Posted by Carole Yu on April 18, 2012 0 Comments
When I lived in Japan in 1990-91, our apartment was in an area of Yokohama just one hour from Tokyo by train.
Taking the subway daily into the city to work became a time when I could listen to my Sony Walkman, (those were Tears for Fears, and Depeche Mode times!) There were wedding posters all over the subway train walls, and ads for energy drinks, or English language schools, so I could practice reading hiragana and katakana. I also read a huge amount of paperbacks over those two years.
But, I had to do so, with little personal space surrounded by thousands of people. I would always have several people touching my body somewhere, during the hour long ride. It is a unique culture where personal space is in high demand. Japanese apartments are small, and personal belongings are squeezed into tiny spaces.
But, sitting or standing holding onto the grab strap on the train, I was in my own world of music and observation. I had two hours a day of forced relaxation.
How ironic that twenty years later, as I now sit in my gorgeous glass walled studio, in a large lot that is inhabited by fruit trees and five building structures, I feel lack of personal space. As a mom to two very busy daughters, business owner and new wife, my brain is crammed with to-do's, worries, and responsibilities. I wake up almost every night at three am making lists in my head. Physical space seems to have been enveloped by emotional and personal space.
So, I decided to create some personal space; to boost my patience and reduce my reactions to emotional situations. I just finished a six week course at UCLA on Mindful Awareness Practice. It is the art of paying attention to every present moment experience with openness and curiosity. I learned mindfulness meditation, and tools to deal with stressful situations by reducing emotional reactivity.
One of the most interesting things I learned was that the positive side effects of meditation are scientifically proven. Studies of monks' brains have shown that their frontal cortex ( the part of the brain important for reasoning, and thinking) is highly developed, more active, and thickened, so their amygdala (the part of the brain that creates the fight or flight reaction) can be tempered by the frontal cortex.
The UCLA course started with the following 5 minute meditation. Try it out for a few days, and see if your life and racing mind becomes more quiet, as mine has.
Benefits of Mindfulness:
Current science (link to science page) is supporting the benefit of mindfulness for a variety of physical and mental health conditions, and for the general challenges of life in the 21st century. Research shows mindfulness can impact life positively in the following ways:
- Reduce stress
- Reduce chronic physical pain
- Boost the immune system
- Reduce emotional reactivity
- Increase self-awareness
- Improve attention and concentration
- Enhance positive emotions
- Cultivate well-being and happiness
- Positively impact the brain