Archive for March, 2010

Uncover Your Enemies Secrets: Monday’s Mindful Quote with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, March 15th, 2010

There is a tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog. Every Monday, I cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding. So for today, here is a quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each [person’s] life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm any hostility.”

First, in order to make sure we’re all on the same page, let’s define hostility. Hostility, in the way I am using it, is a sense of internal ill-will toward someone: In other words, wishing someone harm. When it is hostile action, it can be identified as aggression.

At the core, we are all human being that are born into this world with a set of genetic predispositions, but also with a brain ready to be shaped by its environment. If you have a spiritual background, you also have your own beliefs as to what a baby in this world is born with.

However, somewhere along the way, babies and children come into contact with some of the potential harsh realities of life. We all experience trauma (less severe) or Trauma (more severe) growing up and this affects our ability to discern and regulate ourselves as we get older. Maybe the parents were so overstressed that there was very little empathy that came toward the child and as Dan Siegel has said many times, the child didn’t “feel felt.” Or maybe there was physical or sexual abuse, leaving the child with internalized shame and anger toward him or herself and projects it out onto the world. Or maybe the child was overweight and so was made fun of growing up only to leave a deep wound of insecurity.

Everyone has a story and those that react with violence or in a way that hurts others is more than likely feeling major hurt and pain themselves. This is not to condone their actions, but it is mean to allow us to relate to them differently, in a way that reduces our sense of hostility, because at the end of the day we need to ask ourselves, where does hostility get us? How does wishing someone harm work for us?

In my experience it creates a burning in my chest and pressure in my head. It distracts me from what is most important in my life and therefore, I allow the person to continue to harm me, but now it’s me doing it, not them. That’s the net effect for me. That doesn’t mean my anger goes away, but there is a difference between anger and hostility. Anger is a pure emotion that tells us something is imbalanced, but hostility adds the element of wishing ill will and is more likely to lead to aggressive actions.

What would it be like to see this person as a little baby, with all their life afflictions? As a potential extreme act, what would it be like to have compassion for this person? What would be the net effect of this for you? This may be easier to do if the experience is a small trauma or someone cutting you off on the freeway. However, there are many triggering thoughts that may arise if you have experienced severe trauma at someone’s hands (e.g., death of a loved one, physical abuse, sexual abuse).

I am not suggesting some Pollyanna quick shift in perspective; this takes practice in come to terms with the feelings that are present and actively considering that the other person is a human being potentially deeply wounded and suffering greatly. A compassion practice likes this may take quite some time to begin rewiring the brain to think in this direction.

The lovingkindness practice is an entre into compassion work. The reason it is a way to move toward this is because it doesn’t solely focus on the person who has committed the aggressive act. It focuses first on us and then moves out to many people, wishing them what we deeply wish for ourselves.

Click on the link above to see the practice and try this out in general and see what you experience, whether you have a specific person that you feel hostility toward or not. You can also do this informally throughout the day.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and question below. This is a place where your words become a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

Your Mindful Check in

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

These days, more than ever, it’s critical to be able to take moments during the day to check-in and see what the state of affairs is with us. In this video you’ll be introduced to The Mindful Check-In from “A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook.” Feel free to connect with others who are interacting around the workbook and how mindfulness is being used in everyday life to work with stress pain and illness.

Mindfulness and Trauma: An Interview with John Briere, Ph.D.

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Today I am proud to bring to you John Briere, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, and Director of the Psychological Trauma Program at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. He is past president of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and recipient of ISTSS’s Robert S. Laufer Memorial Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement.  John has authored a number of books, including Principles of Trauma Therapy: A Guide to Symptoms, Evaluation, and Treatment; Psychological Assessment of Adult Posttraumatic States: Phenomenology, Diagnosis, and Measurement; and Therapy for Adults Molested As Children: Beyond Survival, Second Edition. He lectures frequently on the intersect between trauma, therapy, and mindfulness.

Today John talks with us about trauma, and how he uses mindfulness to address it. Some of the work in this interview is from John’s latest book-in-progress tentatively entitled Beyond suffering: Trauma, psychology, and mindfulness in the Western world.

Elisha: The word “trauma,” seems to mean different things to different people. In your mind, what is psychological trauma?

John: Psychological trauma refers to an event that is life-threatening or likely to cause injury, that produces feeling of terror, horror, or helplessness. I would define it more broadly to include threats to psychological integrity, including major losses; events that were very upsetting but did not include fear of death or injury; and early and severe childhood neglect.

On another level, trauma refers to the inevitable pain that arises as we interact with the world. When we encounter an event or loss that hurts us enough, it pushes us into an emergency state, and can activate thoughts, perspectives, and behaviors that, paradoxically, add to suffering. We may feel so “bad” that we end up thinking that we are bad, we may blame ourselves for what happened, and expect it to happen again. We may feel anger of such magnitude that we to want to “get even” with someone, although hurting people rarely works out for us (or them). And, in our pain, we may do whatever we can to feel less overwhelmed. We may use alcohol or drugs, distracting behaviors, dissociation, or denial. Or we may withdraw from the world, pull into ourselves, and stay there. All these reactions are perfectly understandable.

Unfortunately, both Western and Buddhist psychology tell us that attempts to avoid pain often increase suffering. The momentary good news may be that we feel less overwhelmed when we avoid or externalize painful experience; the bad news is that our solutions to pain may keep us from recovering, by shutting us down just when we need to open up and process what has happened to us. An unfortunate aspect of psychological trauma is that, in order to move out of pain, we have to sit with pain, even if we may prefer the seeming protection of  deadened emotions and reduced awareness. The journey of the trauma survivor can sometimes require great bravery – to approach rather than avoid, to reach out when isolation seems like a better idea.

Elisha: Why would you consider using mindfulness to work with trauma?

John: Mindfulness is a learnable set of skills, involving ongoing, moment-by-moment focused awareness and openness to the here-and-now, without judgment and with acceptance. It is, in some sense, the polar opposite of avoidance. Mindfulness can be a useful component of trauma therapy in several ways: the therapist can be mindful, which will increase her compassion and empathic attunement toward the client; she can communicate nonjudgment, and acceptance, which the client may then internalize; and the client can learn mindfulness during treatment. In the latter case, the individual may develop mindfulness skills outside of meditation (for example, in Dialectical Behavior Therapy), or he or she can learn to meditate, which often teaches mindfulness. I think the latter can be more helpful, since, in addition to mindfulness, meditation more directly teaches us equanimity – for example how to sit with and tolerate difficult states, like anxiety or anger, while entering a more settled and objective state of mind.

Elisha: If you were sitting across the table from someone who has recently experienced a traumatic event, how would you use mindfulness as an approach to work with their trauma?

John: Well, it would depend on how recently the traumatic event had occurred. We have learned that in the immediate aftermath of trauma, often the most helpful thing we can do is to offer safety and support, facilitate connection with loved ones, and perhaps assist in accessing social, psychological, and medical resources. Initially, the individual may be too overwhelmed to engage in formal psychotherapy, let alone learn mindfulness.

The therapist, of course, will gain from mindfulness during this period, whether working at the scene of a mass casualty event or with a rape victim. Witnessing the psychological pain associated with immediate trauma can be impactful for the therapist, and we need all the help we can get at such times.

When enough time has passed, mindfulness-based interventions might be quite helpful to the traumatized person. Whether taught as specific skills, or in the context of meditation, mindfulness can stimulate the client’s growing realization that his or her thoughts are only thoughts, and his or her feelings are only feelings – not necessarily information on the actual state of his or her posttraumatic reality. As this process develops, the client may be able to discern the transient nature of even very compelling cognitive and emotional processes, and discover that many strong emotional reactions, intrusive experiences, and problematic beliefs are not “real:” they arise from the past, not the present. As she or he becomes more aware that these are triggered, historic phenomena, the client’s capacity to observe them without getting stuck in them typically grows.

Because mindfulness allows us to stay present in pain, it supports the mind’s ability to process painful aspects of the past. Over time, repeated exposure to painful memories in the context of acceptance and nonjudgment causes those memories to lose much of their sting; a process we sometimes call desensitization or habituation. Of course, the process of allowing painful experience to enter one’s consciousness (in the words of one teacher, to “invite your fear to tea”) can produce distress. It is the therapist’s task at such times to keep the work from being overwhelming, while, at the same time, helping the client to see that such upsetting intrusions are memories, recordings from the past, that do not necessarily have much relevance to the current moment beyond their distracting and delusive qualities.

So, we might help this person to learn to meditate, and/or we might encourage ongoing mindfulness during psychotherapy, so that trauma can be processed before it engenders additional suffering. We might also refer this person to books, CDs, or DVDs that teach mindfulness. Some popular Western teachers, for example, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Pema Chödrön, Tara Brach, and Jack Kornfield are very good at teaching mindfulness techniques, but also more existential ideas about the nature of things as it relates to painful experience. In my experience, such resources are helpful to many people, from torture victims to child abuse survivors, combat vets, and psychotherapists struggling with the emotional effects of their occupation. Trauma survivors seem to take to mindfulness — perhaps because Buddhism arose as a solution to suffering, and many of those exposed to trauma grapple with enormous suffering every day.

Sitting across from a traumatized person, I would try to listen as completely as I could, hopefully conveying acceptance, positive regard, and compassion for where the person finds herself. I would attempt this knowing that we share similar predicaments; both of us subject to times of suffering and both of us trying to do the best we can. I hope my attitude and behavior would highlight the bravery of this person, given her decision to engage such pain when it might seem much easier to avoid it.

Thank you so much John for a fantastic interview!

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

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

Neuroplasticity: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

If you’ve been following recent developments in the field of psychology or neuroscience or if you’ve been following my postings, you’ve heard the term neuroplasticity before. This term refers to discovery in recent years that the brain is actually malleable throughout the lifespan and we have the ability to grow new neural connections. This has tremendous implications for our mental health and anything that has to do with human training, both hopeful and detrimental.

Now, this isn’t the first time this idea has come up. In the late 1800’s, Freud hypothesized about this calling it the law of association by spontaneity and in recent years neuroscientists have come up with the catchy saying, “neurons that fire together, wire together.”

In other words, how and what we pay attention to has tremendous implications for how our brains grow.

Or as Dan Siegel and Rick Hanson have been saying, we can use our minds to shape our brains to help our minds. Read that over a few times, the clouds will begin to clear up.

I was just at a UCLA psychotherapy conference with Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, and he made it very clear that the advent of neuroplasticity isn’t all good news. He has the analogy of a mountain with fresh powder being the brain. The more often we ski down the mountain the more snow packs on certain trails. As we continue to ride over those trails over and over again, the faster we begin to go down those trails.

In other words, the more we practice reactivity to our fears (e.g., from small fears to PTSD) the stronger the neural connections in our brains become that make us more likely to be automatically reactive to our fears. Or, the more often we practice automatic negative thinking, the stronger the neural connections become that lead to more automatic reactivity toward automatic negative thinking.

The other part of this news is that our brains are wired to look for danger and pay more attention to the unpleasant than the pleasant. If I were to pay you 10 compliments and then say something judgmental or critical, you are more likely to remember and ruminate about the judgment than the compliments. As you practice this, your reinforce the neural connections that reinforce the auto-pilot reaction.

So, this is where mindfulness comes in: the practice of nonjudgmental awareness to the present moment. We can have an understanding of how our brains operate and see the automatic reactivity for what it is. When we do this, we are present and can make a choice to pay attention differently and rewire our brains.

We can begin to notice pleasant events too and in order to balance the brain’s tendency to focus on the negative more often; we can bring mindfulness to the pleasant event. What does this mean? This means really tasting in the moment how the body feels, what emotions are present, and what thoughts are here. Maybe there’s a sound and beginning to close the eyes and listen. Beginning to rest in the moment or linger for a bit longer, soaking it in. That’s all, it’s a practice.

If at the end of the day you automatically remember more unpleasant than pleasant. Take another look and ask yourself, where were the pleasant moments today? This is not to discount the unpleasant, but more to bring about some balance as it is the brains tendency to give more weight to the unpleasant for evolutionary and adaptive reasons.

So, be aware that our brains are constantly being shaped and when we are present, we have more choice as to how and what we’d like to pay attention to for a healthier brain, which in turn will create a healthier mind. This has implications for how we react to stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, parenting, and certainly in our relationships.

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

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

On Joy and Sorrow: Monday’s Mindful Quote with Kahlil Gibran

Monday, March 8th, 2010

There is a tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog. Every Monday, I cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding. So for today, here is a quote by Kahlil Gibran from his writing On Joy and Sorrow:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

In the past few years there’s been a big push on “Happiness” and how to get there. If you follow my blog, you know that I frequently reference and even at times review books in the self-development field. Where a lot of these books miss the boat is in the very wisdom of Gibran’s words.

He continues:

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

It’s not that we’re looking to sustain some happiness permanency, but yet to better understand that there are scales within us and the joy and sorrow are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

There is a psychotherapeutic approach called Psychosynthesis started by an Italian Psychoanalyst at the time of Freud named Roberto Assagioli (Stefanie Goldstein, Ph.D., explains this further in an interview). My own interpretation of a part of this theory goes like this:

We can look at our experience like an egg shape. On the top are comfortable emotions and on the bottom are uncomfortable emotions. In the middle of this egg imagine the shape of an eye. That eye represents our survival personality and it expands its perception of experience equally. So in order to reach the comfortable emotions, one must be able to experience the uncomfortable emotions. If we don’t allow ourselves to dip our toes in discomfort, we continue to just survive and keep ourselves from really living the full experience of life.

This is a similar notion as the 13th century Sufi poet Rumi telling us

Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.

The question then is, since likely, over time, our brains have been shaped in a way to move away from discomfort, how can we change our brains so that it becomes easier to remember that sorrow is not forever and joy is really there or for us to embrace the “bandaged place?”

Well, thanks to the advent of neuroplasticity (more on this on Wednesday); we now know that we can change our brains.

Dr. Daniel Siegel, among others, says that the most researched way to do this is through mindfulness practice. The reason for this is simply because mindfulness practice allows us to become more present to the moment so we actually have more choice. Because our brains have been found to be malleable now, we can reshape the grooves with practice, making our ability to touch the emotional discomfort without our habitual reactions of aversion.

As we’re able to do this, the light shines on the sorrow and we begin to notice the joy slumbering and waking up.

If emotional discomfort is too triggering, we can even work on this by taking moments to explore physical discomfort. One way to do this is by simply naming it and seeing if for a moment or two you can bring a nonjudgmental lens to this feeling exploring it with fresh eyes, as if you’d never noticed it before. Breathe into it and open to it, breathe out and let it be.

This can make a difference even if just for moments at a time.

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

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

What Brings You Here?

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

At the beginning of every Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class we go around the circle introducing ourselves and saying what brought us here. In “A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook”, we ask a similar question, what brings you to this book? Listen to Bob Stahl speak about what brought him to mindfulness practice.

How to Use Mindsight to Work with Fear! An Interview with Daniel Siegel, M.D.

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Today I bring Dr. Daniel Siegel to talk with us how to use Mindsight to work with our fears. Dan received his medical degree from Harvard University and completed his postgraduate medical education at UCLA with training in pediatrics and child, adolescent and adult psychiatry.  He is the co-editor of a handbook of psychiatry and the author of numerous articles, chapters, and the internationally acclaimed text, The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. He has also published a wonderful book on parenting with Mary Hartzell, M.Ed., Parenting From the Inside Out. His breakout book in the field of mindfulness is The Mindful Brain, which explores the application of this newly emerging view of the mind, the brain, and human relationships. His newest book which I am thrilled about is Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation.Elisha: In an earlier interview with Jack Kornfield, he discussed the nature of fear and how the process of accepting our vulnerabilities can help us through it. We all struggle with deep fears in life, some feeling impossible to get away from.  If you were sitting across the table from someone right now who was struggling with deep fears in life, how might you help them apply mindsight to work with these fears?

Dan has been invited to work with some esteemed people as a result of their interest in his work including: the U.S. Department of Justice, The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, Microsoft and Google, early intervention programs and a range of clinical and research departments worldwide. He has been invited to lecture for the King of Thailand, Pope John Paul II, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

 

Dan: I find that being with people helps them not feel alone, even with terrifying fear.  If I were sitting with someone, that would be the starting place: To be with that person, open to whatever he or she were feeling at that moment.  I might then help them by offering simple mindsight skills, looking, for example, at how the circuitry of fear in the brain below the cortex can generate an internal state of fear that bombards our cortical consciousness. 

With mindsight we examine how energy and information flow along synaptic routes, and then use the focus of attention to alter those patterns in the presence of a supportive, guiding relationship. Sometimes that relationship is with your self.  Sometimes it is with another person.  Here, I would suggest that we begin a “wheel of awareness” exercise that distinguishes a central hub of awareness from the outer rim that represents all the things we can be aware of.  By initially focusing on the breath, an internal state of “reflective coherence” can be created that strengthens the hub and distinguishes awareness from the object of focused attention.  Next, we would begin a “rim review” in which we would explore the first five senses that bring in data from the outside world:  hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch.  Next, moving a metaphoric spoke over to the next sector of the rim, we’d explore the sixth sense of the interior of the body.  Here the person might become acutely aware of fear-generated pounding of the heart, rapid breathing, nausea in the belly, or tight muscles.   Sensing the breath, these points on the rim can be seen as neural firing patterns emerging from the body-proper up into cortically created awareness.  Next, we can move to the sector of the seventh sense, the points of rim that reveal our thoughts, feelings, memories, beliefs, intentions, attitudes, hopes, and dreams.   This is how we become aware of mental activities-and realize that we are more than our thoughts, not identifying with memories as the here and now, realizing that a feeling, as they say, is not a fact. 

Separating the hub from the rim with the wheel of awareness practice permits an objective view of mental life that liberates us from the prison of automatic pilot.  The hub practice also yields the power of observation, to be aware that the person is having a fear, but does not have to be consumed by it.  And finally, this practice supports an openness to what is that enables feelings to come in and out of awareness without having to be chased away.  These three elements of openness, objectivity, and observation form the three legs of mindsight’s lens, stabilizing the way we can monitor the internal world.  Next I would help the individual learn practical techniques to modify that world toward integration and harmony. Using a variety of self-tailored approaches, we would find the images and practices that worked best to move the reactive, fearful state to one of calm and clarity. 

The key is to separate hub from rim and then offer the empowering skills to move the internal world from a terrifying state to one of open presence. 

In the long-run, the idea is that the chaos or rigidity of fear states that reflect impaired integration would be able to shift, with practice, toward the harmony of an integrated state.  Ultimately, the positive feedback loop is that knowing about the brain empowers us to use the mind to drive energy and information flow through our neural circuits with more efficacy and will. This is the way we can use the power of our relationships to inspire each other to rewire the brain with a new way of focusing the mind toward integration.    This is the way mind, brain, and relationships become the central focus of a mindsight approach to cultivate well-being in our personal and our collective lives. 

Thank you Dan!

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

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

Mary oliver

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

The Secret of What Really Motivates You

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

There are truly some people out there doing some amazing work. Dan Pink used to be Al Gore’s speechwriter, but now he is a career analyst helping companies redefine what motivates their executives and employees. If you haven’t ever checked out TED talks, they’re worth getting into. Not all of them will “roll your socks up and down” as my wife says, but you may find many of them really illuminating.

In this talk, Dan Pink discusses the secret behind what motivates us. In my past career I was in sales and management and the companies always provided heavy financial incentives and trips for doing well. Dan Pink says this is a less effective way of helping you approach your life to get the job done.

Research has found that this approach works for getting easy tasks done that require a narrow focus. Dan says that focusing on external rewards (e.g., money, trips, cars, etc…) actually kills the ability to think out of the box and be creative which is required for more difficult, conceptual and right brain tasks.

He suggests that what we need for motivation is a sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose.

In this talk he focuses mostly on autonomy. This is the idea that gives us a sense of self reliance which is actually a core focus and outcome of doing mindfulness practice (just a side note).

He gives the examples of Google having a 20% rule where 20% of the time employees work on whatever they want. This apparently has produced 50% of Google’s products.

I think what Dan is talking about has tremendous applications for our mental health. What motivational theory has found for years is that it is intrinsic factors that are the best predictors of someone doing well. Even in working with children, many experts are now suggesting to not focus on allowance or prizes for doing well (extrinsic), but instead to help children engage in activities they are interested in, not only because they think they’ll get adult praise or some reward.

When considering the work you do in daily life or even the way you relate to people or yourself, what is motivating you? Is it something outside of yourself (e.g., wanting to please others) or is it that you’re engaging in this because you’re truly interested in it?

One of the key factors in working with depression is cultivating a sense of self reliance (autonomy), mastery (e.g., accomplishment), and purpose (e.g., meaning).  I know that these are 3 factors that my own research has found to correlate with mindfulness practice.

Why? Because at its core, mindfulness is about learning how to be present to the experience of the moment for its own sake. So we develop this intrinsic motivation of being very interested in the experience of the here and now. Also, in working with mindfulness practices, you begin to recognize that you can actually be with your experience moment to moment (autonomy), doing these practices gives you a sense of accomplishment (mastery), and you also develop an appreciation for being more present to your life (meaning). To learn more about this, you can read over many of my past blog posts.

This isn’t news to the mental health field, but it is a good reminder that we can look to these 3 elements to help us with stress, anxiety, depression, and even addiction. This helps build that intrinsic motivation that is far more self sustaining and ultimately creates energy to do the things that are going to be most helpful to us in the long run.

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

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook: Monday’s Mindful Quote

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

There is a tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog. Every Monday, I cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding.

This is a special day as it marks the release of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook. So, I’m going to begin with something from the book. We open up A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook with a very appropriate poem by Mary Oliver, entitled “The Journey”:

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice—

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations—

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice,

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do—

determined to save

the only life you could save.

There is a voice inside most of us that at one point or another whispers or yells “mend my life!” This is exactly why Bob and I wrote A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook. This is also why I created The Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog.

In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn created the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, and in the 30 years that have passed, research and a tremendous amount of experience have shown that it has efficacious applications for alleviating symptoms of stress, such as anxiety, irritability, muscle tension, burnout, apathy, restlessness, headaches, fatigue, stomach distress, difficulty in concentrating, worry, overwork, substance abuse, smoking, eating problems, sleep disturbances, or feeling overwhelmed. It can also has applications to help with the stresses associated with living with illness, chronic pain, and conditions such as AIDS, arthritis, asthma, cancer, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure, migraines, and many other medical conditions. There’s even research that shows this work changes our brains for the better.

We hope you enjoy it and spread the word about it for years to come. We’ve created a Facebook Fan Page community that is a central point for anyone interested in or who has been working through the book. We will be posting weekly video blogs that answer frequently asked questions and give tips about applying mindfulness to daily life.

Here is a video to enjoy about the book:

How does this poem affect you? When did you hear the voice “mend my life?”

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction here truly creates a rich living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com