Archive for October, 2011

Voices: One Reason Why You Shouldn’t Believe Everything You Think

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

A short while ago I opened an opportunity for people to send me stories of mindfulness that can show the rest of us how it has had a practical impact on a particular event or their lives. I’m calling this column of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, “Voices.”

A number of people wrote in with stories. If you have a story, continue to writing in and as long as there are good stories that teach the rest of us how mindfulness can work in our lives, I will choose from them from time to time to post on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy.

Of course those that get chosen can also send me a link that I’ll include in the post where people can learn more about them.

Here’s a truly touching story of mindfulness and the importance of breaking out of our limited beliefs and letting people surprise us by Christina Conlan O’Flaherty, Psy.D. :

In Chris Germer, Ron Siegel and Paul Fulton’s book, Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, the idea that therapists might do well to adopt a position of “not knowing” when it comes to their patients is introduced.  It’s suggested that by letting go of our preconceptions and expectations of who our patients are based on past experience with them, we can be more fully open to what the patient brings into the session. To illustrate this point, they include the quote below.  This quote isn’t from a therapist but from an elderly (and apparently wise) man who grasps the importance of not assuming to know the people in his life–and not assuming to know himself:

“I have a friend, a woman I know already many years.  One day she’s mad at me–from nowhere it comes.  I have insulted her, she tells me.  How? I don’t know.  Why don’t I know?  Because I don’t know her.  She surprised me.  That’s good.  That’s how it should be.  You cannot tell someone, “I know you.” People jump around.  They’re like a ball; rubbery, they bounce.  The ball cannot be long in one place.  Rubbery, it must jump.  So what do you do to keep a person from jumping?  The same with as a ball; make a little hole, and it goes flat.  When you tell someone, “I know you,” you put a little pin in. So what should you do?  Leave them be.  Don’t try to make them stand still for your convenience.  You don’t ever know them.  Let people surprise you.  This, likewise, you could do concerning yourself.”

This quote resonated with me (after the third time I read it!) not only as a therapist who hopes to stay open to whatever her clients present in the moment but also with respect to my other roles: wife, friend, daughter.  It reminds me to be curious about my clients, my husband, my mother and my friends and to allow them to grow, shift and change.  It reminds me I should let people surprise me.

I also appreciate the idea of being curious about oneself and, as the old man suggests, surprising yourself. The truth is, we don’t know much about ourselves.  We walk around on autopilot and do mental gymnastics to keep from acknowledging things about ourselves that we don’t like. We express different aspects of ourselves depending on the situation and often aren’t all that consistent in the same situation over time.  We are, like everything else around us, constantly in flux.  Bringing curiosity to our thoughts, feelings and behaviors can give us a glimpse into the mysterious & complex person that we are–in that moment.  And there is great capacity to surprise ourselves.  Thankfully.

I see it everyday with myself and others. We have beliefs about who we are and identify with them. We say, “I’m an anxious person,” “I’m the kind of person who doesn’t every really accomplish much” or maybe you say, “Yeah that’s my daughter, she’s not a very good writer.” The net effect of these are simply limiting.

Sometimes when we set aside our limiting beliefs about ourselves and others, life suddenly becomes a lot more interesting.

Thanks Christina.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interactions create a living wisdom we can all benefit from.

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

A Brief Insight into Everything

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

mindful of sounds around youThe mind is a mysterious thing, it’s true, but some things about it are not that mysterious and can be observed through a simple practice giving us a brief insight into everything.

Read this first and then practice to get a front row seat into how your mind works:

  1. Close your eyes and begin to open the mind to just hearing sounds
  2. Notice the thoughts that begin to comment on or create stories around the sounds
  3. Notice how the mind wants to move away from or toward certain sounds
  4. Become aware of how all sounds come and go
  5. As it ends be aware of how your body feels

Okay, now practice for 1 minute.

After you practice here is the famous question…drum roll…What did you notice about your mind?

For me, I often notice the transient nature of sounds, which is just a basic fact of life when it comes to all things whether its thoughts, emotions, sensations, sounds, or tastes. It’s the famous saying, “This too shall pass.”

I also notice that my mind starts making associations around the sounds, if an airplane flies overhead, I see a picture of an airplane in my mind and perhaps a story around the last or next flight I’m going to be on begins to replay or rehearse. Of course this is going to happen; there are billions of connections in the brain occurring at any given moment, so a lot of associations that can be made.

I also notice that my body gets tense when my mind doesn’t like certain sounds and opens up when I hear sounds I do like.

Usually by the end my body is often calm, showing me that when I’m aware of the present moment it can often have a calming effect.

How does this give us a brief insight into everything?

When you come to think of it the mind reacts in the same way to everything. There’s always a stimulus, whether it’s a new project at work, a fight with your friend, or the feeling of the sunshine splashing on your face on a cool fall day. The mind then reacts with a story about that stimulus that then leads to new feeling states.

If you know this, it can help pop you out of the auto-pilot reaction and not take your reactions too seriously. When we get tangled up in anxiety about the future, grief about the past or rage full anger about something we think somebody else thinks, we can recognize that our mind is just doing what it always does, hooking into some stimulus, creating a story around it, and getting us going. One thing we also know is that whatever feeling is here will come and go, just like sounds.

The thing to do is then anchor yourself to something in the present moment and that can even be the feeling itself. Become curious about it, let it be your teacher just like the sounds into the transient nature of all things. Allow it to show you that if you can use it as an anchor to the present moment, you can experience more freedom in your life.

And that’s a brief insight into everything.

Please share your thoughts and experiences below. Allow this to be a community where we learn from one another.

Photo by mikeyskatie, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

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

Voices: Mindfulness and Healing the Loss of Someone You Love

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

A short while ago I opened an opportunity for people to send me stories of mindfulness that can show the rest of us how it has had a practical impact on a particular event or their lives. I’m calling this column of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, “Voices.”

A number of people wrote in with stories. If you have a story, continue to writing in and as long as there are good stories that teach the rest of us how mindfulness can work in our lives, I will choose from them from time to time to post on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy.

Of course those that get chosen can also send me a link that I’ll include in the post where people can learn more about them.

Here’s a truly touching story of mindfulness, grief, courage and healing by Mimi Handlin, MSW, Senior Certified ADHD Coach:

(more…)

The Post-Mindful Era: I Have a Dream

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

A couple decades ago if you told people you were going to a yoga class, you may have looked into a face of confusion or judgment where the other person was thinking you were part of some new age movement. Now in the most conservative town men and women throw on their respective yoga gear and step into pose.

On the same note, just a few years ago if you told most people you were going to go to a meditation class, you would have gotten that same look, perhaps you still might today. However, we’re on the cusp of entering a mindful era, an era where the term and practice are starting to become more accepted and common.  We’re not quite there yet, but the explosion of research coming out of respected institutions such as Harvard, UCLA, Stanford, and major healthcare companies and the embrace in the corporate world is heading the train in that direction.

But what would a post-mindful era look like?

A post-mindful era is a time when mindfulness is no longer a buzz word. It’s no longer the darling of the book publishers, media and institutions, but has now become something that is just accepted in the general culture. Like exercise, maybe not everyone is doing it, but it’s understood by the masses as a general form of mental fitness and hygiene.

The post-mindful era is a time when the word compassion is understood by most as a strength, a skill to be built and not just a warm fuzzy term.  When there is a conflict at work, within a marriage, or on the schoolyard, it will be more natural to step into another’s shoes, see the shared humanity, and have the leg up on coming to a more peaceful resolution.

In difficult times, it will be second nature to drop into a space of self-compassion, this means having a deep knowing that the automatic habit of self-judgment only serves to dig us deeper and so we have an easier time finding the voice inside to step into a space of “kindsight,” that is viewing our pain with kinder eyes.

You may catch more people walking a bit slower, or sitting with their eyes closed in public being still. Maybe when you’re on a walk eating a meal it’s more common to spend a moment actually tasting the food and then intentionally listening to the conversation. At large events there will be more moments of stillness prior to it beginning where people mindfully check-in, center themselves and breathe. This is already happening.

We’ve been in the “information age” for quite a while now and I see the post-mindful era as a “wisdom age,” a time when people are simply more flexible, caring, and in touch with what works and what doesn’t work in life.  This isn’t to say we’re entering a time of great peace on earth as again, like exercise, while it’s a generally accepted avenue toward health, not everyone engages this. “I’m just too busy” will still be the common fallback as it is with so many other things.

Make no mistake, I’m under no illusion that mindfulness practice will be taken up by the masses, rather I’m hoping for the social and emotional contagion effect where one friend’s action effects that friend’s, friend’s, friend as is spelled out in Nicholas Christakis’ and James Fowler’s book Connected.

Well, call me an idealist, we all have a dream. May 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

Voices: Using Mindfulness to Break Free from the Shame of Mental Illness

Friday, October 14th, 2011

A short while ago I opened an opportunity for people to send me stories of mindfulness that can show the rest of us how it has had a practical impact on a particular event or their lives. I’m calling this column of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, “Voices.”

A number of people wrote in with stories. If you have a story, continue to writing in and as long as there are good stories that teach the rest of us how mindfulness can work in our lives, I will choose from them from time to time to post on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy.

Of course those that get chosen can also send me a link that I’ll include in the post where people can learn more about them.

Here’s an insightful true story from Parwathy Narayan about the power of self-acceptance.

I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and PTSD.  Coming from an Indian background, there is a huge social stigma against mental disorders.  I practically had to beg my parents for help, because they kept ignoring it.  They were more worried about what society would think than my own well-being.

This brought up a lot of shame in me about having a mental illness.

I am overcoming that shame right now through being mindful of my thoughts, and how I shame and judge myself as a consequence of my childhood.  I consciously create a positive statement about myself when I feel ashamed about having a mental illness.  One affirmation that has been helpful is “I love and accept myself exactly as I am”.

Up until now I have been isolating because of my shame, but recently I went out and was able to talk about my mental illness and was accepted.  I know that this is a reflection that I have accepted this part of myself.  I have even blogged about shame as a form of healing on my blog, mindyourspirit.com.  Being mindful of your thoughts and transforming anything that is against you into something positive is so powerful.

“Mental illness” has a tremendous stigma in almost all cultures and certainly more acutely in some as Parwathy points out in her story. The shame one feels about being deficient or unworthy in some way can be debilitating.

I think Parwathy is helping light the path toward greater self-acceptance. When we can look mindfully, putting aside our lenses of judgment and peering into our life with greater curiosity and love, we are sowing the seeds of healing.  When we do this for ourselves, have no doubt, we are giving permission to the many people who are enslaved by that shame to begin lighting their own path.

Thank you Parwathy.

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

Can Mindfulness Really Rewire the Brain?

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

The burgeoning field of mindfulness, neuroscience and psychotherapy just never gets old to me. I am on a panel with Ron Siegel, PsyD, author of The Mindfulness Solution and Ruth Buczynski, PhD, president of the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) talking about a recent series that explored the question, Can Mindfulness Really Rewire the Brain? The series is free to listen to.

The series includes Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Tara Brach, Sara Lazar and Ron Siegel on the current state of affairs of mindfulness and neuroscience. The topics included the most current neuroscience research, how we can use it with trauma, chronic pain, depression, shame and even its potential benefits for aging.

The actual science that’s continuing to come out about mindfulness and its neurological benefits is incredibly motivating.

Did you know that mindfulness practice is showing that we can grow the area of our brain that’s responsible for learning and memory (the hippocampus)? So there’ll be less of the, “Honey, did you remember where I put my keys?”

Did you know that mindfulness practice is showing a reduction in the fear center of the brain (amygdala) and an increase in the rational brain (prefrontal cortex), so as you practice you literally rewire a steadier mind?

Did you know that mindfulness practice is being connected to lower depression scores and we can actually see why in the brain? When people practice then spend less time in the brain that is responsible for rumination, all the old stories that keep us stuck and more time in connecting to the area of the brain responsible for sensing the world.

Did you know there are areas of the brain we now know are connected to empathy and compassion and we’re seeing growth in those areas too with mindfulness?

This is real evidence.

Reading it here is one thing, listening to people talk about it is another thing, and sometimes it’s good to hear people talk about it live. I know LifeSpan Learning in Los Angeles is putting on an event on November 5-6, 2011 with one of the leading mindfulness teachers in the west, Jack Kornfield and on one of the leading neuroscientists, Dan Siegel on the intersection of Mindfulness and Neurobiology.

Most of all, why not start bringing into your day right now, we can begin with the STOP practice.

Whether you’ve done it before or not, allow this to be a moment of training your brain.

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

Boost Resiliency: A Piece of Wisdom from the Ages

Friday, October 7th, 2011

If we look back at the world’s wisdom traditions we’ll find that for most, one of the greatest ways you can give is to be of service. The cynical person would say, “Well of course that was an organization’s way of getting people to work for free and to build a religion.” Another way of looking at it and what scientific research has confirmed is that being of service has measurable positive effects on our health and well-being. There’s a fundamental reason why this is true.

Being of service provides a feeling of connection and connection is at the core of feeling well. Just think about when you feel really connected to someone else, something feels good about that, when you feel disconnected it doesn’t feel good. We can analyze all the evolutionary reasons for this, but sometimes it’s just that simple.

But being of service doesn’t just provide a feeling of connection, often times it provides a feeling of connection with something greater than ourselves. Something greater may be a community of peers, an organization, or if you’re spiritual or religious, it may be God. Being connected to something greater than ourselves provides a sense of security. Just think about how a baby feels when it is held in the mother or father’s arms — something is comforting about that (usually).

Perhaps Martin Luther King Jr. said it best:

“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 

In other words, being of service nurtures more love in your heart which is surely what we could all use a bit more of.

So here’s my challenge to you:

As we enter into the months of colder and shorter days, what are some ways you can boost your resiliency and be of service?

If you’re having a tough time here’s a very simple suggestion:

Find out what other people need. Do you have friends or family who are in need of some kind of help, perhaps babysitting, help moving something, tutoring or cooking a meal? This is a way to strengthen ties with the people you love and create connection.

If you’re feeling like volunteering for an organization but can’t figure out who to go to you can always check out VolunteerMatch to help navigate the waters.

My guess is there are a number of people who have great wisdom about ways to volunteer and I’d love you to write it in below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom that can have ripple effects across many lives.

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

Voices: Who’s Driving Your Bus?

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

A short while ago I opened an opportunity for people to send me stories of mindfulness that can show the rest of us how it has had a practical impact on a particular event or their lives. I’m calling this column of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, “Voices.”

A number of people wrote it with stories. If you have a story, continue to writing in and as long as there are good stories that teach the rest of us how mindfulness can work in our lives, I will choose from them from time to time to post on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy.

Of course those that get chosen can also send me a link that I’ll include in the post where people can learn more about them.

Here’s a delightful and insightful true story from Brandon Rennels about the power of acceptance in our daily lives.

A couple summers ago I was on vacation in a foreign country, and I found myself on a bus. It was a day long trip in a well-worn vehicle, and we began our journey at dawn. This particular ride got off to a slow start, as every 20 minutes the driver would pull over, shut off the engine, walk outside to converse with others, and then slowly make his way back to the driver’s seat. Then he would pull over again, shut off the engine again, walk outside to converse with others again, and then slowly make his way back to the driver’s seat, again. Then he would pull over yet again, shut off the engine yet…get the idea? Yea, so did I!

After observing this ritual repeated every few miles, it became clear that rather than being some type of mandatory halt, our driver was taking the time to catch up with his friends scattered throughout the city. An hour in and I was quite perturbed…“What is he doing out there?  Why is this taking so long?? Are we really stopping again?!”  Anger was mounting; I had places to go, and there was no time for social hour! In desperation I looked around to see if anyone else shared my outrage, but to my surprise, the others were just sitting in their seat looking quite unaffected. Hmm, so what is my problem?

I had lost control of the bus. Not the physical bus, but that of my own mind. It was filled with unruly passengers who were clamoring on about how ‘this shouldn’t be happening!’, and they had overtaken the wheel. How to regain control?

In this case, the passengers/thoughts were fueled by resistance. I was resisting the stops as if thinking about them harder could prevent them, which of course only strengthened resistance when we stopped again. Seems silly, I know, but how often do we waste energy resisting what is actually happening?

A new approach was needed: how about acceptance? 

Acceptance is not inaction, and it is important to make this distinction. Acceptance in this sense is simply seeing things as they actually are. Here, it entails the fact that:

A) We were stopping frequently, and

B) Resisting ‘A’ was causing stress

Bringing awareness to my resistance allowed me to accept A&B as they were, and stop wasting energy on my pity party. With a calm mind, I could once again re-claim the driver’s seat!

I had two options: attempt to change the situation or live with it.  For the former, one option would be to get off the bus and try and find another way from whatever city we were in to my destination. Being in unfamiliar surroundings, this was probably not a wise idea. Another option would be to try and convince the driver that he should quit stopping. See previous advice.

Ultimately the best choice in this situation was just to accept it as is, without trying to change anything.

While I couldn’t control the physical bus, I could inhabit the driver’s seat of my own. Freeing myself of this stress then gave my mind space to appreciate those unnoticed moments around me: the sun cascading through the windows and the summer breeze slowly drifting on by…all told, it was a fine day to be riding a bus.

Sometimes even asking the question, “Who’s driving the bus?” can pop us out of auto-pilot and into a space of awareness to see how our mind is getting hijacked. In this space we can choose to see things differently and open the opportunity for greater ease, balance and perspective.

Do you have a story to share, feel free to email me it at elisha@drsgoldstein.com.

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