The regular practice of Yoga, breathing techniques, and meditation has improved self-control and reduced stress in incarcerated youth, with potentially wide-ranging impact on juvenile delinquency and community crime and violence.
Through the regular practice of Yoga, breath work, and meditation, Niroga is teaching Bay Area youth essential life skills. Jointly funded by Alameda Countyâ€™s Probation Department and Health Care Services Agency, Niroga began a program at Juvenile Justice Center, bringing Yoga to incarcerated youth five days a week, and to their staff once a week. The five days/week and year-long duration of this program makes it unique across the country. Several Probation Departments in Alameda and neighboring Counties are awaiting the results of an intervention of this nature and magnitude. These powerful tools for self-transformation will lead to potential reduction of crime and violence in our communities and affecting broad social change.
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Stress has proved to be a killer than more ways than anyone had imagined. Three decades ago it was published in Time Magazine “Stress is now known to be a major contributor, either directly or indirectly, to coronary heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidental injuries, cirrhosis of the liver and suicideâ€”six of the leading causes of death in the U.S.” (Jun 6, 1983). Since then stress has been correlated heart attacks, strokes, insomnia even the common cold. In other words, stress really is the killer of this era but people are often so used to it they don’t even realize how dangerous it is. Like tobacco, the negative effects of stress can sometime be a long time coming. However, it is easy to reduce stress in your life if you know where to look.
Meditation has popped up at the top of the methods used by mainstream America to manage stress. As meditation techniques are studied and the dogma is lifted, doctors have found that meditation works just fine without being related to its eastern roots. In other words, you can use meditation just to manage stress and make your life better and forgot about any myths behind them. In a confluence of Eastern mysticism and Western science, doctors are embracing meditation not because they think it’s hip or cool but because scientific studies are beginning to show that it works, particularly for stress-related conditions. “For 30 years meditation research has told us that it works beautifully as an antidote to stress,” says Daniel Goleman, author of Destructive Emotions, a conversation among the Dalai Lama and a group of neuroscientists. “But what’s exciting about the new research is how meditation can train the mind and reshape the brain.”
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Harriers and larkspurs and owls, oh my!
Now that the trees stand naked in the breeze, there’s a lot more to see of our feathered friends. Birders Tom Crepet and Jane Vecchione will lead a bird walk from 1:30 p.m. to dusk today at the Blue Chip Farm and former Galeville Airport. The walks begins at the entrance to the Shawangunk Grasslands on Hoagerburgh Road in Gardiner. There’ll be a carpool to Blue Chip to look for larkspurs, larks and red-headed woodpeckers, then a trip to the grasslands in search of winter raptors. Come sundown, the harriers and short-eared owls make their appearances. Dress warmly. Bad weather cancels the event.
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AS I OBSERVE world events and sense the pervading fear that’s been in the air since 2001, I find myself thinking about what one individual can do. And the thought occurs that each one of us has the potential to be an effective instrument of peace merely by refining and expanding our consciousness.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can to improve this world outwardly by whatever means we have at our disposal. But it seems to me that our inward changes for the better hold greater potential for affecting this world in a positive way.
A great spiritual figure of the 20th century and founder of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), Paramahansa Yogananda, said: “Change yourself and you have done your part in changing the world. Every individual must change his own life if he wants to live in a peaceful world. The world cannot become peaceful unless and until you yourself begin to work toward peace.”
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Jim McLaughlin has lived his life as a practical man. He’s a business consultant who served 10 years in the U.S. Navy, has never used illegal drugs, has been married 32 years and has two children, both professionals.
Buddhist meditation wasn’t on his radar when he started trying to tame some of the chaos in his mind. But in his late 50s, he was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder.
“I’ve had it all my life. I just never realized it,” he says. “It’s why I needed to flit like a butterfly from thing to thing to thing.
“I needed something to quiet all those voices in my head. I was having problems keeping my business going. There were feelings of unworthiness.”
Three years ago, he heard a scientist, Daniel Goleman, on a public-radio talk show discussing a practice called mindfulness meditation. He spoke not in religious terms, but like a scientist talking about a new discovery. McLaughlin read Goleman’s book “Destructive Emotions” and decided to try meditation.
Today, three years after joining the St. Louis Insight Meditation Group, Goleman says meditation has changed his life. He practices meditation about 30 minutes a day, four to five days a week.
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Lama Chuck Stanford started visiting a small group of Buddhist inmates in Kansas about six years ago.”Then word got around that that I was doing this,” Stanford says, “and I started getting calls from prison chaplains around here telling me they had Buddhist inmates interested in getting groups going.”
Now, Stanford, of the Rime Buddhist Center in Kansas City, Mo., serves four prisons – the Lansing Correctional Center, the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Leavenworth, and two state prisons in Missouri. He’s on the road two days a week, most days serving groups of about 10 men at each prison.
Stanford is among a quietly growing number of Buddhist teachers working in U.S. prisons, tending to inmates who had been raised Buddhist or who discovered the ancient faith later, many while incarcerated. U.S. prisons are also offering meditation and yoga for their general populations.
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