Buddhist meditation and many forms of eastern meditation practices. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program that Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli developed put the spiritual practice into a more secular format.

Alex: Is mindfulness similar to prayer?

Jackie: For me, mindfulness is related to contemplative prayer.

Alex: Is there any conflict between mindfulness and religion?

Jackie: No. people can practice their own forms of religion and spirituality and can also explore and practice meditation.

Tara: It can actually enhance religion.

Jackie: Other practices might call it prayer, concentration, contemplation. It’s a practice to give you insight into yourself. Jon Kabat-Zinn suggested in a program I took with him that we become our own scientist in our own laboratory, and just a keen observer of what goes on in that laboratory.

Alex: Do you have an example of an easy exercise that anyone can start out with?

Jackie: Start with a breath and smile. Put yourself in a comfortable position, with your feet on the ground and your neck and back long and feeling supported. Begin by bringing your awareness to your breath and letting your mind rest on your natural rhythm of breathing. Next, bring your attention to the full duration of your in-breath and the full duration of your out-breath. Wherever you notice your breath the most, at your nostrils or mouth as the air enters and leaves your body or during the rise and fall of your belly and chest.

Alex: Does that help you relax?

Jackie: It can help many people relax, but some people can become more agitated. Then you watch your agitation without judgment and observe it. We tend to run away from the difficult parts of our lives, so if agitation is a response you have to sitting quietly, just observe your experience with agitation, and then experience your mind frame. You might say, I want to get off this cushion as fast as I can, or, I just want to run away from the experience of agitation!

But what is this experience of agitation? You might feel your chest tightening or your heart racing, and observing these symptoms in your body will help you deal with them. What can often happen from there is that you can begin to relax. When we stop avoiding our problems and start gently, compassionately and non-judgmentally facing who we are in this moment, you’ll realize it’s just one moment. And this one might be different from the next. Mindfulness can lead to relaxation, but it’s different for everyone, there is no one way. It’s only you that you’re observing, in an intimate way, when you’re sitting in formal practice of meditation.

I want to connect this to making changes. The whole point of Healthy Monday is to develop a practice of reinventing yourself and changing once a week. If you’re not able to stop and reflect on what are the barriers to making change, or if you’re not able to observe yourself non-judgmentally and with compassion, when you realize you’re not making the choices that are good for you, you can just sit back and reflect on that and gain greater insight. And then perhaps you can make a more lasting committed change.

Formal vs. Informal Practice

Jackie: Formal practice is saying, I’m going to sit down for five to ten minutes a day and just sit with my breath and observe my thoughts and sensations that might be passing through my awareness in these ten minutes. If have the urge to get up or to avoid a thought, then that’s just my experience during this meditation. Informal practice is in our day-to-day life. Taking an everyday experience and being mindful throughout that activity. If I’m brushing my teeth and I let my mind wander to the 50 things I’m going to be doing the rest of the morning, I just stop and for two minutes just focus on the experience of brushing my teeth.

Tara: That’s a great way to utilize mindfulness. I was telling my students, pick one activity you do every day and just be mindful of it. Maybe washing your hair. Where are you going to go? Are you thinking about washing your hair? Probably not.

Jackie: Washing the dishes, making your bed, doing laundry. All those things in daily life are an opportunity to stop and just be present to this one moment. Let’s say you’re on this incredible beach and you’re watching the most amazing sunset. The first few moments you’re actually watching the sunset, but the rest of the time you’re thinking about how you’re going tell this friend of yours about it. In reality, you left the sunset and were actually in a conversation with your friend in your mind. You missed that beautiful sunset.

Tara: Another thing is when you’re on vacation, you’re thinking ahead to, oh, there’s only three days left, and you’re missing your whole vacation because you’re thinking about when you have to go back to work.

Jackie: Then as we go about our day, our formal and informal practices can be utilized spontaneously when moments of stress arise. For example, If I’m standing in a very long line at the supermarket and I’m running late, I may begin to experience a sense of agitation because I’m in a hurry. I just take a deep breath and observe my experience of standing in line, which then helps me realize it’s not that big a deal. I’ll be 5 minutes late, or I’ll put my groceries back and get them later, but I don’t have to let my blood pressure go up, I don’t have to let my agitation take over, I don’t have to stamp my foot and have all those experiences we have when you’re feeling stressed.

Tara: The benefit of using the breath-centered approach to mindfulness is that your breath is always with you; any time of day you can always focus on your breath.

Jackie: And your breath is always changing, so it’s dynamic, and that relates to life. If you’re able to connect to this ever-present dynamic aspect of yourself, you’ll be able to better manage the ever-present changing dynamics that go on in your external life as well. The thing that gets us most stressed and disrupted in our lives is that when we have an expectation of something happening and it doesn’t. Unrequited expectations cause stress. So the more you’re able to accept the moment for what it is, then there’s less chance of your being disappointed.

Alex: Is there a specific breathing method you recommend?

Jackie: In this form of mindfulness it’s just observing your breath. There are many powerful distinctive ways of breathing in meditation, but, mindfulness is just observing the breath, one breath at a time.

Jackie: So there are a hundred ways we can lose our balance – emotional balance, natural, psychological balance, physical balance – every moment. If you’re practicing mindfulness, you have a greater awareness of when you fall off balance, and you can then grab onto your practice of mindfulness to bring you back into balance. This way I don’t get so off-center.

Mindfulness Monday: Practice Living Each Moment

Alex: Let’s say I’m in an angry mood because I recently got laid off. What if meditating doesn’t make me feel any better?

Jackie: Mindfulness is not necessarily about changing an angry person into a non-angry person, it’s about you becoming aware of your anger and how you experience it. So imagine you’re feeling anger, and you send all this rage externally. Unless you’re being violent to someone physically, most of the violence is done to ourselves. Only we’re not aware of it because we’re so focused on our emotional hurt. The goal is not to take away the anger, the goal is for you to become awake to the feeling that you’re angry and that you might have all these varieties of thought and physical and emotional experiences while being angry. When you allow yourself to be aware of your experience, the experience shifts. Say you got laid off and you’re angry. A lot of us would be resentful and angry towards the person who laid us off and we’d blame them for our problems, instead I could become more specific about the concerns of being laid off like, I’ve been laid off, I don’t know if I’m going get another job. I’m scared about not paying the mortgage. What am I going to tell my family? If you can get down to that beginning level of awareness, you can begin to sort through and go on. Just breathe for the next few moments and don’t try to change anything at all. Then see where your thoughts can lead you. Oh, I didn’t like this job anyway, or, maybe I can tell the bank I was laid off, and they’ll give me a month without penalty of paying my mortgage.

Tara: Mindfulness helps you not to cling to that past experience. If you’re in the present, you know, that happened, I’m here now, not looking forward, not looking ahead, just being here for a moment.

Alex: How can mindfulness help you stay away from extreme behavior while encouraging acceptance of it?

Jackie: The beauty of mindfulness, like life, is that it is full of paradoxes. On the one hand, mindfulness helps you not get so angry, but then you say but mindfulness is not asking you not to be so angry, so both are true. It’s a paradox. Human beings want things defined, without confusion. But what mindfulness teaches is that if we’re being present fully in the moment, we become aware of the multidimensionality of our existence. So there is no absolute. So when I practice mindfulness long enough, I become more aware of what takes me, personally, out of balance, so that I am much more sensitive and alert to those situations – and when they start to happen, I go into my practice which is to be present to my own responses. However, if I’m observing my anger, I’m not necessarily acting my anger out. So you could say something to me that makes me angrier than I’ve ever been, and you might never know.

Tips for Starting Your Own Practice

Alex: Who are your Monday Mindfulness Memos intended for?
Jackie: This is on the NYU Medical Center intranet, available for any employee of the NYU Medical Center right now.
Tara: But eventually we’d like to house them on our website, which is being created. We already have one for our preparatory surgery program, but we’re creating one for the Mind Body Patient Care program, and we’ll put these on there – so they’ll be available to anyone. We want to do one memo a month and then supplement that memo with weekly Monday tips on how to use mindfulness and apply it to your daily life. So every Monday you start fresh – you use mindfulness and incorporate it into your life.

Alex: Are the tips cumulative? Or can anyone start fresh?

Jackie: Anyone can start fresh. We’re going to have links and an archive for monthly memos so people can click on that and then utilize those tips.

Tara: The first one is basically, what is mindfulness? and that will always be on the intranet in case you come into this later and you don’t already know what mindfulness is. Later on we are going to write memos on mindful communication, mindful eating… all sorts of ways to use mindfulness in your everyday life.

Alex: What are you trying to communicate with these memos and tips?

Jackie: Basically it’s utilizing the principles of compassion and non-judgmentalness when we listen and speak with each other. The more skillful we are at listening deeply to what another is trying to communicate to us, the more we are able to understand the intent of the speaker.

Tara: It’s an ideal way of communicating. Also, when you’re talking to someone, instead of thinking of what you’re going to say next –you’re actually listening, mindfully listening, and then responding.

Alex: Sounds brilliant – and common sense.

Jackie: The practice of meditation is essentially common sense. But in order to implement it on a regular basis you have to practice. It’s difficult to always remember to be mindful when somebody says something that I want to react to. It also helps me remember that the other person has a frame of reference too, and I want to understand it. That’s where the compassion comes in and the non-judgmental attitude. If you say something to me, I first try to understand your motivation, your reason for saying that, then I can honestly assess what kind of response I should give.

Alex: How does Monday fit in?

Jackie: I think the Monday idea is great. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes practice and commitment. Using Monday helps you realize, without judgment, that changes will eventually occur if you stick with it. And on the days that you don’t, you’re not harsh on yourself. Be kind to yourself. If it’s Thursday, you can decide to meditate or skip meat or whatever else you’re trying to do on that day, but you also know that every Monday is another day when you can begin seeing yourself fresh and anew. In mindfulness, every moment gives you that opportunity – but I think it’s very clever to connect it to a day of the week. The whole point of Healthy Monday is to develop a practice of reinventing yourself and working on changing once a week. If you’re not able to stop and reflect on what are the barriers to making change, or if you’re not able to observe yourself non-judgmentally and with compassion, when you realize you’re not making the choices that are good for you, you can just sit back and reflect on that and gain greater insight. And then perhaps you can make a more lasting committed change.

Tara: I think it really supports being compassionate to yourself. I know in my life, if I don’t go to the gym, I’ll be like forget it. But with Monday, you have a weekly opportunity to start over. It helps you not get discouraged with quitting or having a setback.

Jackie: Mindfulness has really helped with my greater sense of patience. When we’re taking on a big change, like quitting smoking – which is huge – you commit to Monday, you commit to being mindful of every time you have an urge to smoke, and you accept that urge, but in this moment, I can resist that urge because next moment that urge might go away. I know that if I can wait 30 seconds, that urge will be gone. That urge may come back later in the day, and then you sit with it. You can quit cold turkey, but it doesn’t mean you won’t have other desires for cigarettes.

Tara: When you have the urge to smoke, you supplement it for something else, unless you really feel the reason why you’re smoking.

Tara: You don’t practice mindfulness to make yourself a better person or to relax or make changes in yourself, but to help you tune in to what’s going on. All those things could happen as a result, but it is really easy to think I need to practice mindfulness to be better, to do more.

Alex: How has mindfulness changed your lives or perspectives?

Tara: Well I found mindfulness through yoga, and from the process of yoga I started teaching it. I just started doing yoga and it really changed my perspective on my life, and I didn’t know why. I wanted to figure out why and then help teach that to other people. I spent so much of my younger years looking forward, thinking I’ll be happy when I’m in college or I’ll be happy when I’m doing this. You can keep saying you’ll be happy when you get somewhere else, but this is your life right now. So that really helped me to live now and be happy.

Tara: My brother is a mindfulness meditation instructor. He did a workshop with people, and he had a little cup with sunflower seeds. We were sitting and observing our thoughts, and every time you had a thought, you’re supposed to drop a sunflower into the cup. So you could hear when everyone else had a thought, and it was like a rainstorm, and it was just a wonderful to hear everybody’s thoughts. You’re always giving off thoughts, and there’s nothing wrong with having them, just remember to come back.

Jackie: Mindfulness has helped me take things less seriously, be more playful. I can deal with things that are serious and hard, but also have an accompanying lightness to that experience. The people that I know who practice mindfulness on a regular basis smile a lot more, laugh a lot more, enjoy life a lot more.

Tara: Since you’re observing your thoughts, and if you notice your thoughts, it’s like, oh, that’s interesting. Where did that come from? It’s much more playful.

Alex: How’s this for a headline? Mindfulness: live for the moment.

Jackie: It’s more, be present in each moment, really.

Jackie: The more mindful I am the more precise I am. Not in an exhausting way; but, because I’m trying to actually capture everything as it is. I’ve become less satisfied with a lazy approach to understanding what others are trying to say or do. It’s a very precise practice.

Tara: We’re also much more curious about ourselves, and the world around us.

On Mindful Eating

Alex: Can you tell our readers a little bit about mindful eating?

Tara: If you’re mindful of your body, you will be swallowing and chewing when you need to, and you will stop way before you have gorged yourself. To be full, sometimes we throw food in our mouths, but you’ll enjoy and taste the food more if you practice mindful eating. You can extend it to the mindfulness of purchasing and preparing the food, and it will also connect you to the food though awareness of who grew the food, who harvested it, packaged and delivered it, if we’re not in a rural community and growing it ourselves.

Alex: Why is it important to have a connection with our food?

Jackie: I think it’s important to have a connection with everything that’s around us, and that I think good food is important, and the more we’re aware of how our food came to us, the more likely we are to make healthier choices.

Tara: If you’re mindful that you’re hungry, you’ll eat when you’re hungry, and you might make better choices if you’re mindful of your body’s hunger. So if right now I’m hungry, I know that I would probably go eat that whole counter, but if I’m aware of that it will help restrict me.

Jackie: When you connect to where your food is grown and the environment it’s grown in, we have a global awareness, and global awareness will help eventually bring peace.

Tara: It shows that we’re all connected—

Jackie: —and we should appreciate the people who grow our food.

Jackie Levin, RN, MS, and Tara Piergrossi, a Masters candidate in Public Health at Hunter College, are the founders of the NYU Mindfulness program.

Alex Tatarinov-Levin is a web content editor for Yodle, a business directory and local online advertising company offering practical and innovative solutions for advertising in the 21st century. Find consumer guides, tips and articles at local.yodle.com/articles.

Deceptively Simple – Art of Living in the Moment

By , August 2, 2009

Two holistic health practitioners at New York University Medical Center recently launched an innovative program to help staff and patients begin the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of moment-to-moment awareness. Mindfulness exercises can improve your attention span, mental clarity, memory, mood, and self-esteem. With regular practice, you can experience a reduction in anxiety, muscle tension, blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates.

Alex Tatarinov-Levin met recently with the founders of NYU’s Mindfulness program,  Jackie Levin, RN, MS, and Tara Piergrossi, a Masters candidate in Public Health at Hunter College. Jackie and Tara talk about the concept of mindfulness and how to begin your own practice in this in-depth interview.

It’s All in Your Mind: an Introduction to Mindfulness

Alex Tatarinov-Levin: How did you get involved in the concept of mindfulness?

Jackie Levin: I have a master’s degree in holistic nursing, and as part of that I became interested in the practice of meditation. I studied mindfulness first with Jon Kabat-Zinn [Associated Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School] and learned about his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, and that became a foundation of my own personal strategy for becoming centered, focused and aware.

Alex: What kind of stress are you referring to?

Jackie: All types of stress are interconnected, so while we might see emotional stress manifested physically, for example, tense shoulders, aches, pains, and the beginnings of disease – we can also experience it emotionally through anxiety, lack of focus, forgetfulness, mood swings or spiritual distress, in which you don’t feel a connection to others or to a spiritual being.

Alex: Is mindfulness intended to relieve stress?

Jackie: No, but it can be a byproduct. Mindfulness is the moment-to-moment awareness of what is going on around you. It’s a practice of becoming more aware and awake. So many of us are spending most of our time distracted, consciously or unconsciously, thinking about memories of the past or worrying about the future, but the only moment that really exists is this one. The practice of mindfulness helps you become a better observer and non-judgmentally aware of what’s going on in your environment.

Alex: What’s the importance of non-judgment to mindfulness?

Tara Piergrossi: You’re not trying to change the moment, just to accept it without judging it, and without trying to hold on to it or labeling it as good or bad.

Jackie: Your judgment says, if I were to see a dog going down the street and as a child I was bit by a dog and maintained that fear my whole life, I would see that dog as threatening. So is that dog threatening? I don’t really know, but if I take a moment I can become a non-judgmental observer of the dog walking down the street, I can then better understand if that dog is a threat or not, and whether I should turn and run or whether I could actually stop and pet the dog.

Alex: What if I’m restless or have trouble clearing my mind for five minutes?

Tara: Then you’re probably normal.

Jackie: Yes, very normal. You’re not trying to clear the mind; you’re trying to wake up the mind. We think our minds are awake, but mostly they’re asleep to what’s going on.

Alex: So mindfulness helps you step back and assess each situation on its own merits?

Jackie: Yes, that’s it. Each moment is unique. It doesn’t mean you don’t have memories and it doesn’t mean you don’t utilize those memories to make current analyses but you’re not letting those past memories dictate your current experience.

Alex: Is there a relationship between mindfulness and meditation?

Jackie: Mindfulness is a type of meditation practice.

Tara: You can sit in meditation position and notice your thoughts. So thoughts come in, you notice them and just go back to your point of focus, whatever it is, and you do that as many times as you need to, without judgment.

Alex: So it’s intended to help you make sense of your thoughts?

Jackie: Most of the time, we’re not aware of what we’re thinking. Those thoughts are just having random effects on us. So if I stop and I just sit there, I see sometimes I have a repetitive thought. Which means I can begin to attend to it and say, oh, that’s a worry I didn’t realize I had, and what is it I’d like to do about that? Is it really as big a problem as I think it is? So you can begin to discharge some of the tension through natural stress reduction and observe it. And you develop a compassion for yourself—a softness. Saying, oh, I did something I wasn’t so happy about. Most of the time, we end up being hard on ourselves. In mindfulness you’d be able to say, well, ok, I can now see how I did that in a clearer way, and I have lots of options and choices now. I can go talk to that person, I can redo the situation, I can get more information.

Alex: What other benefits are there to mindfulness?

Jackie: In the mental realm, it can increase focus, memory, clarity of thought. In the emotional realm, it can improve your mood. In the relationship realm, it can improve how you connect to others. In the physical realm, it may lower your blood pressure and regulate your heart rate and respiratory rate. Relaxation enhances your metabolism, so it can help your digestive processes because it’s actually activating the parasympathetic system.

Alex: What is the parasympathetic system?

Jackie: There are two systems: the stress response and the relaxation response. The stress response stimulates the sympathetic system that puts me in a fight or flight mode, and that raises the blood pressure and sends your blood out into the extremities so you can run or fight as you might need. It also narrows your focus, so you’re only able to focus on that stress. The relaxation response is the opposite and stimulates the parasympathetic system. It’s about the bodily processes that can go on when you’re not in a fight or flight situation. For example, you don’t need to digest food when you’re trying to fight or flee. The relaxation response reduces your blood pressure. Your heart rate is more regulated; your digestive system is working better and your body releases muscle tension. A lot of energy goes into stress-related anxiety. Stress requires a lot of energy in the body. Sort of like if you’re in a car and revving in the engine but not going anywhere, you’re wearing the engine down.

Take a Minute to be Mindful

Alex: What’s the best position for mindfulness practice and what can people do if they’re not comfortable with it?

Jackie: People should find a position in which they’re comfortable and not in pain, whether sitting or lying. If you’re sitting, your feet should be on the floor, your spine should be tall, but not rigid, and your neck should be long. You’re trying to give enough room for your ribs to breathe and take tension out of your spine. Arms are in your lap so there’s no tension in your shoulders. If you feel tension in your shoulders, put a pillow in your lap to reduce it. If your feet don’t reach the floor, put a pillow underneath them so that there’s no tension in your legs. You can also sit on the floor cross-legged, if that’s comfortable, with a little pillow under the buttocks so that your hips are higher than your knees.

Tara: Or lying down, but it’s sometimes hard not to fall asleep.

Jackie: If you’re lying down you may need a pillow under your knees. You can do it lying down, but the trick is not to fall asleep. Sleeping is not meditating. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, it’s sometimes helpful to meditate first. There’s also yoga meditation, anything that has a point of focus that captures your attention in which you practice not letting your mind wander off your point of focus. Walking can be a form of meditation, chanting is also a form of meditation.

Alex: What connection, if any, is there, between mindfulness and yoga? Between mindfulness and Buddhism or spirituality in general?

Jackie: Mindfulness meditation is a form of Buddhist meditation and many forms of eastern meditation practices. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program that Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli developed put the spiritual practice into a more secular format.

Alex: Is mindfulness similar to prayer?

Jackie: For me, mindfulness is related to contemplative prayer.

Alex: Is there any conflict between mindfulness and religion?

Jackie: No. people can practice their own forms of religion and spirituality and can also explore and practice meditation.

Tara: It can actually enhance religion.

Jackie: Other practices might call it prayer, concentration, contemplation. It’s a practice to give you insight into yourself. Jon Kabat-Zinn suggested in a program I took with him that we become our own scientist in our own laboratory, and just a keen observer of what goes on in that laboratory.

Alex: Do you have an example of an easy exercise that anyone can start out with?

Jackie: Start with a breath and smile. Put yourself in a comfortable position, with your feet on the ground and your neck and back long and feeling supported. Begin by bringing your awareness to your breath and letting your mind rest on your natural rhythm of breathing. Next, bring your attention to the full duration of your in-breath and the full duration of your out-breath. Wherever you notice your breath the most, at your nostrils or mouth as the air enters and leaves your body or during the rise and fall of your belly and chest.

Alex: Does that help you relax?

Jackie: It can help many people relax, but some people can become more agitated. Then you watch your agitation without judgment and observe it. We tend to run away from the difficult parts of our lives, so if agitation is a response you have to sitting quietly, just observe your experience with agitation, and then experience your mind frame. You might say, I want to get off this cushion as fast as I can, or, I just want to run away from the experience of agitation!

But what is this experience of agitation? You might feel your chest tightening or your heart racing, and observing these symptoms in your body will help you deal with them. What can often happen from there is that you can begin to relax. When we stop avoiding our problems and start gently, compassionately and non-judgmentally facing who we are in this moment, you’ll realize it’s just one moment. And this one might be different from the next. Mindfulness can lead to relaxation, but it’s different for everyone, there is no one way. It’s only you that you’re observing, in an intimate way, when you’re sitting in formal practice of meditation.

I want to connect this to making changes. The whole point of Healthy Monday is to develop a practice of reinventing yourself and changing once a week. If you’re not able to stop and reflect on what are the barriers to making change, or if you’re not able to observe yourself non-judgmentally and with compassion, when you realize you’re not making the choices that are good for you, you can just sit back and reflect on that and gain greater insight. And then perhaps you can make a more lasting committed change.

Formal vs. Informal Practice

Jackie: Formal practice is saying, I’m going to sit down for five to ten minutes a day and just sit with my breath and observe my thoughts and sensations that might be passing through my awareness in these ten minutes. If have the urge to get up or to avoid a thought, then that’s just my experience during this meditation. Informal practice is in our day-to-day life. Taking an everyday experience and being mindful throughout that activity. If I’m brushing my teeth and I let my mind wander to the 50 things I’m going to be doing the rest of the morning, I just stop and for two minutes just focus on the experience of brushing my teeth.

Tara: That’s a great way to utilize mindfulness. I was telling my students, pick one activity you do every day and just be mindful of it. Maybe washing your hair. Where are you going to go? Are you thinking about washing your hair? Probably not.

Jackie: Washing the dishes, making your bed, doing laundry. All those things in daily life are an opportunity to stop and just be present to this one moment. Let’s say you’re on this incredible beach and you’re watching the most amazing sunset. The first few moments you’re actually watching the sunset, but the rest of the time you’re thinking about how you’re going tell this friend of yours about it. In reality, you left the sunset and were actually in a conversation with your friend in your mind. You missed that beautiful sunset.

Tara: Another thing is when you’re on vacation, you’re thinking ahead to, oh, there’s only three days left, and you’re missing your whole vacation because you’re thinking about when you have to go back to work.

Jackie: Then as we go about our day, our formal and informal practices can be utilized spontaneously when moments of stress arise. For example, If I’m standing in a very long line at the supermarket and I’m running late, I may begin to experience a sense of agitation because I’m in a hurry. I just take a deep breath and observe my experience of standing in line, which then helps me realize it’s not that big a deal. I’ll be 5 minutes late, or I’ll put my groceries back and get them later, but I don’t have to let my blood pressure go up, I don’t have to let my agitation take over, I don’t have to stamp my foot and have all those experiences we have when you’re feeling stressed.

Tara: The benefit of using the breath-centered approach to mindfulness is that your breath is always with you; any time of day you can always focus on your breath.

Jackie: And your breath is always changing, so it’s dynamic, and that relates to life. If you’re able to connect to this ever-present dynamic aspect of yourself, you’ll be able to better manage the ever-present changing dynamics that go on in your external life as well. The thing that gets us most stressed and disrupted in our lives is that when we have an expectation of something happening and it doesn’t. Unrequited expectations cause stress. So the more you’re able to accept the moment for what it is, then there’s less chance of your being disappointed.

Alex: Is there a specific breathing method you recommend?

Jackie: In this form of mindfulness it’s just observing your breath. There are many powerful distinctive ways of breathing in meditation, but, mindfulness is just observing the breath, one breath at a time.

Jackie: So there are a hundred ways we can lose our balance – emotional balance, natural, psychological balance, physical balance – every moment. If you’re practicing mindfulness, you have a greater awareness of when you fall off balance, and you can then grab onto your practice of mindfulness to bring you back into balance. This way I don’t get so off-center.

Mindfulness Monday: Practice Living Each Moment

Alex: Let’s say I’m in an angry mood because I recently got laid off. What if meditating doesn’t make me feel any better?

Jackie: Mindfulness is not necessarily about changing an angry person into a non-angry person, it’s about you becoming aware of your anger and how you experience it. So imagine you’re feeling anger, and you send all this rage externally. Unless you’re being violent to someone physically, most of the violence is done to ourselves. Only we’re not aware of it because we’re so focused on our emotional hurt. The goal is not to take away the anger, the goal is for you to become awake to the feeling that you’re angry and that you might have all these varieties of thought and physical and emotional experiences while being angry. When you allow yourself to be aware of your experience, the experience shifts. Say you got laid off and you’re angry. A lot of us would be resentful and angry towards the person who laid us off and we’d blame them for our problems, instead I could become more specific about the concerns of being laid off like, I’ve been laid off, I don’t know if I’m going get another job. I’m scared about not paying the mortgage. What am I going to tell my family? If you can get down to that beginning level of awareness, you can begin to sort through and go on. Just breathe for the next few moments and don’t try to change anything at all. Then see where your thoughts can lead you. Oh, I didn’t like this job anyway, or, maybe I can tell the bank I was laid off, and they’ll give me a month without penalty of paying my mortgage.

Tara: Mindfulness helps you not to cling to that past experience. If you’re in the present, you know, that happened, I’m here now, not looking forward, not looking ahead, just being here for a moment.

Alex: How can mindfulness help you stay away from extreme behavior while encouraging acceptance of it?

Jackie: The beauty of mindfulness, like life, is that it is full of paradoxes. On the one hand, mindfulness helps you not get so angry, but then you say but mindfulness is not asking you not to be so angry, so both are true. It’s a paradox. Human beings want things defined, without confusion. But what mindfulness teaches is that if we’re being present fully in the moment, we become aware of the multidimensionality of our existence. So there is no absolute. So when I practice mindfulness long enough, I become more aware of what takes me, personally, out of balance, so that I am much more sensitive and alert to those situations – and when they start to happen, I go into my practice which is to be present to my own responses. However, if I’m observing my anger, I’m not necessarily acting my anger out. So you could say something to me that makes me angrier than I’ve ever been, and you might never know.

Tips for Starting Your Own Practice

Alex: Who are your Monday Mindfulness Memos intended for?
Jackie: This is on the NYU Medical Center intranet, available for any employee of the NYU Medical Center right now.
Tara: But eventually we’d like to house them on our website, which is being created. We already have one for our preparatory surgery program, but we’re creating one for the Mind Body Patient Care program, and we’ll put these on there – so they’ll be available to anyone. We want to do one memo a month and then supplement that memo with weekly Monday tips on how to use mindfulness and apply it to your daily life. So every Monday you start fresh – you use mindfulness and incorporate it into your life.

Alex: Are the tips cumulative? Or can anyone start fresh?

Jackie: Anyone can start fresh. We’re going to have links and an archive for monthly memos so people can click on that and then utilize those tips.

Tara: The first one is basically, what is mindfulness? and that will always be on the intranet in case you come into this later and you don’t already know what mindfulness is. Later on we are going to write memos on mindful communication, mindful eating… all sorts of ways to use mindfulness in your everyday life.

Alex: What are you trying to communicate with these memos and tips?

Jackie: Basically it’s utilizing the principles of compassion and non-judgmentalness when we listen and speak with each other. The more skillful we are at listening deeply to what another is trying to communicate to us, the more we are able to understand the intent of the speaker.

Tara: It’s an ideal way of communicating. Also, when you’re talking to someone, instead of thinking of what you’re going to say next –you’re actually listening, mindfully listening, and then responding.

Alex: Sounds brilliant – and common sense.

Jackie: The practice of meditation is essentially common sense. But in order to implement it on a regular basis you have to practice. It’s difficult to always remember to be mindful when somebody says something that I want to react to. It also helps me remember that the other person has a frame of reference too, and I want to understand it. That’s where the compassion comes in and the non-judgmental attitude. If you say something to me, I first try to understand your motivation, your reason for saying that, then I can honestly assess what kind of response I should give.

Alex: How does Monday fit in?

Jackie: I think the Monday idea is great. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes practice and commitment. Using Monday helps you realize, without judgment, that changes will eventually occur if you stick with it. And on the days that you don’t, you’re not harsh on yourself. Be kind to yourself. If it’s Thursday, you can decide to meditate or skip meat or whatever else you’re trying to do on that day, but you also know that every Monday is another day when you can begin seeing yourself fresh and anew. In mindfulness, every moment gives you that opportunity – but I think it’s very clever to connect it to a day of the week. The whole point of Healthy Monday is to develop a practice of reinventing yourself and working on changing once a week. If you’re not able to stop and reflect on what are the barriers to making change, or if you’re not able to observe yourself non-judgmentally and with compassion, when you realize you’re not making the choices that are good for you, you can just sit back and reflect on that and gain greater insight. And then perhaps you can make a more lasting committed change.

Tara: I think it really supports being compassionate to yourself. I know in my life, if I don’t go to the gym, I’ll be like forget it. But with Monday, you have a weekly opportunity to start over. It helps you not get discouraged with quitting or having a setback.

Jackie: Mindfulness has really helped with my greater sense of patience. When we’re taking on a big change, like quitting smoking – which is huge – you commit to Monday, you commit to being mindful of every time you have an urge to smoke, and you accept that urge, but in this moment, I can resist that urge because next moment that urge might go away. I know that if I can wait 30 seconds, that urge will be gone. That urge may come back later in the day, and then you sit with it. You can quit cold turkey, but it doesn’t mean you won’t have other desires for cigarettes.

Tara: When you have the urge to smoke, you supplement it for something else, unless you really feel the reason why you’re smoking.

Tara: You don’t practice mindfulness to make yourself a better person or to relax or make changes in yourself, but to help you tune in to what’s going on. All those things could happen as a result, but it is really easy to think I need to practice mindfulness to be better, to do more.

Alex: How has mindfulness changed your lives or perspectives?

Tara: Well I found mindfulness through yoga, and from the process of yoga I started teaching it. I just started doing yoga and it really changed my perspective on my life, and I didn’t know why. I wanted to figure out why and then help teach that to other people. I spent so much of my younger years looking forward, thinking I’ll be happy when I’m in college or I’ll be happy when I’m doing this. You can keep saying you’ll be happy when you get somewhere else, but this is your life right now. So that really helped me to live now and be happy.

Tara: My brother is a mindfulness meditation instructor. He did a workshop with people, and he had a little cup with sunflower seeds. We were sitting and observing our thoughts, and every time you had a thought, you’re supposed to drop a sunflower into the cup. So you could hear when everyone else had a thought, and it was like a rainstorm, and it was just a wonderful to hear everybody’s thoughts. You’re always giving off thoughts, and there’s nothing wrong with having them, just remember to come back.

Jackie: Mindfulness has helped me take things less seriously, be more playful. I can deal with things that are serious and hard, but also have an accompanying lightness to that experience. The people that I know who practice mindfulness on a regular basis smile a lot more, laugh a lot more, enjoy life a lot more.

Tara: Since you’re observing your thoughts, and if you notice your thoughts, it’s like, oh, that’s interesting. Where did that come from? It’s much more playful.

Alex: How’s this for a headline? Mindfulness: live for the moment.

Jackie: It’s more, be present in each moment, really.

Jackie: The more mindful I am the more precise I am. Not in an exhausting way; but, because I’m trying to actually capture everything as it is. I’ve become less satisfied with a lazy approach to understanding what others are trying to say or do. It’s a very precise practice.

Tara: We’re also much more curious about ourselves, and the world around us.

On Mindful Eating

Alex: Can you tell our readers a little bit about mindful eating?

Tara: If you’re mindful of your body, you will be swallowing and chewing when you need to, and you will stop way before you have gorged yourself. To be full, sometimes we throw food in our mouths, but you’ll enjoy and taste the food more if you practice mindful eating. You can extend it to the mindfulness of purchasing and preparing the food, and it will also connect you to the food though awareness of who grew the food, who harvested it, packaged and delivered it, if we’re not in a rural community and growing it ourselves.

Alex: Why is it important to have a connection with our food?

Jackie: I think it’s important to have a connection with everything that’s around us, and that I think good food is important, and the more we’re aware of how our food came to us, the more likely we are to make healthier choices.

Tara: If you’re mindful that you’re hungry, you’ll eat when you’re hungry, and you might make better choices if you’re mindful of your body’s hunger. So if right now I’m hungry, I know that I would probably go eat that whole counter, but if I’m aware of that it will help restrict me.

Jackie: When you connect to where your food is grown and the environment it’s grown in, we have a global awareness, and global awareness will help eventually bring peace.

Tara: It shows that we’re all connected—

Jackie: —and we should appreciate the people who grow our food.

Jackie Levin, RN, MS, and Tara Piergrossi, a Masters candidate in Public Health at Hunter College, are the founders of the NYU Mindfulness program.

Alex Tatarinov-Levin is a web content editor for Yodle, a business directory and local online advertising company offering practical and innovative solutions for advertising in the 21st century. Find consumer guides, tips and articles at local.yodle.com/articles.

Iridology Programs

By , August 1, 2009

What exactly will you learn in educational iridology programs? In addition to learning the history of iridology, students learn how to “chart” the eye by identifying various markers on the iris. Markers (or characteristics) that are found on the iris may relate to different bodily functions; and may be able to determine specific health tendencies and/or status of corresponding body systems.

The training that students receive in iridology programs is unique in that students begin to understand that iridology is more of a natural diagnostic method as opposed to a health treatment. This is why; too, many courses in iridology may integrate studies in herbal medicine, nutrition, and other elective natural health training.

Iridology programs teach students to analyze the iris and determine which areas (of the iris) may be affecting health constitution. In doing so, future iridology practitioners can help individuals take corrective measures to help restore wellness through nutritional adjustments.

Common studies in iridology programs include the philosophies of iridology, eye anatomy and physiology, iris mapping, iris photography (and cameras), iris structure and evaluations, and tools relevant to the trade (iris magnifier, light, mirror). Additional instruction in iridology courses may include supplementary training in flower essences, holistic nutrition, herbology, supplements and vitamins, and kinesiology, among others.

Natural healers who would benefit from completing one of a number of iridology programs include holistic health practitioners, massage therapists, reflexologists, naturopaths, homeopaths, and holistic nurses.

If you (or someone you know) are interested in learning more about this or other healing arts programs, let professional training within fast-growing industries like massage therapy, naturopathy, acupuncture, oriental medicine, Reiki, and others get you started! Explore iridology programs near you.

Iridology Programs

© Copyright 2008

The CollegeBound Network

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NOTICE: Article(s) may be republished free of charge to relevant websites, as long as Copyright and Author Resource Box are included; and ALL Hyperlinks REMAIN intact and active.

Resource Box: CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd – Freelance Writer and Web Consultant for HolisticJunction.com, in association with CollegeSurfing.com – Educational Resources for Iridology Programs, Holistic Health, and other Healing Arts programs.

Alternative Healing Diploma: Earn Yours Today

By , July 30, 2009

Find Alternative Healing Diploma programs in the United States and Canada. Why should you earn an alternative healing diploma? There are several reasons why you might consider enrolling in one of a number of healing arts schools that offer alternative healing diploma programs; here’s why: Holistic and natural health professions are steadily increasing in demand, and an alternative healing diploma can help you to attain professional alternative health careers that can be both personally and financially rewarding.

An alternative healing diploma can aid you in your quest to professional success. In many cases, alternative healing diploma programs encompass a broad assortment of courses. Whether you are interested in iridology, herbal studies, homeopathy, massage therapy, or natural health and wellness, an alternative healing diploma can lend you necessary knowledge and skills to provide these noninvasive health services to patients and clients, alike.

If you are already a natural health practitioner, such as a naturopathic doctor or holistic nurse, an alternative healing diploma in any number of natural healing modalities will only enhance your practice, and will certainly broaden your knowledge base.

An alternative healing diploma program can be quite comprehensive in nature. In a selection of alternative healing diploma programs, students can anticipate up to 1,000 classroom hours (i.e., massage therapy programs); which may include in-depth classes in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, CPR and first aid, holistic nutrition, and a number of associated studies. Other alternative healing diploma programs may be extended through correspondence courses or continuing education platforms.

Some alternative healing diploma programs may afford students with ease of access, as many holistic schools offer alternative healing workshops and seminars; and day, evening and weekend schedules. In a variety of these alternative healing diploma programs, students are sometimes extended academic opportunities to gain certification and/or licensure (depending on individual school).

Overall, an alternative healing diploma can help you to acquire needed capabilities to provide natural healthcare services to persons. In many cases, students who have successfully acquired an alternative healing diploma can go onto becoming professional massage therapists, holistic nutrition advisors, hypnotherapists, and herbal medicine practitioners.

If you (or someone you know) are interested in enrolling in one of several alternative healing schools to help find your dream job, let education within fast-growing industries like massage therapy, cosmetology, acupuncture, oriental medicine, Reiki, and others get you started! Explore career school programs near you.

Alternative Healing Diploma: Earn Yours Today

© Copyright 2007

The CollegeBound Network

All Rights Reserved

NOTICE: Article(s) may be republished free of charge to relevant websites, as long as Copyright and Author Resource Box (above) are included; and ALL Hyperlinks REMAIN intact and active.

Resource Box: CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd – Freelance Writer and Web Consultant for HolisticJunction.com, in association with CollegeSurfing.com – Educational Resources for Natural Healing Schools, Alternative Healing Diploma Programs, and other Alternative Medicine Schools.

Natural Health College: Todayâ??s Healing Arts

By , July 29, 2009

Find Natural Health College programs in the United States and Canada. There is a large array of healing arts taught at a natural health college. Depending on which field of interest individuals have, one can enroll in a natural health college and earn a degree in naturopathic medicine or can participate in a condensed herbal medicine certificate program.

Of course, there are countless other natural healing and holistic programs like massage therapy, reflexology, and holistic practitioner courses in which one can enroll as well. With the growing demand for complementary therapies, a natural health college normally extends bodywork programs that are designed for today’s massage therapist and alternative healing practitioner. Standard curriculums in a massage therapy program at a natural health college involve hands-on training in deep tissue massage, Swedish massage and sometimes, sports massage. Additional instruction in kinesiology, CPR and first aid and massage history and philosophies are given.

In a holistic practitioner program at a natural health college, students are introduced to a variety of bodywork techniques, as well as holistic nutrition and skincare, herbal medicine and iridology. Other studies in a holistic practitioner course include aromatherapy, hydrotherapy and basic first aid and CPR.

A natural health college may also supply extensive training in chiropractic, Chinese medicine and naturopathic medicine. These particular programs involve several years of in-depth study, and result in a degree and/or diploma. For example, a naturopathic natural health college teaches fundamentals of naturopathy, as well as herbal medicine, natural healthcare and nutrition, homeopathy, touch therapy and case taking. Depending on the state or province in which you reside, some extended educational programs at a natural health college require licensure and/or certification.

While a few healing arts programs (chiropractic, acupuncture and naturopathy) taught at a natural health college require some degree of formal education, others do not. It is always wise to review course curriculums prior to applying to any natural health college. A number of natural health occupations (massage therapists, holistic nurses, Oriental medicine doctors, chiropractors, naturopathic physicians, herbal medicine practitioners) also require continuing education units to maintain licensure and right to practice.

Overall, a natural health college offers prospective students a diverse selection of subject matter from which to choose; and is essential in achieving any one of numerous natural healing professions.

If you (or someone you know) are interested in finding natural health college(s), let professional training within fast-growing industries like massage therapy, cosmetology, acupuncture, oriental medicine, Reiki, and others get you started! Explore career school programs near you.

Natural Health College: Today’s Healing Arts

© Copyright 2007

The CollegeBound Network

All Rights Reserved

NOTICE: Article(s) may be republished free of charge to relevant websites, as long as Copyright and Author Resource Box are included; and ALL Hyperlinks REMAIN intact and active.

Resource Box: CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd – Freelance Writer and Web Consultant for HolisticJunction.com, in association with CollegeSurfing.com – Educational Resources for Natural Health Schools, Natural Health Colleges, and other Holistic Schools.

Courses in Natural Health – From Aromatherapy to Reflexology

By , July 28, 2009

Ranging from aromatherapy to reflexology, courses in natural health are quickly growing in popularity as holistic and natural health treatments offer simple and noninvasive solutions to common health issues.

If you’re one of the many individuals who have been repeatedly treated for headaches and other chronic problems by conventional medical doctors, you’ve probably been prescribed some form of pharmaceutical or invasive procedure. As most of us are aware, conventional drugs (and surgery) may have adverse side effects that affect our functionability. This is primarily one of the main reasons why more individuals are turning to courses in natural health to understand and apply natural and self-healing techniques that may be more effective, without the risk of side effects.

Some of the unique courses in natural health like aromatherapy offer successful candidates certification or diploma upon completion. Healing arts programs like this can be commonly taken through distance learning classes, or through holistic workshops and seminars. More frequently, however, aromatherapy is part of a greater massage therapy or natural healing curriculum. Typical aromatherapy courses in natural health include training in a variety of master blends, aromatherapy history and practice, essential oil/carrier oil profiles, flower essences, botanical therapies, holistic consulting, and more.

There are also courses in natural health that entail a greater range of holistic modalities. These natural health programs may encompass coursework in holistic nursing, acupuncture and Oriental medicine, naturopathic medicine, chiropractic, homeopathy, and herbal sciences. Though all of these studies differ in curriculum, they all share one common thread in that they are geared toward holistic and natural healing techniques and therapies. If you choose education in these courses in natural health, expect training to be rigorous. Furthermore, unlike shorter educational programs, these courses may take up to five* years to complete. (*Additional training hours may be required for specializations.)

Other courses in natural health like holistic healing, massage therapy, or reflexology can be completed in less than a year. In addition to field-specific applications, these programs provide instruction in anatomy, physiology, and pathology.

If you (or someone you know) are interested in learning more about these or other alternative health programs, let professional training within fast-growing industries like massage therapy, naturopathy, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, Reiki, and others get you started! Explore courses in natural health near you.

Courses in Natural Health – from Aromatherapy to Reflexology

© Copyright 2008

The CollegeBound Network

All Rights Reserved

NOTICE: Article(s) may be republished free of charge to relevant websites, as long as Copyright and Author Resource Box are included; and ALL Hyperlinks REMAIN intact and active.

Resource Box: CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd – Freelance Writer and Web Consultant for HolisticJunction.com, in association with CollegeSurfing.com – Educational Resources for Courses in Natural Health, Natural Healing Schools, and other unique training programs.

Scientific Studies on Reiki

By , July 26, 2009

Usui Mikao is quoted saying in the Reiki Ryôhô Hikkei that the mind and body are one. Recent studies in the world of science are beginning to finally comprehend that statement. Brainwaves and body pulses and their role in stimulating healing can all be measured today allowing the concept of Reiki, as spiritual energy, to be more widely understood by the medical community. The growth of the system of Reiki is benefited by this community awareness and acceptance.

The introduction of Therapeutic Touch by Dolores Krieger into nursing in the 1970s has increased interest in other energetic systems such as Reiki. This in turn has boosted the amount of research that has recently been undertaken using Reiki and other forms of energetic work.

The system of Reiki is also being accepted into hospitals across the world. Patients can often either bring their Reiki practitioner with them or Reiki is made available to them.

The article ‘The first Reiki Practitioner in our O.R.’ by Jeanette Sawyer in 1988 in the AORN Journal describes the steps that were taken to allow a Reiki practitioner into the theatre at the request of a patient during a laparoscopy.

Also in 1988, patients were given the opportunity to experience a 15minute pre- and post- surgery Reiki treatment. More than 870 patients took part and as a result there was less use of pain medication, shorter stays in hospital and increased patient satisfaction. This was discussed in the article, ‘Using Reiki to Support Surgical patients’ by Patricia and Kristin Aladydy in the Journal of Nursing Care Quality.

Heart surgeon, Dr Mehmet Oz, has worked with Julie Motz who used Reiki on his patients. These patients had received heart transplants and had experienced open-heart surgery. She treated 11 patients in total and none of them had the usual post-operative depression. The bypass patients had no post-operative pain or leg weakness and the transplant patients experienced no organ rejection. Julie Motz has written about this experience in her book, ‘Hands of Life’.

Listed below are a number of trials tested on Reiki. For more research details there are some Reiki books with relevant research material, or personal observations, that have been written by both doctors and nurses. ‘Spiritual Healing’ by Daniel J. Benor has listed a number of Reiki trials as well as some very interesting trials on distant healing and healing through touch in general.

There are many aspects of Reiki that are being researched today. Some to see if Reiki speeds up healing, others to see if, how and whom it relaxes, to measure biomagnetic fields and to verify the concept of distant healing.

Here is a well-known trial completed using Reiki to examine its effect on human blood levels.

Human Hemoglobin Levels and Reiki
Reiki Healing: a Physiologic Perspective
Wetzel, Wendy (1989).
Published in Journal of Holistic Nursing 7(1), 47-54.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of Reiki on human hemoglobin and hematocrit levels.

Procedure: The hemoglobin and hematocrit levels of 48 adults participating in a Level 1 course were measured. Demographics and motivation were also examined. An untreated control group was used to document the changes in hemoglobin and hematocrit under normal circumstances.

Findings: Using a t-test there was a statistically significant change between the pre- and post-course hemoglobin and hematocrit levels of the participants at the p 0.01 level. 28 % experiencing an increase and the remainder experiencing a decrease. There was no change for the untreated control group within an identical time frame.

Conclusions: That Reiki has a measurable physiologic effect. The data supports the premise that energy can be transferred between individuals for the purposes of healing, balancing, and increasing wellness. Some individuals found that their blood levels went up while others went down which is consistent with the concept that Reiki is balancing for each individual.

This trial tests Reiki on patients with chronic illnesses using electrodermal screening.

The Efficacy of Reiki Hands on Healing: Improvements in Adrenal, Spleen and Nervous Function as Quantified by Electro-Dermal Screening
Betty Hartwell and Barbara Brewitt
Published in Alternative Therapies Magazine, July 1997, Vol. 3, No. 4, p. 89

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to evaluate the therapeutic effects of Reiki treatments on chronic illnesses using electrodermal screening.
Procedure: This study was carried out on five patients with life-threatening and chronic illnesses: lupus, fibromyalgia, thyroid goiter, and multiple sclerosis. Eleven one-hour Reiki treatments using 4 different Level 2 practitioners and one Reiki Master were performed over a ten-week period. These Reiki practitioners systematically placed their hands over the same body positions including the neurovascular regions on the cranium, neurolymphatic points on the trunk and minor chakra points on the limbs. No new conventional or alternative medical treatments were given during this period. Initially, three consecutive treatments were given and then one treatment per week for eight weeks.

Findings: The patients were tested three times during the study. 1.Before the study commenced. 2.After their third treatment. 3.After their tenth treatment.
Each individual was measured for skin electrical resistance at three acupuncture points on hands and feet. At the cervical/thoracic point the measurements went from 25% below normal to the normal range. The adrenal measurements went from 8.3% below normal to normal – some time between the middle and last measurements. The spleen measurements went from 7.8% below normal to normal after only three sessions. All the patients reported increased relaxation after Reiki treatments, a reduction in pain and an increase in mobility.

These trials are concerned with the effect of Reiki on pain relief and other symptoms.

Pain, Anxiety and Depression in Chronically Ill Patients with Reiki Healing
Linda J. Dressen and Sangeeta Singg
Published in Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1: 1998

Purpose: To measure the results of Reiki and its effect on pain, anxiety, and depression in chronically ill patients.

Procedure: 120 Patients who had been in pain for at least 1 year were trailed. Their complaints included: headaches, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, peptic ulcer, asthma, hypertension and HIV. Four different styles of treatment were performed on 3 groups of 20 people. The 4 styles of treatment were: Reiki, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, no treatment and false-Reiki. Each of the groups received 10 thirty-minute treatments, twice a week over 5 weeks. Patients were examined before and after the series of treatments. Reiki patients were examined 3 months after completion.
Findings: Reiki proved significantly superior (p.0001-.04) to other treatments on 10 out of 12 variables.
At the 3 month check up these changes were consistent and there were highly significant reductions in Total Pain Rating Index (p.0006) and in sensory (p.0003) and Affective (p.02) Qualities of Pain.

Conclusion: Significant effects of Reiki on anxiety, pain and depression are shown here. Some possible variables were not controlled.

Using Reiki to Manage Pain: a Preliminary Report
alta.karino@cancerboard.ab.ca
Cross Cancer Institute, Edmonton, USA
Published in Cancer Prev Control 1997;1(2):108-13

Purpose: To explore the usefulness of Reiki as an alternative to opioid therapy in the management of pain. This was a pilot study.

Procedure: 20 volunteers experienced pain at 55 sites for a variety of reasons, including cancer. A Level 2 practitioner provided all Reiki treatments. Pain was measured using both a visual analogue scale (VAS) and a Likert scale immediately before and after each Reiki treatment.

Findings: Both the instruments showed a highly significant (p 0.0001) reduction in pain following the Reiki treatments.

This trial is interested in finding out if it is possible to gauge the experience of a Reiki treatment using normal trialing procedures.

Experience of a Reiki Session
Engebretson J, Wardell DW
University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, USA
Published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 8: 48-53, 2002

Purpose:To explore the experiences of Reiki recipients so as to contribute to understanding the popularity of touch therapies and possibly clarify variables for future studies.

Procedure: All Reiki treatments were 30 minutes long and performed in a sound proof windowless room by one Reiki Master. There were audio taped interviews immediately after the treatment in a quiet room adjoining the treatment room. The recipients were generally healthy volunteers who had not experienced Reiki previously.

Findings: The recipients described a conscious state of awareness during the treatment. At the same time, paradoxically, they experienced sensate and symbolic phenomena.

Conclusions: Conscious awareness and paradoxical experiences that occur in ritual healing vary according to the holistic nature and individual variation of the healing experience. These findings suggest that many linear models used in researching touch therapies are not complex enough to capture the experience of the recipients.

This particular trial is not specifically about Reiki but deals with the effectiveness of distant healing which is relevant to Reiki practitioners.

A Randomized Double-Blind Study of the Effect of Distant Healing in a Population with Advanced Aids
Fred Sicher, Elizabeth Targ, Dan Moore II, and Helene.S. Smith
Published in the Western Journal of Medicine, December 1998, Vol. 169, pp. 356-363.

Purpose: To find the effect of distance healing (DH) on AIDS patients during a six-month double-blind study.

Procedure: Forty patients with advanced AIDS were randomly divided into two groups. Half the patients received DH in addition to their usual medical care. They were not told they were being given DH. 40 healers from various locations throughout the U.S. with an average of 17 years of experience were used. The healers practiced a variety of healing methods including Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Native American, shamanism, meditative, and bioenergetics. Each of the treated subjects received DH for one hour a day for six days from each of a total of ten different healers, and this was performed over a period of ten weeks.

Findings: After six months, treated patients had significantly fewer outpatient visits and hospitalizations, less severe illnesses, fewer new illnesses, and improved mood.

Further Research
This page is an excerpt from The Reiki Sourcebook.

Reiki Master/Teachers Frans and Bronwen Stiene are authors of The Reiki Sourcebook and founders of the International House of Reiki and the podcast The Reiki Show.
Visit http://www.reiki.net.au.

Online College Nursing Degree – Advance your Career

By , July 25, 2009

Education is not only the stepping stone to a career, but also the key element in its growth. Today education is a lifelong process, because working professionals have to continuously upgrade their skills to meet the demands of the ever-changing work environment.

Career Prospects With Online Education

Online nursing degree programs give chance to working professionals who want to pursue a career in nursing. Online college nursing degree programs are available in bachelors, masters, PhD, and associate levels. Before opting for any nursing course or institute, students should make sure that it is accredited by proper authorities. Accredited online college nursing degree is recognized by academics and professional organizations. Select the course that would help you meet your professional goals. There is no point in pursuing an online college nursing degree that does not relate to your field of specialization.

Nursing as a profession is going to grow tremendously in the coming years. It has been estimated that about 19%, which is around 3.6 million, of the salaried jobs created between 2004 and 2014 will be in the health care industry alone. Those who are entering the nursing field have a bright future to look forward to. Nurses with online college nursing degree or online associate nursing degree can look forward to a career in the following segments- hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, physicians’ clinics, dentists, home health care services, outpatient care centers, ambulatory health care services, medical and diagnostic laboratories, insurance companies, etc.

Registered Nurses constitute a major chunk of health care workers. RNs basic duties involve looking after patients, educating the patients and the public about various diseases, performing diagnostic tests, recording patients’ medical histories and symptoms, etc.

There are four basic areas in patient care specialties and RNs can specialize in one or more of these areas. Online college nursing degree programs are designed for working nurses who want to specialize. They can specialize in particular work setting (ambulatory care nurses, critical care nurses, holistic nurses, etc), disease or condition (addiction nurses, genetics nurses, oncology nurses, etc), treatment of particular organ (cardiac nurses, gynecology nurses, etc), and in providing preventive and acute care to different segments of population.

You can become a Registered Nurse by earning a BSN, ADN, or a diploma. A regular college BSN degree takes four years to complete. With online college nursing degree you can become a Registered Nurse within 2-3 years. Just make sure that the program that you are applying for is accredited. Once you have earned your online nursing degree you will see a rapid rise in your income and career.

Nursing degree info is an online information bank for people who wish to make successful career in nursing. Know more about prerequisites for Online Nursing Master Degree and how to enroll in Online College Nursing Degree.

Benefits of a Career in Nursing

By , July 21, 2009

If you are searching for a new and exciting career, or a second career, then you should definitely take a look at a career in nursing. A career in nursing has more benefits today than it offered 20 years ago. Nurses today are constantly changing the healthcare industry, by consistently challenging the methodology, ideology, and overall practice of medicine. A career in nursing provides a rewarding experience and you can you can end each day knowing you helped make a difference in somebody’s life. Nurses are also needed in many industries aside from the traditional jobs in a hospital or doctor’s office.

In today’s job market, the best thing about a career in nursing is the fact that nurses are in such high demand. Nursing positions can be found in almost every state. There are many different positions available in various types of organizations, from insurance firms to universities. Nurses are also needed throughout the world rather a few types of organizations. Nurses are in such great demand that you can decide to take a break from your career and easily find a job whenever you are ready to return. As baby boomers enter retirement age, and people live longer in general, the need for nurses should only grow stronger for years to come.

However, being a nurse is much more than just being in demand. Nursing has a wide array of specialties. Therefore, you have the freedom of working in multitude of capacities throughout your career. New and emerging specialties such as holistic nursing, forensic nursing, and occupational nursing are constantly expanding upon what it means to be a nurse today. Nurses are also breaking into managerial, leadership, and financial roles like never before. You can decide to start in traditional nursing; later, try your hand at forensic nursing; then, move into a leadership or managerial position. Then there is the ability to start your own business as a consultant or an in-home healthcare professional; two industries that are growing at unprecedented rates right now. Besides, few other occupations allow a person the level of opportunities that a career in nursing can offer. The opportunity for advancement in nursing can rarely be duplicated in any other profession.

Nurses also benefit from having flexible schedules. Nurses can choose to work a variety of different shifts including 4, 8, 10, or 12 hour days. With the ability to work weekdays, weekends only, or a combination, nursing is quickly becoming the preferred occupation of parents, especially single parents who need flexible schedules. Not to mention, the freedom to work part time, full time, or the ability to change your schedule entirely as needed.

Starting salaries for new nurses is nothing to laugh at either. Though the salaries depend largely on the city and state that you are in, the median starting salary for registered nurses is close to $50,000 a year and there are always opportunities to work over-time.

Nurses are also encouraged to continue learning their craft through training and continuing their education. The nursing profession is constantly changing and evolving; so staying on top of new trends, techniques, and laws can only be beneficial to you. Luckily, there are enormous training opportunities available for nurses. A nurse’s employer often pays for these training opportunities.

Nurses also benefit from having a strong support system. Almost every nursing specialty has its own trade association. These resources serve nurses tirelessly, by providing and informing them of training opportunities for their specialty and general nursing, alerting them to job opportunities within their field; and, giving them a outlet to exchange challenges and ideas with their peers. These support systems also strive to prevent nurses from burning out by stressing the importance of a nurse’s need take care of him or herself. A nurse should also stay on top of the new laws that become a part of the healthcare industry along with the latest innovations in nursing tools and hospital equipment. Nurses can easily find the support they need because nurses are known for helping each other.

Then there is the level of job satisfaction. Most nurses cherish the fact that they spend their days helping people who need and appreciate their skills. Patients usually spend more time with their nurses than they do with their physicians. In many cases, nurses are able to not only translate medical jargon for patients, but also help patients feel better about their condition and/or treatment options. Nurses, provide comfort to patients and their families in difficult times.

Though nursing is not an easy profession, and you are likely to experience a faced paced, hectic, work environment. Being a nurse means making sick children feel better, bringing a smile to elderly patients, and helping families in crisis. You remember these experiences for the rest of your life. Becoming a nurse is a very rewarding career choice and you are able to help many people in many different ways.

Sandy Darson is a freelance writer who writes about the nursing profession. Mr. Thomas often writes about specific items used in nursing such as nursing uniforms.

Careers in Holistic Healing

By , July 19, 2009

If you’ve been searching for enterprising ways to acquire a respectable and rewarding profession, there are a diverse number of careers in holistic healing that you may find quite intriguing. In addition to professions in holistic nursing, there are careers in holistic healing like massage therapy, holistic nutrition, acupuncture, chiropractic, and homeopathy.

Professional massage therapists are making headway in the healthcare industry as more patients are migrating to natural healing alternatives. These careers in holistic healing require somatic education and training from a quality massage school or technical college. To compete in these careers in holistic healing, students are opting for National Certification (through the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork) — which demonstrates the following: the candidate has completed a minimum of 500 required training hours entailing 125 hours of anatomy, kinesiology, and physiology; 200 hours of application, assessment, and theory; 40 hours pathology; 10 hours business/ethics; and 125 hours of related studies.

Careers in holistic healing like acupuncture can take you to foreign countries. In addition to extensive training in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theories and philosophies, candidates that participate in these Oriental medicine programs are often offered the opportunity to travel as exchange students to China and other foreign Nations for hands-on experience and training.

Other careers in holistic healing like chiropractic can be very professionally and personally satisfying. Though this particular holistic health occupation does require comprehensive education (usually up to four years post-graduate training), chiropractic practitioners administer gentle, non-invasive spinal adjustments to patients to help with common health issues like chronic pain and other musculoskeletal problems.

If you (or someone you know) are interested in learning more about these or other healing arts occupations, let professional training within fast-growing industries like massage therapy, naturopathy, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, Reiki, and others get you started! Explore careers in holistic healing near you.

Careers in Holistic Healing

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NOTICE: Article(s) may be republished free of charge to relevant websites, as long as Copyright and Author Resource Box are included; and ALL Hyperlinks REMAIN intact and active.

Resource Box: CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd – Freelance Writer and Web Consultant for HolisticJunction.com, in association with CollegeSurfing.com – Educational Resources for Careers in Holistic Healing, Holistic Schools, and other unique healing arts programs.

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