Enough with the Scientific Studies!!!

Written by Marni Levitt

I love science.  I am fascinated by the observation, questioning, exploration and discovery of the natural world, human beings and the universe.  I believe that mindfulness is its own kind of ‘inner science’, where we study our own thoughts and feelings and find patterns.  I believe science should be focused on more in school.  I believe humans should LISTEN more to MOST of the world’s scientists who believe that climate change is an imminent and immediate threat to our survival on the planet.

‘OK. Science is cool.  Science is essential. I have established that.

BUT – the problem I have with scientific studies is that they are increasingly used to validate wellness practices such as yoga and mindfulness.  There are a proliferation of studies, articles, research, etc…that are usually only a google search away.  I don’t post the statistics or research on my website because I don’t feel I have to.  Just google it. You will find something, and these days you will find LOTS of things.

YES – it is a positive development that the studies now exist to help the established medical and educational world feel it is OK to start using and implementing practices that come from yoga and mindfulness in order to help people.  This is good, if this is what is needed.

What comes to mind, though, are titles of articles I see floating around social media, such as ‘Studies show that increased use of empathy can improve brain-functioning’ OR ‘Studies show that children who learn kindness early in life have a better chance at a successful career’ …etc…I am just making up these titles right now, but I am sure I have seen similar ones.

HOWEVER, there can be an OVER-reliance on these studies, and an almost obsessive and narrow focus on using the studies primarily as the reason to try something new, or to validate something that is already being done.  Sometimes I feel as though we are asking other people to take risks and to try something new before we do.  We need hundreds or thousands of people to find something useful before we give it a go.  What has happened to our sense of adventure and risk-taking in life?  What has happened to our sense of trying something for ourselves, and feeling what the experience is like?  No one can take away a first-person experience.  Everyone experiences life differently.

The fact that scientific studies to validate mindfulness are proliferating just tells me how much we REALLY do need that mindfulness!  When we learn to listen to our bodies and minds, observe the patterns that create a healthy and happy life for ourselves, we won’t need someone outside of ourselves to tell us it is OK.  We will just KNOW.

FURTHERMORE – what has happened to our sense of ethics and morality?  Are we really leaving it up to scientists to dictate which pro-social behaviours actually make our lives better?  Didn’t our grandparents have a sense of this?  Didn’t our elders and ancestors?  These basic human values come to us through stories and folklore rooted in many old cultures on the planet.  I have a feeling they knew things before the scientists did!  Do we really need a scientific study to tell us that the use of empathy towards others increases our enjoyment and success in life?  I think most people find these things out by direct life experience and trial an error.

Direct first-hand experience, trial and error and observation are an essential part of the process of mindfulness and self-exploration.  Listening to yourself is essential, it is the key.  A teacher may point or guide you in the right direction, but it is ultimately a very intimate and personal experience.  Of Course, it is wonderful and helpful to share these experiences with each other, but does it always have to be in the form of a dry, clinical study?  Let’s sing about it, tell stories and dance.  Let’s laugh and tell jokes.  We can marvel at the wonder of being human together.


Marni

1-416-910-3114

@Move_N_Music

marni@move-n-music.com
www.move-n-music.com

Marni Levitt B.A.(Hons.), B.Ed. OCT, RYT

Founder Move-N-Music
Wellness Educator, Animator, Speaker

Ignite the potential for your body and mind

The Story of Move-N-Music Video
Marni Levitt Music on Soundcloud

Interdependence

Written by Marni Levitt

In a digital-age, in the modern world, we have (or so it seems) access to so much personalized, individual choice in how we spend our time, who we interact with, and what we purchase.  In the business world, people speak about hyper-segmentation of markets, niches, and specializations.  It seems that we can get very very specific indeed about who and what we want to interact with, both in the virtual and the real world.  At the same time, in this hyper-individualized culture, there seems to be a growing unease, loneliness, disconnection, and despair.   It seems as if the time we used to use to connect with nature, our families, our friends, our selves, has all but disappeared.  Our communities, families and neighborhoods can be the fabric that holds this thing called “life” together.  Without it, or with only bits and pieces of it, daily life can seem to have less meaning, less purpose.  It is only in context of living in a way that reflects our interconnections, that we can thrive.

The great leader and mindfulness teacher, Thic Nhat Han, refers to this state of interconnection as “Interbeing”.  My yoga practice has, over and over again, helped me to get in touch with the magic web, or fabric of connections that impact my lived, daily experience.  Coming home from a yoga class, I have intuitively sensed that the plants in my apartment need watering – I have been able to “see through” the actors on TV in my favourite sitcoms, and notice them “acting” – I have been able to sense who was the right person at work to speak with in order to resolve a difficult situation.  The connection of mind, body and emotions (or spirit), through yoga and mindfulness, has facilitated my awareness of our “interbeing” with each other and our ecosystem.

These ancient, tried-tested-and-true practices (and now scientifically-studied to boot) have given me practical tools, over and over again that have dramatically improved the quality (and the intelligence!) of my life.  I hope you can enjoy some of those benefits too.

Marni

1-416-910-3114
@Move_N_Music
marni@move-n-music.com
www.move-n-music.com

Marni Levitt B.A.(Hons.), B.Ed. OCT, RYT
Founder Move-N-Music
Wellness Educator, Animator, Speaker

Ignite the potential for your body and mind

The Story of Move-N-Music Video
Marni Levitt Music on Soundcloud


 

Body-Full- Ness

Written by Marni Levitt

Mindfulness has become a popular word, used widely to describe the mind’s awareness of what is happening in the present moment. A state of being that can improve our health, relationships and work. I believe it should be called ‘Body-Full- Ness’. Part of the reason the word has become so popular in modern western life is because we can relate with the word ‘mind’ that is in ‘mindfulness’. We love anything to do with thinking and cognition. Mind over matter. What I have learned from my years of self-study and learning in mindfulness meditation and personal growth, is that my emotional experience resides primarily in my body. ‘Mindfulness’ is a paying attention, not just to thoughts, but (perhaps more importantly) to the direct physical experience that locates itself in the body.

The body is the resonator for emotional experience. Like the body of my guitar that reverberates when I pluck the strings, my bodily experience resonates and responds along with my thoughts, perceptions and experiences. When I really pay attention to what is going on in my bodily sensations, and the emotions swirling inside, I have a natural built-in compass that directs my course in the day-to- day and in life. Easier said than done in a culture that so values the cognitive (thinking) aspects of experience. It is all related and interconnected. When I practise ‘mindfulness’ in my modern western lifestyle, I am getting acquainted intimately with my thoughts, but even more importantly, tuning into my body and the multiple facets of emotional experience and knowledge. Every time I do that, I access a whole self, with a full range of awareness – not only of what is going on inside myself, but what is going on around me. You could say my ‘Body-Full- Ness’ is a key that opens the door to a whole universe.

Today, see how many times you can notice physical sensations: the air going in the nostrils, the abdomen rising and falling, the feeling of your foot touching the ground with every step, the feeling of your hand touching a doorknob, the taste of the food in your mouth. Simple. Not easy, but simple. This basic awareness sets a baseline for noticing when emotional ups and downs come rolling through the body like waves in a storm.


 

Marni Levitt

1-416- 910-3114

@Move_N_Music

marni@move-n- music.com

www.move-n- music.com

 

Marni Levitt B.A.(Hons.), B.Ed. OCT, RYT

Founder Move-N- Music

Wellness Educator, Animator, Speaker

 

Ignite the potential for your body and mind

The Story of Move-N- Music Video

Marni Levitt Music on Soundcloud

The Power of Music

Written by Marni Levitt

I can’t underline the importance of music enough.  In education, in wellness, in life!  In my 10 years experience teaching within the school board (and the past 5 years of private work), I have found over and over again that when I use rhythms, a musical way of talking, call and response dialogue etc., then kids listen! They literally TUNE IN when they hear the phrases I am chanting or singing.  Sometimes they tune in EVEN MORE when I add some simple body movements.  Adults are more reserved at first, but the effect is still the same.  They love music, and want MORE of it.  Yesterday I shared some of my newest original songs for kids at a special summer camp – they loved them!

Listening and tuning in can be a particular challenge for some, (and for many kids and adults alike these days, we are so distracted with  technology!!!!).  When the kids knew I wrote the songs, and they felt the melody, rhythms and even the meaning of the words (words designed to instill positive self-image, relaxation and stress-reduction) – the calm and joy in the room was palpable.

That being said, you DON’T have to be a musician, a songwriter or a dancer to share music with kids.  Any teacher, education professional, social worker, yoga teacher or parent can learn some simple fun rhythmic phrases to engage young people.  I have seen it work over and over again – I would even say that children these days are CRAVING more music.  Humans need music, like we need water and food.  Our bodies are made up mostly of water, and water responds to sound vibrations, by vibrating in response.

Want more information? check out this article on the scientific benefits of music!

Like what you read? I would be happy to speak with you about professional development opportunities for teachers or anyone who works with children.

May the music find you!

Marni


1-416-910-3114

@Move_N_Music
Marni Levitt B.A.(Hons.), B.Ed. OCT, RYT
Founder Move-N-Music
Wellness Educator, Animator, Speaker
Ignite the potential for your body and mind

 

Heart Intelligence

Written by Marni Levitt

One of the greatest teachings of Yoga that I learned through my teachers at Sivananda,and have been learning experientially as I live life – is the infinite capacity of the heart’s intelligence. On the first day I learned to meditate, at least 10 years ago, on a Yoga retreat, one of the teachers explained to me the difference between the way the mind and the heart process information. The conscious thinking mind has a certain capacity to think, understand, analyze and process, but that capacity is limited. It can only go so far. For sure, the mind can help us understand and achieve many things – but there is another kind of intelligence that goes way further. WAY further. That is the intelligence of the heart.

I remember my teacher at the retreat drawing a picture on a piece of paper – a circle that represented the intelligence of the mind – then, he drew another far bigger circle around that, encompassing the mind….he said, ‘the bigger circle represents your heart’.

The heart can understand, sense, intuit, and connect with a vast amount of information (in many different forms) that cannot possibly be understood or processed by the conscious mind. The conscious mind naturally has to be selective about what information is taken in, processed and used, in order for us to be able to live our daily lives. The heart, however, can hold, and connect with limitless volumes of material.

Sometimes all we can do is ‘sense’ that it is there, without fully understanding all the bits and pieces. This large capacity allows us to love, to feel compassion, empathy – and to hold another person’s perspective, feelings or experience in the same space that we hold our own. WOW. Incredible.

Time and time again Yoga practise has helped me tap into that larger, intuitive intelligence – as a result I have made connections with information, or with others that I would not have otherwise. I have created magnificent works of art (songs, paintings, poetry), and have been able to come to very useful decisions that I would never have arrived at simply through logical reasoning. The implications of heart intelligence are phenomenal. The Dalai Lama certainly agrees – have a look at this quote – as does the Heart Math Institute.

May your heart open to its potential this summer.

Much love, Marni

 


1-416- 910-3114
@Move_N_Music
marni@move-n- music.com
www.move-n- music.com

Marni Levitt B.A.(Hons.), B.Ed. OCT, RYT
Founder Move-N- Music
Wellness Educator, Animator, Speaker

Ignite the potential for your body and mind
The Story of Move-N- Music Video
Marni Levitt Music on Soundcloud

When the spine is flexible, the mind is flexible.

Written by: Marni Levitt

Did You Know?

The body is part of the brain!  The spinal cord goes all the way down the back.  The spinal cord is like the fiber optic cables for the internet.  It is the passage-way, the pathway for the electrical impulses from the brain to be delivered to different parts of the body, and the way that feedback is delivered back to the brain.

When the spine is flexible, the mind is flexible.  

When the body moves, stretches and bends, the mind does too!  It is then possible to think of more solutions, more innovations – more connections, than could have ever been dreamt of without that movement.

I have experienced it firsthand over and over again (the idea that comes to me suddenly while walking outside or biking, the inspiration to solve a problem that I receive right after a yoga sequence, or the songs that I write in my mind while I am dancing!)  But don’t take it only from me, there are countless studies on mind-body relationship now that point to similar results.

These results can help your camp staff work better together – and your campers express their best, while having fun!

 

 


Find out more about Marni’s programs by checking out her website; www.move-n-music.com

Marni Levitt B.A.(Hons.), OCT, RYT
Founder Move-N-Music
Arts & Wellness Educator,
Animator, Speaker

1-416-910-3114
Skype: Marni.Levitt1
marni@move-n-music.com
www.move-n-music.com

Words that start with ‘M’: Mindfulness & Mental Health

By Marni Levitt

Mindfulness and Yoga changed my life.

Not only in terms of REDUCING STRESS and increasing intuition and creativity, BUT ALSO: they are tools that systematically helped me to become a BETTER PERSON, AND helped me to discover my true GIFTS and TALENTS to share with others, and to inspire the best in them, through my LIFE’S WORK and MISSION. I want that for you, your students, your clients, your team, your family.

Mindfulness and Yoga are tools that have had a huge impact on my life – in fact, they have completely altered my patterns of relating to my self, other people and the world at large. I have literally experienced miracles as a direct result of my practise of yoga and mindfulness. I have connected with just the right person at the right time (when I needed something), I have had powerful access to my intuition that has helped me to solve significant problems at work and in life. I have sensed that something important was about to happen, before it did. It has seemed almost as though, as I get to know myself deeply (the patterns of my thoughts, emotions, body sensations and energies), then I automatically know the world, and other people deeply. I believe that’s because I am in the universe, but the universe is also in me. This direct experiential knowledge (in addition to the mountains of growing scientific evidence) has huge implications for individuals, families, organizations and businesses.

In maintaining my own mental health, mindfulness has acted as a powerful compliment to aerobic exercise, healthy eating & cooking, gardening and hobbies, talk therapy, a community of friends and neighbours and self-expression through music, dance, art and writing. I have discovered that being mentally healthy means getting in touch with the unique gifts and talents I was born with, that I need to share. When I am not able to share my gifts or my brilliance, (ie. music!), then they get stuck inside me, and it doesn’t feel good. When I share them, I self-actualize while simultaneously inspiring and moving other people. Health for self means health for others. There are exponential returns when I feel I am living my life in alignment with my truth, and my true calling, and when I am present. Being present in my moment-by-moment bodily, thinking and emotional experience, is something I have learned through the practise of mindfulness.

I can’t count how many times magical connections have been made when I trust the creative process that is life! I believe that mental health is just as much a social responsibility, as it is an individual responsibility. The solutions lie in how we relate with ourselves, and each other, in a collective context. Culture is the means by which each individual relates with the whole. Move-N-Music aims to be a leader in healthy-culture creation. The culture I envision is one grounded in Mindfulness. I use cultural arts (singing, drumming, dancing, spoken word poetry, storytelling) to promote this culture. I believe we are at a turning point in our world, and we must move swiftly towards a more productive and healthy way of being. Our very ecosystems, economic systems, healthcare, education and business systems are at stake if we do not change and move towards health. All of these systems impact your own personal wellness, success and happiness directly.

Each person is part-and-parcel of the larger whole. So many jobs and workplaces structured in our modern world do not allow people to use or express their natural gifts. In the world of public school teaching, the resources were often scarce, and the systemic stresses in the system so significant, that sometimes I could not even teach music, I was just maintaining safety in the room. As human beings with great potential, I believe we can do much better in structuring our systems to facilitate real growth! Mindfulness is one of the tools that can give us back what is natural and inherent in all of us: the power to be authentically human, and to thrive.


Want to learn more about The Move-N-Music Story? Click here:

Want to introduce habits to foster Mental Health for your school, workplace, family or organization?

Move-N-Music offers Mind-Body Breaks Presentation & Workshops: An Inspiring and motivating start to creating positive physical and mental health

Activities include:

-Singing, Rhythmic Clapping, Movement
-Music, Sound and Breathing Games
-Fun Contests & Imaginative Play
-Singing Bowl demonstration
-Stretching, Guided Relaxation and Visualization

Email me marni@move-n-music.com or call 416-910-3114 for more information.

It is my mission to support you.
1-416-910-3114
@Move_N_Music
marni@move-n-music.com
www.move-n-music.com

Marni Levitt B.A.(Hons.), B.Ed. OCT, RYT
Founder Move-N-Music
Arts & Wellness Educator, Animator, Speaker

Emotions Experienced in the Body

Written by: Marni Levitt

I remember my body dropping several flights in a split second on the ride at Disney World. The ride was called ‘The Drop’ or something like that, and simulated an extremely sharp elevator drop. My stomach was up, several meters higher than the rest of my body, which dropped down sharply – all of a sudden. A thrill, an unpleasant feeling, scary – all depending on how you perceived it. For me, it was both scary and unpleasant. I have felt that feeling in my stomach many times – but not on a Disney World ride – rather, in daily life situations that feel scary or stressful. I feel like my stomach is dropping down – almost right out of my body. (The opposite of my body dropping down, and stomach in the air, but similar feeling nonetheless). I have felt like that many times at work, in stressful moments.

I am sure many people experience similar physical experiences of emotions. ‘I have butterflies in my stomach’; ‘I have cold feet’; ‘my heart is broken’, ‘you make me sick’, ‘I am listening to my gut, and something just doesn’t feel right’. If you resonate with any of these expressions, or feelings, you may have a sense that our language reflects our lived experience and reality.

With the recent scientific validation of mindfulness and yoga, through studies and neuroscience, it is easy to start believing that emotions and feelings happen between your ears, in your head (ie. in your brain). In Eastern thought (where yoga and mindfulness originate), the mind is considered a mystery. Who is the one who is knowing and experiencing? Western science takes this ‘self’ for granted, Eastern traditions question and wonder about it.

I wonder how many people experience their emotional reality inside of their heads? Through my years of mindfulness meditation experience, and practise of yoga, in addition to work with a psychotherapist – I have learned to be aware of, and identify the feelings in my body; in this way, my body has become my emotional compass, leading me to wellness. For example, when my chest and throat start to feel tight, it is likely that I am experiencing sadness or grief. When I tune into this experience (either through mindfulness meditation, or just being aware as I go about my day), I can then work with it, be present with it, and that is when it often starts to transform, or loosen, and I get some relief from the pain. Identifying my physical experience of emotions – or physical processing of emotions, has made a world difference for me, on a practical, daily basis.

I have been able to navigate life and work, and improve my mental health and wellness in leaps and bounds.

According to Wikipedia, Pali (Pāli) is a Prakrit language native to the Indian subcontinent. It is widely studied because it is the language of many of the earliest extant literature of Buddhism. The Pali-English Dictionary suggests citta is heart / mind, and emphasizing it is more the emotive side of mind as opposed to manas, as the intellect or mind-sense in the sense of what grasps mental objects (dhammas). From the cultures that gave birth to mindfulness practices now transforming the West, there is a different understanding of mind than that assumed by modern, Western, scientific concepts. The heart is in the body, the body experiences emotions. The more traditional (and time-tested) practices such as mindfulness and yoga have an understanding of mind that includes the heart. This conception certainly resonates with my life experience – and being in touch with my body (and therefore emotions) has only improved my life and relationships. Being aware of the body, and of feelings, is the first step to working with those feelings – and often, mitigating or limiting a fight-or-flight stress response.

There are scientific studies on just about everything now – which is great, as it helps give a certain validity to fields or practices previously considered marginal (in modern Western context). More and more people are turning to these types of supports, in search of practical solutions to exponentially-increasing stress and distractions modern life. People are flocking to yoga and mindfulness meditation retreats in droves. Parents are finding help for issues that previously seemed unsolvable for their kids. I know that I have made a scientific study of my own life: about 99.9% of the time, when I am feeling a great deal of stress about something, after a yoga class, whatever problem seemed insurmountable before class, suddenly feels workable – and often I feel at peace. Wow.

Just like magic. My mind (and emotions) became calm because of actions I did with my body and breath. Hopefully with the logic of science, and the art of being aware of feelings – we can start to connect with a broader canvas of human experience: one that includes the head, the heart, the body, and therefore our entire being. I believe that’s where we will find long-term solutions for the pervasive ailments of modern living.


Move-N-Music is offering ‘mind-FUN-ness’ customized small group coaching sessions to introduce the concept of mindfulness in a fun, hands-on, engaging way.  For more information, please email marni@move-n-music.com
Every Sunday Morning near St.Clair and Oakwood in Toronto

April 3, 10, 17, 24, May 1, 8, 2016
9:30am – 10:30am
For ages: 5-8

Find out more about Marni’s programs by checking out her website; www.move-n-music.com

Marni Levitt B.A.(Hons.), OCT, RYT
Founder Move-N-Music
Arts & Wellness Educator,
Animator, Speaker

1-416-910-3114
Skype: Marni.Levitt1
marni@move-n-music.com
www.move-n-music.com

Photo in article from Move-N-Music Family mind-FUN-ness day in Toronto – Feb.2016.