Archive for October, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: The Power of Compassion

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

hurricane compassionIn the past few years we’ve seen a number of natural disasters. The latest being Hurricane Sandy and at the time of writing this post, we haven’t even seen the extent of damage that will occur. For those of us who aren’t in the eye of the storm, if we are mindful of it for a moment a naturally occurring healing element of compassion begins to emerge. Compassion is the feeling of imagining ourselves in another’s shoes with an inclination to help.

The Dalai Lama said, “It’s not enough to be compassionate, you must act.

Here we are presented with that very opportunity not only for the healing of others, but perhaps surprisingly for ourselves too.

Engaging in compassionate action simply makes us feel connected to something greater than ourselves which ultimately gives us a sense of purpose and meaning in life.

This is a core element of feeling well.

First start by kindling that feeling by putting your judgments aside for a moment and engaging in the following practice of compassion:

  1. Take a moment to picture all those 60 million people who are projected to be directly impacted by this storm.
  2. Imagine the human experience of emotional and potentially physical suffering that they are experiencing.
  3. Putting your hand on your heart, saying, “May you feel safe and protected, May you feel at ease, May you be free from any arresting fear.”

From this place, know that emergency responders are gathering right now and you may feel inclined to give to a variety of organizations that will be there to help heal this imminent disaster.

When you choose an organization you can vet them by going to places like Giving Alliance, Guidestar or Charity Navigator which examine cost-efficiency of responding organziations.

Give, Give, Give…either with your time and service or with money to support others who are giving time and service. It will not only support those who need it, but will also make you feel good because you’re living alongside your values.

This is a time to come together, exercise compassion and put it into action.

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

Boarding up window photo available from Shutterstock

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

The Power of Self-Compassion

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Every day it seems to become more apparent to me how deeply healing a practice of self-compassion is. During the difficult moments in life at times it seems as if we’re wired to have a neural reaction of kicking ourselves while we’re down. The result? We stay down with a greater feeling of unworthiness, more hurt, bigger wounds and a bleeding heart. Life is harder from this place and makes us more prone toward stress, anxiety, depression, and addictive behaviors.

Self-compassion is a 180° shift when we understand that we’re wounded and extend ourselves in some way toward self-care.

Here’s a picture with a quote that speaks to this:

I want to give you a simple self-compassion practice today, but first do the best you can to set any judgments and expectations aside and allow your experience to be your teacher.

  • Practice right now, nestling your hand into your heart until it finds a comfortable fit.
  • Take a few deep breaths into your heart area.
  • Just feel the warm connection for a few breaths and let it be.

As you practice this, you’re priming your mind to be more aware of your heart where compassion lies and therefore your brain is more likely to access it during the difficult moments.

What would the days, weeks and months ahead look like if you added more self-compassion into your life?

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

Source: The Now Effect: How a Mindful Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life

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

An Old Woman and Life’s Greatest Lessons

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

I was recently at a funeral of a family member and I was struck once again at the truth behind how life simply boils down to the goodness of a person. People at funerals don’t talk as much about the level of wealth, power or fame someone achieved, but more about who they loved and how they loved, and the rest of it just seems to fall by the wayside. This particular funeral was for a woman named Margie Lipman who also wrote an “Ethical Will” to convey what she learned in her 98 years to the rest of us. She shared this gift with me and because of its inherent wisdom I’d like to share it with you.

Here it is…

How can I tell you, my children, and yours
The lessons I’ve learned in a lifetime of years?
How can I recount my triumphs and failures,
The insights I gained through my joys and my tears.

What should I give you of wisdom and vision
The truths that now seem so clearly to see?
I view the world from a whole new perspective,

Perhaps I can share it, a small gift from me.

Keep your sense of awe at the wonder of nature,
Look each day at the miracles God has bestowed.
Reach out to help those who ache for some comfort,
Search for the ways you can lighten their load.

Look for the good that is there in each person
Don’t dwell on their failing, your efforts are vain.
Spread joy and laughter though you may be hurting’
The joy will come back to you over again.

Live as God planned so you help one another
Let the world be better because you are here.
Do all of God’s mitzvot (good deeds) with caring and pleasure
Your reason for being, then is surely clear.

From beyond the grave she gives us the gift of perspective to pay attention to the miracles all around us and not get so consumed by the small stuff that in the end doesn’t matter as much.

She reminds us of the important of connection, giving and loving when she says, “Reach out to help those who ache for some comfort, search for ways to lighten their load.” This is a simple piece of wisdom, but one that escapes us in the minutia of the day.

Probably one of the greatest pieces that she shares with us speaks of compassion when she says, “Look for the good in each person, don’t dwell on their failing, your efforts are in vain.” Our brains get consumed in the automatic negativity bias, amplifying people’s failures at times holding deep grudges and cultivating the dis-ease of disconnection. What would life be like if we inclined our minds toward the good a bit more? Would it “come back to you over again?”

The real question is what would the days, weeks and months ahead look like if you lived this ethical will?

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 2-Minute Practice to Get You in the Mindful Mood (Video)

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Often times the day seems to become routine and before we know it piles of responsibilities from work and home have stacked up and we feel like chickens running around with their heads cut off.

I suggest taking two minutes to practice The Now Effect video below 2-3 times a day for a week to come down from the busy mind, focus your attention, ground to the present moment and refocus to what you’re really intending to pay attention to in the moment. It may help t put it in your calendar at first.

When can you practice? Look for the “in-between” moments. These are moments before you are about to take a break or while you’re waiting for someone. As you get the hang of this you won’t need this video and can practice it when parked in the car, in the bathroom, or while waiting in line.

Note: When the mind says, “forget it, this isn’t going to work,” as much as possible, just note that judgment as a mental event in the mind that is happy to keep you at status quo. Your work is to become aware of these types of thoughts, let them be, and come back to this practice.

A simple practice, yet having profound implications.

Share this with friends, family, colleagues and whomever you think can benefit from a little mental floss today.

May you be well…

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

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

How Getting Creative Heals Pain: An Interview with Deb Eiseman

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

creativity eases painAs children, we can’t help but get in touch with creativity, we’re starting to learn how the world works, everything comes from a beginner’s mind. As we begin practicing and repeating things, the brain eventually figures it out and moves onto the next thing. Eventually, our curiosity for most things fades away as life begins routine and we miss out on the possibilities around us. That is why I’m always impressed and inspired when I find someone who uses creativity as a modality for healing.

Today I wanted to bring to you a former New York television executive Deb Eiseman, who after suffering debilitating chronic pain after a car accident found healing through creativity. Her life has now been transformed from one riddled with chronic pain to feeling happy as an artist and designer. She contends that it was through finding her creativity that she was healed. Can we do the same?

Elisha: Can you tell us what role finding that little $2.98 water color set played in your healing? 

Deb: I truly believe it saved my life.  It gave me purpose and provided me with something to focus on other than the pain.  Painting became an integral part of my healing and in retrospect I feel like I was doing art therapy on myself.

I found painting to be very meditative and it was the one time of the day when I was actually in the present.  I think that being in the present played an important part in my healing.

Also my days were filled with doctors appointments that were extremely depressing and it was hard to find hope.  But when I would sit down to paint, I would see all these happy figures on the page (I never set out to paint anything – it just came through me) and I realized that even though I didn’t feel hope, there was some deep inside of me.  That little $2.98 watercolor kit opened up the door to hope for me. 

Elisha: If I’m trying to tap into my creative spirit for healing and as I try and keep coming up against the thought that “I’m just not that good at this stuff,” what do you suggest?  

Deb: Don’t pay attention to those voices and just keep creating!  I actually made a pact with myself that I would leave the paintings overnight and look at them the next day. There were a number of times when my inner perfectionist wanted to rip the paintings up because “they weren’t good enough.”  The amazing thing is that the next day I never wanted to rip them up.

The other thing I discovered is that my painting wasn’t just about the destination – it was about the journey and the act of creating.  One of the most beautiful parts of painting when I was in such horrible pain was that I would get out of my head and feel a connection to The Universe.  I think that my healing came not only through the act of painting but also from feeling a connection I had never felt before.

Elisha: If you were sitting across the table from someone in chronic pain, what thoughts would you give them? 

Deb: Don’t quit 5 minutes before the miracle.  When you are in debilitating pain for an extended period of time, you either get bitter or get better.  I feel like I reached a fork in the road and chose the path that allowed me to see the gifts in the pain.  Pain is an amazing teacher and I feel so fortunate that I was conscious enough to be open to learning from it.

I also think that it is important to choose the intention to heal.  When I was in such overwhelming pain, it was much easier to pay attention to the pain as opposed to the healing process.  But then I realized that paying attention to the pain made me feel really powerless and just kept me in pain. Once I made the conscious choice to think about the healing process, everything started to shift and the healing unfolded.

Elisha: Thank you Deb!

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

Artist photo available from Shutterstock

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

Making Mindfulness Work, What Really Helps

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Whether we’re struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, trauma or existential angst, most of us are looking for what really helps? To make any change we have to cultivate an awareness of what’s happening and in this awareness we access the possibility of choice to try something different. But while mindfulness is a simple practice, it’s not always so easy to practice it in our lives. Our mind pops up with reasons why we’re too busy, skeptical or just unmotivated.

Today I want to share with you some evidence that I find highly motivating to get us going with mindfulness, a new resource and offering to help us truly understand how to make mindfulness work in our lives, and a practice to get started now.

One thing that really seems to help a lot of people in getting motivated is understanding the impact we now know it has on the brain:

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.

A New Resource to be Aware of

I want to introduce you to a resource that I’ve admired for quite some time and offerings they put out, the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM). Currently, I am on a panel with Marsha Lucas, PhD, author of Rewire Your Brain for Love and Ruth Buczynski, Ph.D., president of the (NICABM) talking about a recent mindfulness series that answers some tough questions such as, How do we introduce mindfulness? How can we get the unmotivated among us motivated? How to stick with it? And even how to get the busiest of us to integrate it into our day to day so we can still benefit.

The main part of the series is appropriately titled Making Mindfulness Work and includes leaders in the field of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy like Jack Kornfield, PhD, Tara Brach, PhD, Zindel Segal, PhD, Steven Hayes, PhD, Pat Ogden, PhD, and even U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-Oh.). The topics include accessing compassion, working with difficult emotions, how mindfulness applies to depressive relapse, new ways to apply mindfulness using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), the keys of mindfulness in trauma, and even the potential of mindfulness to recapture the American Spirit. These are all free to watch when they’re posted.

It’s always been my intent on this blog to provide you with resources that are practical and can help you actually integrate this meaningfully into your life. The truth is, it’s one thing to know about mindfulness, but it’s a key step when we begin actually applying it in our daily lives. That’s where real change happens.

Remember, the definition of mindfulness is awareness and integrating into our lives is the same as integrating brushing our teeth, it’s good mental hygiene. Consider it a form of mental floss, we just bring into our lives for health.

One of my favorite recommendations for the busiest of us is the Email Meditation:

When you’re emailing, email for a certain period of time (i.e., 10, 20, or 30 minutes), and practice “see, touch, go” when your mind or behavior wanders.

“See, touch, go” is something learned earlier in the book, and it simply means when your mind wanders, “see” where it wandered to, “touch” or notice the thought, and “gently go” back to the task at hand. Practicing “see, touch, go” when we’re focused on email will strip away any of the wasted attention on self-judgment or any other distracting thoughts and get you back to the task with greater focus, making your more productive and less stressed.

See, Touch, Go

The three-minute video below is the first instructional video of many included in The Now Effect, but I wanted to share it with you to give you an experience of “see, touch, go.” Whether you’ve practiced it before or not, give yourself the gift or practicing right now, then go ahead and bring it to the tasks at work, even your email.

Again, NICABM puts on great series, I recommend looking into it.

Reading it here is one thing, going deeper through a book is another thing, and sometimes it’s good to hear people who have been steeped in it for many years talk about it.

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

It’s Not Enough to Be Compassionate. You Must Act

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

compassionI received the following Daily Now Moment in my inbox today:

It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act.” ~ Dalai Lama

Take some action with compassion today and remember, we are more connected than we know so a small gesture can have ripple effects across a multitude of people.

The recent post “The Science Behind Why Everything We Do Matters” received widespread attention and there’s a reason for this.

On the deepest level, we all want to believe that what we do matters and in fact it does. There’s actual science that shows how our acts have ripple effects across many people.

When people are experiencing compassion, the act of putting ourselves in another’s shoes with the inclination to help in some way, it’s associated with feeling good. There’s a shift in activity to the left prefrontal cortex which is also associated with a host of other positive emotions.

Cultivating the skill of compassion is beneficial to us individually, but as the Dalai Lama says, that’s not enough, “You must act.”

Here’s how you can start acting on your compassion: 

  1. Prepare– Allow your mind to open and free associate on the question,“What do you care about in this world?”
    Is it the planet? People who are struggling to eat? Strengthening your spiritual community? Supporting resiliency in children?
  2. Plan – Research ways to get involved in these causes.
  3. Act – Get involved whether it’s just contributing small amounts of money on a regular basis, finding ways to act in accordance with these values in your personal life, or getting involved with an organization that supports the cause.

That’s it; sometimes life is just that simple.

Your mind may think of 101 reasons that you can’t do this right now, but five or ten years from now that older and wiser you would tell you to start now. The wisdom has always been inside you; it’s just about tapping into it and listening.

When you get in touch with a sense of purpose in this world, everything around you begins to change.

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

Serving food photo available from Shutterstock

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

It is Not Enough to Be Compassionate. You Must Act

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

I received the following Daily Now Moment in my inbox today:

It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act.” ~ Dalai Lama

Take some action with compassion today and remember, we are more connected than we know so a small gesture can have ripple effects across a multitude of people.

The recent post “The Science Behind Why Everything We Do Matters” received widespread attention and there’s a reason for this.

At the deepest level we all want to believe that what we do matters and in fact it does. There’s actual science that points to how our acts have ripple effects across many people.

Here’s the other thing, when people are experiencing compassion, the act of putting ourselves in another’s shoes with the inclination to help in some way, it’s associated with feeling good. There’s a shift in activity to the left prefrontal cortex which is also associated with a host of other positive emotions.

Cultivating the skill of compassion is beneficial to us individually, but as the Dalai Lama says, that’s not enough, “You must act.”

Here’s something you can do to get compassion going: 

  1. Prepare – Allow your mind to open and free associate on the question,

    “What do you care about in this world?”
    Is it the planet? People who are struggling to eat? Strengthening your spiritual community? Supporting resiliency in children?

  2. Plan – Research ways to get involved in these causes.
  3. Act – Get involved whether it’s just contributing small amounts of money on a regular basis, finding ways to act in accordance with these values in your personal life, or getting involved with an organization that supports the cause.

That’s it; sometimes life is just that simple.

Your mind may think of 101 reasons that you can’t do this right now, but five or ten years from now that older and wiser you would tell you to start now. The wisdom has always been inside you; it’s just about tapping into it and listening.

When you get in touch with a sense of purpose in this world, everything around you begins to change.

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 Science Behind Why Everything You Do Matters

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

actions and reactionsLife is full of actions and reactions. This is what makes up the world around us from the trees we see, to the relationships that are kindled and to the babies that come from them. Every single thing we do matters. When Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” underlying that was the simple assumption that everything we do matters.  Now we know the science behind this wisdom of his words and why it can not only help the world, but can have a significant impact on our mental health.

Part of understanding the science isn’t a whole lot different than the understanding of neuroplasticity. How we pay attention and what we pay attention to influences the way our brain grows throughout the lifespan. So if we have a continuous series of moments where we are paying attention to negative thoughts and worrying, so goes the brain. If we have a continuous series of moments where we are cultivating self-compassion, joy and curiosity in life, so goes the brain.

In the same way, we can have this impact not only on our mental health, but on the world as a whole. You may not be a single force in solving the Middle East conflict or in reversing global warming, but everything you do matters. In order to better understand why everything you do matters, it’s important to understand how emotional contagion works:

In The Now Effect you’ll read about the science behind why everything you do matters,

The social scientists Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, and James Fowler, PhD, conducted a study to look at the effect of social networks. To determine if there was a causal relationship for obesity, they mapped the relationships of 12,067 people who had more than 50,000 connections to other people that were assessed repeatedly from 1971 to 2003 (not online social networks such as Facebook but physical networks of people). They found that, indeed, “birds of a feather flock together.” However, they found something much more interesting: obesity doesn’t start and stop with immediate friends and family; it is “contagious” by up to three degrees of separation.

They also went on to find that loneliness is contagious by three degrees and that each person you have in your life that feels well boosts your chance of feeling well by 9%. In other words, the way people behave is contagious and causes a ripple effect across friends of friends of friends.

Think of it this way,

“When carbon atoms are arranged in a specific way, they make a diamond, but the diamond is not in each carbon atom. In the same way, each of our roles in mindfully engaging life can create a much larger social effect that is greater than each of us alone, having a significant influence on shaping our culture for the years to come and providing enormous healing.” ~ The Now Effect

Starting right now, get clear on what’s most important to you in life. What is something you care about that is greater than yourself? Maybe it’s the planet, or helping distressed people within your country or outside your country, or a making a political impact.

Taking action alongside these values not only will make you feel good, but will have reverberations that make this a better place. Believe it.

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

Tree photo available from Shutterstock

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