Mindfulness & Meditation as Thinking Tools

It seems to me that the world becomes less and less conducive to quiet thought or insight… activities that can only aid a student studying complex physiological processes (or anything for that matter).  Your students are juggling a lot of input, much of which is presented with lots of bells and whistles.  The young ones have the impediments of inexperience, their likely position within Maslow’s Hierarchy or within Erikson’s Stages of development.   Certainly the impact of meditation on physiology is interesting (http://hanshananigan.tripod.com/meditation.html)
Minding The Body
An exercise for your students follows this excerpt from an article.”
From: “Q&A: Jon Kabat-Zinn Talks About Bringing Mindfulness Meditation to Medicine: Meditation isn’t just for hippies any more. And it’s not all about saying ommmm” by Maia Szalavitz
“Recent studies from Massachusetts General Hospital have shown that eight weeks of MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) can actually produce thickening in particular regions of the brain important for learning, memory, executive decision-making and perspective-taking: all important functions to have at optimal levels when you are under stress or experiencing pain.  Also, certain regions get thinner like the amygdala, which involves threat and fear circuitry. If the amygdala is getting thinner after you’ve been practicing mindfulness for only eight weeks, I find that pretty amazing.

Working with Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin and his colleagues, we published a paper in 2003 showing that if you took people in a high tech work setting under very high levels of stress and trained them in MBSR in a randomized clinical trial, they showed a shift in activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in particular locations that earlier work had shown was related to the processing of emotion while under stress. The MBSR group shifted from having more right-sided activation in the PFC to more left-sided activation.”

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/01/11/mind-reading-jon-kabat-zinn-talks-about-bringing-mindfulness-meditation-to-medicine/#ixzz1uOJRG9bc
Retrieved May 9, 2012

There is a lot more to the article, but I thought you would particularly appreciate the descriptions of changes in the brain.  I am sure you would like to change the brains of many of your students.  Well, you may have to suggest this one for home use, but students could also come early and try this for 5 – 15 minutes prior to class.
Suggest to students a physiological function that they can notice or monitor in some way.  Encourage them to take the whole 5 – 15 minutes with eyes (and mouths) closed paying attention to that element of their own physiology.  Traditionally many meditations focus on feeling and noticing breath going in and breath going out.  One could monitor one’s radial pulse.  One could monitor apical pulse or any pulse!  One could focus on the intestines and strive to hear or feel movement.  One could swallow a bit of beverage every 30 seconds or so and notice it going down.  You could also encourage them to think about other aspects of whatever it is they are monitoring.  Alternately, they could let their perception travel from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet noticing their own body.  Awareness of themselves may have no effect, or it may engage them a little more deeply in the present and in their own potential as learners and as marvelous organisms.