Archive for October, 2013

5 Essential Elements to Starting Your Mindfulness Meditation Practice

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

No matter how much we talk about it, read about it, or study it, putting a mindfulness practice into practice can be challenging. But what are we to do? Science continues to reveal that an active practice has important health benefits, relational benefits and even corporate benefits (increased productivity and reduced healthcare costs). Sometimes all we need is a simple road map to get us started or restarted if it’s been some time since we practiced.

Here are 5 essential elements to creating a mindfulness meditation practice in daily life.

Prepare Yourself

Before even attempting to do any practice it’s important to understand that your practice is not a performance. Each practice doesn’t need to be evaluated about whether it was a “good” meditation or a “bad” meditation. This performance-based mindset misses the point entirely. If there is any goal at all to the practice it’s simply to learn.

For example, if someone is using their breath as an object of attention, the goal is not to stay on the breath for a long period of time, it’s to learn about what it’s like to settle attention on the breath. If the mind wanders a lot, then you learn how busy the mind is. If it wanders a lot on a particular topic, you learn to what degree that topic is on your mind. If it is on your mind a lot you learn that whatever it is, it needs attending to and you can later make the choice to focus on it.

Everyone’s mind wanders, even people who have been meditating for 50 years. It’s part of what the brain does. In fact, you could make the argument that the more it wanders the more you have an opportunity to train the mind to see “choice points” to gently bring it back. What you practice and repeat becomes a habit and so you’re strengthening the habit of choice.

Here’s a short breathing practice from The Now Effect to get you started.

Bring Heart into It

There is sometimes confusion in how people teach mindfulness practice, but in the way that I’ve come to understand it is that it’s simply not as effective unless you’re bring your heart into it. The quality of attention has relaxed curiosity and tenderness to it. It’s as if we’re bowing with respect to the life being lived whether the attention is on the breath, the body, or any sense perceptions.

When there is pain involved, there is an awareness of the pain and the attention has this quality of wanting to be supportive in some way. It is a quality of care and self-compassion.

In other words, you’re doing this practice ultimately because you care about yourself and possibly because you know that doing this practice will also be a gift to those around you.

Forgive Yourself

You’re going to be completely imperfect at this like the rest of us. If time goes by and you forget to practice, practice “Forgive and Invite.” Forgive yourself for the time gone by, investigate what took you off course, and then in that space of awareness invite yourself to begin again.

This is a very forgiving practice; you can always begin to be present to your life again. It only takes a moment.

Thank Yourself

Perhaps even the most important part of this practice is to thank yourself each time you do it. When the time is up, you acknowledge yourself for making the effort to take time out of daily busy-ness for your own learning, health and well-being.

This imprints in your memory that you care enough about yourself to pay attention to you! That self-compassionate caring type of energy is healing. What would the days, weeks, and months ahead be like if you had more of that energy circulating through your mind and body?

Keep coming back to these four essential elements of a mindfulness practice.

Find a Buddy

You could do the previous four elements of practice on it’s own, but it sure helps when we have people to do it with. Maybe you know someone who has had the interest to start a practice or you go on meetup.com and check to see if there are any groups in your area. Or maybe you look at an app like Insight Timer that has worldwide online and in-person groups to check in with. Again, a buddy is not essential to start, but it can help you feel more connected to others who are aligned with this interest of yours. Ultimately that really helps motivation.

Now if you’re ready, carve out 10 minutes (on this link you’ll also find a 5-minute and 3-minute version of this), to start your practice with a body scan.

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

5 Essential Elements to Starting Your Mindfulness Meditation Practice

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

deckNo matter how much we talk about it, read about it, or study it, putting a mindfulness practice into practice can be challenging. But what are we to do? Science continues to reveal that an active practice has important health benefits, relational benefits and even corporate benefits (increased productivity and reduced healthcare costs). Sometimes all we need is a simple road map to get us started or restarted if it’s been some time since we practiced.

Here are 5 essential elements to creating a mindfulness meditation practice in daily life.

Prepare Yourself

Before even attempting to do any practice it’s important to understand that your practice is not a performance. Each practice doesn’t need to be evaluated about whether it was a “good” meditation or a “bad” meditation. This performance-based mindset misses the point entirely. If there is any goal at all to the practice it’s simply to learn.

For example, if someone is using their breath as an object of attention, the goal is not to stay on the breath for a long period of time, it’s to learn about what it’s like to settle attention on the breath. If the mind wanders a lot, then you learn how busy the mind is. If it wanders a lot on a particular topic, you learn to what degree that topic is on your mind. If it is on your mind a lot you learn that whatever it is, it needs attending to and you can later make the choice to focus on it.

Everyone’s mind wanders, even people who have been meditating for 50 years. It’s part of what the brain does. In fact, you could make the argument that the more it wanders the more you have an opportunity to train the mind to see “choice points” to gently bring it back. What you practice and repeat becomes a habit and so you’re strengthening the habit of choice.

Here’s a short breathing practice from The Now Effect to get you started.

Bring Heart into It

There is sometimes confusion in how people teach mindfulness practice, but in the way that I’ve come to understand it is that it’s simply not as effective unless you’re bring your heart into it. The quality of attention has relaxed curiosity and tenderness to it. It’s as if we’re bowing with respect to the life being lived whether the attention is on the breath, the body, or any sense perceptions.

When there is pain involved, there is an awareness of the pain and the attention has this quality of wanting to be supportive in some way. It is a quality of care and self-compassion.

In other words, you’re doing this practice ultimately because you care about yourself and possibly because you know that doing this practice will also be a gift to those around you.

Forgive Yourself

You’re going to be completely imperfect at this like the rest of us. If time goes by and you forget to practice, practice “Forgive and Invite.” Forgive yourself for the time gone by, investigate what took you off course, and then in that space of awareness invite yourself to begin again.

This is a very forgiving practice; you can always begin to be present to your life again. It only takes a moment.

Thank Yourself

Perhaps even the most important part of this practice is to thank yourself each time you do it. When the time is up, you acknowledge yourself for making the effort to take time out of daily busy-ness for your own learning, health and well-being.

This imprints in your memory that you care enough about yourself to pay attention to you! That self-compassionate caring type of energy is healing. What would the days, weeks, and months ahead be like if you had more of that energy circulating through your mind and body?

Keep coming back to these four essential elements of a mindfulness practice.

Find a Buddy

You could do the previous four elements of practice on it’s own, but it sure helps when we have people to do it with. Maybe you know someone who has had the interest to start a practice or you go on meetup.com and check to see if there are any groups in your area. Or maybe you look at an app like Insight Timer that has worldwide online and in-person groups to check in with. Again, a buddy is not essential to start, but it can help you feel more connected to others who are aligned with this interest of yours. Ultimately that really helps motivation.

Now if you’re ready, carve out 10 minutes (on this link you’ll also find a 5-minute and 3-minute version of this), to start your practice with a body scan.

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

Couple meditating image available from Shutterstock.

Compassion: No Return Address Needed

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Why do we have it in our heads that we’ll only help another person out if we get something back in return. Maybe it’s because at the core we always need to get something back for survival. Or maybe it’s because as kids, if you want a toy that another kid has you learn to ask for it, but it often works better if you have something to trade. Fast forward to adulthood, we’re happy to help others out, as long as we get something back. Unfortunately, the mentality of expecting something back drives mental and social dis-ease. However, if we understand at a deep level that when we give without being attached to any expectation of getting return, we get so much more, true happiness.

All research points to the reality that when we do things for other people as an act of altruism or compassion, we feel happier.

Recently a report came out saying that being compassion reduces inflammation in our body at a cellular level. Inflammation is connected to all kinds of mental and physical dis-eases.

Why can’t we get it in our heads that we are all connected and that helping another person even if you don’t get a “thank you” raises that person up and because we’re all connected it actually raises us up too?

Why don’t we understand that this same rule applies to animals and nature? When we take better care of the animals and environment on this planet that elevates the energy we are sending out and since we’re all connected, elevates us too.

More often now I see leaders in their respective fields pointing to the fact that we are not islands and are far more connected than we seem.

It’s time to take responsibility for the energy that we are putting out there day to day. When we know what we value and act in accordance with those values we feel a strong sense of integrity. Just like a building with strong integrity, it makes us much harder to push over, we are far more resilient.

It doesn’t matter whether we get something back from somebody or not, we get back just by giving, I promise.

But don’t take my word for it, go ahead and see what compassion means to you in your life. In The Now Effect I quote Thich Nhat Hanh saying “Compassion is a Verb.” What does it look like as an action? Are there people, animals or part of the environment you are interested in helping out with.

What do you notice when you act in accordance with that value without expectation of return?

Allow your experience to be your teacher.

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

Compassion: No Return Address Needed

Friday, October 25th, 2013

tunnelWhy do we have it in our heads that we’ll only help another person out if we get something back in return. Maybe it’s because at the core we always need to get something back for survival. Or maybe it’s because as kids, if you want a toy that another kid has you learn to ask for it, but it often works better if you have something to trade. Fast forward to adulthood, we’re happy to help others out, as long as we get something back. Unfortunately, the mentality of expecting something back drives mental and social dis-ease. However, if we understand at a deep level that when we give without being attached to any expectation of getting return, we get so much more, true happiness.

All research points to the reality that when we do things for other people as an act of altruism or compassion, we feel happier.

Recently a report came out saying that being compassion reduces inflammation in our body at a cellular level. Inflammation is connected to all kinds of mental and physical dis-eases.

Why can’t we get it in our heads that we are all connected and that helping another person even if you don’t get a “thank you” raises that person up and because we’re all connected it actually raises us up too?

Why don’t we understand that this same rule applies to animals and nature? When we take better care of the animals and environment on this planet that elevates the energy we are sending out and since we’re all connected, elevates us too.

More often now I see leaders in their respective fields pointing to the fact that we are not islands and are far more connected than we seem.

It’s time to take responsibility for the energy that we are putting out there day to day. When we know what we value and act in accordance with those values we feel a strong sense of integrity. Just like a building with strong integrity, it makes us much harder to push over, we are far more resilient.

It doesn’t matter whether we get something back from somebody or not, we get back just by giving, I promise.

But don’t take my word for it, go ahead and see what compassion means to you in your life. In The Now Effect I quote Thich Nhat Hanh saying “Compassion is a Verb.” What does it look like as an action? Are there people, animals or part of the environment you are interested in helping out with.

What do you notice when you act in accordance with that value without expectation of return?

Allow your experience to be your teacher.

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

Kindness image available from Shutterstock.

How Emotional Intelligence Can Help Us Lose Weight: An Interview with Dr. Susan Albers

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

albersIt’s no secret that millions and millions of people around the world struggle with their relationship to food. Today I’m excited to bring to you my friend and colleague Dr. Susan Albers, author of her newest book Eat Q: Unlock the Weight-Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence that can be a support to many of us especially with the upcoming holidays. Susan works at the internationally renowned Cleveland Clinic and you may also recognize her from the Dr. Oz TV show, read about her in Shape or Fitness Magazine or have one of her previous books.

Today she talks to us about why emotional intelligence can help us with our eating habits (she cleverly calls this EatQ), how it can help us lose weight and a tip we can start implementing today.

Elisha: Why is EatQ important to you?

Susan: I see clients in my office at the Cleveland Clinic every day that struggle with eating healthier and losing/managing weight. I know that the process is HARD and at times incredibly frustrating. Yet, it is critical.  Wrestling with your eating robs people of so many opportunities to enjoy life to its fullest from being uncomfortable in your clothing to doctor bills for medication.  You can’t put off taking care of yourself any longer.  The good news is that I’ve seen people make successful changes—and you can do it too!

I’ve learned that deciding what to eat is much more complex than it appears on the surface.  For example, I knew from an early age that my parents had very different food cultures from each other.  On my mother’s side of the family, there are many old black and white photos of family get-togethers with tables heaping full of pastas, bread and cheese.  Every event was all about eating good food.  In contrast, my father grew up on a farm with a utilitarian relationship to food.  They used every single thing they had from the apples on their apple tree to the side of beef from their own cattle.  Food was fuel.  Food decisions were based on what they had to eat—period.  After forty-six years of marriage, you can still see remnants of their upbringings.  My mother asks, “What do you feel like having for dinner.”  My father asks, “What do we have for dinner.”

I understand that we all grow up with a very unique food culture. It shapes, for better or worse, how you think about and interact with food.  In EatQ, I tackle five topics including social eating, stress eating, pleasure eating, dieting and distress. There are also find 25 new needle moving strategies for eating better and lose weight.

Elisha: What is an Emotionally Intelligent Eater Like?

Susan: I often think of how Giada De Laurentiis, chef from the Food Network, relates to food on TV (I don’t know her personally).  Have you ever seen her eat?  On her show, she takes one bite of an amazing dish, and makes it last.  She savors each mouthful and intricately describes how it tastes—and then she stops.  She makes tasting a bite or two of luscious food look easy.  However, we all know it isn’t!  Again, avoiding overeating is not about having a vast knowledge of nutrition facts.  EatQ contains quick and easy psychological tricks that make choosing healthier foods easier.  As one of my clients said, “It’s like Jedi Knight mind food tricks.”

Elisha: How does boosting your EatQ help you lose weight?

Susan: EatQ is an easy, 3-step program to help you stop overeating for good and lose/manage your weight.  I created this concept because many of my clients are whiz kids when it comes to nutrition knowledge.  In fact, many of my readers could rattle off the fat grams and sugar content of every food you could imagine.  But what they don’t know is how to talk themselves into making the healthy choice.

Elisha: Give us an EatQ tip.

Susan: Here is an example of how easy some of the tips are: Use your non-dominant hand to eat.  A recent study showed that this strategy can reduce your eating by 30%.  This action breaks up the automatic hand to mouth flow.  You have to think about each bite similar to writing with your opposite hand.  Try it today!

Elisha: Thank you so much Susan!

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

Dr. Susan Albers image from her website Eat, Drink and Be Mindful.

How Emotional Intelligence Can Help Us Lose Weight: An Interview with Dr. Susan Albers

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

It’s no secret that millions and millions of people around the world struggle with their relationship to food. Today I’m excited to bring to you my friend and colleague Dr. Susan Albers, author of her newest book Eat Q: Unlock the Weight-Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence that can be a support to many of us especially with the upcoming holidays. Susan works at the internationally renowned Cleveland Clinic and you may also recognize her from the Dr. Oz TV show, read about her in Shape or Fitness Magazine or have one of her previous books.

Today she talks to us about why emotional intelligence can help us with our eating habits (she cleverly calls this EatQ), how it can help us lose weight and a tip we can start implementing today.

Elisha: Why is EatQ important to you?

Susan: I see clients in my office at the Cleveland Clinic every day that struggle with eating healthier and losing/managing weight. I know that the process is HARD and at times incredibly frustrating. Yet, it is critical.  Wrestling with your eating robs people of so many opportunities to enjoy life to its fullest from being uncomfortable in your clothing to doctor bills for medication.  You can’t put off taking care of yourself any longer.  The good news is that I’ve seen people make successful changes—and you can do it too!

I’ve learned that deciding what to eat is much more complex than it appears on the surface.  For example, I knew from an early age that my parents had very different food cultures from each other.  On my mother’s side of the family, there are many old black and white photos of family get-togethers with tables heaping full of pastas, bread and cheese.  Every event was all about eating good food.  In contrast, my father grew up on a farm with a utilitarian relationship to food.  They used every single thing they had from the apples on their apple tree to the side of beef from their own cattle.  Food was fuel.  Food decisions were based on what they had to eat—period.  After forty-six years of marriage, you can still see remnants of their upbringings.  My mother asks, “What do you feel like having for dinner.”  My father asks, “What do we have for dinner.”

I understand that we all grow up with a very unique food culture. It shapes, for better or worse, how you think about and interact with food.  In EatQ, I tackle five topics including social eating, stress eating, pleasure eating, dieting and distress. There are also find 25 new needle moving strategies for eating better and lose weight.

Elisha: What is an Emotionally Intelligent Eater Like?

Susan: I often think of how Giada De Laurentiis, chef from the Food Network, relates to food on TV (I don’t know her personally).  Have you ever seen her eat?  On her show, she takes one bite of an amazing dish, and makes it last.  She savors each mouthful and intricately describes how it tastes—and then she stops.  She makes tasting a bite or two of luscious food look easy.  However, we all know it isn’t!  Again, avoiding overeating is not about having a vast knowledge of nutrition facts.  EatQ contains quick and easy psychological tricks that make choosing healthier foods easier.  As one of my clients said, “It’s like Jedi Knight mind food tricks.”

Elisha: How does boosting your EatQ help you lose weight?

Susan: EatQ is an easy, 3-step program to help you stop overeating for good and lose/manage your weight.  I created this concept because many of my clients are whiz kids when it comes to nutrition knowledge.  In fact, many of my readers could rattle off the fat grams and sugar content of every food you could imagine.  But what they don’t know is how to talk themselves into making the healthy choice.

Elisha: Give us an EatQ tip.

Susan: Here is an example of how easy some of the tips are: Use your non-dominant hand to eat.  A recent study showed that this strategy can reduce your eating by 30%.  This action breaks up the automatic hand to mouth flow.  You have to think about each bite similar to writing with your opposite hand.  Try it today!

Elisha: Thank you so much Susan!

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

Keep Your Great Great Grandchildren in Mind

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

stripesIt’s not our fault; blame it on the evolutionary impulse of our brains. We’re wired toward routine and because of that we often walk around asleep concerned about what is immediately in front of us. I was talking with a friend recently who has been jolted out of the matrix of life’s daily routine and into a space of awareness of human potential. He sat me down at his house and read me the following poem by poet/activist Drew Dellinger:

“It’s 3:23 in the morning

And I’m awake

Because my great great grandchildren

Ask me in dreams

What did you do while the planet was plundered?

What did you do when the earth was unraveling?

Surely you did something

When the seasons started failing?

As the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?

Did you fill the streets with protest

When democracy was stolen?

What did you do

Once

You

Knew?”

In a recent study published in Nature, scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa concluded that if greenhouse emissions continue as they are today by 2047 (plus or minus five years) the “coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest years in the past,” said Camila Mora, lead scientist. This would have major ripple effects across the world socially and biologically.

Even if we take this research with a grain of salt, even if you’re a complete skeptic of global warming, we can’t ignore the reality that what we do today has consequences for the future. The simple fact is, how we treat our planet, how we encourage violence in the world, the objectification of people, or the growing disconnection among people is not a liberal or conservative issue, it’s a simple scientific issue of cause and effect. It’s an issue of our common humanity. But the brain does a little trick on us, because 35 years from now seems far off, it may classify it as important, but not urgent. Your brain views your Facebook message or that incoming text as far more urgent and important to pay attention to in the moment. Again, it’s not your fault, it’s the way all our brains are wired. So you’re not going to default to being aware of how your immediate actions have future consequences.

How do we begin waking up to the reality that from thoughts come actions and from our actions come consequences?

Mindfulness is about being aware of how the actions of today affect the generations of the future. We might consider asking ourselves as we engage life in front of our children or our friends’ children, am I teaching them things that are going to help them and their children or am I teaching them things are encouraging the “ME” revolutions or the “WE” revolution? They are constantly absorbing our actions without us knowing it and will be more likely to pass this onto their children.

As Drew Dillinger writes, “What did you do once you knew?”

Now you know, we can no longer afford to be asleep; our life is not just about our life, it’s about the life or your future family, your friends’ families, and the family of humanity.

In any given moment, the question isn’t how do we save our great great grandchildren? It’s “Are my actions ‘serving’ my great great grandchildren?” Serve in whatever way you can.

The foundation for this starts with us, the future rests with this choice point right now.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below.

Man awake in bed image available from Shutterstock.

Keep Your Great Great Grandchildren in Mind

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

It’s not our fault; blame it on the evolutionary impulse of our brains. We’re wired toward routine and because of that we often walk around asleep concerned about what is immediately in front of us. I was talking with a friend recently who has been jolted out of the matrix of life’s daily routine and into a space of awareness of human potential. He sat me down at his house and read me the following poem by poet/activist Drew Dellinger:

“It’s 3:23 in the morning

And I’m awake

Because my great great grandchildren

Ask me in dreams

What did you do while the planet was plundered?

What did you do when the earth was unraveling?

Surely you did something

When the seasons started failing?

As the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?

Did you fill the streets with protest

When democracy was stolen?

What did you do

Once

You

Knew?”

In a recent study published in Nature, scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa concluded that if greenhouse emissions continue as they are today by 2047 (plus or minus five years) the “coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest years in the past,” said Camila Mora, lead scientist. This would have major ripple effects across the world socially and biologically.

Even if we take this research with a grain of salt, even if you’re a complete skeptic of global warming, we can’t ignore the reality that what we do today has consequences for the future. The simple fact is, how we treat our planet, how we encourage violence in the world, the objectification of people, or the growing disconnection among people is not a liberal or conservative issue, it’s a simple scientific issue of cause and effect. It’s an issue of our common humanity. But the brain does a little trick on us, because 35 years from now seems far off, it may classify it as important, but not urgent. Your brain views your Facebook message or that incoming text as far more urgent and important to pay attention to in the moment. Again, it’s not your fault, it’s the way all our brains are wired. So you’re not going to default to being aware of how your immediate actions have future consequences.

How do we begin waking up to the reality that from thoughts come actions and from our actions come consequences?

Mindfulness is about being aware of how the actions of today affect the generations of the future. We might consider asking ourselves as we engage life in front of our children or our friends’ children, am I teaching them things that are going to help them and their children or am I teaching them things are encouraging the “ME” revolutions or the “WE” revolution? They are constantly absorbing our actions without us knowing it and will be more likely to pass this onto their children.

As Drew Dillinger writes, “What did you do once you knew?”

Now you know, we can no longer afford to be asleep; our life is not just about our life, it’s about the life or your future family, your friends’ families, and the family of humanity.

In any given moment, the question isn’t how do we save our great great grandchildren? It’s “Are my actions ‘serving’ my great great grandchildren?” Serve in whatever way you can.

The foundation for this starts with us, the future rests with this choice point right now.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below.

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

The Heart and Science of How to Make Mindfulness Work

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

The burgeoning field of mindfulness, neuroscience and psychotherapy just never gets old to me. I am on a panel with Chris Germer, PhD, author and leader in the field of self-compassion and Ruth Buczynski, Ph.D., president of the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) talking about a recent series that explored the question, how do we truly make mindfulness work in our lives?

The series includes Dan Siegel, Jack Kornfield, Ram Dass, Marsha Linehan, Tara Brach, and Joan Halifax on how it can not only reduce stress, but help with a variety of areas of life including our relationships. The topics included the most current neuroscience research, how we can use it with trauma, chronic pain, depression, shame and even its potential benefits for aging. We start to  learn how self-compassion actually works and the freedom from recognizing our common humanity.

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

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

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

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

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

This is real evidence and sometimes knowing the science behind it can step us into a place of awareness, release the shame and open us up to possibility.

Reading it here is one thing, listening to people talk about it is another thing, and sometimes it’s good to hear people talk about it live.

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

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

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

Be Vulnerable. Be Brave. Be Free

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Perhaps the 13th Sufi poet Rumi said it best, “Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters.” The entrance into all that’s beautiful in life is in what’s vulnerable. When something or someone is vulnerable before us we feel connected and connection is at the essence of feel well. This is because ultimately all things and people in life are connected and to feel connection is a feeling of belonging, it’s a feeling of being home. But to feel vulnerable we have to be brave and in this lies the freedom we long for.

The problem is our brains and our culture equates vulnerability with weakness. One of my newest favorite researchers and authors Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage, truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.” For many of us to be vulnerable, we must be brave. Why? Because when our ancestors were back in the savannah hunting and foraging they couldn’t afford to be vulnerable, to be vulnerable meant risking your life. That fear-based mentality has been recorded over thousands of generations and past on in our DNA. Eventually it is programmed into the most primitive regions of our brain.

The tough thing is not only are you and I born with this erroneous programming, but it’s encouraged through our culture. If our parents, friends, religious institutions and media send us the message that to be vulnerable means to be weak, then we believe it. Just like when we grow up and people tell us blue is blue, eventually we never question it, it’s blue.

What do we need to do? So we need to take our most evolved area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex that lies just behind the forehead and use it to correct the transgenerational encoding that says that vulnerability is bad. To do this we need to notice and be mindful of the vulnerability that’s there and engage a radical act of courage. We need to be brave. This is the epitome of self-compassion.

When I first wrote The Now Effect I revealed the most vulnerable story of my life. Something I had felt shame about for years and always choked me up whenever I’d talk to anyone about it. It was a story of a deeply tumultuous night after being lost in a binge of drugs and alcohol where I found myself in a place that I never thought I’d be. This was a memory I’d rather have buried for years, but it turned out that it was also the source of my transformation.

After writing that story I felt a sense of self-compassion and freedom that I had never felt before. I released the shame of it and after The Now Effect was published countless emails came into me expressing a similar story or for many they were in the midst of that story right now. In having the courage to write that story not only did I release the shame and the feeling of being so alone with it, but the ripple effects inspired others to begin releasing their shame too.

Remember this, Freedom rests in the midst of vulnerability.

Try on these words as a mantra:  Be Vulnerable. Be Brave. Be Free.

In the midst of it you may just find the inner wisdom that has been there all along.

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