Archive for November, 2011

5 Steps to Gratitude: Hafiz

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

So here we are, a couple days before Thanksgiving in the United States.

Take this moment while reading these words to really consider what you are thankful for. When we think of what we’re thankful for we often think of the light in our lives. Who and what represents the light in our lives?

The poet Hafiz writes in his poem “It Felt Love”:

How did the rose
Ever open its heart
And give to this world
All its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light
Against its being,
Otherwise,
We all remain
Too frightened

This is so true. It becomes easier to open up and reveal our own gifts to this world when we feel positive loving encouragement within. While for some the holidays are a time of connection and being with family and friends, for others it’s a source of stress only reinforcing a sense of loneliness and difficulty.

Nevertheless, here is an opportunity to do a practice inspired by this poem that can help us cultivate a sense of gratitude and lovingkindness during this time.

Here is short practice to feel that encouragement of light during this time:

  1. Think of a person or animal who represents light, who represents a loving and kind presence in your life. This can be a good friend who is alive, maybe someone who has passed away, a pet, or maybe a spiritual figure such as the Dalai Lama, Jesus, or even the hand of God.
  2. Take a moment to imagine that presence here, with you, looking into your eyes.
  3. Now imagine that person saying to you, “May you be safe and protected from inner and outer harm,” “May you be happy,” “May you be free from fear,” “May you be healthy in body and mind.” You can also create your own wishes and aspirations here.
  4. Now turn toward that person and say that with the same intention to them.
  5. Now imagine your family and friends with you (those who you feel difficulty with and those who you feel more ease with) and with intention, saying those same words.

Take a moment to just feel into how you are doing and whatever is there, just letting it be.

We all know that Thanksgiving is just a reminder to cultivate gratitude in our lives. May this be a springboard for you to cultivate this sense of gratitude and lovingkindness, which even though it may come with some uncomfortable feelings at times, can be a source of much psychological healing and feelings of well-being.

I deeply thank all of you who have been following the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog posts and for interacting below as your posts truly create a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

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

Poor Economy is a Nod to Mindfulness

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

It’s no secret that for a long time now there’s been an increasing pressure from parents to push kids in the direction of achievement. In the past if you’re kid got into Stanford, Harvard, or any of the top schools the parents could rest and pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Right now, more people are graduating from top schools and finding there’s nowhere to go.  They’ve been trained to achieve all their lives and are now finding a massive void in the market and perhaps in their perception of what really matters in life.

I’m not saying that being straddled with large student loans and the inability to get a job isn’t a real stressor. But today more parents are finding themselves wondering if they made a mistake in not focusing more on the non-achievement oriented things in life that lead to simple pleasures and happiness.

If we take a step back we might see that some of our happiest times are those where we slow down and become mindful of the simple things in life. As we pay attention to our bodies, we can be grateful for the ability to see, hear, smell, taste and touch (or for most of these if one is missing). Some of my happiest moments are those where my family and I didn’t leave our house at all and played together, ate together and rested together.

Becoming mindful of the life around us is completely free and can help you regulate emotions during difficult times, create more flexibility and creativity in decision making, cultivate resilient feelings like gratitude, empathy and compassion and open you up to things that you can enjoy in life.

I’m not advocating for getting rid of achievement or ditching any ideals or efforts to get hired, but more to open the mind to the idea that we are active participants in our own health and well-being despite the more difficult conditions.

This may be a lesson to the rest of us whose kids are not yet in college that making achievement in school the primary focus may be something to reconsider. In what ways may it be important to broaden the scope of what really matters in life to be finding value in the simple things?

In the words of the late Richard Carlson, author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff–and it’s all small stuff  “Be grateful for the good times and graceful during the more difficult times.”

A little mindfulness can help us during these times and bring our kids up to realize this piece of wisdom.

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: Filter Out the Noise and Connect to Your Life

Friday, November 18th, 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 continue to write in with stories. If you have a story, continue 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 wonderful story that teaches us the wisdom of being present in the transitory moments of life by Stuart Frazer:

My wife is an outdoor photographer and I recently began sometimes accompanying her on shoots.  I carry equipment, help scout out shots and provide companionship.  The sun was shining this past Sunday and we went for an early morning visit to a beautiful old neighborhood in our city.  As we walked I found myself looking closely at buildings, boats, birds and other people.  Most importantly, I focused on sun and light.

We turned down a street and my wife took a series of shots of a wonderful old home dating back to the 1800s.  The house was in shade, but she noticed a small area unexpectedly bathed in natural light.  The light could not be direct.  Where was it coming from?  I repositioned myself and saw it was sunlight reflecting off an upstairs window in the house across the street. The closed white draperies hanging behind the window glass intensified the reflection. The light we were trying to capture resulted from a complicated, fleeting set of conditions: the angle of the sun in fall, the time of day and the color of the window drapery.  It would certainly be gone in a few minutes.

As we later walked I made a connection. Good photographs capture unique moments, transitory arrangements of the world.  Finding those moments means filtering out noise and being attuned to the environment around us.  You may not capture the moment with the camera, but that’s beside the point.  This exercise reinforced how interesting it can be to take a break from past and future, and to just go with what the eye sees in a short, fragmentary moment.

As Frank said, we can take this as a metaphor for how we pay attention to life. What are the wondrous subtleties that we miss out on because we are living on auto-pilot constantly rehashing the past or rehearsing the future?

It’s through connecting to what’s here through our given lenses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound that we connect to the life we are given.

Find a time today to just stop, take a breath and attune to your environment. You may just find an entire life that you’ve been missing out on.

Thanks for the gift Stuart.

If you have a story of a mindful moment in your life, please email it to elisha@drsgoldstein.com and allow it to be a gift that we can all learn from.

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

Question: How Long Do Negative Emotions Last?

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Whether it’s sadness, fear, shame, guilt or anger, sometimes when these are here, all we want to do is be somewhere else and it seems like it’s going to last forever. Here’s one practice to consider in regaining control of your mind during the difficult moments in life.

Try this as an experiment:

When an uncomfortable emotions arises, ask yourself the honest question, “How long is this going to last?” See it as a moment of investigation, a chance to really get to know how you operate.

No longer are you caught in the stress cycle of thoughts, emotions and sensations compounding on one another creating a snowball reaction (that actually makes it all last that much longer), but instead you have stepped outside of it and become curious about it.

Your mind needs the understanding and experience of how emotions or moods operate in order to not get so stressed and afraid of them when they arise.

You can’t control the initial snap judgment that leads to that emotional reaction, but you can control how you’re going to understand and relate to the feeling or mood once it’s here. Is it going to be with the attitude of, “oh I hate this, this is going to last forever,” or “Let’s see how long this lasts.”

One is a mindless approach; the other is a more mindful approach.

But without automatically judging the mindfulness approach as better, why not see for yourself and let your experience be your teacher?

Try this out and let us know what you find. How long does it last? What shape does it take in your body and what happens to it over time? Does the sensation in the body change or stay the same? Does it move somewhere else? Does a color come to mind and does that shift or stay the same?

Allow this to be an opportunity to, as Derek Walcott says in him poem Love after Love “reintroduce the stranger who was yourself.”

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

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

Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth: An Interview with Susan Kaiser Greenland

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Today I have the honor of interviewing Susan Kaiser Greenland, who had the courage to leave a well-paying law career to embrace a calling to teach mindfulness meditation to children as young as four years old. She is author of the upcoming book The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate, developed the website Mindfulnesstogether.com and the Inner Kids program, designed to teach young kids vital skills toward a more peaceful and compassionate world. Susan will be speaking at the the Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference in San Diego on February 4 – 5, 2012.

Elisha: Susan, what an amazing path you’ve chosen. When I teach mindfulness to adults, I often hear, how come we didn’t get this education when we were little, the world would be a much better place. What inspired you to leave the golden handcuffs and venture into this sorely needed area?

Susan: Thanks, Elisha. I’m not so sure I choose the path; often it feels more as if it chose me. I practiced meditation myself and saw how it helped me, so it was only natural to wonder if it could help my children too. But the inspiration to begin looking in earnest for ways to practice with my children (who were quite young at the time) came when I was on a week-long meditation retreat with Ken McLeod. I had studied with Ken for a few years before this retreat and was friends with many of his students.

Looking around the meditation hall one evening, I noticed that many of us were parents and was struck by the fact that none of us were talking about bringing mindfulness to our kids. Something happened during that retreat and I felt a shift – a desire to integrate mindfulness into my family life in a more direct way. It’s not uncommon for me to leave a retreat thinking that I’ve had some major insight — so after having one of these a-ha moments after meditation I wait a week or so before acting on it. If after a week I still feel that way I try to do something about it. A week after I got home from Ken’s retreat that year — now over a decade ago — I knew this practicing mindfulness with kids was something I wanted to do (or maybe needed to do. Although I had no idea that it would eventually lead me away from my law practice — which I also enjoyed.

Elisha: Can you give us a brief synopsis of some of the vital skills you teach these children?

Susan: The Inner Kids program has evolved over the years and now my primary objective is to teach kids a more mindful worldview. In classical training, that worldview comes through the development of three qualities simultaneously: awareness, wisdom, and values. My work is secular, yet informed by classical models, and those three qualities (awareness, wisdom and values) can be translated beautifully as attention, balance and compassion, what I like to think of as the New ABCs of learning. By learning these new ABCs, kids, teens, and their families can develop a more mindful worldview by:

  • Approaching new experiences with curiosity and an open mind;
  • Developing strong and stable attention;
  • Seeing life experience clearly without an emotional charge;
  • Developing compassionate action and relationships;
  • Building communities with kindness and compassion;
  • Working together to make a difference in the world;
  • Expression gratitude; and
  • Planting seeds of peace by nurturing common ground.

Elisha: While the instructions in mindfulness practice can be simple, the practice itself can be anything but easy at times. What happens when children throw tantrums or when they are bullied? How do you approach this practice during the difficult moments?

Susan: It’s crucial that adults working with kids understand that this is a process-oriented practice (as opposed to a goal oriented practice) and the aim of the process is transformation. It is not at all uncommon for kids to have a hard time when they begin to look at their inner and outer experiences clearly without an emotional charge (or with less of one). Sometimes it’s tough for kids, teens, and even adults to process what they see through introspection and it may be impossible for them to contextualize or understand their insights on their own. It’s important to have patience with kids and simply see them clearly, and love them, for who they are — even when they are not on their best behavior — and trust that navigating this less than perfect behavior is a necessary part of the transformation that mindfulness and meditation can bring about.

Elisha: Can you share a practice that parents, caregivers, or teachers may be able to take into their lives with their kids?

Susan: I think helping kids find a physically comfortable posture from which to practice meditation is very important. Encouraging kids to lie down while practicing breath awareness is quite useful but also is an activity that I use called the Pendulum Swing (or tic-toc with younger children.) The aim of this activity is to help those who find it hard to be still (either sitting or lying down) to meditate in a group. Here’s how it goes:

Objectives

    • To build body awareness.
    • To make it easier and more pleasant for those who find it difficult to be still to meditate with a group of people.
    • To help settle body and mind before meditating.
    • To develop concentration skills by attending to the sensation of movement.

Leading the Activity

Preparation

Make sure students have enough space to sway from side-to-side without touching each other.

Introduction

  • Starting from either a seated or standing position encourage children to take one or more breaths and notice the sensations associated with breathing.
  • Explain that we will swing our bodies from side to side slowly, starting to the right (keeping our sit-bones firmly on the cushion) and then slowly swinging back to the left.
  • Remind students that the object of attention (or focus) is the visceral sensation of swinging from side-to-side and when they notice that their minds have wandered, just bring it back to the sensation of movement.
  • The goal is to help children find and establish a repetitive, rhythmic swing that works for them. Irregular movements with respect to pacing or pattern are not as likely to promote a felt-sense of calm, center, and concentration. Because the swing must viscerally resonate with the person swinging to be effective, the pace and duration may vary from child to child. What is calming for one child may or may not be calming for another, in fact what is calming for one child may agitate or frustrate another. Just as there is no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness in general, so long as children respect each other (and don’t intentionally knock into other people or things) there is no right or wrong way to practice the pendulum.

Instruction

  • If you are familiar with the classical instructions for walking meditation it is helpful to use them as a reference point for the this activity. In the classical instruction there are three parts to walking: lifting the foot, moving it and placing it down (or stepping).
  • There are three similar occurrences in the pendulum – moving, shifting, and center.
  1. Starting in a centered position first sway (or move) to one side keeping your sit bones on the cushion.
  2. When you reach the point where you cannot sway any further without lifting your sit bone, shift weight and sway back again toward the center. Shifting is similar to lifting in slow and silent walking. You’re moving again as you sway back toward center.
  3. When you reach the center of the cushion pause for a moment — that moment is similar to placing (or stepping) in slow and silent walking.
  4. The sway begins again to the opposite side (moving);
  5. The moment that you reach the end of the sway to one side and shift weight before beginning to sway back toward center is similar to lifting; and
  6. The moment you notice the feeling of being centered again on the cushion is similar to placing.
  • The instruction goes like this: move to one side; shift weight; move back toward center; pause for a moment to feel centered sitting on the cushion. Then, move to the opposite side; shift weight; move back again toward center; pause for a moment to feel centered sitting on the cushion. Repeat. At first there is a slight pause at each change, but gradually the practice becomes more fluid.
  • Once students are familiar with the eight pieces of the exercise (moving/ shifting/moving/center – then in the other direction – moving/shifting/moving/center), and the movement becomes more fluid, encourage students to sway from side to side without pausing in the middle of the movement to notice the feeling of being centered on the cushion.
  • With young children it is helpful to use a stringed instrument to accentuate each change, strumming as a prompt signal it’s time to shift weight and move in the opposite direction.

Elisha: What can parents do to support their children in being more mindful?

Susan: Hands down, the most powerful thing a parent can do to support his or her children in their practice is to develop their own mindfulness and practice themselves. Kids learn by example and what we do often has a greater impact on our children what we say.

Thank you so much, Susan and I look forward to seeing you at the conference.

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

A Key Mindful Lesson for Us All: Kabir

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

At this point the mental health benefits of a mindfulness practice are fairly well established. However, cultivating a more mindful life isn’t often easy. There are many obstacles at play. The places we work and the people we surround ourselves with are likely not trying to put mindfulness at the forefront of their lives. We’re also looking for that perfect quiet time to sit, stand or lie down and practice intentionally paying attention to the present moment with fresh eyes. Sometimes we get restless, agitated, bored or begin to doubt ourselves that we can ever truly be mindful and so we reactively avoid it. The following is a quote by the 15th century Indian poet Kabir that I love to bring up again and again that gets underneath these obstacles and drops us into mindfulness.

“Wherever you are that is the entry point.”

This is it, the underlying truth behind mindfulness. If the intention is to bring awareness to the direct experience of the present moment, with fresh eyes, then life itself becomes the practice.

This is a core teaching I bring up when I speak with clients, groups, and it’s even one of the fundamental principles in the Training Ground section of The Now Effect.

What’s so powerful about understanding that wherever you are that is the entry point is that it frees us of this false belief that we need to be in a certain head space to train our minds toward mindfulness. In the moments you are doubting, agitated, restless or bored, these are the entry points to the present moment.

I often ask the question, “How does it feel in your body?” This allows it to be an entry point. If we can bring a curious awareness to the sensation that’s there we are present with it. This is a 180 degree shift from what we would normally do which is to avoid what is unpleasant and as a result, we inevitably become enslaved by that mind trap.

What if we changed the way we saw the uncomfortable feelings that drive us away from our intentions. What if instead of trying to get away from them we saw these as parts of ourselves that are now anchors to the present moment. They are entry points into a space of choice, possibility, opportunity and freedom. This is The Now Effect.

When we use them as entry points we also send the message internally that we’re worth paying attention to. One thing we know from learning theory is that what we practice and repeat in life we get more of. The more we turn away from ourselves in difficult moments, the more we water the ideas in our mind that we’re not worth paying attention to, in other words, watering the seeds of unworthiness.

What can you do to remember that no matter what is happening in your life at any given moment, that is what you can practice being mindful with?

Maybe it would help to write down the quote and put it up at work or a home. Perhaps putting it as the background on your phone, we all know how often we look at those nowadays. Or maybe it would help to stay connected through an online community that reminds you of these important mindful lessons.

Be intentional right now and consider a way to create that 180 degree shift and change what drives you away from the present moments of your life into supports that remind you to be present.

As a little gift I’ll leave you with a practice. If you have 10-minutes go ahead and engage with this now, training your mind in mindfulness.

Enjoy!

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: The Wisdom in Slowing Down

Wednesday, November 9th, 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 continue to write in with stories. If you have a story, continue 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 wonderful story that teaches us the wisdom behind slowing down in life by Angeliki:

I had a moment of mindfulness yesterday morning. I was working from home, planning my busy day, stressing out about everything, trying to solve all sorts of problems that are going on in my life. I felt restless and I couldn’t concentrate on my work. And then, I looked outside and I saw the sun peeking through the tall trees and everything went quite in my head and I spent a few moments meditating on that image. It was like I connected back with the present moment and I “fell awake” again.

When things become challenging, when life throws unexpected events my mind goes back to previously well travelled paths, to old familiar ways of thinking. I realized that it needs a lot of practice and determination to override the normal tendencies of our mind to label, problem solve, multi-task and ruminate constantly. I’m still a work in progress.

So, I’d like to thank my brain for doing what it’s supposed to be doing and for trying to help me out but I’d rather take a different path this time. I’ll slow down. I’ll slow down so that I can accomplish everything and enjoy the process along the way. I want to give my best self to every single project and not just a fraction of my stressed self.

I decided the sunlight every morning will act as a reminder that I won’t rush through the day, I’ll do one thing at a time and I’ll enjoy my time doing it.

When we intentionally choose to slow down in life, we can’t help but to take in more of the life that is unfolding moment to moment.

Take this as a challenge today, slightly slow down in the things you’re doing, whether it’s walking to your car, eating your food, or even talking to a friend. See what you notice, let your experience be your best teacher.

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

Toward a Secular Buddhism: An Interview with Martine Batchelor

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Today it’s my honor to bring to you Martine Batchelor, who along with her husband Stephen Batchelor, is author of a number of books including, Walking On Lotus Flowers, Let Go,and The Spirit of the Buddha.  Her husband Stephen Batchelor is author of Buddhism Without Beliefs and his most recent book Confession of a Buddhist Atheist. With her husband, Martine co-leads meditation retreats worldwide, including the upcoming retreat at InsightLA.org in Santa Monica on November 12-13 titled Toward a Secular Approach to Buddhism.  Martine and Stephen now live in France.

Today Martine talks to us about what is being gained and lost in a secular approach to Buddhism, where mindfulness is going and some tips on how to ground ourselves when we’re feeling overwhelmed.

Elisha: Mindfulness meditation can trace its origins to Buddhism, but is now being picked up in the fields of healthcare, psychology, business, and even politics as a way to live with greater ease, be more effective at what we do and even change our brains.

What are the implications of secularizing this Buddhist teaching and practice, what is gained, what is lost?

Martine: What is gained is that Mindfulness is entering our common discourse and is not esoteric anymore and thus can start to benefit more people more widely and is not restricted to people interested in Buddhism or meditation.

What could be lost is the ethical, wise and compassionate dimension that is so essential in Buddhist meditation. Mindfulness is not only to help us be more aware and more efficient but more to be less self-centered and more open to others and to the world in a wise and compassionate way.

Elisha:  How do you see mindfulness evolving and integrating in western culture in the next 5 to 10 years?

Martine: It seems to me that it is possible that mindfulness will be more integrated in the medical and educational fields as these are the places where it might be the more efficacious and where more research and training are going on. Already in Oxford University in the UK you can do a MA in mindfulness. Soon many students will enter the world of work well-qualified to have an impact in the fields of education and medicine.

Here in the USA for example you have mindfulness education in ordinary schools in Oakland, California where not only the pupils are doing 15 minutes of mindfulness every day but their parents are also becoming interested and trying it out. In 10 years I could imagine these students becoming adults who would do mindfulness as they would brush their teeth every day for health and mental well-being.

Elisha: If you were sitting across the table from someone right now who was suffering from great stress and came to you for advice. What would you tell them?

Martine: If a person in front of me was suffering from great stress, first I would listen to them and try to understand where the stress comes from, how did it manifest and how often it happened. Then I would listen some more about what makes them happy in their life even for a moment, what could bring them some peace even for a moment. We could try to find out together what is the least they could do to try to reduce some of the stress. Then we could look to see if they could be interested in mindfulness. Could they just sit quietly and watch their breath for 3 minutes, then could they be aware in a wide open way to sounds, to the music of life. Could they find a place in their body where they could rest their attention which could be stable and balanced. But most of all I would listen to their story and respond to where they would be and then try to respond compassionately and appropriately.

Thank you so much Martine for sharing your life’s wisdom.

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

The Wisdom of a Leaf: Thich Nhat Hanh

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Autumn LeavesI was sitting with a friend recently who told me that he was resting in his backyard bringing mindfulness to the sounds and sights around him when he had an insight. The trees and leaves around him in some way were just like him. No, he wasn’t on any psychedelics or intoxicants, he just had this awareness that he was not really that separate from the nature around him.

In that moment he said he felt incredibly connected and the worries that had surrounded him before seemed to drift away as a feeling of belonging arose. Belonging is the essence of well-being.

In his latest book, Your True Home Thich Nhat Hanh describes it best:

“Suppose I hold a leaf in my hand. What do you see?

A leaf is a leaf; it is not a flower. But in fact, when we look

deeply in to the leaf, we can see many things. We can see

the plant, we can see the sunshine, we can see the clouds,

we can see the earth. When we utter the word leaf, we

have to be aware that a leaf is made of non-leaf elements.

If we remove the non-leaf elements, such as the sunshine,

the clouds, and the soil, there will be no leaf left. So it is

with our bodies and ourselves. We’re not the same as, nor

are we separate from, other beings. We’re connected to

everything, and everything is alive.”

 

What’s the wisdom in this for the rest of us?

Connection is all around us, but most of the time we’re so busy living on auto-pilot that we miss out on it. I would argue that one of the greatest epidemics of today is a sense of disconnection.

Even Mother Theresa said:

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis but rather the feeling of not belonging.”

Our greatest work may just be to incline our minds toward the connection that is always there. Perhaps we can do a little practice that runs along the lines of Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing.

If you can for a moment, put your lens of judgment aside of whether this is something that is for you or not, you will give yourself the opportunity to let your experience be your teacher as you engage in the following 5-step connection practice.

  1. Whether you’re at work or at home, allow yourself to view some form of nature, let’s use a tree of leaf as an example.
  2. Take a few deep breaths.
  3. Bring a beginner’s mind to what you see. This is the idea of seeing as if for the very first time.
  4. Bring awareness to the elements that make up the leaf. Consider the interaction of the sun, rain, air, and soil that make up this leaf. Consider how you are also made up of these same elements. Repeat to yourself, “Just like me.”
  5. Feel the sense of connection and how that feels in your body.

To make this more informal and see how it can weave into your daily life, the next time you see a leaf, tree, or even a person, say to yourself, “Just like me” and see what arises.

It’s well documented at this point that connection is the root of well-being and disconnection is the root of dis-ease.  When we think about it at the core of feeling anxious, depressed, addicted or in the throws of trauma is a feeling of disconnection. Understanding that connection isn’t just a trait, but a skill that can be cultivated is understanding that you are an active participant in your health and well-being. Don’t let your snap judgments keep you from opening up to what could be beneficial to you. Give it a try.

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

Photo by William Warby, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

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