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Inside Meditation (Dec 13th, 2019)

1. Life coach Caren Osten Gerszberg detailed her experience at a weeklong silent meditation retreat for The New York Times. Gerszberg said she often tells clients to push themselves out of their comfort zones and she wanted to practice what she preaches. She details the long bouts of silence being easier than expected but struggled to focus and stay mindful as she scrubbed bathrooms every day after lunch, her assigned yogi job. Though she didn't find the week of silence – and six hours of daily meditation – life-changing, she describes it as "a sort of spalike experience for my mind, protected from the distractions and stressors of daily life." The Times also published an accompanying article seeking student opinions. – NYTIMES

2. Fast Company spoke to some mindfulness experts about how managers can encourage employees to participate in group meditation. John J. Murphy, author of "The Miracle Minded Manager," recommends reminding employees of the research behind mindfulness, and how it can improve brain function and creativity, and reduce stress. He also encourages finding ways to make the process fun and "non-judgmental," so first-timers don't feel too much pressure. "Stillness is the Key" author Ryan Holiday says it will become essential for companies to practice mindfulness; if they don't, they might be bested by a competitor who does. It's worth mentioning that there is research to indicate that employee meditation is not a magic bullet – it may only help individuals de-stress in the moment, and may not result in ongoing conflict resolution among employees or teams. – FAST COMPANY

3. Meditation teacher Matthias Birk writes in the Harvard Business Review about the benefits of meditation for executives and other team leaders: the ability to see more objectively and transcend one's ego. Birk writes that the more we meditate, the less we perceive failure as a threat, and we become less likely to take things personally. Leaders who regularly practice mindfulness, he writes, form deeper relationships with their teams and are able to make decisions more rationally and without feeling defensive. – HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW

4. InStyle looks at the phenomenon of relaxation-induced anxiety – how certain individuals may make themselves more anxious while attempting to relax during meditation. A study in the Journal of Affective Disorders recently found that individuals with generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder may experience more negative emotions during meditation, as an initial inability to calm down and enter a mindful state can lead to a negativity spiral. InStyle spoke to experts who recommend breathing exercises, full-body scans, and even smiling before meditating, to naturally increase mood and put the mind in a state where negative thoughts won't spiral. – INSTYLE

5. Students at the George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science in Philadelphia are practicing mindfulness, as part of a partnership with the Inner Strength Foundation. The principal of Carver High, Ted Domers, secured $35,000 in grant funding to allow the foundation to run weekly mindfulness sessions. Domers says he believes the mindfulness workshops can better help teenagers respond to stressful triggers at school and at home. Though some freshmen undoubtedly felt a little awkward during the first meditation session, some are already reporting the benefits. Cameron Roberts, 14, told reporters he "can use mindfulness to take a chill pill and relax." – PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

6. In its continuing series on meditation, Next Avenue summarizes some of the scientific findings surrounding how mindfulness might help improve cognitive function as we get older. Though more studies are needed on the subject, there's already evidence that "the brains of older meditators look younger than those of non-meditators." But, there's not yet conclusive evidence that regular meditation changes the structure of the brain or could prevent cognitive decline related to dementia. There have also been some early, positive results among older adults who've taken a class in mindfulness-based stress-reduction. – NEXT AVENUE

7. Meditation 101: Loving Kindness Meditation

Anyone who's tried meditation can attest to the difficulty of maintaining a consistent, calm focus. The breath, the nebulous feel of the body, a mantra – all can feel fleeting and elusive, and before we know it we're thinking about a conference call or this weekend's plans or a line of dialogue from a TV show we saw last night. Perhaps it's because meditation is often so self-focused. We're trying to do something to improve ourselves, to focus on our feelings, and our emotions.

Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM), also known as Metta Meditation, is the act of focusing compassion and warm feelings toward ourselves...and others. The practice often starts with a visualization of someone whom you know loves you, and imagining them sending you feelings of love and compassion. For the next step, you will visualize sending that person love, compassion, health, and freedom from stress. The practice continues as you send those feelings to "neutral people," perhaps acquaintances or coworkers, and finally, people whom you don't even know.

Initial studies have found that regularly practicing LKM could help alleviate social anxiety, anger toward others, and even one's own chronic pain. UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center has a free 15-minute Loving Kindness meditation you can try right now. 

Jonathan Harris is a Los Angeles-based writer. Previously, he wrote for The Huffington Post, TakePart.com, and the YouTube channel What’s Trending. He’s a frequent performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood. Follow him on Twitter @countrycaravan.

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