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Presence of Mind (Lessons from the Darkness)

Presence of Mind (Lessons from the Darkness)

How can you achieve lasting change without antibiotics, antidepressants, and pain pills? Gain presence of mind through meditation.

For acute conditions and under medical supervision, antibiotics, antidepressants, and pain pills can be useful tools. However, pills aren’t a sustainable long-term solution. The opioid crisis and the growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics are evidence of the personal and social costs of long-term pill use.

So how can you achieve lasting change without antibiotics, antidepressants, and pain pills? Gain presence of mind through a meditation practice.

Presence of Mind May Improve Your Health

For me, lasting change came from connecting to my body through a meditation practice. Meditation doesn’t have to be formal, and it doesn’t require a candle or a mantra. You can meditate while you fold laundry, walk to work, cut the grass, or do the dishes. The only requirements are that you breathe and pay attention.

It does, however, take a bit of practice. Start with this simple 5-minute exercise: Sit with your back straight, eyes slightly downward, and simply focus on deep, rhythmic breathing and clearing your head. In the beginning, just to start the slow down, breathe in for eight counts and out for seven counts. After four of these deep breathing cycles, stop counting. Stop thinking. Just breathe and be aware of your breathing.

Lesson 4 from the Darkness – Still Your Mind, Improve Your Health

Practice, Then Apply When Needed

Once you have practiced, you can take this awareness, this presence of mind, with you into almost any situation. At its core, mindfulness is a non-judgmental, accepting awareness of moment-by-moment experience. With practice, you can apply that non-judgmental awareness to your progress towards optimizing your health.

Science Agrees with Ancient Practice

It might sound a bit too “new-agey” for you, but there’s good science behind the practice. For instance, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) was found as effective as antidepressants in a recent study that measured relapse into depression. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was shown to increase task-based attention and reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Mindfulness-based mental fitness training has been used to improve cognitive resilience during stressful situations. Further, studies support the notion that presence of mind may facilitate creative problem solving.

Real Physical Changes Happen

Meditation stimulates actual change in the structure of the cerebral cortex in the brain. The cerebral cortex plays a key role in memory, attention, thought, and consciousness. Participating in MBSR is also associated with changes in the gray and white matter of the brain, which are involved in learning, memory processes, and emotion regulation. If you’re interested in herbal support for your meditation efforts, Polygala tenuifolia has a long history of being used to enhance meditation. It’s also a nootropic.

Presence of Mind

The practice of being still and mindful enhances your well-being emotionally, physically, and mentally. It allows you to connect with your body — and if you let it with your psyche. With each deep breath you take, give yourself permission to recognize your inner strength. Align your body with your mind, and you’ll be well on your way to optimizing your health.

Coming Up …

In Lesson 5 from the Darkness, I’ll discuss how toxins can block healing and describe ways you can be as mindful as possible about your environment.

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