Archive for January, 2010

The Nature of Fear and What You Can Do About It: An Interview with Jack Kornfield

Friday, January 8th, 2010

In two earlier interviews, Jack Kornfield shared with us his insights into mindfulness and psychotherapy and the real practical importance of creating connection in everyday life. I am thrilled to have him hear again and today he gets practical with us, talking about the importance of creating connection to life, some ways to go about it, and our innate capacities for understanding, well-being, and joy.

For those who do not know Jack Kornfield, let me introduce him. He is one of the true leaders of our time in respect to the marriage of Eastern and Western Psychology. He stands alongside an esteemed group of elders such as Thich Nhat HanhSharon SalzbergPema Chodron, and Joseph Goldstein in bringing mindfulness to the west. Not only that, he also holds his PhD in clinical Psychology which makes him so relevant to the connection between mindfulness and psychotherapy.

He co-founded Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachussets and is a founding teacher of the well known retreat center Spirit Rock, in Woodacre, Ca. He has taught in Centers and University settings worldwide with teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh and theDalai Lama. He is also author of many widely popular books translated in over 20 languages, some of which are, A Path with HeartThe Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and PeaceAfter the Ecstasy, the Laundry and his newest book The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology.

Today Jack talks with us about the nature of fear and how to work with it to help us live the lives we want.

Elisha: One of the primary emotions that we all struggle with is fear. In your experience, how do you lead people through working with fear? 

Jack: Fear is central to our human life. The poet Rilke says, “Ultimately it is upon your vulnerability that you depend.” In fact we are vulnerable to one another, to the environment and how we treat it and how it affects us, we’re vulnerable to sickness, old age and death, as the Buddha points out in his first teachings. And so the first thing we need to understand is that vulnerability and insecurity are part of the nature of incarnate existence.

Often our fear produces a shell or a closing . Our fear may have come from our personal trauma and wounding that we carry, or from the cultural traumas that we live with. Without understanding fear, we build fortress America, or Gated Communities or walled off relationships, all as attempts to find security or protect ourselves. To want to protect ourselves is an understandable thing. This can help in some situations. But we can’t really protect ourselves fully from insecurity and so we also need the wisdom of insecurity. This ability to relax and live in the face of uncertainty is part of what I teach. I direct people to befriend their fear and uncertainty to begin to  experience it in their body, in their heart and in their mind in ways that are not overwhelming.

You have to do it a little bit at a time. As you befriend your fear, you say, “oh, this is fear.” Sometimes in the Buddhist teaching, the small sense of self is called “the body of fear”. As you turn toward your fear and pay attention you gradually learn to feel what fear is like, the stories it tells, the  bodily experience of fear and after 10, 20, 50 or 100 times of working with it, you start to say, “oh I know you, I know what fear is like, I know what insecurity is like” and you begin to relax. You understand that it is possible to be present and that awareness and compassion are bigger than the fear. So there comes a shift of identity from being lost in the fear to being able to be present with our insecurity and the tenderness of vulnerability. When we accept our genuine vulnerability we open in a way that allows for a wise and much more fully lived life.

Elisha: I don’t know how you do it, but you bring a big smile to my face when you talk and I feel my own vulnerability coming up and a smile coming to my face at the same time.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on

Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Suggestion Box: What Would You Like More of in 2010

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Toward the end of last year I posted the Most Popular Posts on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog for 2009. Throughout the course of the year I’ve written about topics such as how to apply mindfulness to daily life, stress, work, depression, anxiety, OCD, self-esteem, procrastination, perfectionism, sexuality, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, self-acceptance and much more. You’ve seen interviews from leaders in the field such as Jack KornfieldJeff BrantleySharon SalzbergZindel Segal, Sylvia BoorsteinTara BrachFred Luskin and more (stay tuned for an interview with Dr. Dan Siegel).

On Mondays I started “Mondays Mindful Quote” where I posted a quote from leaders such as Thich Nhat HanhPema ChodronMother TeresaHafizRumi, the Dalai Lama, and many more.

Throughout this next year I plan on bringing you more interesting and exciting interviews with leaders, applications of mindfulness as a science, exploration of pertinent quotes, and more practical and do-able applications of mindfulness to the struggles and triumphs we face in this condition we call being human.

Here’s the Question: Now is the beginning of 2010 and I think it’s time I explicitly asked you, “What do you want to see more of? What are you facing in your life that you would like posts written about?”

In the past, readers have written in what they’ve wanted more of and I responded.

Here’s your opportunity, if you feel inhibited, go ahead and reply below anonymously, no problem. Whether you just have one idea or many ideas, go ahead and post it below.

Whether this is your first time here or your thousandth time here, I consider you to be part of the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Community and value what’s happening in your life and look forward to giving you something to chew on.

Please share your thoughts for 2010 of what you would like to see more of. Your interaction below makes fertile ground for living wisdom we can all benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on

5 Good Minutes to Start Off the New Year: An Interview with Jeff Brantley, M.D.

Friday, January 1st, 2010

In December of last year, I interviewed a wonderful mindfulness teacher, Psychiatrist and author, Jeff Brantley, M.D.. Jeff is Founder and Director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at Duke University’s Center for Integrative Medicine, and author of the popular book Calming Your Anxious Mind: How Mindfulness & Compassion Can Free You from Anxiety, Fear, & Panic, and co-author, with Wendy Millstine, of his recent hit series Five Good Minutes: 100 Morning Practices To Help You Stay Calm & Focused All Day Long, and Daily Meditations for Calming Your Anxious Mind

In this interview Dr. Brantley gives us some quick tips about how we might be able to take 5 Good Minutes to bring mindfulness into this New Year and calm our anxious minds.

Elisha: What are some of your favorite ways to take 5 Good Minutes each day?

Jeff:  Well, the first thing to recall is that whether we say 5 minutes or 1 minute or 1 day or 5 days, those notions are all just IDEAS about time.

Our life actually is happening in the present moment, which is timeless. So the practice in the 5 good minutes books, while they can be done in 5 minutes of “clock time” are actually invitations to readers to come into the present moment intentionally and consciously more often.

Then, after linking this more conscious “presence” to a particular “intention” (to become more relaxed, for example, or to feel more generous in spirit, or more forgiving, perhaps), the practices in the books ask the reader to act “wholeheartedly.”  Here, wholehearted action simply means actually doing it-the specific “five good minutes” practice-and doing it without attachments to outcome or to being caught up in judgments.

In terms of some of my favorite ways to practice 5 good minutes, I enjoy practicing mindfulness in the changing situations and conditions of daily life.  For example, walking from my office to the car, or waiting for a meeting to begin, or at home with my loved ones or my dog, in each case paying attention on purpose to what is happening with and attitude of acceptance and kindness, allowing things to be as they are, and allowing myself simply to notice.

Another favorite way to practice for me is to work with the “heartful” practices like lovingkindness or forgiveness.  For example, when I become aware of folks around me, especially if they appear in distress, I like to do some silent meditation wishing them well, that they be at peace, or be supported in whatever way they need.

And, when I notice my own inner critics being very harsh on me for something that has happened and I try to practice forgiveness for them and for myself in whatever I did.

Thank you Jeff!

To the readers: What are some ways you can think to take 5 Good Minutes? Please let us know your questions, comments, or stories, your interaction below creats a living wisdom for us all to benefit from?

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on