What are the benefits of mindfulness?


In addition to the aforementioned benefits, the following list are also realistic outcomes from practicing mindfulness:

Gains in working memory

Stress reduction

Less emotional reactivity 

Relationship satisfaction 

Numerous research articles have run studies on mindfulness and have discovered meditation has been directly related to self-reported positive affect. More interestingly, these results reveal that even short-term commitment show marked differences in the brains of people who practice mindful meditation versus those who do not practice mindful meditation. A study involving people with mindful practice ranging from one month to twenty-nine years were compared to a pool of people who hadn’t meditated. When shown graphic pictures, the former group was better able to disengage from the stimuli and instead focus on a cognitive task versus those who had no practice with mindful meditation.

More insights and explanations from these research studies, along the other uses of mindfulness can be found here: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx 


We invite you to practice mindfulness with us as we guide you on your journey to your inner wise self. Join us this January 1st for our “Get Clear on Your Year” retreat.



Celebrating the Autumn Equinox

Today marks the start of the Autumn Equinox. During this season our awareness is directed inward. We reflect on what was achieved during our past growing season, become aware of which seeds haven’t grown or developed, and celebrate our personal harvests. This is a time to consider the power of gratitude, blessings and to give thanks. The Autumn Equinox reminds us to balance all parts of ourselves, the active and the passive, the known and the unknown, the outer journey and the inner journey and the intuitive, the conscious and the unconscious. From this place of unity new doors open, new directions and new possibilities are revealed.

An Invitation to Turn Withinautumn-equinox-1024x848

As Earth progresses along its orbit, passing through a balanced equinox point at the end of summer, its axis begins to lean away from the sun, bringing the southern hemisphere closer to, and moving the northern hemisphere farther away, from our radiant star. As a result, the sun’s rays hit the northern hemisphere at an indirect angle and less solar energy reaches this part of the world. This waning sunlight initiates a distinct and perceptible shift in our terrestrial environment as the sweetness of summer begins to fade and the top half of our planet retreats from the heat of the sun.

The Earth, like our bodies, breathes with unyielding rhythm and there is no better time to observe this divine truth than during a change of seasons when the breathwave of our planet can be experienced through all the senses. This yearly cycle, mirrored in every breath we take. When considering how the planet breathes, the autumnal equinox occurs during the inspiration cycle which can be likened to puraka or the inhalation. With the downward-moving inhale, all elements are magnetized toward the Earth. That which was exhaled during the effulgence of summer, is reintegrated. Plants surrender their vegetation in response to shorter days and cooler temperatures. Their leaves, drained of life-giving sustenance, eventually fall in the ultimate display of impermanence.

Moisture and heat are absorbed into the ground and air currents begin to circulate near the surface to catalyze these natural processes. As vehicles of the universal breath, we can interpret these environmental cues as a reflection of our internal seasons and emulate the perennial wisdom of the planet by letting go, slowing down and taking time for regenerative practices.

The autumnal equinox is the beginning of a cosmic dunk into darkness. With each passing day, nighttime arrives a little earlier and lingers into our waking hours. With this gift of environmental down-time, we are encouraged to welcome and not resist the centripetal force of consciousness that pulls us inward. This is a time for meditation and rest. Use this opportunity to surrender to your inner gravity, ask difficult questions and listen deeply for what arises. Get curious as you dive into the darkness.

This is a time to dig up anything that may be churning beneath the surface, a time to invite such thoughts and emotions to gently rise and dissolve. As a guide, you may consider the following contemplation questions either in meditation or in journaling to facilitate this inner exploration.

  • What has been my personal harvest this year, what has grown into full expression and brought me joy? Begin each sentence with I celebrate…
  • What seeds of insight will I collect and re-plant in the next season? I nourish…
  • Where am I holding back or ceding to doubt? What fears are stalling me? I am afraid of…
  • Where am I creating struggle or holding on? How can I conserve energy by releasing any unnecessary effort in this cycle? I release…
  • What am I most grateful for? I am grateful for…
  • Am I housing any latent anger towards myself or others? How can I liberate myself from it? I forgive…
  • Do I presently feel ashamed or embarrassed by any behaviors or decisions I have made? How can I lay them to rest? I accept…
  • Do I feel guilty for any of my thoughts, words, or actions? How can I make a conscious change? I resolve…
  • If my body were to speak, what would it say to me? I hear…
Practice Regenerative Yoga in Autumn
As we approach the transition from summer to fall, Ayurveda prescribes a gradual shift from cooling breath and postural practices that pacify pitta to those that heat internally to strengthen the fire element in preparation for the colder climate ahead. The vata dosha also benefits from postures that keep us close to the ground, particularly those that draw energy from the upper centers of the body including the head, throat and heart, into the lower centers of the belly, sacrum and hips.
Check out this beautiful flow devoted to the Autumn Equinox.

Article courtesy of Gaia: http://www.gaia.com/article/autumnal-equinox-yoga-ritual



Meditation Will Change Your Brain… For the Better!

When most people think about meditation, they think about learning to relax or lower their stress.  It certainly will do that, but it does so much more!  Feeling relaxed and stress free are beneficial states that will come and go.  While it is important to be able to induce positive states to centre ourselves, research has shown that these states can be converted into traits, leading to the increase of grey matter in the brain.  Specifically, grey matter associated with attention and emotional regulation.

This neurological change from state to trait, is important because increased attention and emotional regulation are the opposite of what ails us.  If you can have more attention (or are more mindful) you can keep yourself on track better towards what you want to or should be doing rather than letting life pull you around and being reactive to life situations.  Having greater emotional regulation means that a negative thought or feeling is just a noticed negative thought or feeling and not the first step in a downward-spiraling negative reaction that is at the core of anger issues, anxiety and depression.  Learn to strengthen these two traits and you will feel less stress more often, you will feel more in control, you will feel happier.  Not just after you meditate, but you will have an increased tendency for it the rest of your day or week.

In this great (16 min) TED Talk, Mathieu Ricard talks about this research and speaks of the importance of using meditation to increase altruism.  He makes a great case for it, but I think the real interesting gem are his slides on the grey matter changes in the brain.


This slide shows how when long-term, experienced meditators – with over 50,000 hours of practice! – are put in an MRI, their brains light up in significantly increased ways as compared to people with little to no experience with meditation.  (They are really using their brains!)  As impressive as this is, though, it can also be discouraging for new meditators as 50,000 hours is a high bar to reach… roughly 30 years of practice if you meditate for ~4 hours per day!  But, stay with us, because the benefits of meditation do not take that long to start taking hold!

Increased activity in meditater's brains.

(slide from Mathieiu Ricard’s TED Talk.)


After a mere 4 weeks of doing mindfulness meditation an average of 27 minutes per day, participants in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program showed a massive increase in grey matter density.  There is hope!

Increase in grey matter after only 4 weeks of meditation.

(slide from Mathieiu Ricard’s TED Talk.)


To actually change your brain for the better meditating for 4 weeks, for 27 min per day!  Wow!  That works out to roughly only 14 hours of practice for lasting neurological changes.  Many people spend much more time than that on Facebook or watching TV!  Think of the benefits.

So, is meditation a cure all?  No.  It isn’t even a guaranteed permanent change.  There is an expression that you get more of whatever you pay attention to.  Just as learning to watch your thoughts and emotions will make you more mindful, attentive, and have greater emotional regulation, if you slip back into paying attention to anger, you will get more angry, pay attention to worry and life seems scarier.  However, with less than 30 minutes per day of mindfulness meditation to bolster you against these slides to the negative, it is a very small payout for the tremendous payoff it gives.

Compare these results with the money spent on psychiatric medication, on the rampant lost hours from sick leaves from work, even from the subjective lost hours, days and years of your life spent being unhappy and less productive.  Meditation seems pretty darn cost effective.  It’s a gift to give yourself and improves your relationships with others in your life.  Imagine if mindfulness were part of the regular school curriculum?  What a world we’d have then!

So, learn to develop a meditation practice and if someone implies that you are dense, you can respond with pride that yes, your grey matter is very dense, thank you very much!


Learn mindfulness meditation in one of Sugar Ridge’s upcoming Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs:

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction 5-Day Retreat




Meditation at First Light

We love Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons First Light event.   First Light is a Christmas celebration Sainte-Marie holds every year at the historic site.  It is always a crowded event with many visitors walking through the many candle-lit buildings, listening to live, seasonal music and sampling Christmas baking!  There is also a craft sale with many amazing local artisans and Sainte-Marie collects massive amounts of food donations to give to a local food bank.  It is easy to see why this is one of our favourite events of the year!

A highlight of the event for us is the longhouse, where there is an aboriginal drumming circle.  Sitting around a fire, listening to an elder tell stories, teach songs and drum for the group.  It is not only fun, but a very meditative experience.  It is definitely Liz’s favourite place to be at the event and she will sometimes sit there for an hour listening and meditating.  On weekends that we have groups at Sugar Ridge during First Light, she has invited guests to come with her to experience this with her.  Tonight is no different.  The participants of the Yoga & Meditation retreat will be there soaking it all in.

A videographer friend of ours, Alla Lifchits, was there on Thursday and made this amazing video, touring through the event.  She really captured the feel of being there, so we wanted to make sure to share this with others who could not make it… or inspire others to come out tonight for the final evening of the event.


Meditation is a good winter “medicine”

Meditation has been well researched and shown to be good for us in all sorts of ways. A recent Globe and Mail article talks of a study which showed that mindfulness meditation had a strong effect on the immune system.

Morning Meditation at Sugar Ridge Retreat CentreUsing a meditation group, an exercise group and a control group (that did nothing different), the researchers wanted to see which group would fare better during a month in the middle of flu season.  Both exercise and meditation lowered the number of people getting sick by 25%, but meditation had a few extra benefits.  Those that meditated and got the flu had the least symptoms and those in the meditation group missed the least work days.  That is pretty convincing for the power of meditation!

Meditation is one of the simplest things you will ever learn, but it will challenge you for the rest of your life.  If you are interested in learning to meditate (and get a pumped up immune system!) Sugar Ridge has several great programs for over this winter for you to try:

Yoga & Meditation Weekend Retreat
December 26 – 28

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Retreat
January 4 – 9, 2015

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction 8-Week Program
January 20 – March 10, 2015