Archive for December, 2010

Top 10 Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Posts for 2010

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Almost 2 years ago on January 16th, 2009 The Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog was birthed and I want to express my gratitude to John Grohol and all the readers who have been a part of this whether you just read a post and took something from it or whether you have been active in commenting or even retweeting.

Looking back on these last 2 years, my intention was for this blog to be an avenue for all of us to interact around mindfulness as it touches the many facets of life. I tried to create posts that were practical and accessible and that we could actually read and apply in our daily lives.

I feel grateful to have interviewed leaders in the field like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Daniel Siegel, Susan Kaiser Greenland, Jeffrey Schwartz, Tara Brach, Sharon Salzberg, Sylvia Boorstein, among many others.

Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog posts for 2010, enjoy!

  1. Mindfulness in Schools: Building Resiliency in Kids
  2. Change Your Brain, Change Your Pain
  3. 4 Steps to Better Relationships
  4. 5 Quotes that Can Change Your Life!
  5. 4 Steps to Getting Unstuck
  6. Your Destructive Mind Habits in 5 Short Chapters
  7. Mindfulness with Children: An Interview with Susan Kaiser Greenland
  8. Neuroplasticity: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  9. Mindfulness for Dummies: Shamash Alidina
  10. Forgiveness Means Giving Up All Hope for a Better Past

Once again, I am grateful for you, the readers, for all your thoughts and comments over these last two years. You have truly created a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

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

A Message to Remember: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Today I grab a quote from a man whose dream lifted millions of people and whose inspiration is felt all over the world today. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

This reminds me of an earlier blog post I did which quoted Rumi saying:

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

On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. led a march on Washington to let us all know that he “had a dream.” In this dream he inspired hope, belief, and faith in millions of people. This level of hope no doubt inspired Barack Obama to believe that he indeed could be the first African American President of the United States.

The power of our minds and of belief may very well be one of the most awesome things in life. Henry Ford, father of the concept of assembly lines which so much of our system is currently built on said:

“Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

We all have messages built into our heads from the youngest of ages that “we can’t.” If we’re at all lucky, we’ve had parents or a role model (like Dr. King) who have inspired us to say “we can.” Whether you believe in his politics or not, you can see that Barack Obama had to drive that message home over and over and over again in order for people to really believe, “Yes We Can.”

Here’s the rub, when we have deeply ingrained beliefs that we can’t either from childhood or from being depressed or anxious or maybe both, these negative thoughts seem so convincing. Even right now, if you’re in the depths of depression you may hear the thought, “I don’t know why I’m reading this, nothing is going to help” or “as if I could see any light or love, nobody loves me, I don’t even love myself.”

It’s sometimes not enough to just challenge our thoughts, we need something more. We need someone who is going to inspire us on a deeper level, emotionally, so we can face our pain (or keep our gaze on the bandaged place) and say, “I see that there is pain right now and I’ll care for it, I can do this.” Ultimately, even if we are inspired by a person outside of us, they are inspiring something within us that has been there all along.

So who was Dr. King inspired by? One of his influences what Mahatma Ghandi who said

“The only devils in the world are those running in our own hearts.”

In an interviewTherese Borchard, whose wonderful new book Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes addressed this quote and said:

This quote has been helpful regarding facing my fears. The earlier chapters of my book chronicle all of the disorders I experienced as a child and teenager-OCD, anorexia, substance abuse. I kept running away from the sadness and the depression, which would morph into these other illnesses. So when I finally sat tight long enough to feel the raw depression, that’s when I could begin to heal. As you know well, I think taking a moment of silence to pray or meditate or center ourselves everyday should be part of everyone’s treatment … because when we stop running, we are able to hear what we most need to be whole.

What have been your inspirations in life? Who have been your sources of “light?” 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

Making Change Stick in the New Year

Friday, December 24th, 2010

In the past I wrote the blog Neuroplasticity, Gratitude, and Your Mental Health: Food for Thought and thousands of people viewed it being reminded of the really powerful effects of counting blessings over burdens. So here we are, at the end of the year, answer these 4 questions for yourself right here, right now in an effort to move into 2011 with less stress and a greater sense of resiliency and well-being.

  1. Think back to when this year started-what were your expectations?  What did you want/hope for?
  2. What are you grateful for in this past year?
  3. What are your intentions for this upcoming year, how would you like to be (e.g., more calm, a better listener, more focused, kinder to yourself and others, more present to friends and family?)
  4. Looking forward, what are you wishing for yourself (e.g., health, feeling safe, free from fear, happiness, a sense of peace)?

Take this into the New Year, making change stick is really about setting an intention and repeatedly coming back to review that intention as if it was a doctor’s appointment. This may actually be the most important thing to do, repeatedly coming back and reviewing your intentions.

Set a time in your calendar one week or one month from today to review your answers to this page and check back on your intentions for yourself. Really, go ahead and do it now and make it a recurring appointment. Life gets too busy and distracting, allow this to be your time to review your intentions on a more consistent basis than once a year.

May you move into this New Year with the presence and kindness to live your intentions.

Below, please share your intentions and wishes for yourself and others below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

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

Want Emotional Freedom? Joseph Goldstein on Not Knowing

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

not knowingWhat is it about us that we often feel like we have to be right at the expense of our mental health or the health of our relationships?

The need to be right causes so much suffering and the truth is, most of the time we feel we’re right about an opinion which is a subjective stance that other people are free to have different views on. We’re right about being a Democrat versus a Republican, we’re right about one side of abortion over another, we’re right about whose turn it is to wash the dishes. I guess the real question is, as we’re steeped in our right-ness, how are we feeling?

Usually pretty contracted and stuck. What would it be like to practice not knowing?

Joseph Goldstein is the author of One Dharma along with many other books and known as one of the leaders in bringing mindfulness to the west. He’s giving a talk at InsightLA in Santa Monica on January 4th at 7:30pm.

He tells to get comfortable with not-knowing:

“We don’t know a lot. We don’t know much more than we know. And it’s a relief to let go of our attachment to views, our attachment to opinions, especially about things we don’t know. A new mantra began to form in my mind: “Who knows?” This not-knowing is not a quality of bewilderment; it’s not a quality of confusion. It actually is like a breath of fresh air, an openness of mind. Not knowing is simply holding an open mind regarding these very interesting questions to which we might not yet have answers.”

This is simply about peeling the lens back on our lives and seeing what is effective and not effective. It’s not effective to cling so strongly to our opinions that we get in arguments in our minds or with the people we care about.

On a late summer night in 2004 my family was sitting around the table having a good time when the topic of George Bush versus John Kerry came up. I noticed the temperature in my body rise as a discussion quickly turned into a heated argument. Voices started to rise; we were all so right about our opinions. I was feeling a lot of anger and at one point my brother in-law got so fed up that he left the house.

While we held resentments and grudges in our hearts, we still believed we were all so right.

Sometimes what’s best is to look at the end results of our right-ness and ask ourselves if that’s what we really want? I know that’s not what we wanted as a family dinner, but we were stuck.

Learning to hold our opinions with open hands, but not cling so tight to them can be a path toward greater peace in our minds and our relationships.

Joseph Goldstein shares some words from his teacher, Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche. He said, “I would like to pass on one little bit of advice I give to everyone: Relax. Just relax. Be nice to each other. As you go through your life, simply be kind to people. Try to help them rather than hurt them. Try to get along with them, rather than fail out with them.”

Try and see where in you cling so tight to your opinions at your expense or the expense of others.

Practice saying, “Who knows.”

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

Photo by Christian Revival Network, available under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial license.

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

Applying the Tetris Effect to Change Your Life

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

If you aren’t familiar with the game Tetris, it’s a computer game where four block shapes fall from the top of the screen in different combinations and you have fit one into the  next. A number of years ago, a boy in Australia had been playing Tetris for a considerable amount of time and he soon found that his dreams were made of Tetris shapes and in his waking life his mind was often trying to fit objects into one another.

He began to automatically see the entire world as a Tetris game. This was later called The Tetris Effect.

It seems that what we pay attention to and how we pay attention not only has an effect on how our brain grows, but also has an effect on how we view the world. So the question is, what do we spend our invaluable resource of attention paying attention to.

A Nielson poll says that the average American spends 4 hours a day watching television. How does that fall into the Tetris Effect? What is television seeping into our minds and how does that effect our expectations about how we should look, how our relationships should be, or what kind of success we should achieve?

What about Twitter and Facebook, do we begin to see our relationships as another status update?

But what if we were to think of this differently? What if the Tetris Effect could be a good thing, in other words, how can we get it to work for us? How can we intentionally pay attention in a particular way over time so that we become automatically kinder, more compassionate, able to regulate our bodies easier, turn the volume down on our fear, and feel more free?

I think it’s possible.

Chris Germer, who I recently wrote about, tells the story of how he used to have great fear of public speaking. Over time he began to practice Lovingkindness over and over again paying attention to wishing well for himself, wishing he be free from fear, and really intentionally connecting to his heart.

One day when he was up on stage speaking in public, the fear came over him and gripped him and in that moment, without him even needing to be conscious about it, the phrases of lovingkindness and compassion began to wash over him. How did that happen?

It’s the Tetris Effect.

What would you like more of in life, perhaps to be kinder to yourself, or less driven by your fears? It may be a good idea to see what you’re paying attention to on a regular basis and ask yourself, are these feeding this thing I’m wanting more or trying to get away from?

Just something to make you go hmmm.

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

Reflecting on 2010: A Self Compassion Break

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Reflect on 2010The end of the year is near and if you’re like most people you’ll catch the mind wandering back onto the year looking to measure up how it turned out. This automatic process can be a bit tricky as the mind has an automatic negativity bias and tends to look for the things that didn’t work out and can kick us into a downward spiral of dissatisfaction with life.

But we need to look back on our lives so we can learn from the past, be more intentional in the present and be well in the future. What we need in the process is a little self-compassion.

So what do we do?

  1. Take back the reins from the wandering mind – Set some time aside to intentionally look back on this year. Ask yourself, “Where were the difficult moments and where were the happy moments?” Consider what you did that was effective in your personal life or at work and what you did that was ineffective.
  2. Have compassion – Often times the past doesn’t work out as we wanted it to. Lily Tomlin said, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” However, sometimes that little critic comes out in us and is relentless leaving us feeling disappointed or depressed about the past and anxious and fearful about the future.

Here’s a practice called, The Self Compassion Break I learned from Chris Germer, PhD, author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, where we can create compassion for ourselves through this process:

  1. Take a few deep breaths
  2. Put both hands over your heart feeling the pressure and warmth
  3. As you breathe repeating tor yourself:
  • “This is suffering”
  • “Suffering is a part of life, all people suffer”
  • “May I be kind to myself”
  • “May I forgive myself”

This is simply acknowledging something universal and redressing the automatic negativity bias by wishing ourselves well, moving toward forgiveness.

May this be a time of healing for you with a sense of openness and hope for the year ahead.

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

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker, available under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial license.

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

Mindful Recovery and Relapse Prevention for the Holidays

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

As family and friends begin to gather during the holidays, at one point or another we may have to face either ourselves or a loved one with addiction. There are really very few people who are not touched by addiction in one way or another. Addiction comes in the form of alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, eating, sugar, and other compulsive behaviors that are an avoidance strategy and eventually cause distress.

When caught up in the cycle of addictive behavior, there is an inability to accept whatever is being felt in the present moment and the mind is constantly wandering onto the next ‘fix.’ So it’s safe to conclude that addiction often builds a wall of disconnection and makes it difficult to actually be present for the holidays.

If you or someone you love struggles with addictive behavior I recommend checking out the Mindfulness and Addiction series I wrote about earlier in the year.

  1. Mindfulness and Addiction Part I
  2. Mindfulness and Addiction Part II
  3. Mindfulness and Addiction Part III

Aside from those, it may be a good idea to do a bit of preparing and planning for the holidays. Here are some tips:

  1. Plan some activities that don’t focus on alcohol, like games, sports, or talking
  2. Be aware that there may be people who have addictive behaviors and don’t make the flaw of saying, “Hey, how come you’re not drinking?” In other words, don’t bring attention to the fact that someone isn’t drinking.
  3. If you have an addictive behavior, make sure you have a trusty alternative. Remember, cravings often last a maximum of 20-30 minutes. Bring a bottle of water or if sugar isn’t your addiction, make sure to bring some chocolate with you, sometimes sugar can trick the brain into feeling satisfied.
  4. Keep a number on you of a trusted friend or someone who can talk you down if a craving pops up.
  5. Take a time-out and go to the bathroom or outside and practice some mindfulness with urge surfing or another short mindfulness practice, or maybe go on a walk. If you’d like to practice mindfulness as an approach for addiction and relapse prevention, you can check out the CD program Mindful Solutions for Addiction and Relapse Prevention.

You may want to write some of this on a card and take it with you to remember because the brain may not function that clearly when cravings hit.

As much as possible, practice kindness with yourself and others during this holiday.

Please share what works for you below or any comments and questions you may have. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

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

5 Quotes that can Change Your Life!

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Ariane de Bonvoisin’s most recent book is called The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier which has a number of fantastic quotes in it that I believe if reflected on mindfully could very well change your life. If you missed the interview with Ariane, you can find it here.

Now, we’re not just going to glance over these quotes, I’m going to suggest that you take at least 30 seconds with each quote doing the following 5-step mindfulness practice.

  1. Get centered — Take a moment to just notice your body here, noticing any tension and seeing if you can choose to let that tension go. Become aware that you’re breathing.
  2. Read the quote twice – Reading it twice allows it to settle in a bit more.
  3. Allow the words to simmer — Close your eyes and see if you can let the words roll around and notice what arises for you physically, emotionally and mentally. In other words, let these words percolate in your mind and body. Do any thoughts, memories, or associations arise? Is there a tension or loosening in the body? Do emotions of fear, joy, or calm arise? Whatever arises this is grist for the mill.
  4. Bring your mind back if it wanders — You may notice the mind going off into thoughts of what you need to be doing or judgments such as “how is this going to be helpful to me?” Just note where it wandered to and gently guide it back. As Larry Rosenberg says in his book Breath by Breathrepeat this step several billion times.
  5. Come back to the breath – Thank yourself for taking this time-out of your daily busy-ness to engage with this mindful inquiry for your health and well-being.

Even if you only get through one quote, you can come back at later times to work with the others.

Here we go.

  1. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” ~ Victor Frankl
  2. “Amidst the worldly comings and goings, observe how endings become beginnings.” ~ Tao Te Ching
  3. “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” ~ Albert Einstein
  4. “You see everything is about belief, whatever we believe rules our existence, rules our life.” ~ Don Miguel Ruiz
  5. “What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters to what lies within us.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ok, one extra:

Hence, there is a time to go ahead and a time to stay behind.

There is a time to breathe easy and a time to breathe hard.

There is a time to be vigorous and a time to be gentle.

There is a time to gather and a time to release.

Can you see things as they are

And let them be all on their own?

~ Lao-tzu

What did you notice as you did this practice? Are there other quotes that are meaningful to you or you think would be valuable for this practice?

Share any thoughts, stories and questions you have. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

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

Make it your practice: Being Open to Seeing Things Differently

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Sometimes we become stuck in how we see things. In order to expand our horizons we must grow in self awareness. “The mind is the creator of our own heavens and hells by our own thoughts” – (Dhammapada)

Wanting to Make Change: It All Starts Here

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

When it comes down to it life is driven by our intentions.

Read over the following progression from A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook a couple of times:

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.

There’s simply so much truth to this. There’s a reason the Dalai Lama looks happy. However, most of the time we live unintentionally and that’s when we look back many years later and say, “Where did it all go.” It’s time to live as if it mattered.

We can think of mindfulness, the act of paying attention, on purpose and without judgment as a kind of mental training to be more intentional with our lives.

Think about how the act of priming works:

If the morning starts out with worries about all the work to do that day and the mind keeps practicing worrying, when you get to work everything you see will be looked at through an anxious lens.

If you get some bad news and feel bummed out and practice rehearsing the difficulties of your situation, those are the glasses of perception that you wear.

I’m not judging this process of perception as good or bad, but just pointing out the reality of how this works.

If we intentionally set time aside to bring more mindfulness into our lives, we’ll start priming our minds to see from a greater place of balance, flexibility, and compassion. This is of course, if you’re practicing mindfulness without any hidden agenda of going along with a trend to look good in other’s eyes.

Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” That starts with intention.

Consider in this moment, how do you want to be in this world? How might you remind yourself to be more intentional about that?

You might practice, “Breathing in I open to my intention, Breathing out I let it be.”

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