Archive for August, 2011

3 Steps to Break the Self-Judgment Habit

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

There’s no denying it, inherent in our human make-up is the need to judge and criticize. Some of us are more naturally talented at this than others. It’s worth getting curious about how the act of criticizing or judging others affects us. The truth is it rarely – if ever – has any lasting effects of helping us feel better. In fact, it usually has the opposite, like a slow leaking toxin in our minds and bodies. So here’s a practice for today.

See if you can be aware of the impulse to criticize another person. If you notice this impulse, get a sense of the emotion that is underlying it. Is there a feeling of annoyance, irritation or maybe tiredness? Usually the urge to criticize others arises out of some uncomfortable emotion we’re experiencing in the moment. It’s as if the mind’s strategy is to use criticizing to get away from what’s uncomfortable.

This simple practice can help us become more aware of our automatic reactivity and give us the power back to make a change.

The reality is most of us actually criticize ourselves more than other people. We can play this same game. In other words, we can notice when we’re criticizing ourselves (there is likely lots of opportunities). Then we can become aware of the feeling that’s there and break the cycle of self-criticism.

Now, there’s an extra layer I’m going to suggest in helping break this bad habit.

Whether the criticism is toward the other person or yourself, see what’s it’s like to connect to your heart and intentionally wish well for yourself or the other person.

You can say lovingkindness phrases like this to build compassion:

May you be well.

May you be healthy in body and mind.

May you be free from self-criticism.

May you be happy.

Just to review:

Step 1: Become aware of the judgment.

Step 2: Step into the feeling, acknowledge it, become aware of it.

Step 3: Send lovingkindness phrases to yourself or the other person.

Like all things in life, see if you can let any judgments about this practice come and go and let your direct experience be your teacher.

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

A Mindful Approach to ADHD Parenting

Friday, August 26th, 2011

In a past blog, A Child’s ADHD Can Stress Your Marriage, John Grohol, Ph.D. cites an Washington Post article stating an increase in divorce rates among people who have children with ADHD.  One person aptly comments that it also could be because one or more of the parents have ADHD and it’s not diagnosed making the marriage more difficult.

Having children with ADHD or special needs is challenging and requires extra responsibility that taxes the family system. There is simply more effort and time required on the parent and child’s part which makes people more tired and when people get tired they tend to get irritable. When irritability is not taken care of, people get hurt, put their walls up and close down. When partners are closed down and aren’t able to feel or detect one another’s feelings anymore, empathy flies out the window, and connection is right on its tails.

Without connection, there is no relationship and so this leads to higher rates of separation.

The quote from the Washington Post that highlights this issue says:

Regardless of whether they had children with ADHD, […] the parents asked to work with difficult children were four times as likely to exchange negative criticism and questions, or to ignore each other and trade nonverbal barbs, than the parents in the other group.

And regardless of whether they were dealing with easy or difficult children, parents who had ADHD children at home were three times as likely to be negative toward each other as parents who did not. Put another way, the parents of children with ADHD simply had less ability to respond to challenges with equanimity; they appeared to be psychologically worn thin.

How can we cultivate the ability to respond to challenges from a more grounded place instead of reacting from a state of imbalance? Psychiatrist and Holocaust Survivor Viktor Frankl noted:

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.

As parents, there is so much to do and so much responsibility, it’s easy to get worn thin. Part of the problem is that when we’re feeling stressed or irritable, we get kicked into auto-pilot and become reactive with negativity to the child or the partner by being short, shouting, or calling names. Unfortunately, this reactivity causes more harm than good. So what can we do?

Sometimes we can use our bodies as physical barometers to let us know when we’re imbalanced. We may feel tension in the shoulders, tightness in the face, a knot in the stomach, or even our hands clinching into fists. We can learn to use this as a signal that there is a feeling there. When we notice this, we are present. We can now take a moment to just acknowledge how we’re feeling. You may notice irritability or sadness about feeling overwhelmed or maybe a judgment screaming in your mind “I’m a bad parent.”

When we’re able to be more present, even for moments, to our thoughts, feelings, and sensations, we become more grounded and lift the walls within ourselves, we soften and create the space for openness and compassion to emerge. We also lengthen our perception of the space between the stimulus and the response so we can respond more skillfully instead of react. We may choose in this state to communicate with our partners about how we’re doing. So much battle occurs between couples because of lack of communication and disconnection. When we are present to ourselves, we make space for the ability to convey how we are doing, which then opens the door for communication, connection, and the potential for empathy which is what is most needed. Having children alone can be stressful, but having a child with special needs can be particularly taxing and it is a good practice to remind yourself of this and take some moments to care for yourself and even appreciate your partner.

When we can be more mindful of how we are doing moment-to-moment, we can also begin to become more attuned with the child who in turn will be able to sense that. The child can sense if the parent is overstressed and disconnected which makes the environment feel turbulent. When the child senses the parent is more grounded and open, this is calming and makes space for stronger attachment to the parent, which is critical.

Please share your thoughts and questions below, your additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

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

How This Word Can Help You Be More Present In Your Life

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Once in a while I come across a phrase that helps me drop from the chaos in my mind in the present moment, into the now, into what is most meaningful. Psychologist and author Leonard Felder’s latest book is called Here I Am and the title of the book is the practice I connect with.

What do I mean?

In Judaism there’s a phrase called Hineini which means “Here I am.” It epitomizes mindfulness, intentionally bringing our minds to the present moment, without the filters from the past.

Here’s how it worked for me.

I was in the supermarket the other day and it was busy. If you’ve ever been to Trader Joe’s during the busy hours you know what I’m talking about. People running over each other, difficulty getting through the aisles and then when you’re finished, long lines. Ahhh…

I remembered reading in Leonard’s book “Hineini, Here I am” and the phrase popped into my head. I noticed a calming in my body, I didn’t analyze it, it was just what happened. So I stepped into it again, “Hineini, Here I am” as I closed my eyes and listened to the rush of sounds all around me. I let out a big exhale, I guess I needed that.

Just this little phrase interrupted an automatic cycle within me of thoughts, sensations and emotions that were literally driving me crazy.

So I wanted to share this with you. Take it into your day whether things are going well or they’re frustrating. If you’re into the Hebrew you can say “Hineini” or if not, you can just say “Here I am” or both.

The best thing to do after reading something like this is to just treat is as an experiment in your life. Try to put aside any judgments and give it a shot. It might just be what the doctor ordered.

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

Now: Listen to this Mindful Song

Friday, August 19th, 2011

In the spirit of this blog I want share you with a song that was recently sent to me by Jim Angus, a Canadian songwriter. As you listen to this you are welcome to close your eyes and just hear the song or keep them open and allow the images to complement the experience.

Enjoy!

Now in this moment… in this heartbeat
in this magical place
Now to feel the rhythm and see the sunrise
for the very first time
Now where the games come crashing down
Now where the masks fall to the ground
Now when I open up my heart
oh how I love you
Now when I see you as you are
you’re so beautiful

Now in the stillness… I awaken
and wipe the sleep from my eyes
yes Now like the rivers that flow
take my hand and we’ll go
beyond the shackles of time
Now where the games come crashing down
Now where the masks fall to the ground
Now when I open up my heart
I just want to love you, love you
Now like the heavens brightest stars
you’re so beautiful

Now as I look into your eyes
don’t want to think about tomorrow
just want to leave the pain behind
and there’s so much I want to tell you
before the magic slips away
and even though I rehearsed a thousand times
I’m always unprepared
… for this moment
… your gentle heartbeat
… in this forever
… in this magical place
… called Now

©Jim Angus
All rights reserved

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

How to Stay Focused in an Age of Constant Interruption

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

In the past couple weeks I’ve been asked by a few different people in leadership positions, how to work with inherent and constant interruptions in their workday. One minute you’re engaged with an important project and the next someone calls you up or walks into your office with an urgent matter that needs attention. This constant moving back and forth interrupts focus and creates frustration that makes it difficult to concentrate. It’s a vicious cycle.

What it’s important to recognize is that being yanked back and forth and getting caught up in an auto-pilot of increased frustration isn’t going to make you more effective at work (or at home). We can also accept the reality that this is inherent in our workdays, especially now that we live in a 24X7 world where people expect us to be available at all times.

To minimize interruptions, the most basic thing a person can do is schedule times during the day that are uninterruptible times of complete focus. Whether you’re in a management position or not, you can make sure people know about these hours and then have an open door policy the rest of the time.

Another way to minimize interruptions is with ear plugs. I was given the suggestion by someone recently to put ear plugs in and that helps keep out the phone and noise interruptions in the environment. Try it out and see if ear plugs make you more mindful.

If you can’t avoid getting interrupted or if your mind wanders off to focusing on other things, you can try a short practice to recenter and refocus. In my upcoming book The Now Effect: How this Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life (Atria Books, 2012) I have a section called Training Ground which gives a number of short ways to dip back into a space of awareness, ground to the present moment and refocus.

One practice might be to engage the mindful check-in. This is a practice where you’re just pausing and dropping the question into your mind, “Where am I starting from right now?” You begin just checking in with your body, noticing any tension or tightness, checking in with how you’re feeling emotionally, and checking in with your mind to see if it’s busy or calm. If it’s busy, what is it busy with? Then reset your intention to refocus.

Practicing and repeating this between interruptions allows your mind to get used to the idea of recentering and refocusing. Over time this will become more automatic as your body and mind tend to naturally begin to refocus between interruptions.

As always, don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself as a discipline and see what happens over time. Your experience is your best teacher.

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 Four Questions to Rid Automatic Negative Thoughts

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

In past postings I talked about the power of thoughts and how convincing they can seem in times when our emotions are high. When we’re depressed, automatic negative thoughts such as “This is hopeless,” or “I’ll never get this right,” or “what’s the point” are swimming around. If we’re excited, thoughts like, “this is really going to happen,” or “everyone loves me,” or “I feel like I can do no wrong” are prevalent. Thoughts are powerful and it’s worth becoming aware of our minds, understanding that thoughts are not facts and at times, even challenging them.

I was recently reading through a friend and colleague of mine, Steve Flowers’ book The Mindful Path Through Shyness where he cites four helpful questions from Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is to challenge automatic negative thoughts (ANTS).

Here are the four questions to help challenge compelling thoughts:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without that thought?

    In doing this practice, you come to understand just how many of our thoughts are simply not true. Yet, these thoughts change the way we see things and how we react in this world.

    If our thoughts are going to have that much influence on us, it’s certainly worth checking them out.

    However, before you can even make the decision to check them out, you need to become aware of them and step outside of them for a moment.

    In other words, Stop, Take a Breath, Observe that these thoughts are going on, and Proceed with these four questions. This is using theSTOP practice to get to those four questions.

    Try this out today…

    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

    Get Unstuck: The 180 Degree Shift

    Monday, August 1st, 2011

    Part of the process of healing from our various mental and physical afflictions is learning how to do a 180 degree shift from self-avoidance to self-inquiry. Self-inquiry is a simple process, but at times not easy. It’s also not as easy to explain the process of self-inquiry because there is a certain feeling to it as you begin to practice. Learning how to get curious about yourself when there’s been a lifetime of habitual disconnection can seem strange at first, but the journey is incredibly rewarding. In A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Bob Stahl and I point out the process of self-inquiry.

    “Mindful self-inquiry is an investigation into the nature of one’s own mind and being. In the context of this book, that inquiry looks into physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts that may be contributing to stress and anxiety. In your daily life, you may be so busy doing that you feel you have little or no time for self-reflection. Yet this exploration is extremely worthwhile, as fears often lie beneath the surface of awareness.

    When you practice mindful self-inquiry, you bring kind awareness and acknowledgment to any stressed or anxious feelings in the body and mind and simply allow them to be. This means staying with those feelings without analyzing, suppressing, or encouraging them. Although this may seem scary in and of itself, realize that when you allow yourself to feel and acknowledge your worries, irritations, painful memories, and other difficult thoughts and emotions, this often helps them dissipate. By going with what’s happening rather than expending energy fighting or turning away from it, you create the opportunity to gain insight into what’s driving your concerns. When you begin to understand the underlying causes of your apprehension, freedom and a sense of spaciousness naturally emerge. In essence, this is a process of learning to trust and stay with feelings of discomfort rather than trying to escape from or analyze them. This often leads to a remarkable shift; time and again your feelings will show you everything you need to know about them—and something you need to know for your own well-being.”

    Give it a shot today when you notice an uncomfortable feeling that’s driving you to distraction or avoidance whether it’s just to your phone to check your messages or to more destructive habits like drugs or alcohol. Ask yourself, what’s here and see if you can actually feel into it. As if you were Jacque Cousteau exploring a barrier reef for the first time, careful not to disturb the wild life. See what changes.

    It sometimes helps to get audio guidance with this and you can get this with a mindfulness-based therapist, going to a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program in your area, or picking up the book that comes with a number of audio guided practices.

    The point is to start making it a practice in your life to move through your fears and start to get unstuck.

    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