Archive for August, 2010

The Now Effect: How this Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Some say the key to happiness is to liberate ourselves from ignorance and come in to touch with the preciousness of life. However, the “habit energy,” as Thich Nhat Hanh calls it, of our everyday lives is very strong pulling our attention into multiple directions and making it difficult to realize the many spaces of choice we have to live a meaningful life. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink, speaks to how the mind makes a snap decision or interpretation within the first two seconds of an event occurring. For most of us, after that blink effect, auto-pilot kicks in and carries us into an unintentional unfolding of moments.

I would argue that as Viktor Frankl says, there are many spaces that occur in our lives between moments of stimulation and moments of reaction where there is power to choose a response. “In that response lies our growth and our freedom.” In the unfolding of moments, we have the power to become present, gain clarity, change our minds, change our brains, incline our minds toward the good, and even learn how to relate to our difficult feelings differently to realize a freedom from the confines of our habitual thoughts and reactions.

I’m currently writing an upcoming book called The Now Effect: How this Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life (Atria Books, 2011). The premise of this book is based on moving beyond some promised pathway to enlightenment and turning the wheel of mindfulness one step further to learn how to specifically engage the space “between stimulus and response” to gain more clarity and choice in various facets of everyday life. My goal here is to write it in a very practical and accessible way so we move beyond the intellectual game with engaging the now and readers can realize its effects.

I’ve often told the story of how my father used to visit people on their death beds and one man had a very telling story. He spent his entire life stepping on other people to get to what he perceived to be a man of high value (e.g. power and wealth). Unfortunately there were no people around him at this time. At the end of his life he was forced to stop and reached a moment of clarity. He realized it was about who you love and how you love them and the rest of it never mattered. This man reached this clarity at the end of his life, but it was too late to make use of it.

This is about gaining clarity in our lives about what is really most important right now so we can live life with this intention. We don’t have to wait for a 9/11 or a heart attack to recognize that we don’t “have to” be a slave to this habit energy of rushing around and distraction. However, without a practical knowing of where these spaces lie, we are destined to be driven by an auto-pilot in our minds as that’s just the way things go.

It makes sense. Our brains are designed to handle more and more complex information and as more complex avenues of information has become available (e.g., PDAs, internet, etc..), our brain adapts and we can’t help but live in shallow noisy waters and lack a sense of depth of what is most important. It’s not really our fault, our brains adapt to handle the complexity of the situation and at times to simply try to avoid pain.

But there is another choice and the only way we can truly realize it is through some kind of intentional practice that brings us here.

Consider this:

As you’re reading these words you are living in a space between where you were previously and to where you’re about to be. 

What is most important for you to be paying attention to in this next moment? Recognize right now that you have a choice onto where you can intentionally place your attention.   

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

Why Endings are Really Beginnings: Tao Te Ching

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Here is Mondays Mindful Quote with the Tao Te Ching:

“Amidst the worldly comings and goings, observe how endings become beginnings.” 

Underlying this quote is an important message that often times the mind is too quick to fully grasp.

“Yeah, yeah,” it says, “one door closes another one opens, I get it.”

No, no…take 20 seconds right now after you read this next sentence to become present. Close your eyes, notice your body, notice how you’re feeling and become aware of your breathing. Go ahead and do this now before continuing.

Now,

“Amidst the worldly comings and goings, observe how endings become beginnings.” ~ Tao Te Ching

We might look at this quote and see an important message to any of us who are struggling with a current situation where it seems like the end is at hand; whether this is a job, a relationship, or even the death of a loved one. We might see that it’s asking us to look beyond the ending and see that inevitably there is something new that is about to be in front of us.

But this isn’t relegated to large events like the examples above. As soon as you finish reading this post, there is a new beginning, a new opportunity to engage life in the way that aligns with your values.

Yes, that’s right, every moment we become present is a “choice point.” Because our minds have an automatic negativity bias, we’re likely to recognize most of these choice points during difficult times.

Choice points lie all around us, but because we’re inclined to live in a state of auto-pilot, we don’t recognize these choices, the spaces between the stimulus and response.

I would argue that in the moment we become present and wake up to the automatic reactivity that is happening in our minds, we sit in a space, and as soon as that happens, that may be an ending and what follows is a new beginning to that moment that with awareness, we can choose a different response and influence a new unfolding of life.

Here’s an example. When the mind is nagging, we automatically judge it as bad and then become frustrated which kicks the mind into “fix it” mode to try and get away from the nagging mind. What we find is that this automatic process only adds aggravation to a nagging mind and it turns into a splitting headache. Another scenario might be noticing this reaction occurring and recognizing in that space is a new beginning. An opportunity to notice how this frustration manifests in the body and just explore the sensation as if it was the first time you noticed it. What this does is interrupts the cycle and feeds kindness and gentleness into you instead of warring factions.

There are lots of examples like this.

However, easier said than done ofcourse. That is why it’s important to practice becoming present and being aware of these spaces so that when difficulty arises, it’s more on the tip of your mind.

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