Archive for October, 2010

Is Your Glass Half Full, Half Empty or Broken?

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Over the course of our lives we’ve been labeled or labeled ourselves as a glass half full or empty kind of person. But what if the glass was already broken? That’s the lesson that Ajahn Chah gives to a group of students including Psychiatrist Mark Epstein, author of Thoughts Without A Thinker.

Ajahn Chah was a highly respected Buddhist Teacher, maybe well known to some as Jack Kornfield’s teacher. What was he talking about when he said the glass is already broken and how does that relate to our lives?

He says:

“You see this goblet? For me, this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ But when I understand that this glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”

On the surface he was making the statement that if he considers the glass to be already broken then he can open up his mind to be more present with it and appreciate the time he has with the glass. At the same time, if it breaks, he’s not so attached because he understands the natural course of it is to break so he’s not as attached.

We can take a lesson for our lives. The question isn’t, is your glass half full or half empty? The question is, are you able to see the glass as already broken? In other words, do you comprehend that our time here is short and eventually will pass? Are you able to see that the label of half full or half empty that you may be so identified with is just a story in the mind that is also already broken and will eventually pass away?

If you understand this you may just find yourself at times lying in a field beyond half full or half empty where your cup is completely empty ready to receive the wonders of life that are all around.

Worth pondering…

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

525,600 Minutes: How Do You Measure What Matters in a Year?

Monday, October 25th, 2010

The musical Rent that came out in a New York City Workshop in 1994 reminded us to question how we measure our years on this planet. The cast sings that there are 525,600 minutes in a year that some people measure in sunsets, cups of coffee, laughter, or tears of joy. The song brings focus to the concept that we can bring awareness to the moments of our lives and how very precious they truly are.

Joni Mitchell sings the song Big Yellow Taxi where the lyrics say:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got till it’s gone
They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot

While this song is talking about the loss of natural environmental beauty to an uprising of concrete jungle, the theme of not knowing what we have until it’s gone is a common experience.

The reason I went into the field of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy is because I saw a need to help myself and others realize what we have before it’s gone.

We don’t realize the precious moments in our lives that are passing by us all the time as we’re searching for something better.

Is there a way to get reconnected with the sacred moments of daily life?

Can this moment that you’re reading this be considered a space in time where you might reflect on the day behind you and maybe see where those moments were?

Is there something in this moment right now, how you’re feeling, someone who is nearby you, a rare space of quiet with your coffee or tea, that can considered precious?

Simply reflecting upon this can prime your mind be more aware of these moments when they are spontaneously happening.

This is a wonderful practice, especially if you are struggling with difficulties in life such as stress, anxiety, depression, or addiction.

Note: If the mind says, “been there done that” or “what’s the point, this is of no use,” see if you can be aware that these are just automatic negative thoughts that are likely a result of your mood and at the end of the day, just close you off to possibility.

Try this out as an experiment and see how it goes.

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

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

4 Steps to Getting Unstuck

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

The reason so many of us are drawn to the idea of getting unstuck is because feeling stuck in life is such a common experience. Maybe we continually get distracted at work as projects mount or get hooked into the same arguments in our relationships, or just can’t seem to get back on the treadmill. Feeling stuck is part of the human experience. So how do we get unstuck?

In order to get unstuck we need to understand that there are perceptions, judgments and opinions that occur so quickly beneath our awareness that we get stuck before we even notice any thoughts arise. Your mind judges exercise as “bad” before the conscious excuse comes up. Your partner was “wrong” milliseconds after he opened his mouth.

So we can follow the stories of our minds about why we can’t exercise or why your partner is a jerk or how the projects can wait, but those stories are secondary to the first thing we have the option to notice and that’s the actual feeling of being stuck. The physical feeling is a fact that we can bring our attention to an interrupt the downward cycle as it’s occurring to get unstuck.

Easier said than done.

In her recent book Taking the Leap, Pema Chodron teaches us about a Tibetan word called Shenpa. She says Shenpa can be thought of as getting “hooked”-What it feels like to be stuck.

She says, “Somebody says a harsh word and something in you tightens: instantly you’re hooked. That tightness quickly spirals into blaming the person or denigrating yourself. The chain reaction of speaking and acting or obsessing happens fast.”

It happens so fast that at times we’re not aware of it until we’re deeply stuck. However, here is the critical point. In that moment we know we’re stuck, we’re present and now we are sitting in a space where we can choose a different response.

There’s the famous saying, If you can name it, you can tame it.

Here are 4 steps to get unstuck:

  1. Name the stuckness – In other words, simply say to yourself, this is the feeling of being stuck
  2. Find the physical sensation – Take a brief scan of your body and become aware of where you notice the greatest sensation. Get a sense of how large it is, it’s shape, does it have a color? Get curious about it. Getting curious helps us break outside of the box.
  3. See choices – Ask yourself the question, is there another way I can see the situation I’m in? What choices do I have here? See if you can do this without judgment, more as a brainstorm.
  4. Take action – Put one foot in front of the other and begin engaging in one of those choices.

Even if the choice doesn’t stick at first, know that this practice in itself is training your mind to get unstuck from the cycles it gets caught in. When you notice yourself wandering into past habitual ways of being, know that is expected and just gently guide yourself back.

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

Technology Vs Humans: Who’s Controlling Who?

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Lately I’ve been wondering how all the digital gadgets that we’ve become so attached to affect our levels of stress. In other words, the eyes are taking in more light and stimulation than ever and perhaps the brain is over activated leaving us feeling anxious much of the time and in order to avoid our anxiety we turn back to the gadgets. Could this be true and if so could it be a self reinforcing vicious cycle?

I’ll out myself now and say I am pro technology and among colleagues have been known to be that guy that has always tried to find the synergy between mindfulness, psychotherapy and technology.

However, I’ve noticed myself grabbing to check my phone while walking short distances from one place to the next to check any messages that may be there. When I don’t grab my phone I recognize a bit of anxiety running through my body. That really made me think, the more interaction I have with the multitude of digital devices out there, the more my mind and body want it.

I’m not pointing to an addiction here, but simply a natural cause and effect that likely has a psychological underpinning, but could very well have a biological one as well.

This of course varies among people, but for most of the people that I know (even the most mindful ones); I have become aware of the frenetic attachment to their digital devices checking email, Facebook, twitter, and all the thousands of applications that make for eye and mind candy.

The fact is that none of this is inherently good or bad, but is worth looking at to see how its affecting our lives.

Why?

Because if our most valuable resource is our attention and much of the time that attention is pulled toward our phones, IPads, computers, etc…, then what of life are we missing out on?

Maybe we fail to see the smile of our baby, or the first bloom in spring, or perhaps don’t taste the delicious meal we’re eating. All of these experiences support feeling well and resiliency during difficult times.

This isn’t a definitive guide to our relationships with digital devices, but simply a post to make us go hmmm….

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

The Roosters are Everywhere

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

This is a true story of Bob sitting at an all day meditation at the Buddhist monastery he used to live at – working with what comes up when a group of 6 roosters were cockadoodling all day long.

Refusing to Forgive: 9 Steps to Break Free

Friday, October 15th, 2010

I see it every day. We all hold grudges against other people who we feel have hurt or offended us in some way or another. We even hold these grudges for people who aren’t even alive anymore. We do this with the false idea that somehow we are making them suffer by being hurt and angry with them.

Now, there is nothing wrong with being angry with someone, but it is how we express this anger that makes all the difference on us and our relationships . What is a grudge anyway? Maybe it is harboring ill feelings toward another in the need to settle a score.

Let’s try a little experiment. Think of someone in your life right now (maybe not the most extreme person) who you are absolutely holding a grudge against right now. There is no way you are willing to forgive this person right now for their actions. Picture that person and hold onto that unwillingness to forgive. Now, just observe what emotions are there; Anger, resentment, sadness?  Also notice how you are holding your body right now, is it tense anywhere or feeling heavy? Now bring awareness to your thoughts; are they hateful and spiteful thoughts?

Most people who I do this with find this to be an uncomfortable experiment that elicits feelings of tension, anger, and thoughts of ill will toward the other person. This is not conjuring these feelings out of nowhere; this is just bringing to light what is already within stirring around. There is a common misconception that forgiveness means condoning the act of the other person. Forgiveness simply means releasing this cycle of torture that continues to reside inside.

Forgiving does not mean forgetting or condoning! Forgiveness is for the person who was perpetrated, not the perpetrator. It is saying, “I have already been offended against, I am going to let go of this so I don’t continue to be burdened by it.” You have already been tortured once, why continue letting this torture you by holding onto it with the erroneous belief that holding onto it is somehow hurting the other person. The practice of forgiveness has been shown to reduce stress, anger, and depression and support many aspects of well-being and happiness.

Like many things, this is easier said than done depending on the person and level of offense. In his book, Forgive for GoodFred Luskin, Ph.D. lays out 9 steps to forgiving for you!

  1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK.  Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.
  2. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better.  Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.
  3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action.  What you are after is to find peace.  Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”
  4. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years -ago.  Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.
  5. At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight or fight response.
  6. Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you.  Recognize the “unenforceable rules” you have for your health or how you or other people must behave.  Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.
  7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you.  Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.
  8. Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge.  Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you.  Forgiveness is about personal power.
  9. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.

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

(Linked to from our partner, Everyday Health.)

Report This Post

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

The Antidote to Self Hatred

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Whether you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, addiction, ADHD, complex trauma or any myriad of life’s challenges, there seems to be a prevalent underlying voice of self-hatred that perks its head up at times more than others. I think the Dalai Lama has a good take on this.

Jack Kornfield shares the Dalai Lama’s story in a recent edited book The Buddha Is Still Teaching. The Dalai Lama said when he first heard the word self-hatred he was confused. He said that self-hatred was a very dangerous attitude and he and his fellow Buddhists work quite hard to overcome their self-centered attitudes.

The antidote to this was to understand that all people (and beings) have what he calls “Buddha Nature.” In other words, everyone inherently has the capacity to wake up to a sense of clarity about what helps and hinders them in their lives. Everyone has the innate capacity for compassion, empathy and wisdom.

This is very counter to some other views.

However, if we were to buy into the Dalai Lama’s beliefs what is the net effect? Might it give us more hope or belief in a better life?

I would argue yes.

If we come from other spiritual traditions or are inherently against anything spiritual, that is fine.

Here is something to do to get in touch with your innate capacities:

Consider someone you respect who is living or dead that you consider to be a wise person or being. Now, imagine them inhabiting your body and mind during difficult moments or moments of self hatred and see how they might handle it.

Easier said than done at times, but with practice, what you might find is that there is a sense of greater patience, understanding and compassion. This is what leads to more effective action.

What do you do during moments of self-hatred that help you?

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

Report This Post

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

How Clarity is Found in the Most Unexpected Places

Monday, October 11th, 2010

After spending a weekend with Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the greatest gifts he gave me was the piece of advice:

“Perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to be able to sit in not knowing.”

So often in life we feel like we need to have the answer and the truth is, often times we don’t have them.

This is especially true in parenting, relationships and well, I guess many aspects of life.

The more we are unsure of ourselves or don’t have the answer, the greater the insecurity. When we feel insecure, the mind goes into overdrive trying to reach into the past and draw on experiences to anticipate the future.

So what we come to realize is that we’re actually not in the most important place which is here. There is no other time than now and no other place than here, but we spend so much of our mental energy in the past and future.

Not that either of these places are “bad,” in fact it’s adaptive to learn from the past and anticipate the future for some very obvious reasons.

It’s just that it all happens so unintentionally most of the time and can lead us into greater states of stress, anxiety, depression, addictive behavior and reexperiencing of trauma.

I recently found myself in a state of confusion where I truly didn’t know the answer to something that was very important to me and I felt held a great deal of urgency.

Jon’s advice allowed me to open my eyes and heart to myself and gave me instruction to just sit for a few minutes in this state of confusion and unknowing. As I did this I realized I had been putting an enormous amount of pressure on myself which contracted my ability for creativity. In this space there was clarity and an opportunity to engage this work differently that would give me a chance to be more open to creativity.

It’s not always the case that we’ll gain clarity if we allow ourselves to be with “not knowing” instead of needing “to do” something about it. But in the long run, I believe this is a way toward greater wisdom in our everyday lives. It just seems counterintuitive, but that’s ok, maybe our intuition isn’t always right.

The fact was, I simply wasn’t being present to my experience and I was identifying with all the self-judgments that came my way and it wasn’t working.

So what seemed paradoxical to be ok with not knowing was in fact the entry into the room of clarity and knowing.

Try it out sometime.

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

Report This Post

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

Resiliency Starts in the Womb

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

In a recent op-ed column in the NY Times, Nicholas Kristof explores recent research that suggests the period we all spend in the womb has a critical impact on our level of physical, emotional and mental well-being throughout our lives.

He says:

“The result is children who start life at a disadvantage — for kids facing stresses before birth appear to have lower educational attainment, lower incomes and worse health throughout their lives. If that’s true, then even early childhood education may be a bit late as a way to break the cycles of poverty.”

This is another example of research finding what many have figured was already intuitive. In a period of time when our brains and mental models of the world are being formed a stressful environment will have an impact on how we react to life later on.

It’s so easy during the time of pregnancy to forget how impactful that time is to the child within.

So what can we do?

There’s been a wave of interest in mindfulness-based childbirth and parenting (MBCP) founded by Nancy Bardacke, RN which aims to help parents and the growing baby during pregnancy and through childbirth. Larissa Duncan, PhD conducted a recent pilot study that suggests that pregnant women who take part in MBCP experience reductions in anxiety, depression, and increases in positive emotion and mindfulness, ofcourse.

It’s important to consider that the way women relate to themselves during pregnancy and the way the rest of us relate to pregnant women can have a significant impact on future generations.

Resiliency starts in the womb and the more awareness we can foster around the better off this world may be in the years to come.

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

Report This Post

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

Looking Outside for Answers? Confucius and Rumi Share their Wisdom

Monday, October 4th, 2010

One of the greatest gifts and hindrances of our minds is to automatize things in life after practicing and repeating them many times. Walking without having to consider every step really makes things a lot easier. However, one of the greatest habits of the mind is to constantly look outside of ourselves for clarity.  There’s a lot we can get from reading blogs, books, interviews and listening to other commentators, but at the end of the day the greatest teacher is ourselves, our own experience.

Confucius said: “I am thinking of giving up speech.” Zigong said: “If you did not speak, what would there be for us, your disciples, to transmit?” The Master said: “What does Heaven ever say? Yet there are the four seasons going round and there are the hundred things coming into being. What does Heaven ever say?” ~ Analects XVII (Confucius from the Heart)

However, how can we ever listen to the clarity and wisdom of our experience if we never stop to do so?

Another habit we get caught up in is putting off the things that are really important in life for another day. We say, “When I finish school, get a partner, get married, have children, or retire then I’ll really start living. Right now there are just too many obstacles.”

At some point we start to realize that those obstacles are our life and are the entry point to living as if it mattered.

Coleman Barks translates Rumi:

“Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

Start today, stop for a moment and consider, what is truly important in my life that I have been putting off. Having you been waiting to contact someone you love because of a past grudge? Have you been putting off eating healthier or exercising even though your doctor said your health is at risk? Have you been continually putting yourself at the bottom of the to-do list while your stress continues to build?

There is nothing more to read, the clarity lies within you in this moment, you just need to take 1 minute, stop and connect with it. Let the beauty you love be what you do.

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

Report This Post

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