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Living Mindfully with Aruna Manathunge:

Improving EQ, IQ and creativity

The participants of a Mindfulness program were given a single raisin after lunch. Their Mindfulness Coach informed that they would be eating it over a period of 5 minutes! They were asked to hold the raisin on their palms and patiently observe it with all their attention. They noticed the tiny colour variations and the small indentation where it once hung from the vine.

They were asked to close their eyes and feel the tiny weight of the single raisin. After some similar exercises, they were told to place it in their mouths and roll the wrinkly little thing over and over with their tongue, feeling the texture. Finally they are gently guided to bite, chew and swallow it.

The above was an event from a Mindfulness training program that happened in Koralawella, Moratuwa. The Raisin Exercise trains the participants to really focus their attention on one thing at a time.

As a result they started discovering the benefits of living in the moment with complete attention. They found it almost magical because they began to notice, experience and savour a raisin in a special way for the first time in their life.The raisins exercise reminds us of how hard it is to focus our attention on one object at a time and observe it without rapidly shifting attention. Our fast spaced lives have compounded the situation. We talk on the phone while typing on the computer. We watch TV while munching a snack and talk to our spouse or child at the same time.

Our devices and the busy lifestyles allow us to do many things at once-but at the cost of being unable to fully use our faculties as humans. This not only leads to higher levels of Stress but also results in poor relationships and lower levels of productivity outputs which tends to be mediocre in the long run.

A radical shift

Practicing Mindfulness regularly can help us to do better. We can look at Mindfulness as a radical shift in the way we pay attention. It is learning to be attentive in a special way. It's a skill that anyone can develop, and one that can have real benefits for those living busy lifestyles. At one level, the techniques associated with Mindfulness help practitioners quiet a busy mind, become more aware of the present moment and be less caught up in what happened earlier or what's to come. Mindfulness teachers recommend this as a means to deal with Stress.

But to view Mindfulness simply as a stress reliever underplays its immense potential as a practice that can uplift the overall potential available to us as humans. Its true potential has come to light as a result of the latest research advancements in Neuroscience.

Studies have shown that Mindfulness increases the grey matter/cortical thickness in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which is a structure located behind the brain's frontal Lobe. It has been associated with functions such as self-regulatory process, including the ability to monitor attention conflicts and thereby allow greater Cognitive flexibility.

Regular practice of Mindfulness also enhances grey matter density in areas of the prefrontal lobe, which are primarily responsible for executive functioning such as planning, problem solving and emotional regulation. 8 Weeks Mindfulness research studies have shown that the amygdala, known as our brain's 'fight or flight' centre and the seat of our fearful and anxious emotions - decreases in brain cell volume after regular Mindfulness practice, addressing our feelings of anxiety and aggression.

Emotional Intelligence

(Emotional Quotient)

Scientific findings have also proven that regular practice of Mindfulness improves our Emotional Intelligence, IQ and creativity. Creativity helps us to become innovators, scientists, better leaders and students - in any area of activity. Creativity helps us to make a true difference. The frontal lobe of the brain is associated with creative thinking and its thickness increases with the regular practice of Mindfulness.

So the benefits of Mindfulness practice are immense to us as individuals, family members, students, workers and finally as a nation. This column will explore the latest advances of Mindfulness practice and its practical benefits as a series of articles in our future issues.

(Aruna Manathunge has practiced Mindfulness for over 42 years. During the past 7 years he has closely followed the development of Mind Science in the Western world. He has had a long career as the Country Head of Sri Lanka and the Head of the Indian Sub-Continent of an American Pharmaceutical Multinational company. Presently Aruna conducts Coaching in Mindfulness to Schools and Companies. Aruna can be contacted at [email protected])

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