Dear Éiriú Eolas family,
As the holiday season approaches we hope this month’s newsletter finds you all enjoying the festivities with family and friends. We wish to make the experience the best we can for our loved ones, even the most joyous occasions can be stressful, as we strive to nurture them with delicious, healthy food and close, emotional support. But even the most dedicated caregiver need care and nurturing too, in all this activity. Practising the Éiriú Eolas program is an excellent way to give yourself the nurturing you need at such a busy time. Because the exercises can be done individually, according to the time you have available, you are only a breath away from peace and calm!
This month’s articles are especially pertinent to this time of year as they feature research on how regular meditation can promote social harmony and help those in stressful care giving positions avoid burnout. We hope you will enjoy them.
Consider giving the gift of stress relief, healing and rejuvenation to yourself and your loved ones this Holiday Season, by sharing Éiriú Eolas with them. Contact your local instructor, or you can obtain a set from our website. And finally, as the New Year is coming, there will be updates in the schedules of classes. Check the Éiriú Eolas blog page for the updates http://eiriu-eolas.org/blog for schedule changes in your area.
We wish you all a warm, loving, safe holiday time, filled with happiness and joy!
The Éiriú Eolas Team
Meditation: The Key to Resilience in Caregiving
By Sharon Salzberg, Posted: November 19, 2010 in the Huffington Post
As I look forward to co-leading this retreat, People Who Care for People: Tools for Resiliency at the Garrison Institute, I find myself reflecting on caregivers I know. Some practice caregiving professionally, as nurses, first responders, chaplains, non-profit attorneys; others in their personal lives, as parents, children, siblings, friends. As difficult and pressured as caring for others can be, as tiring and overwhelming as it often becomes, many express a very powerful happiness at being able to serve.
An important element in how we keep going is being able to touch that happiness, broadening our perspective beyond what we see just in front of us, reminding us of our deepest motivation and what we care about most. In a challenging environment, facing our own or others’ suffering, we need to draw on inner resources.
Whether you care for a young child, an aging parent, a difficult-to-understand teenager, a client at work with no clear resolution to their problems in sight, any skillful relationship of caregiving relies on balance — the balance between opening one’s heart endlessly and accepting the limits of what one can do. The balance between compassion and equanimity. Compassion is the trembling or the quivering of the heart in response to suffering. Equanimity is a spacious stillness that can accept things as they are. The balance of compassion and equanimity allows us to profoundly care, and yet not get overwhelmed and unable to cope because of that caring.
I have been involved for several years in a program run by the Garrison Institute, bringing the tools of meditation and yoga to domestic violence shelter workers, and then to shelter supervisors and directors. These people are very much on the front lines of suffering, dealing daily with their clients’ issues of betrayal, heartbreak, fear, anger, humiliation. They might be survivors of trauma themselves. They might receive very little institutional support. They inevitably rely on inner resiliency to sustain their work over the long term.
Our premise has been that fostering greater balance of heart and mind is a key to that resiliency, and that one valuable avenue to cultivating this balance is meditation practice. Meditation helps us see our own difficult mind states — such as anger or fear or a sense of helplessness — with compassion instead of self-judgment. It also provides a refuge during life’s storms by helping us connect compassionately with others, no matter the circumstances.
Especially in times of uncertainty or pain, meditation broadens our perspective and deepens our courage. The spaciousness of mind and greater ease of heart that naturally arise through balanced awareness and compassion are fundamental components of a resilient spirit. They bring us an unusual kind of happiness, one not determined by the conditions we find ourselves in, not defined by the amount of “success” or “failure” we saw in our efforts today. Meditation helps us return, again and again, to this unique happiness.
Friday, November 19, 2010 by: Carolanne Wright, in Natural News
Meditation linked to happiness and positive behavior
A study at the University of Wisconsin confirms meditation can alter the structure of the brain, fostering a brighter outlook and increased empathy. Since positive thinking and emotions affect health, meditation can contribute to overall wellness.
Richard Davidson, a trained psychologist who has practiced meditation for decades, believes meditation can strengthen brain circuits connected with happiness and positive attitude in a similar way we strengthen muscles with exercise. Davidson and his colleagues have produced scientific evidence that this form of mental exercise permanently changes the brain for the better.
Using MRI technology, contemplative neuroscientists were able to view the area of the brain, the left-sided anterior region, believed to be associated with positive thoughts. The researchers documented increased activity in this region of novice meditators who participated in an eight week mindfulness meditation course.
Davidson’s team discovered that the practice of compassion meditation also stimulates the limbic system (the brain’s emotional network) while increasing positive emotions. Expert meditators with more than 10,000 hours of practice showed the greatest activity in the limbic systems and appeared to have permanently altered their brains to generate positive thoughts. Even outside of meditation, committed meditators permanently changed the way their brains operated.
Positive emotions and optimism are good for your health as well. Evidence shows that optimists take proactive steps to ensure wellness whereas a pessimist tends to engage in health-damaging behaviors. Research further validates that individuals with a positive outlook have less hypertension, diabetes, and respiratory tract infections. Positive emotions also increase immunity and resistance to colds and flu, while reducing cortisol, incidence of stroke, and inflammation. As an added bonus, optimism increases longevity.
According to Health and Wellness by Gordon Edlin and Eric Golanty:
Advances in identifying the biological mechanisms of mind-body communication confirm that the mind can affect health in powerful ways. Joy, creativity, and contentment lead to a state of harmony, which we experience as bodily health and subjective well-being.
Nerve cells in the brain’s thought and feeling centers connect to other nerve cells in the brain and body, to hormone-producing tissues and organs and to immune cells. In this way, mental activity is able to influence many of the body’s physiological processes.
Meditation isn’t just for monks anymore. Use this powerful tool to strengthen a favorable mind-body connection that supports health and watch the mind become illuminated with positive outlook.
Sources for this Article:
“Positive Affect and the Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing”, Barbara L. Fredrickson, University of Michigan, Marcial F. Losada Universidade Catolica de Brasilia, October 2005, American Psychologist, 677-686
“The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions”, Barbara L. Fredrickson, Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, Volume 359, September 2004, 1367-1378
“Optimism”, Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 30, Issue 7, November 2010, 879-889, Positive Clinical Psychology
Health and Wellness, Gordon Edlin and Eric Golanty, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2007
“The Health Benefits of Writing About Intensely Positive Experiences”. Chad M. Burton and Laura A. King, Journal of Research in Personality, Volume 38, Issue 2, April 2004, 150-163