Archive for September, 2012

It is What it is, While it is

Friday, September 28th, 2012

We’ve all heard the common adage that “It is what it is,” telling us that whatever is happening is simply the reality of the current experience. But that’s not the whole truth. The Now Effect adds, “It is what it is, while it is.”  This speaks to a larger reality that whatever is here is also impermanent. This saying can enrich our lives, helping us move through the difficult times with more grace and also illuminating what’s precious in life before we miss it.

Here’s how…

As automatic negative thoughts start creeping into your mind and you notice an irritability starting to creep in, saying “it is what it is, while it is” pops you out of auto-pilot, into the present moment and reminds you that there’s impermanence to this feeling. This reminder helps you not get so wrapped up in it and can also give you the choice to be kinder to yourself. This can help stop a spiral into a deeper depression.

When cravings in the form of desiring thoughts and urges in the form of physical impulses raise their heads, saying “it is what it is, while it is” externalizes these reactions, giving you some distance from them and enough room to choose a different response. Maybe the new action is surfing the urge and not engaging with the addictive behavior.

As the mind gets triggered into the “what if” game, looking at upcoming scenarios through a catastrophic lens, saying “It is what it is, while it is,” reminds you that you just got triggered into a mind trap and can now recognize the fear or anxiety that is currently there. The thoughts are not facts, but the feeling is. You can begin to recognize that the anxiety has a life of its own and is subject to the natural law that all things come and go.

The phrase “It is what is, while it is” isn’t meant to be a panacea to stress, anxiety, depression or addiction, of course you’ll want to integrate this into the other avenues you have found to be helpful along with finding a supportive community whether that’s a therapist, a group of peers or friends, or another form of communal support. It is meant to be a helpful tool along the way that can break up the automatic reaction just long enough to insert more space for choice to engage a difference response.

Depending on the level of difficulty, that response could be engage in the greater art of distraction or maybe approaching the vulnerable feeling with warm presence of kindness and compassion. Inevitably this is the road to transforming the feeling and giving you a greater sense of self-reliance.

Of course, saying “It is what it is, while it is” can also be used with our more comfortable emotions to give a sense of their preciousness, to elicit a sense of gratitude and savor the goodness while it’s there.

Go ahead and bring this into your day, treat it as an experiment without any judgment or expectations. See if it breaks up the habit for enough of a time to allow for a new way of thinking or responding.

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

 

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

The Upside to Embracing Dark Emotions

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

If there are two things we can count on in life besides death and taxes, it’s stress and pain. Stress and pain often manifest as difficult emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, shame, guilt, among others. When these come up the brain says, “Yikes, how do we fix this” and looks to the past to anticipate the future. Jerry Duvinsky, Ph.D is a Psychologist who wrote a recent book called How To Lose Control And Gain Emotional Freedom: Embracing the “Dark” Emotions Through Integrative Mindful Exposure, based on how to work with these, at times, challenging feelings that visit us day in and day out.

In the book he says:

It has been said, “The role of a therapy is not to make people feel better, but to help people better feel.”

What a beautiful representation of what a growing number of clinicians are recognizing about the role of therapy. It comes as quite a revelation, and often one difficult to accept, to contemplate the reality that emotions, no matter how painful and powerful, whether they be grief, anger, despair, helplessness, or loneliness, are not inherently bad, evil, dangerous, or wrong. Certainly, they can be uncomfortable, powerful, and at times rather inconvenient. But in fact, it is our conditioned fear and shame that teach us that these emotions are dangerous and in all ways “bad” and that therefore, they are in need of control. But in fact, it is our learned attempts to control our “dangerous” emotions that produce much deeper and more insidious problems. We spend so much of our time and energy running from painful feelings and experiences.”

He’s exactly right. It’s the brain’s embedded programming that in the face of discomfort, snaps in the direction of avoidance which can ultimately keep the difficulty around or exacerbate it. No one ever heals their fear of heights or snakes without at some point confronting them. So it is with the difficulties we have in life, but the question is how do we do this?

In a recent blog post he offered a mindful technique called emotional surfing:

The key elements of emotional surfing are fourfold:

1) Focus upon and hold a painful image, memory, thought or feeling.

2) Label as specifically as possible the feeling(s) that arise.

3) Take note and hold your attention at the bodily area from where the present feelings emanate.

4) Pay careful attention to how the emotions, images, and physical sensations change and move as you maintain focus.

Caution – Not everyone can do this on their own. Some may require the perceived safety and support of doing this in a therapeutic context. If one has a history of psychotic symptoms or has difficulty at times differentiating their internal reality, from external reality, than guidance and supervision may be advisable.

In this work we ask people to dip their toes in the emotion. Like Jerry said, you may want to get additional support, but if you feel safe, try it out with smaller emotions like annoyances, frustrations, boredom, or low level stress. The idea is to give your brain the experience of exposure to the feeling. But we don’t just wanted blank exposure, it’s best if we can tinge it with a flavor that breathes of kindness, warmth and compassion. The kind of attention we might give to a child in pain.

The brain needs to learn that you can approach what’s difficult with care and that things will be okay.

In time this lays the path to greater emotional freedom and a wiser heart.

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

7 Life Lessons from Dr. Seuss

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Many of us grew up reading Dr. Seuss. If you have kids, you’ve likely relived your childhood reading over his books only to find, “Wow, there’s some real wisdom in these books.” One book that has grown on me over time as an adult is Oh, the Places You’ll Go! It brings you through all the experiences in life: the triumphs, the doubts, the confusions, the depressions, the fearful moments and the moments you stare your difficulties in the face and overcome them.

There are also several other notable books: Yertle the Turtle, Horton Hears a WhoThe Lorax. The list is endless.

Here are 7 Life Lessons from Dr. Seuss:

  1.  “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
  2. “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
  3. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
  4. “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
  5. “I’m afraid sometimes you’ll play lonely games too, games you can’t win because you’ll play against you.”
  6. “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
  7.  “And the turtles, of course… All the turtles are free – As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.”

So much to be mindful of in his writings.

Here’s our chance to act like a community. Dig deep and share your favorite quotes below from Dr. Seuss or any children’s book. Either just write the quote or you’re welcome to write what the quote means to you to.

I also welcome you to add your quote and reflection in The Now Effect Community for many more to be inspired. Your contributions not only create a living wisdom for us all to benefit from, but also makes ripple effects far beyond what you might imagine.

Reference:

*This post was inspired by a picture by “Goodwilllibrarian” that has been making its way around social network communities. Enjoy it below:

 

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

7 Lessons in Life from Dr. Seuss

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Many of us grew up with Dr. Seuss and if you have kids you’ve likely relived your days reading over books of the past only to find, “Wow, there is some real wisdom in these books.” One of my favorites that has grown on me over time as an adult is Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. It brings you through all the experiences in life, the triumphs, the doubts, the confusions, the depressions, the fearful moments and the moments you stare your difficulties in the face and overcome them. There are so many more favorites that come from Yertle the Turtle, Horton Hears a Who,The Lorax and so many more.

Here are 7 Lessons in Life from Dr. Seuss:

  1.  “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
  2. “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
  3. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
  4. “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
  5. “I’m afraid sometimes you’ll play lonely games too, games you can’t win because you’ll play against you.”
  6. “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
  7.  “And the turtles, of course… All the turtles are free- As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.”

So much to be mindful of in his writings.

Here’s our chance to act like a community. Dig deep and share your favorite quotes below from Dr. Seuss or any children’s book. Either just write the quote or you’re welcome to write what the quote means to you too.

I also welcome you to add your quote and reflection in The Now Effect Community for many more to be inspired by. Your contributions not only create a living wisdom for us all to benefit from, but also makes ripple effects far beyond what you might imagine.

Reference:

*This post was inspired by a picture by “Goodwilllibrarian” that has been making its way around social network communities. Enjoy it below:

 

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

Step into Compassion, Step into a Happier Brain

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

It may be the single most beneficial thing for your brain in terms of learning, mood and memory says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. I’m talking about exercise. We also know that compassion, or the act of it which is altruism, are adaptive in terms of stress, anxiety, depression, addiction and great predictors of health and well-being. Why not marry the two?

There are a plethora of opportunities to get involved with some form of exercise to raise money for a cause that not only helps other people, but also brings meaning and purpose into your life. Purpose and meaning are what we need to be truly happy.

Now here is where mindfulness comes in. In this very moment watch your mind and see what it’s doing. Are the thoughts and stories in service of connection or disconnection? Meaning are they finding ways to move you further from this idea or closer to it? If the answer is further from it, check into those thoughts, get curious and ask yourself three questions that are adapted from Byron Katie’s work.

  1. Is the thought true?
  2. Is it absolutely true?
  3. Flip it. What are some good reasons to do it?

We are all enslaved by our automatic judgments that can often bring us further away from what can be truly helpful to us. It’s this inherent automatic negativity bias that I and others have written about over and again. If it’s good for our bodies, our brains, our mental health, and has ripple effects that benefit a cause we care about, what’s the downside?

Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder.”

Isn’t it time to break from routine? What would happen if you saw every step in a marathon for a cause as a step into compassion?

Not to mention that it often has a great effect of bringing people together if you end up training with a group. This sense of connection with people who all feel a sense of purpose elevates us.

In addition to marathons, there are Dance-athons and Clean-a-thons too where people choose a part of the city to go around and clean. That might also be a form of exercise.

Why not make the choice to just investigate this today. Use your favorite search engine, look up something local or some place you’d like to travel to, make a plan and try it out.

If you have something upcoming in your area, please share it below. Your thoughts, questions and stories become living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

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

If You Wish to Experience Peace, Grab Your Smartphone?

Friday, September 14th, 2012

peace and smartphoneThe Dalai Lama, having had a life of reflection, comes up with some fairly wise quotes. One of them is:

“If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.”

It helps to have that reflective time, but as you well know in today’s day and age, that reflective time is shrinking. We used to have reflective time while waiting in line, traveling home from work, waiting for the airplane to board, waiting for the fish to bite, or even taking our private time in the bathroom.

But now there’s always something to fill our time, any chance we get where there’s a space of waiting, we whip out our digital devices and check.

Even if we read a wise quote from someone like the Dalai Lama, odds are another notification is quick to follow so the process of self-reflection doesn’t last very long. In the past we wrote letters to one another where we had to take time and reflect or even when we read the letters we would stop and reflect on them. Nowadays with the quick texts, chats, and emails we hardly have time for the same reflection. This is the argument of Sherry Turkle, professor in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT and the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. She is also author of Alone Together.

However, in terms of reflection, we have to look at the flipside of technology too. I recently found a pretty cool simple app called grateful360 that prompts me every day to just hit reply on my email to reflect and send them a few things I’m grateful for. At the end of the week they send it back to me so I can see what I’ve said. That is a moment of reflection I experience.

What about online journaling and the proliferation of blogs that are inspiring people to reflect on their thoughts and ideas and spread them out to others. Isn’t this a source of reflection?

But Turkle is pointing to something important. She says she is optimistic about our future with technology, she’s just pointing out the danger signs. The solutions she provides have to do with putting technology down so we can connect with one another.

Let’s take this a step further. What about the ways technology helps us deepen our ability to reflect, connect with one another through more than a status update, and helps us grow into even better human beings? It’s too obvious to say let’s create sacred “technology free” space. It’s also important to investigate the feeling of restlessness that arises when we’re alone or waiting so we don’t always feel overconnected. These are from other blog posts that we all need to get better at experimenting with, but that’s not the best answer.

The best answer will have something to do with finding a more optimal relationship with technology so it enhances reflection, deeper connection, well-being and peace for ourselves and the world.

We’re all in this great big technology experiment, but if you do have any thoughts on this as we’re all in it together, please do share as your interactions create a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Woman with a smartphone photo available from Shutterstock

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

Pain + Mindfulness = Compassion

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Did you know that Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. at earlier points in their lives attempted suicide? How can it be that two of the most compassionate people on the planet endured such suffering in their lives? One answer has to be that perhaps there is actually an upside to suffering.

A good friend recently told me an equation that went like this:

Pain + Mindfulness = Compassion

What does this mean? When we intentionally bring a warm awareness to our pain and put aside our lenses of judgment that the pain itself is bad, alchemy occurs that turns the experience into something entirely different. It is the experience of belonging, being cared for, of being loved. This is self-compassion.

Some of us feel like we have too much compassion, we’re overly in touch with the pain and the world and that drives a depressed or anxious mood.

My definition of true compassion includes the philosophy of the serenity prayer which brings balance to it.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Some call this experience of having compassionate balanced awareness a form of equanimity. That you can hold the pain within an open heart, but you awareness if far more vast than the pain and so you don’t get pulled emotionally into it, but instead let it rest and work itself out within your warm attention.

The next time you feel an emotional pain or see the emotional pain of someone else try remembering that if it were not for that pain, there would be no compassion and then like Ghandi and Dr. King, focus on what you CAN do. That may be anything from slowing down and putting your hand on your heart, to smiling at someone, to donating time or money to a movement you feel drawn to.

We are active participants in our own health and well-being and the health and well-being of this world.

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

If You Want to Be Happy, Practice “Compausion”

Friday, September 7th, 2012

compassion or compausionToday the Daily Now Moment I received was titled “Compausion” said:

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

~ Dalai Lama

Compassion is being able to step into someone else’s shoes and inclining the mind toward wanting to help. Try bringing compassion to yourself or to another today, or revisit the week of compassion in earlier Daily Now Moments.

Bring this into your life and see what you notice.

“Compausion” is a play on words to describe the process of developing compassion. It involves first pausing and then inclining our hearts either toward ourselves or another. This is an essential approach to healing whether the struggle is with stress, anxiety, depression, relationships, trauma, addiction, parenting, grief, or simply to be a better human being.

For some compassion may come as a natural attribute, but for many of us it’s a skill that we need to develop. In order to develop it, we need to first pause and recognize that we even have the choice to engage the next moment with compassion toward ourselves or another.

Like any other skill the more we intentionally practice and repeat it, it starts to become automatic.

The reason to practice “compausion” is simple. What would the days, weeks and months ahead look like if in the midst of difficulty our brains naturally also elicited a sense of caring and wanting to help ourselves or another? The alchemy of this neutralizes the fear and brings more love into our lives.

So the next question follows. What would the days, weeks and months ahead look like if we had more moments of love with ourselves or with others?

This brings us back to the Dalai Lama’s quote.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

The formula is pretty simple. Bring more “compausion” into your life today.

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

*Daily Now Moments are a free offering of The Now Effect Community.

**The word “compausion” was created by my wonderful editor of the Daily Now Moments Beatrice Lumin.

Mother and son photo available from Shutterstock

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

How to Kick that Bad Habit and Step into Happiness

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Science and the wisdom of the ages both agree that one of the keys to being happy is to keep things fresh in life to get in touch with novelty. For a long time I’ve been a morning cup of coffee kind of guy, but to shake things up a bit I decided to switch to tea. On a recent walk, I passed by a café that I’ve stopped into in the past for a cup of coffee and in that moment I learned a valuable lesson that unveiled a key to kicking bad habits.

In the field of addictive behaviors there is a lot of discussion around three core components of  habits; triggers, cravings and urges.

Another way to think of a trigger is some cue in your environment. It could be anything, the arches of McDonalds, a memory of drinking coffee with a friend, seeing someone smoking a cigarette, or passing by an old favorite clothing store.

In a past post called The Neuroscience of Bad Habits I wrote about how this cue works on our brains:

(Dr. Nora Volkow head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse) says that images also affect the rise of dopamine in our brains. So if we pass a McDonald’s and see the arches, our brain associates that with a tasty hamburger (for some) and shoots up dopamine. That good feeling will unconsciously drive the motivation to go in and get a Big Mac. It’s a conditioned response.

When I passed by that café I witnessed an entire reaction occur within me. First I was aware of some really nice thoughts about being in the café and relaxing with a cup of coffee. Then another thought followed, “I can always start this shift later.” Then there was a pull in my body as it turned toward the café.

I can only attest it to my mind being primed to notice how we react to cue’s that I was able to step into a space of awareness or mindfulness and watch this reaction with curiosity. In that moment I shifted from the dopamine drive toward the café to actually being excited about what I was witnessing.

It’s entirely different to know how this works intellectually than to have the experience of it. In fact, it’s a different area of the brain that is activated when we’re just thinking of something versus having an experience of it.

I also notice a part of me looking forward to exploring the tea world and I understand this is an experience that is also connected to feeling good. This is not to say eventually I won’t go back to having a cup of coffee again, as a cup a day is not really an unhealthy habit, it’s just for the purpose of creating novelty in life.

There are opportunities all around us to break out of old habits and seek novelty in life. This world is incredible with so many options that we’re often unaware of because our brains feel comfortable with routine.

But remember Abraham Joshua Heschel’s quote: “Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder.”

You might consider sleeping on the other side of the bed, trying out meditation, starting a garden, switching coffee brands, picking up guitar, cooking, switching music or radio stations on the commute, or just choosing to smile more often.

Life is a great experiment, so make the choice to go play, seek novelty and allow your experience to guide you toward what matters.

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