Modern biology and neuroscience have quantified the powerfully positive effects of mindfulness. Join 11 top researchers and proponents of mindfulness as they breakdown what modern science and contemporary research have revealed about this ancient practice and the many ways in which it can benefit your life. This course represents a unique and extraordinary opportunity, bringing a diverse group of renowned specialists together in one place for the first time to share their own personal experiences and their latest research, and to guide you through several mindfulness exercises.
According to Dr. Shauna Shapiro, mindfulness means paying attention in the present moment with an attitude of kindness and generosity. It involves being aware and doing things with conscious intent. But research shows our mind lives in the past or the future almost half of our waking moments.
Focusing on this moment in time, this place, your body as it feels in this moment, your breath as it moves in and out right now… That focus on present-moment awareness has the capability to transform your life. And it has existed for thousands of years, interwoven throughout many religious and intellectual traditions.
Mindfulness as a practice is very simple and its effects are well-documented. What many people don’t realize is the breadth of the science behind it and how much of our health—physical, mental, emotional—is bound up in the way we look at and experience the world. Now, modern biology and neuroscience can actually quantify many of the effects of mindfulness and you may be surprised by how powerful the impact can be.
In Masters of Mindfulness: Transforming Your Mind and Body, 11 top researchers and proponents of mindfulness discuss what modern science and contemporary research have revealed about this ancient practice and the many ways in which it can benefit your life.
These 22 lectures present a unique and extraordinary opportunity, bringing a diverse group of renowned specialists together in one place for the first time to share their own personal experiences and their latest research, and to guide you through several mindfulness exercises. Acting as your primary guide through the many concepts and presenters, psychologist and mindfulness expert Dr. Shauna Shapiro brings together some of the greatest minds in the field to give you an immersive, 360-degree experience of mindfulness, its practice, and its benefits.
This course was shot on location at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, a place that is considered a unique sanctuary for anyone interested in the study of human consciousness and the human potential movement. Since 1962, this profoundly beautiful locale has been a thriving hub for investigating and experiencing the journey of mindfulness in its many forms, including cutting-edge scientific research and applications. Not everyone can hop on a plane to California, so Masters of Mindfulness brings this one-of-a-kind experience to you.
Mindfulness in All Aspects of Our Lives
If you don’t yet have a mindfulness practice, you might be wondering how you’re going to fit it into your schedule. But mindfulness doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You don’t have to buy any equipment or take any lessons, or wear anything special. All you need is a chair, or even the floor, and the desire to change your life and habits for the better. With an investment of 12 minutes a day, you can start reaping the rewards of a mindfulness practice.
- Internationally recognized mindfulness expert Dr. Shauna Shapiro begins the course by explaining the benefits of a mindfulness practice; after all, as she says: “what you practice grows stronger.” She also introduces each subsequent presenter and explains how he or she fits into the overall course.
- Dr. Rick Hanson explains why we evolved with a brain whose wiring is always on the lookout for the negative, and how neuroplasticity gives us the ability to change that orientation, leading to a more resilient and positive inner life for modern times. Author Kristine Carlson then shares her very personal journey of grief and the ways in which mindfulness can aid in your own healing and transition to a better life. With Juna Mustad, you will go on a journey toward anger—an emotion that frightens most of us—and use mindfulness tools to discover the positive role anger can play in your life.
- Author Mike Robbins invites you to “bring your whole self to work” with authenticity and honesty and Jessica Graham helps you explore the ways in which a mindfulness practice can open up your sex life, offering both greater pleasure and a deeper connection to your partner.
- Drs. Amishi Jha and Elissa Epel discuss the thrilling scientific discoveries regarding the effects of mindfulness at the cellular level. Dr. Jha explains the benefits of mindfulness on the structure and functioning of the brain, while Dr. Epel discusses the benefits of a mindfulness practice on specific cellular structures related to aging. A mindfulness practice can’t subtract years from your age in a literal sense, but it has the potential to significantly affect your biological age—your health and mental acuity.
- Dr. Dacher Keltner shares his passion for the study of awe in the human experience—that uniquely human emotion that has had a profound effect on our evolution as an ultra-social species. Dr. Wallace “J” Nichols helps us connect that feeling of awe to the lakes, rivers, and oceans of our water planet—or even just the water that we drink—discussing the benefits of a mindful connection to our physical world. Then, Dr. Daniel J. Siegel brings together a full concept of the mind and the practice of “The Wheel of Awareness” with its potential for personal transformation.
The Neuroscience of Mindfulness
While scientists have long been able to identify brain inputs and outputs, only in the past few decades have we developed the technology to know what happened on the inside. Today, technological revolutions in science allow us to look into the workings of the brain and the body in unprecedented ways. Most importantly, we have learned that the way we use our brain is constantly influencing its own structure and function.
Just a few of the dimensions of mindfulness you will explore in Masters of Mindfulness include:
- Incorporating a mind-body practice into your life for even a few months can reduce inflammation and can stabilize the length of telomeres—those regions at the end of the chromosome that protect the chromosome from deterioration—thereby, slowing the rate of aging.
- Adding even a short mindfulness practice to your day can improve brain health as measured by the brain’s gyrification and density of the wiring that promotes efficient neural processing.
- While consistently working puzzles and various cognitive challenges will improve your performance on those exact challenges, practice doesn’t translate into overall brain processing improvement or ability to focus. On the other hand, a mindfulness practice does strengthen all the brain’s attention systems.
- The practice of mindfulness strengthens the immune system, decreases stress, improves sleep function, increases compassion, and improves cognitive function.
- Through natural selection, our brain evolved to scan for and retain bad news, while simultaneously overlooking or downplaying good news. But a mindfulness practice can help us increase compassion and positivity, creating a brain that better serves us in our current world and circumstances.
Theory and Practice
In addition to learning about mindfulness, many of the experts in Masters of Mindfulness guide you through mindfulness practices during this course. While you will notice some similarities through all the practices, each is geared toward a unique objective. You will be able to choose which of these practices best resonate with you personally. Among those presented are:
- Wheel of Awareness: This practice helps integrate the five senses, internal bodily sensations, mental activity and emotions, and relationship to the outside world. Created by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, more than 10,000 individuals have experienced this healing practice.
- Face Your Anger: Anger is not an emotion we typically associate with a meditative practice. But with guidance from Juna Mustad, you will dig deeper into troubling emotions, to discover what they are trying to tell you and why you should be listening to them.
- If You Really Knew Me: This exercise, led by Mike Robbins, is a wonderful present-moment way to cultivate authenticity and appreciation in group settings.
- Body Awareness: We are rarely fully aware of the sensations in our bodies. Jessica Graham leads this mindfulness practice to create a stronger mind-body connection for the purpose of enhancing pleasure and improving communication with your partner.
Whether you’re a beginner or a longtime practitioner of mindfulness, this guided tour through the many facets of the practice will deepen your understanding and help you to integrate mindfulness at home and at work, in your relationships, and in your self-identity over time. With your expert guides, you will see how mindfulness is both a skill and an art, modern science and ancient wisdom.
More courses from the same author: The Great Courses