Archive for March, 2013

Krishnamurti on 3 Steps to a Wiser Relationship to Technology

Friday, March 29th, 2013

smartphonecrpdWe don’t have to look further than B.F. Skinner to see that most of us have developed a habit of being overly obsessed with our Smartphones. We all get incoming messages that hint at a potential reward, most of the time it’s not a reward, but sometimes it is and this is what gets us. It’s called intermittent reinforcement and it’s how Skinner made his rats keep pressing the lever hoping for more pellets of food. When it comes to our Smartphone most of us wake up with it and go to sleep with it. When it calls for us during the day we come running. If you’re interested in getting a bit of freedom from it, read this quick story of how philosopher and teacher Krishnamurti helped a student become free of irritation. You’ll see the connection.

One day, Krishnamurti was eating lunch with his students when one student got up to close the window. Krishnamurti asked why he did that and the student replied, “the sound from outside was annoying and making it difficult for me to enjoy conversation with my friends.” To this, Krishnamurti replied, “You have a habit of irritation.”

The student quizzically responded, “Yes I was irritated, what should I have done about it.” Krishnamurti said, “Your irritation is a habit that expands beyond the walls of this room and windows and invades your everyday life and there is a way move beyond this.”

The student was interested in not being captive by his habit energy of irritation and so again asked the teacher what he should do about it.

Krishnamurti said, “It will take 3 days to rid yourself of this habit energy.”

Day 1: Spend the entire day focusing on what it is like to be irritated. Notice in the morning, afternoon and evening. What does it feel like in your body? What kind of thoughts arise in the mind? Become intimate with the feeling of irritation, get to know it, befriend it.

Day 2: Spend the entire day noticing irritation in others. Look for it, what does it look like on their faces and their body language. Notice the tone of voice that is used and what kind of language comes out of the mouth. What behavior comes from this emotional space of irritation? Study it.

Day 3: Notice the recession of irritation in yourself.

The student decided to try it out and became intimate with the experience of irritation. He noticed many things throughout the day that triggered it, the tension in his body that ensued and the flurry of thoughts that flowed through the mind. As soon as he noticed these things, the irritation already began to subside a bit.

The next day he found a lot of irritation in others. He noticed their language was harsher and body looked tense. Thoughts arose in his mind at how silly everyone looks being so irritated by seemingly small things.

On that third day he was more aware of irritation arising in him, but these moments were interrupted by the realization that he didn’t need to be captive to the cycles of irritation in his mind.

We can take this same approach with our Smartphone:

Day 1: Spend the entire day focusing on what it’s like to be connected to your Smartphone. The moments you’re on it, the moments you’re not on it, but thinking about it, and what happens when it beckons you.

Day 2: Notice how family, friends, colleagues and strangers are connected to their Smartphone. Look at their faces when they’re on it, their body language, and how they talk about it. What is their behavior like in relationship to it?

Day 3: Notice a wiser relationship develop between you and your Smartphone.

Try this out as an experiment and see what you notice. Feel free to share.

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

Smartphone photo available from Shutterstock

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

Krishnamurti on 3 Steps to a Wiser Relationship to Technology

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

We don’t have to look further than B.F. Skinner to see that most of us have developed a habit of being overly obsessed with our Smartphones. We all get incoming messages that hint at a potential reward, most of the time it’s not a reward, but sometimes it is and this is what gets us. It’s called intermittent reinforcement and it’s how Skinner made his rats keep pressing the lever hoping for more pellets of food. When it comes to our Smartphone most of us wake up with it and go to sleep with it. When it calls for us during the day we come running. If you’re interested in getting a bit of freedom from it, read this quick story of how philosopher and teacher Krishnamurti helped a student become free of irritation. You’ll see the connection.

One day, Krishnamurti was eating lunch with his students when one student got up to close the window. Krishnamurti asked why he did that and the student replied, “the sound from outside was annoying and making it difficult for me to enjoy conversation with my friends.” To this, Krishnamurti replied, “You have a habit of irritation.”

The student quizzically responded, “Yes I was irritated, what should I have done about it.” Krishnamurti said, “Your irritation is a habit that expands beyond the walls of this room and windows and invades your everyday life and there is a way move beyond this.”

The student was interested in not being captive by his habit energy of irritation and so again asked the teacher what he should do about it.

Krishnamurti said, “It will take 3 days to rid yourself of this habit energy.”

Day 1: Spend the entire day focusing on what it is like to be irritated. Notice in the morning, afternoon and evening. What does it feel like in your body? What kind of thoughts arise in the mind? Become intimate with the feeling of irritation, get to know it, befriend it.

Day 2: Spend the entire day noticing irritation in others. Look for it, what does it look like on their faces and their body language. Notice the tone of voice that is used and what kind of language comes out of the mouth. What behavior comes from this emotional space of irritation? Study it.

Day 3: Notice the recession of irritation in yourself.

The student decided to try it out and became intimate with the experience of irritation. He noticed many things throughout the day that triggered it, the tension in his body that ensued and the flurry of thoughts that flowed through the mind. As soon as he noticed these things, the irritation already began to subside a bit.

The next day he found a lot of irritation in others. He noticed their language was harsher and body looked tense. Thoughts arose in his mind at how silly everyone looks being so irritated by seemingly small things.

On that third day he was more aware of irritation arising in him, but these moments were interrupted by the realization that he didn’t need to be captive to the cycles of irritation in his mind.

We can take this same approach with our Smartphone:

Day 1: Spend the entire day focusing on what it’s like to be connected to your Smartphone. The moments you’re on it, the moments you’re not on it, but thinking about it, and what happens when it beckons you.

Day 2: Notice how family, friends, colleagues and strangers are connected to their Smartphone. Look at their faces when they’re on it, their body language, and how they talk about it. What is their behavior like in relationship to it?

Day 3: Notice a wiser relationship develop between you and your Smartphone.

Try this out as an experiment and see what you notice. Feel free to share.

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

You Want to Increase Equality in 2 Minutes? (Video)

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

In a time of deep division, where the Supreme Court is looking to find an answer as to whether “same-sex” marriage should be legalized, perhaps we don’t need to look too far for the answer. Here is a 2-minute video with the intention to dispel our differences and create the experience of all people ultimately being “Just Like Me.” Take a couple moments to experience it:

When you look into another’s eyes who you see differences with, is it possible to look behind their eyes and see the love, intelligence, compassion and determination that is there? Can you see it, even if that person isn’t aware of it?

Can you look into their eyes and see the history of accumulated suffering, the depth of sorrow and pain, times of perceived failure and sense of unworthiness? Can you see their moments of loneliness? What happens when you imagine this person as your own child? What do you feel toward them?

Can you look further and see their happy moments, their times of triumph and success? The joy and laughter they experienced at times in their childhood and the vast amount of creativity and freedom they have within? Can you see the potential for happiness in this person? Can you be joyful for their joy?

What happens when you imagine teaming up with this person to overcome obstacles? Is it possible?

If you look even deeper you might see that the awareness that is behind this person’s eyes is no different than your own. You are connected in something much greater than the boundaries of this skin. You are connected in a vast and infinite wisdom that knows the direction history is going.

Sit in it; feel it, this is your wise self.

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

What Does Non-Judgmental Awareness Really Mean?

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

restaurantcrpdWhether you’re new or old to mindfulness, you’ve likely heard the definition that it is a “intentional non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.” There’s a lot of confusion around the term non-judgment. Years ago, before I began being more intentional with a mindfulness practice I had a friend practicing meditation and he told me that he was practicing being completely detached from everything in a non-judgmental way. That didn’t seem too fun to me. Today, many of us can still be confused by this term, so what does it really mean?

A purer definition of mindfulness might be just “awareness.” But the problem with this is that it’s only a noun, so what about the verb of mindfulness? How is mindfulness as a meditation or applied in our everyday activities defined? Maybe we can call it awareness in action or awareness being applied, because on its own, awareness doesn’t have judgment in it. Judgment is a thought that arises within awareness.

If you are a food critic, are you allowed to have judgments while tasting the food and still be mindful? Of course, it’s the awareness of that discerning mind that is mindfulness itself. If the food tastes especially good, with mindfulness, you can have the choice to intentionally taste it again and allow for a savoring to take place.

If you are a parent, can you judge a child’s action as inappropriate or dangerous and set some boundaries. Absolutely! It’s this pure awareness that allows for clarity around what is healthy and unhealthy. It allows us as parents to even make the choice to apply self-compassion during some of the more difficult moments where we truly feel stuck or even to note that we aren’t the only ones in this mess.

If you’re getting depressed, it’s critical become aware of relapse signs and make the judgment to start doing things that are going to be supportive. The same goes for everyday stress, anxiety, addictive behaviors and trauma reactions.

As a therapist (not to mention a human being), my brain is constantly making judgments based on my experience about the best path toward healing for a particular person. I’m mindful to make the choice over and again toward being curious about a person’s experience and judging when something is a healthy or unhealthy action. I discern when it’s a good time to nurture someone’s insight or when it’s okay to give my interpretations.

The reason non-judgment is used is because left alone the brain will automatically judge things as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, important or unimportant, urgent or non-urgent and so on. This happens so fast that our experiences are automatically colored right when we get to them, so mindfulness is about being aware of that and taking a fresh perspective.

The key here is to bring awareness and intentionality to the moments of our lives. Be aware when the brain is automatically judging a situation or a person and we can pause and get some perspective. Was this judgment just something that popped in my mind? Is there another way I can see this? Is the checkout person in the checkout line just a checkout person or someone with their own history or triumphs, perceived failures, moments of adventure, and wanting the same thing I do, to be understood and cared about?

Bring mindfulness to life means being alive. It allows us to bring back the choice and wonder that is inherent in everyday life.

Now it’s you choice to STOP (a 2-minute practice) and drop in.

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

At the restaurant photo available from Shutterstock

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

Just Remember, Thoughts Aren’t Facts

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

A wise man once said, “Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your unguarded thoughts.”

~ The Buddha

I want to share with you an important “Now Moment,” the short action-oriented pieces that come at the end of most of the chapters in The Now Effect. This little instruction can be enormously helpful in bringing to light how to gain freedom from thinking and since thinking can be our number one bad habit, often launching us into increased stress or downward spirals of automatic negative thinking; it’s a good thing to loosen our grip on.

Now Moment:

“Take this opportunity to reflect on a recent event where your mind jumped to a conclusion. How did it get there? Did your mood have anything to do with it? What would have been different if your mood had been flipped 180 degrees? Next time you become aware of your mind jumping to a conclusion, recognize that in that very moment you have created a little distance from the thought itself, and in this space you’ll find a choice point and can choose to remind yourself that thoughts are not facts. If you’re feeling imbalanced, you might bring in a daily building block, such as “STOP,” “Mindful Check-In,” or “The Breath as an Anchor,” to get centered and then get perspective on where your head was at that time. You may discover how you came to that auto-pilot interpretation. This reality check will help you in future interactions.”

This has relevance to everyday work and family stress, anxiety, depressive relapse, addiction, and even trauma reactions. We now know that when we’re able to pause and name what’s happening, it actually turns down activity on the fear circuit (amygdala) in the brain and puts our conscious brain (prefrontal cortex) on line. Here is a good question to help us understand why we’d want to remember that thoughts aren’t facts, even the ones that tell you there are:

What would the days, weeks and months ahead be like if I wasn’t so enslaved by my thoughts?

Your answer to that question is your motivation and also the Now Effect in action.

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 Wise Path to Work with Sleep Troubles

Monday, March 11th, 2013

I was recently giving a seminar to therapist on the application of mindfulness in psychotherapy. In that seminar the topic of insomnia came up and I could help it, I outed myself. I let people know that insomnia used to be a very real part of my life and that my practice in mindfulness was what saved me and continues to from time to time. One woman came up to me during the break and asked me how I applied mindfulness to heal my sleep troubles.

Here is what I said…

For most of us insomnia is a mental dis-ease that over time gets conditioned into our bodies as a habit. The trauma of it is stored in our memories and only serves to make our mind increasingly reactive to the symptoms or anticipations of not falling asleep. It becomes so easy for our anxious or restless mental buttons to get pushed. It’s as if you only need to drop the lightest worry or not being able to sleep, like a feather, and it begins swirling with anticipatory anxiety.

I told that I was once told that practicing mindfulness was far more restorative than tossing and turning. Therefore, even if you just practiced being present all night long and you didn’t fall asleep that was still better for you. On top of that, time spent in mindfulness practice is training your mind in mindfulness which is good for so many other parts of life, not the least of which growing a stronger and healthier brain.

With that I could relieve my worries about needing to fall asleep and just make the night time in bed my time to practice. I would put on my ear phones and be guided with a body scan that didn’t have a bell at the end (find a 10-minute body scan here). Initially I noticed my mind getting pulled frequently, thoughts that this wouldn’t work would yank me away, but I stayed disciplined (as best I could) to gently bringing myself back to the practice.

Eventually I was able to let go of the audio and either bring a general awareness to my body each time I closed my eyes noting the field of sensations that were moving around. At other times I would use as a time to just follow my breath.

But first I needed the support of the audio to train me to eventually be able to just do it on my own.

It’s been years since insomnia has been an issue for me now, once in a long while it creeps up, but I am usually able to dispel it with my practice. Studies show mindfulness to help with sleep in many people.

The key here is that there needs to be the understanding that you’re using this time to practice to train in mindfulness, not to fall asleep. If the explicit intention is to fall asleep then you set up a monitor in the back of the brain to continually check on that. You need to let that expectation go, it’s okay if you don’t fall asleep.

No matter what using it as a time to train in mindfulness is a wise use of that time.

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

On Transforming Suffering and Opening to Compassion: An Interview with Jack Kornfield

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

It is my profound honor to bring to you one of the true leaders of our time in respect to the marriage of Eastern and Western Psychology, Jack Kornfield.  Not only that, he also holds his PhD in clinical Psychology which makes him so relevant to the connection between mindfulness and psychotherapy. He is author of The Wise Heart and many other books and with NICABM’s help he is putting out a wonderful 6-week course to help us deepen our experience with mindfulness, self-compassion, compassion, mental health, forgiveness and much more. I’m happy to let you know about it.

Today he talks with us about the connection between East and West psychology, his work with Dr. Dan Siegel, and how his own trauma in life has influenced his work with himself and others.

 Elisha: You are a well known as a leader in the continuing dialogue of Eastern and Western psychology and are very skillful in how you marry the two. With all of the suffering that many of our readers experience, how do you see each supporting the other and where do you see this dialogue heading in our culture?

Jack: The suffering that is experienced by people is described in the Buddhist tradition as the first noble truth of the Buddha. The Buddha says that life entails a certain measure of suffering and no one is exempt from that. There is pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disrepute. Human happiness and mental well-being doesn’t come from avoiding these changing circumstances, they happen to all of us. True happiness comes from the openness of heart, compassion, resiliency and mindfulness, the wisdom that we bring to it, that gives perspective and meaning. In eastern and Buddhist psychology there are many kinds of trainings in compassion, in mindfulness and a balanced perspective that make it possible to hold our suffering in a wise way. We can also learn how to release suffering from the body and emotions and transform its energy.

In Western psychotherapy, much of the same is true. The biggest complementary difference between east and west is that most of western psychotherapy is done together with another person. At best we can call it a kind of paired attention or paired mindfulness in which another person is helping to direct your attention and encourage your capacities to be with your experience with greater wisdom, greater balance, greater understanding, and greater compassion.

With Eastern practice you can have the same paired experience working with a teacher to a certain extent, but then much more emphasis is put on continued trainings and practices that you do regularly and frequently on your own. These capacities develop strongly through practice over and over again. East and West complement one another in this way.

Elisha: Speaking of marrying East and West, can you tell us a bit about your work with Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel, author of Mindsight.

Jack: The beautiful work that I’m able to share with Dan Siegel describes this same wedding of East and West and particularly of modern neuroscience and the neurological basis for the capacity for resilience, authentic presence, and for interpersonal attunement,demonstrated in a lot of the neuroscience research. The capacities for wisdom and compassion that I teach about can also be understood from Interpersonal Neurobiology how all this happens and how it fits both in eastern and western perspective. Dan too teaches how it can be developed and learned, changing us and changing our lives.

Elisha: Like many of the readers of the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog, in your new book, The Wise Heart you mention that you had your own confused, painful and lonely family history. How has that history influenced your work on yourself and with others?

Jack: It’s influenced me a great deal. When I shifted from studying science at Dartmouth, from studying organic chemistry and mathematics to Buddhist and Asian studies, it was partly because I was looking for way to deal with my inner suffering and trauma. I had the pain of living in a family with a violent and abusive father and the underlying fear I carried. Much of my training in the Buddhist monasteries was in lovingkindness and equanimity and mindfulness. But first I had to learn how to deal with fear, hurt and trauma. Also anger, which I didn’t know I carried, which I suppressed a lot. My father was so full of rage I didn’t want to be like him. Lo and behold I discovered that it was not just in him, but was in me as well.

So over the years of training and practice, I began to explore the trauma I carried and the ways to release trauma out of the body, out of the stories, out of the emotions. This healing is built into the practices of mindfulness, compassion, lovingkindness, and forgiveness. I began to explore them in the east and then after the monastic training I began working on my doctorate and clinical work and training in western psychology

Now when I work with people on meditation retreat or individually and they bring their trauma or their painful history or their unfinished business I am able to sit with them and know it from my own experience.  There are many ways to transform and release trauma and my  dual training  gives me a good sense of what is going on in them, and a good way of marrying the skills from the east and west. I have gotten trainings from being in the presence of a skilled therapist who would call my attention to movements or emotions that were unconscious to me that really made a difference.  In trauma work someone would encourage a bodily release and there weren’t even words for it when it would start to come out. I now have those experiences and skills to marry East and West, to intuitively listen to what is most helpful to the person in front of me.

Elisha: If you were sitting across the table from a person who was experiencing deep emotional suffering in their life right now, what advice or suggestions would you give them.

Jack: Very little advice to start with. I believe the most important thing I can do is to be fully present as I sit with them and not to try and advise them. To sit and be present, even to hold their hand or if they were not open to it, hold them in my heart and let my own experience resonate with theirs. To bring myself to their experience with as much compassion and care and perspective and deep breath and love as I could. To start with words I’d be curious, what is your suffering, and what are your tears and anguish and trauma? I’d want to know and not impose any advice, without first clearly hearing what they knew and where they were and what they were looking for.

And then perhaps from this shared capacity to be present I’d want to communicate a deep trust that we can open to it all and move through the experience of suffering. I’d want them to know that their experience is part of their humanity, part of the difficulty and the gift of human incarnation and we are all called upon to bear our sorrows as well as our joys, and that we can bear them and they’re not the end of the story. That our sufferings don’t define us and we don’t have to be so loyal to our suffering that we don’t see that there is a greater mysterious majestic dance that we’re a part of so that the communication of trust as well as the capacity to be present is there.

Because it is as William Blake says that in the minute particulars that goodness is transmitted, not in the general or the ideological, but actually in the presence itself.

Elisha: So much gratitude for all your work and from me in this moment. I’m really grateful for your life and the work you put out, for touching me and so many others.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. If you want to go deeper with Jack, you are welcome to look into his 6-week course.

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