Whether it’s a “trend” or it’s greater understanding of humanity through research, there’s a lot of focus right now on the concept of mindfulness. In the last few weeks, I’ve seen news items from a national business journal looking at boardroom mindfulness to a piece just yesterday on ESPN about the New York Knicks basketball team using mindfulness training.
A walk through the local bookstore also yielded a ton of new books with mindfulness titles and themes. Mindfulness is a popular topic but it isn’t necessarily a new concept. Eastern religions such as Buddhism have focused on mindfulness for thousands of years. In basic terms, mindfulness is the ability to keep your mind present in the moment - living in the now. It is about being able to visit with a friend and truly hear what they have to say. It is about being able to focus on a meeting and the things people are presenting without being distracted by e-mail, stress about stock prices, why Bob picked that shirt, or thoughts of a different meeting. Mindfulness is about playing a basketball game without worrying about the opponent’s perceived skill, the media’s opinion of the last game, the fan comments, the prediction of how your team is ‘supposed’ to perform. It’s about holding your child, looking in their eyes, and really allowing there to be a connection that is rich, deep and meaningful. Mindfulness is about stopping not just to smell the roses but to enjoy the rose bush, the curve of the petal, the sound of the garden and the lilting feel of the breeze on your arm.
The theory of mindfulness is life altering. The practice of mindfulness is incredibly simple yet extremely difficult. It is a lifelong journey for old monks who chase it and yet it is achieved daily and effortlessly by children who roam the day with wonder.
Mindfulness is difficult because it requires being able to turn off the distractions. It is the ability to focus on the absolute present. In that way, it is very similar to hypnosis. When all the mystery is stripped away, hypnosis is merely a state of intense focus. While hypnosis is typically used to help people resolve points of past emotional trauma or to project positive imagery into the future, it can be very useful when a skilled hypnotist assists the subject in focusing on the present. By training the client to achieve a state of hypnosis, they can more readily achieve the state of mindfulness. Hypnosis teaches people to engage the flow of the subconscious while quickly showing the conscious mind how to peacefully step to the side for a while. Even though the conscious mind wants to do it’s job of rational thought, analysis, planning and math, it learns that the subconscious mind is full of power.
As people, most of us have learned to “control” our feelings and use the conscious mind as a leash on the subconscious. Hypnosis teaches us how to free the much faster and more useful subconscious to fully experience life. If you’re seeing all these articles about mindfulness and wonder what it is all about, or you’ve studied it for years and you’re struggling with achieving a positive state of mindfulness, we’d invite you to give us a call at Hawaii Hypnosis Center. Let us help you find your flow… your rhythm… and in that you’ll probably find your mindfulness. Let us show you what it really feels like to set the day-to-day aside and really feel something.
Health Starts in the Mind
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s such a simple question but one that can lead to an interesting philosophical debate. In alternative healthcare circles, it’s an important metaphor for the issues clients bring with them when they walk through the door.
“As a hypnotist, I believe that the mind not only creates healing, but in many instances, it is the mind that creates illness,” explains Master Hypnotist Beverly Craddock, of Hawaii Hypnosis Center, in Honolulu. “The more emerging technology teaches us about the brain, the more we understand the critical role that it plays in everything from addiction and chronic pain to insomnia and anxiety.”
One of the most exciting developments in neuroscience research is the understanding of neuroplasticity. This is, simply, the human brain’s amazing ability to change.
Even until roughly a decade ago, people believed the brain was pretty much set by the time we were about 20 years old. Research now shows this vital organ continues to be able to adapt, change and learn throughout our lives.
One example of the brain’s amazing ability to rewire can be found in the emerging methods of stroke rehabilitation. In the past, patients with reduced movement on one side were taught to use the unaffected side of their body to perform daily tasks. Newer rehab models seek to limit the use of the functional side in order to retrain the brain to use the weakened side. Therapists will use mittens or restraints to encourage patients to develop new neural pathways in the brain for use of the weakened side.
“What we’re discovering about the brain is revolutionary,” Beverly says. “It is constantly learning and adapting. That means that the brain can learn new ways to deal with everyday challenges, like addiction and chronic pain.”
Addiction treatment models have long suggested that a person is “always an addict.” Physicians in the past would tell chronic pain clients that they would “have to learn to live with it.” “That’s just not true anymore,” Beverly explains. “Even the older models of symptom management through medication are being more closely examined as our knowledge of the brain’s ability to rewire itself continues to expand.”
The previous question of the chicken or the egg leads to the approach that differentiates hypnotists from traditional mental health practices.
“A traditional approach suggests that brain chemistry imbalances lead to problems ranging from depression to trouble focusing in school,” Beverly says. “But what if the brain was actually creating the chemical imbalance due to the misapplication of something that it learned? Wouldn’t it be possible to relearn how to handle the triggers? We believe that in many cases it is possible to change the way the brain is experiencing emotions and then the response to feelings of sadness, anger, boredom and fear.”
One Hawaii Hypnosis Center client experienced debilitating panic attacks when even simply thinking about flying. The focus of the hypnosis work was twofold. First, hypnosis was used to uncover the source of the anxious feelings, which was not even related to a flight experience. Secondly, the client learned new ways to deal with the fear so that new response pathways in the brain could develop. When the old, fear-inducing pathways were no longer used and reinforced, they began to give way to new responses.
“That client was not only able to fly but was able to do so without having to be sedated,” Beverly says. “That made a huge difference in the quality of his travel experience.”
Examples of neuroplasticity in the brain exist worldwide. Nomadic tribal islanders, known as the Mawken, on the Burmese peninsula spend most of their lives on fishing boats. They have developed the ability to see clearly underwater by constricting the shape of the pupils and lenses in their eyes. Researchers studying this found that the tribal members’ brains had developed this clearer underwater vision method as an adaptation to their water-based environment.
Another example is found in a study of the brain of cab drivers and bus drivers in London. The hippocampus—a part of the brain responsible for navigation—was found to be larger and more developed in cab drivers than in bus drivers. This was shown to be due to the fact that cab drivers are constantly navigating, while bus drivers are limited to a set of unchanging bus routes. As the cab drivers navigate the city, their brains are learning, changing and growing.
What we know about the human brain continues to expand on an almost daily basis. Maybe the next brain question we ask is: Is there anything it cannot do?
See this article in Natural Awakenings Magazine