A Little Book about a Big Topic: Mindfulness and Brain Injury

Meditation book

There is much being written about mindfulness and brain injury.

You are likely to hear the word “mindfulness’ in all kinds of places these days.

Recently sitting in a coffee lounge I overheard two men in conversation. One was explaining to the other that he had been to a business trade conference and heard a speaker talked about this “amazing new thing, mindfulness.”

“What is it?” Asked the other.
“Oh it can help you work better. Basically it’s about concentrating on the moment, on what you are doing now”.
“Oh” said the other sounding fairly unimpressed.

I wondered if he might have been more inspired reading a little book I was given earlier this year.Let me explain:

The Gift of A Book: “Settling Back in the Moment”

Early in 2014 I travelled to Sri Lanka for a holiday. A beautiful diverse country, rich in Buddhist history. I realise you are not here for a travelogue of Sri Lanka. Just a bit of background to set the scene for more about meditation, mindfulness and brain injury.

In the beautiful city of Kandy I visited the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic where it is believed that a tooth of the Buddha is held. In this lovely peaceful place, as part of a tourism promotion, I was given a booklet produced by the Buddhist Cultural Centre.

Photograph of Temple of the Sacred Relic Kandy

Temple of the Sacred Relic. Kandy

The little book was intriguing and I found its messages helpful. On returning home I had a look and discovered it is available online. (See the Download box below). It is based on the work of Joseph Goldstein’s “Experience of Insight – a simple and direct guide to Buddhist Meditation” .

As I read through the book I thought it had a lot to offer, whether you were Buddhist or not. Whether you wanted to pursue a spiritual path or not.

It seemed it would be particularly helpful if you were under stress, finding it difficult to focus, finding it difficult to cope with daily life. Or you just wanted to learn about the practice of mindfulness.

I am no expert on mindfulness.  I am still a beginner trying to accomplish meditation. I am still trying to be mindful through an entire cup of coffee.

About the cup of coffee – I was once given a little exercise in mindfulness: Drink a cup of coffee noticing every mouthful. Try it with your drink of choice. Let us know how you go. I have not managed it yet.

Reading About Mindfulness

To read the complete book you can download it here

Settling Back into the Moment

Please share your thoughts in the Comments below. It would be helpful to hear about how meditation and mindfulness has been or could be beneficial to people living with brain injury, their family, and supporters.

Back to the book. The introduction tells you that the book can be read in any way, including just flicking it open at any page and thinking upon what you find. I have done this and you can see a sample of what I found below.

Quotes To Think About From “Settling Back Into the Moment”

Sketch of person looking towards long treed path

“TALKING distracts our attention and dissipates our energy
If is of no wonder we don’t often get a good look at what’s happening in our minds.
It’s beautiful and peaceful to stay in a place of silence of mind.
But that takes a lot of mindfulness because we’re conditioned to a lot of talk.” (Pg 88)

“SILENCE enables us to become attentive to what is going on, to all the ups and downs.” (Pg 93)

“Unless we make the effort to persevere nothing happens. (Pg 65)

“There’s no one else who can do it for us.
We each have to do it for ourselves.
Be aware.
Moment to moment.
Paying attention to what’s happening in a total way.
There’s nothing mystical about it.
It’s so simple. Direct and straightforward but it takes doing.”
(Pg3)

EFFORT is the root of all achievements, the foundation of all attainments
PATIENCE 
Do not be driven to action by our desires.
If we don’t have the ability to be patient, every desire which comes into our minds compels us to action and we stay bound on the wheel of craving.
(Pg 54)

Mindfulness and Brain Injury

There should always be the greatest effort possible. Without forcing. Without creating tension. (Pg 102)

“Keeping silence and slowing down helps not only ourselves but everyone around us
….in seeing someone else being mindful we ourselves become more awake.
When we see someone else speeding along, it awakens that in us.”(
Pg 98)

Mindfulness on My Mind

Mindfulness has been on my mind a lot lately. I want to learn more. I want to practice it myself. I have been looking through some of the many resources available. Some of what I have found I have linked to below.

I did think I was making progress and then ……..

And then today I set off from home to drive about an hour into the city. When I get to the main highway; left takes me to the city, right takes me to our local township.

As I set out I said to myself “Today I am going to drive mindfully.” I set out noticing and focussing on driving, and the road. A few minutes later I realised I was in our local town and not on my way to the city.
Mindfulness had lasted barely a minute!

More practice needed.  More reading and learning.

 

Further Resources about Mindfulness and Brain Injury

Mindfulness balance pixabay

If mindfulness helps us concentrate, attend and focus could techniques such as meditation and the practice of being mindful help mindfulness and brain injury?

I did a bit of looking. The following links give a range of information and views about mindfulness, and mindfulness and brain injury.
There is much more to be found by searching around. Some of these articles have links to further resources.
It would be helpful to those of us who are keen to learn more if you could share what you find that is useful in the Comments below.

 

“27 minutes of mindfulness meditation a day changes brain structure”   Dr Sarah McKay on Your Brain Health gives both personal account and research on mindfulness, meditation and the changes to your brain structure. It is also worth reading the Comments section for further views and resources.

How Meditation Benefits the Brain” this brief news article from the UK based Medical News Today explains more about the practice of mindfulness and meditation as a strategy for health, reducing stress and other conditions, including dementia.

Scientific studies are now being conducted to determine the effectiveness of mindfulness and meditation. Wikipedia provides links and resources to some of the research being undertaken.

“The Role of Mindfulness, Meditation, and Prayer After Brain Injury” From BrainLine, a personal story about mindfulness after brain injury

“Mindfulness Meditation” by Tasha Mott, Ph.D., Neuropsychologist, Cognitive Rehabilitation Department JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. A brief background in mindfulness and a presentation of research showing the outcomes from meditation, mindfulness and brain injury.

Mindfulness Art for Brain Injury in Toronto   A thought-provoking article with cautionary views on the experience of mindfulness and brain injury.

Dalai Lama Centre site A possible starting point if you are interested in the foundations of mindfulness and the Buddhist teachings underpinning mindfulness.

A Mindful Balance, Interview with B. Alan Wallace. This article follows an email conversation with B. Alan Wallace about the discrepancy between Buddhist teachings and the interpretation of “mindfulness” today.
B. Alan Wallace founded the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies. You can find a generous amount of information online and in books shared by B. Alan Wallace about the fundamental beliefs and practices of Buddhism including mindfulness and meditation.

Healing With Your Eyes Closed as often happens I found this article when reading the Brain Injury Journey magazine after finishing here. If you have time this is a wonderful journal. Full of great information. If you don’t have time to read it all. This article is on page 23.

AND FINALLY

It seems then that exploring the benefits of mindfulness and meditation after brain injury can be worthwhile for people living with brain injury, family and supporters.  It can reduce stress and focus concentration and attention.

Given that mindfulness is based on Buddhist teachings I finish with two video clips; a modern approach from Andy Puddicombe and the Dalai Lama. Both short pieces to help begin mindfulness and meditation.

Here is a brief practical introduction that might help you begin by Andy Puddicombe

 

And finally brief instruction in meditation from the Dalai Lama himself:

2 Responses to A Little Book about a Big Topic: Mindfulness and Brain Injury

  1. Ric Johnson September 8, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

    Once again, you have written a great blog. Mindfulness and meditation is something that every survivor and their caregivers should be aware of. One of my key practices is “Be Here Now” and without mindfulness that would be harder (if not impossible) to archive. Thank you.

    • Melanie Atkins September 9, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

      Thanks Ric. Great to hear your experience and the reinforcement that it is not always easy but it is helpful. Yes I believe it is useful for every person and worth practice and pursuing.