Archive for April, 2010

Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier: An Interview with Ariane de Bonvoisin

Friday, April 30th, 2010

We’ve all heard it takes 30 days to create a habit. How we relate to those first 30 days may make all the difference. Today I have the privilege of bringing you Ariane de Bonvoisin, author of The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier.

Ariane is also CEO and founder of first30days.com, an organization developed to help people transition through any change, whether it’s career, health, lifestyle, relocation, or personal relationship changes. She has been named MSN’s Life Change Expert and her advice is sought by thousands around the country.

Today Ariane is going to talk to us about why it’s so hard for people to make sustained changes in life, and what we can do about it.

Elisha: Your book seems to have references to mindfulness in it, the act of being present to our everyday lives while putting aside our lenses of judgment; getting in touch with the direct experience of the present moment. How do you see the first 30 days from a mindful perspective?

Ariane: Change is always an opportunity to pause, go inside, listen to our ‘inner microphone’ and be in the present. Our lives get so busy, we live based on routines, we never really ‘think’ we don’t want to change. So when change does happen, either by courageous choice or from life circumstances, it is asking us to be honest with what is, and also what is not working for us and our lives.

Mindfulness is about being totally aware of what our mind is feeding us during change. Usually its one of a few dominant disempowering programs: Disapproval, comparison, and perfection are the main ones. The mind is going to feed us the usual ‘change demons’, classic emotions that show up as well to the ‘change party’– fear, doubt, blame, shame, guilt and impatience. Being mindful during change is started by being aware. Aware of what emotion is getting your attention, welcoming it up, asking for its message and letting it be rather than resisting or escaping it.

Moments of change also happen to help us let go of the need for control. Control of knowing an outcome, of how we can speed things up, get out of the void, or this period of uncertainty, the unknown. Being mindful during change is simply about staying with the shakiness. From all change, something good happens. Life is on our side if we just let it be and surrender to it. It knows the way.

Elisha: In your book you mention an important practice of creating a change resume. Can you sum up for us what this is and why it’s important in helping us making real change?

Ariane: One of the 9 principles of change that I discuss in the book,  is what I call “The Change Muscle.” People who are good at change know they are resilient, strong and can get through anything. Many of us will say things like, “I am bad at change, I hate change, I resist change,” when the truth is very different.

We have all gone through dozens of changes we have never acknowledged ourselves for — divorce, loss of a loved one, graduation, starting a job, losing weight, handling a health diagnosis, buying a home, moving, having a baby, forgiving someone etc. We are focused on our professional resume when really who you are is a combination of all the changes you’ve ever made, faced and witnessed.

So I ask people to take a blank piece of paper and start writing these down….soon enough, your page will be filled with changes. Next I ask that you write down the good thing that came from each of these changes so you bring back into your conscious mind the connection between life changes and good things emerging, despite the difficulty at the time. Finally, I have people make a list of what the main thing was that helped them through — was it a person, a belief, their faith, getting healthy, time, doing things for others…?

This exercise helps people get their power back. You’re the person that got through all this, so today, even though the change you’re going through now may be new, something you’ve never faced, you are not showing up without any ‘tools,’ experiences, beliefs, ways that you have handled change in the past. You know what helped you.

Elisha: On Mondays I cite a quote or poem and explore it’s relevance to our everyday life. One post called 5 Quotes that Can Change Your Life listed 5 quotes from your book that I found particularly interesting. What are 5 of your favorite quotes from your book?

Ariane:

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” ~ Gloria Steinem

“The single most important decision any of us ever have to make is whether to believe we live in a friendly universe,” ~Albert Einstein

“Hidden in any misfortune is good fortune.” ~Tao Te Ching

“When you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time,” ~Byron Katie

“Be patient towards all that is unsolved within your heart, and try to love the questions themselves…” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Sometimes I just think of a question, or challenge and just open the book and read the quote that’s on the page. It’s a great way to use the book once you’ve read it.

Elisha: If you were sitting across the table from someone who was having real difficulty with making change, what advice would you give him or her to help make sustained change?

Ariane: I’d identify what the belief, excuse, story or emotion that is in the way and really shine a light on that, get it out of the shadows — what’s being resisted — and get to the root of that. The time before a change/decision is always much harder than the actual decision itself.

People aren’t changed or helped by information, but by inspiration, so I get them in touch with WHY they want to make this change. The why is the fuel, not the ‘how’ or ‘by when.’  Why do you want to leave a job, why do you want to pursue this dream, why do you want to loose the weight, etc.

I’d want to know who was on their ‘change support team.’  We somehow always feel alone when we are going through change and the truth is we all get through a change because of other people being there, and believing we can make that change.  And it’s often not your closest friends or family by the way. If they don’t have someone, I’d get them on our site where we have thousands going through the same change.

Finally, I’d get them to take the first step towards any positive sustained change, which is to take care of themselves, their health. It’s the SEED of all change (Sleep, Eating well, Exercising and Drinking water). When you feel healthy, in your body, you get out of your head, your self esteem rises, your power returns, you are moving these emotions through your body, you feel strong. Change happens through the body, the heart, not in the head.

Wow, thank you so much for your wisdom Ariane.

To the readers: 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

How to Stop Bad Habits from Aging You 12 Years

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Recently, a new report came out in the Monday’s Archives of Internal Medicine that stated that engaging in bad habits such as excessive drinking (more than 3 drinks/day), smoking, not exercising (2 hours/week) or eating our veggies and fruit can age us by 12 years. Well, it’s not really news that being unkind to our bodies over time can lead to an unhealthy state. However, here is a little anecdote that is interesting and might explain how it we can seem aged by 12 years.

Read over the following progression from A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook a couple of times and take a moment to reflect on it:

1. Intention shapes our thoughts and words.

2. Thoughts and words mold our actions.

3. Thoughts, words, and actions shape our behaviors.

4. Behaviors sculpt our bodily expressions.

5. Bodily expressions fashion our character.

6. Our character hardens into what we look like.

You may be familiar with this line of thinking in the form of the saying that by the time people turn fifty, they get the face they deserve. In either case, this is an interesting insight into one of the many ways the mind directly affects the body.

And this goes on in a loop, meaning that a sluggish unhealthy body goes on to shape our mood and how we feel about ourselves and others around us. Procrastination can be a major issue.

Yes there is the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. However, when is the last time you gave more than cursory reflections on your intentions? Intentions are not meant to just be made on New Years or Birthdays. It’s important to re-mind ourselves of our intentions every day. Why?

It’s too easy to get drawn into the gravity of our environments, which reinforces sliding back into unhealthy habits that will eventually give us the “face we deserve.”

Here’s how to bring some mindfulness to this:

In considering this report and anecdote above, allow this to be a moment where to reflect on your intentions  — just for today  — in respect to being healthy. Bring yourself through the process of your intentions becoming words, then actions and notice what happens to your body and mind when performing those actions.

Lao Tzu said, “The longest journey begins with a single step.” Choose one thing today to be mindful of in respect to your health and well-being. Then re-mind yourself of the intention again tomorrow.

What’s it going to be for today?

As always, please share what comes up for you in respect to this practice. Your interaction below provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

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

Why You Fear Love and Success: Mondays Mindful Quote with Rumi

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Welcome to Monday’s Mindful Quote at the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog. In an earlier blog I quoted Rumi’s Guesthouse poem in order to convey a radical aspiration of approaching instead of avoiding our difficult emotions. He says:

This being human is a guest-house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

However, it’s not always the difficult emotions we’re trying to avoid. Sometimes there’s a subtle, or not too subtle, aversion to the “positive” feelings like “love” or “joy” that come for life or success. Why might this be?

Well, one thing I’ve learned over time in my own life and as a Psychologist is that emotions aren’t so black and white. For example, anger doesn’t just come with anger alone; at times it comes with sadness or other emotions. We just have these words to help us better define emotions as we do with other things.

In this same vein, when we’re growing up we often have a natural love for our parents, but this can get mixed up with other uncomfortable emotions. If we grew up in a scary household perhaps love got mixed up with fear or if we grew up in a family of divorce, love may have been mixed with fear or the sadness or anger of separation or failure.

In other words, in order to feel love, we might also have to feel these uncomfortable emotions. So, acting in our best interest to avoid discomfort, some part of ourselves decided to keep the uncomfortable emotions at bay and at the same time keeps the love or joy at bay.

All kinds of tricks of the mind are deployed to have this work out. Perhaps we discount the positive and exaggerate the negative or maybe just go up in our heads and analyze over and over again to avoid the feelings.

Sometimes in welcoming a difficult emotion as a guest in our house, we can approach and explore the feeling that’s there with a kind attention. In doing this you may be amazed at what you find. It is in the act of embracing our wounds where we often find peace.

So today, as an experiment, notice your reactivity to discomfort and see if for a moment you can redefine that moment as a “choice point” where you can explore the feeling that is there. You may even choose to breathe into the physical feeling as if you were gently touching the wound as you might a wounded child or animal. Go ahead and serve it tea.

See what happens.

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

Looking at Death, We Find Life!

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Sometimes in order to really experience and embrace life, it’s important to acknowledge and embrace death. Our culture is riddled with a denial of and aversion to death. Actor and Filmmaker Woody Allen once said “I don’t mind dying as long as I don’t have to be there.”

What is this aversion and denial all about and how does it keep us entangled in our own neuroses?Many traditions actually have death meditations that have us cultivate an understanding of and appreciation for this impermanent life.

One such meditation, which stems from Buddhist traditions, has us go through 32 parts of the body that we might not normally consider and put each aside one by one. By the way, this can be done without any connection to Buddhism. These parts include:

Hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin
Flesh, sinews, bone, marrow, kidneys
Heart, liver, membranes, spleen, lungs
Bowels, intestines, gorge, dung, brain
Bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat
Tears, grease, snot, spittle, oil of the joints, urine

If there is an element of aversion or disgust arising in you after you read this, just notice that. It’s worth inquiring what exactly that’s about.

One of the aims of this blog is around cultivating insight into our habitual tendencies and getting curious about them. Why? Because we’re after breaking free from the confines of our minds to truly live the lives we want.

A big aversion for many people is death and so it’s worth getting curious about how that aversion affects us while we’re alive.

While many people do the practice above with the intention of stripping away ego, it can also be done to get us in touch with reality of this body and its true impermanent nature.

Why do this?

When we truly recognize that we are on this earth for a finite period of time and that we are more than our bodies, we can begin to see the true preciousness of this life. When we recognize the preciousness of life, we may not get caught up in all the small stuff that entangles us in our neuroses, exacerbating states of stress, anxiety, depression and more.

If you feel up to it, take a moment to picture yourself many years from now on your own deathbed looking back on today. What are you proud of and what would you have wished you would have done differently?

Now is your chance.

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

Mindful Hearing

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Here is a short mindfulness practice that you can come back to again and again whether you ar at work or home to practice mindfulness throughout the day. Once you get the hang of it, try it out wherever you are. Come visit us in the facebook mbsrworkbook community to connect with us and others.

Bored, Restless, Procrastinating? Mondays Mindful Quote with Mark Twain

Monday, April 19th, 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 Mark Twain:

“I am a very old man and have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which never happened.”

Stress and misfortunes are an unavoidable fact of life, it’s the human condition. As we say in A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook:

“We all live with and cannot escape from uncertainties, difficulties, illness, aging, death, and an inability to fully control life events.”

Fear is a mainstay in our lives, sometimes subtle, sometimes much more explicit. Every day we lay witness to an overexposure of sensational media telling us about war, economic devastation, poisons in the food we eat, or risk of alienation unless we look and dress a certain way.

Many of us know fear as high stress and anxiety, but today I want to highlight where fear might be lurking some we can bring light to it and lessen its chances of hijacking us throughout the day.

The subtle fashions of fear include:

  • Boredom
  • Restlessness
  • Procrastination
  • Compulsively being involved with some activity
  • Insomnia
  • Stress-related physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, or other body pain.

When any of these show up in your life, as they do for many of us throughout the day, check in with yourself, inquiring into the feeling that is here. Yes, all of these have a co-occuring physical symptom that is a part of it. Boredom has a feeling as does procrastination. Check it out.

If you’re really interested in exploring the subtle fears that keep you locked in habitual patterns that don’t seem to work for you, here are two steps to get you started:

  1. Feel the physical fear – Take a moment to actually feel the physical feeling that is there in a nonjudgmental fashion. Meaning, take a pause from judging it as something bad and instead get curious about the actual sensation that is there. Breathe in and open to the feeling, breath out and let it be.
  2. Ask yourself the question – “What am I afraid of?” Whatever arises, take a moment with it and then ask yourself the question again, “what am I afraid of?” Do this about five times. Go ahead and write down what came up for you.

You may or may not get a final answer when you do this practice, but if you monitor it over time, I have no doubt that interesting thoughts will begin to surface that you may find either come from an earlier time and don’t have relevance today (e.g., Not risking success because of the disappointment you experienced as a child when you tried) or maybe it’s something that does have relevance that it’s important to face and confront (e.g., issues with the boss or partner).

Either way, as you go through the day today, try this out.

It’s important to expose these subtle fears to gain more freedom over our days and to make sure that we don’t look back as Mark Twain did saying:

“I am a very old man and have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which never happened.”

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

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

The Power of the Enneagram: An Interview with Dr. David Daniels

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Today I bring to you David Daniels, M.D., author of Essential Enneagram: The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide — Revised & Updated, clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford University Medical School and leading developer of the Enneagram system of personality types. The original release of the Essential Enneagram sold over 100,000 copies and has been translated into over 10 languages. The new updated and revised Essential Enneagram has much new material and practices for what to do after you discover your type.

Today Dr. Daniels talks to us about what the Enneagram is and how it might serve as a guide to greater well-being.

Elisha: I became familiar with the Enneagram many years ago and have come to understand my personality disposition as a 7. I was astonished when I read in your book how accurate it was for me. It said that the ultimate goal of a 7 was “to realize that in order to experience life fully we must be consciously present in the here and now and that we support and sustain ourselves and others by cultivating this conscious presence.” However, while the Enneagram has been widely distributed, many people are still unfamiliar with it. Can you give us a brief overview as to what it is?

Dr. Daniels: The Enneagram is a powerful and dynamic personality system that describes nine distinct and fundamentally different patterns of thinking, feeling and acting (“ennea” is simply Greek for nine). We each view the world through a set of lenses or filters that limit our experience and perspective. We see a slice of reality, but not the full 360-degree view. Each one of us developed one of these nine sets of filters or patterns over our mind, heart, and body to protect aspects of our essential self that felt threatened as we were growing up. Underneath each pattern or Enneagram type is a basic proposition (or belief) about what we need in life to meet our basic needs for love, security and worth. These underlying beliefs shape our focus of attention and how we direct our energy. While a necessary stage in our development, these patterns continue to operate, mostly non-consciously, even though they mostly no longer serve us. Discovering these patterns provides an effective path o freedom and fulfillment.

Elisha: Why the Enneagram? Aren’t there already too many personality typologies out there?

Dr. Daniels: The Enneagram gets to our core motivation and adaptive strategy mostly outmoded in adulthood; it gets to our pattern of attention and driving energy that limits us and even “owns us” causing tension, distress, and conflict; it provides a link to our spiritual life and the integration of our higher qualities into our lives; it honors all three centers of intelligence of body, mind , and heart; and it helps us live in more joy and freedom. I know of no typology that does all of these.

Elisha: You write a monthly column to answer questions about how the Enneagram can be helpful in personal development, relationships and life situations. What are some of the most common questions you receive?

Dr. Daniels: The theme of most questions is about relationships. I receive questions saying how do I relate to my wife, daughter, husband now that I know our types? What can I do to be more heart felt? How do I soften/increase my intensity? What is the best way to work with a (name the type)? How can I better manage my anger/anxiety? What will bring us closer together in harmony now that we know our types? And mostly these are asked from a place of truly wanting to know and develop.

Elisha: Lately, there have been a number of books out that have been talking about how to incline our minds toward the good in order to cultivate greater well-being. How would you use the Enneagram to cultivate a connection with our a sense of Joy and Happiness?

Dr. Daniels: The Enneagram helps us change the way we relate to others and ourselves. Knowing that others view the world through a different set of filters increases compassion and understanding of differences. As we discover our Enneagram personality type and see what we are filtering out, we discover more about our original whole self. We also come to understand more about the non-conscious motivation from which we operate. We experience our strengths or blessing and can build upon them. We become less reactive and defensive as we understand ourselves. We develop more free energy. The Enneagram can liberate us from much pain and suffering bringing more joy and deep fulfillment. We simply need to become more mindful and aware in a non-judgmental way in order to explore and release from our pattern.

Elisha: If you were sitting across the table from someone who was having difficulty in life right now, how would you advise them to use the Enneagram to help themselves today?

Dr. Daniels: I would first ask if the person knew the Enneagram and what work they had done in the realm of personal development. And of course this all would depend upon how well I knew the person, the degree of suffering, and the person’s desire and ability to really listen non-judgmentally and change. If the person were new to the Enneagram I would recommend The Essential Enneagram if the distress was not too great. I would show how the Enneagram profoundly helps lives, perhaps using myself as an example. If the person knew the Enneagram I would work with them to become more self-observant, mindful and aware and to be as non-judgmental as possible. Then we could readily explore the basis of the distress, what old beliefs were running and ruining their life, and the process of releasing from the old core beliefs.  

Thank you so much Dr. Daniels!

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

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

A Mindful Path Through Depression

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Once in a while a student of one of my Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) groups for preventing depressive relapse writes me, and I felt that this particular letter could be a benefit to many and wanted to share it with you. I have also bolded some things that I felt stood out. Of course I have taken out names and identifying information to respect anonymity.

“Depression struck me at 13, then 16, and has ruined the quality of my life on and off for forty years. It’s been a murky maze of underground thoughts and feelings that attacked me internally like viruses. I used to feel like a sitting duck when depression hit and felt hopeless and helpless. I would usually shut down, hide out, and in the early days drink or smoke. Anything to become numb or not to feel the painful combination of feelings–the self-loathing, the powerlessness, the despair.

With the class I gained a sense of confidence.

When I felt depression coming on I snapped into gear and brought out my arsenal of goodies, in much the same way when I thought I was getting a cold I got out the echincea, the vitamin C, and the tea. If depression hits it is easier to get rid of.

First of all, the body scan. A godsend for getting out of my head when thoughts are recurring and rattling painfully around. Worried at 3 a.m. about my pregnant daughter having a miscarriage since she’s already had two–can’t stop the images I’m seeing–so focus on my left toe instead or my right knee. This moves the area of concentration to something not upsetting or disconcerting–to something in the present moment–to something I can handle. Concentrate on body parts enough and I come back into the present time.

I teach high school and the teenagers are often angry and depressed. They act out repeatedly and will frequently curse me out in the middle of class. Frequently, it makes me angry and I hurl a sarcastic remark at them which only makes them angrier. Now I stop and do the 3 minute meditation–breathe–become aware of what I feel—reset my button (which they’ve pushed) and act and respond from the place of a semblance of  composure and balance.

Another tool to ward off depression, which makes everything crowded and pinched inside, is to do yoga, which creates space and well-being. From that state of mind I make better choices.

When in the past I slipped into negative self-speak, hurling slogans at myself that I’ve internalized over the years, now I remember I don’t have to “believe everything I think.” I consider that maybe what I am telling myself is merely conditioned thinking.

This has all brought me to the point of being aware of what is happenings as it is happening. With awareness or mindfulness things don’t get out of hand and I am able to make better choices in the moment, (even if the choice is just a different thought) and therefore the depression is averted because the usual chain reaction is interrupted or if it hits I experience a more mild depression.

For the first time I feel I can prevent deep depression from assaulting me but if it does I feel I can work out of it sooner. Depression thrives on conditioning, panic and darkness. It is a drowning in quicksand.

With meditation I can loosen conditioned thoughts and feel more centered with my feet on the ground. Insight provides a light to see by and I am not swallowed up by the demons and forces of darkness. This class has enabled me to do that. Really.”

What comes up for you when you read this (e.g., thoughts, feelings, emotions)? 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

2 Steps Out of Procrastination: Monday’s Mindful Quote

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Here we are again with Monday’s Mindful Quote. Plato once said:

The beginning is the most important part of the work.

That’s similar to Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu’s saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” When we want to make a change in our lives or there is a big project in front of us, getting past that initial threshold is one of the most the most difficult tasks. All of a sudden cleaning or getting that extra cup of coffee seems really important to do; anything really to put off getting started. This happens at home and work all the time, and we often call it procrastination.

There are 2 steps to work with this:

  1. Get clear on the first step — As you may have heard before, the fundamental task here is to really just get clear on the first “step” and not focus on the big picture at this time. Really get basic. That will help you moving forward and from there things may fall in line. For example, if it’s a project, maybe the first thing that needs to get done is to open up a word document.
  2. Make distractions a mindfulness practice — Instead of hating our distractions or allowing them to be an opportunity to kick ourselves one more time, let’s take a different approach. Let’s actually investigate them, and the best way I know how to do this is through mindfulness.
    • Step out of auto-pilot — Of course, thoughts and impulses are likely to emerge at some point to distract you from being focused. Here is where you can begin to make a mindfulness practice out of this. Mindfulness informs us to become aware of our thoughts, sensations and emotions without judgment. We set aside our judgments because those are part of our habitual reactions and this allows us to seeing what is occurring unfiltered. From this space, we are more capable to be effective as we’re no longer in a state of auto-pilot.
    • Adopt a beginner’s mind — As best you can, hold all of this in your awareness with a beginner’s mind, as if you had never noticed these thoughts, sensations, and emotions before. The reason for this is that we want to strip away all of your preconceived notions that are wound up in your habitual reactions. We want to start fresh, anew. In addition, as strange as it might sound, you might also consider bringing in an attitude of caring, much like you might pay attention to a newborn or puppy and just let it be.
    • Here’s how it might look — When you become aware you are in a state of distraction, just note that you are in a state of distraction. We’re not judging this as good or bad or right or wrong, just “distraction.” Now, bringing a beginner’s mind to this, notice the thoughts, “Oh, I just need to get this next cup of coffee and then I can get back to this” or “let me look at a few of these websites and then I’ll work again.” Allow yourself to become aware of any underlying emotions that may be there, is there frustration or anxiousness? Notice the physical sensations that are often associated with the emotions, maybe there’s tightness in the shoulders or tension in the chest.

At the end of this you want ask yourself what is most important to be paying attention to right now and bring your attention back to that.

You can do this all in 1 minute or more if you like. Even if this takes time out from getting back to your work, know you are likely doing what is most important which is becoming more intimate with the habitual reactions within you that often sabotage your best interests. This will help you more and more to catch it earlier as time goes on. Also, there are reasons you have developed these reactions, but that’s for another post.

Give it a try.

When we can step out of our habits and see them for what they are, we sit in a space of choice where we are no longer held hostage and allow for the opportunity to step in a new direction.

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

Change Your Brain, Change Your Pain

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

I often say that there are two things that are unavoidable in life besides death and taxes and those are stress and pain. Pain is prevalent, be it physical pain and/or emotional pain. So we can all relate. But what if we could use our minds to change our brains and actually relieve our perception of pain this way.

Jeffrey Schwartz is a psychiatrist and researcher in the field of neuroplasticity and has written on Mindfulness and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In a 2006 article titled “Plasticity in Brain Processing and Modulation in Pain” with Donald Price and Nicholas Verne, they said:

When sufficient attention is focused on the experience of pain relief, the associated brain circuitry becomes dynamically stable. This acute effect of focused attention can then enable the well-validated principle of Hebb (1955), namely that repeated patterns of neural activity can cause neuroplastic changes and new connectivities to form in well-established neural circuits (‘‘cells that fire together wire together’’). This type of attention-based mechanism of neuroplastic change has been termed self-directed neuroplasticity to emphasize that alterations in CNS function can be readily driven by and dynamically modified by willfully directed mental events (Schwartz and Begley, 2002; Schwartz et al., 2005). As was stated above, mental events change the activity of the brain in a dynamic manner. Basic principles of contemporary physics now enable us to place this empirically well-validated fact within theoretically coherent, scientifically grounded, and technically described context.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was first designed as a systematic program to work with Chronic Pain. Perhaps the people who have taken that course actually changed their brains so that their perception of their pain has changed. That would be truly amazing, and if that’s true, we can all take a step back, pause and sit in awe that we have the power to change our brains.

Here’s the rub: In a recent post Neuroplasticity: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, I discussed how we can also place our attention in ways that change our brains in the direction where we perceive greater pain. In other words, what and how we place our attention affects the growth of our brain, which then automatically shifts our minds and vice versa in a cycle.

So when it comes to our pain, it’s important to pay attention to how we’re paying attention to our pain. Are we damning it or trying to ignore it? Research has shown that bringing the attitudes of mindfulness (e.g. beginner’s mind, non-striving, letting be, etc. …), all serve to change our perception of pain. So can this then, in effect, change the way our neurons fire automatically so the perception of pain lessens? That’s what neuroscientists are saying.

What do you think? 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