There seems to be a whole lot of mind troubling and heart wrenching news in the world today. The world's current atmosphere can give our minds endless fuel to race, worry, and catastrophize. When you turn on the news these days, it's all disaster. These disasters are real, but the stories in our minds that the world is going to hell in a hand basket may not be. Our brains are designed to project into the future and attempt to predict the worst case scenarios so we can be prepared. It doesn't do us any good to continue in a state of auto-pilot with a hyperaroused nervous system, spreading worry, negativity and catastrophe throughout our social circle. Not only are our storylines a source of suffering, but spreading these catastrophic stories through our social networks creates an emotional contagious of emotional suffering. We already get enough of that through the news. The news knows that our eyeballs get fused to the screen at signs of danger and plays on it so it can sell more soap. It's a business and the bottom line is truly to make more money and it knows how to play on our concerns. This is the same for MSNBC, CNN, and Fox news - money has no party loyalty. The news isn't going to make a big fuss about the millions and millions of dollars going into mindfulness and compassion research globally, or about these police officers who paid the check of a
This will be a short piece because I know you're likely busy, but I promise it to be an important one. Recently, I was eating with my family at a hotel restaurant in Liberia, Costa Rica and next to us I catch this older man who was sitting by himself, coming over to a young couple and placing a hand on both of their shoulders. I overheard him saying, "I hope you don't mind an old man sharing some kind thoughts with you. It breaks my heart to see a couple together on vacation in a special place like this on their phones together. Please put your phones away and be with each other." They both smiled, put their phones away, and the young man reached out toward the woman across the table and they connected. I thought that was a pretty bold move on the older man's part (and I was cheering for him in my mind). The next morning I caught him at breakfast and thanked him for helping not only that couple, but also reminding me how precious the moments in life are.
In the United States we're heading into a potential turbulent political atmosphere that has the potential to be disrupting to even our closet relationships. You may remember from past elections, it's that moment we say something about some candidate or issue and as the last syllables leave our lips our brain has figured out that we have just ignited a fire that we won't be able to put out. The fact is, especially when something is emotionally charged, we often time don’t think before we speak. Our words become actions and actions become consequences. Unfortunately the consequences land us in relationship problems, a blown business deal, or just the general reinforcement of unhealthy mind traps. But there's a way to optimize the way we communicate in this political climate. Just consider, what would the days, weeks and months ahead look like if before we all spoke about politics we considered three questions:
Everyone at some point in their life will be affected by depression whether it's their own or someone they are close to. Almost 19 million Americans alone have periods where they feel a lack of pleasure or interest their usual activities combined with feeling tired and heavy, potentially overly emotional or numb, and an onslaught of negative and self defeating thoughts that can keep invading the mind over and over again. The more periods of this depressed mood we have in life, the more likely we are to fall back into them again. Why does this relapse occur and how can mindfulness offer hope? Falling into a depression feels traumatic and just like getting bit by a dog causes us to be fearful of and oversensitive to dogs, our minds and bodies become oversensitive to associations with the depression causing us to react to any sign of it. Feeling low mood is normal for everyone, but if we've experienced depression in the past, this may be a trigger for thinking depression is about to set in again. If we feel tired or if we notice sadness, the mind pops up with the worry "uh oh, that is how I felt when I was
Vietnamese Buddhist monk and author Thich Nhat Hanh once said, "Peace in oneself, peace in the world." Iconic singer and songwriter Michael Jackson wrote, "I'm lookin' at the man in the mirror, I'm asking him to change his ways. No message could have been any clearer, if you wanna make the world a better place, just look at yourself and make a change." In The Now Effect you may have 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
There's a funny print cartoon that shows a man and woman sitting on the couch staring at a TV screen, and the caption reads, "It's 12 o'clock, do you know where your mind is?" As time goes on and we grow from children to adolescents to adults, for many of us, somewhere along the way life begins to become routine. Day in and day out, whether we're walking, driving, talking, eating, going to the grocery store, or spending time with our families, our minds get kicked into auto-pilot and continue to develop their habitual ways of thinking, interpreting, expecting, and relating to other people. However, these habits also include habits of the mind that can keep us stuck in stress, anxiety, depression, or even addictive behaviors. Here are a few habits of the mind and a mindfulness practice to help you break out of auto-pilot and gain more control over your life. Three Common Habits that Sink Happiness: Catastrophizing - If you're prone to stress and anxiety, you may recognize this habitual mind trap. This is where the mind interprets an event as the worst case scenario. If your heart is beating fast, you may think you're having a heart attack. If your boss didn't look at you while walking down the hall, you think you're going to get fired. You get the picture. This style of thinking will support increased stress, anxiety, and even panic. Discounting the positive and exaggerating the negative - The news is wonderful at supporting us with this one. This is where we habitually reject or
Some days are just bad days when we wish we could give up this whole adult charade, go to recess, and get back to when times were a bit simpler. Amen. Life seems to get too serious as an adult, more responsibilities mean more worries, more stress, and more body aches. I've spoken to hundreds of people about this exact issue and posed the question: "What does play mean to you?" Sadly, often the response is a blank look, as if the term "play" is a foreign word. Then I ask them to remember what play was like when they were kids. Many people remember play as an unstructured time where they were engaged in something interesting, enjoyable and satisfying. Even just this reflection can begin to rekindle the flames of play. You can try it out right now to see what I mean. If, like me, at times you feel like giving up on adulthood, then I ask you, "What would the days, weeks and months ahead be like if
We're wired to take things for granted and this earth that sustains and supports us all is no exception. It's quite wonderful that we have a day to celebrate the earth and at the same time it would be even more wonderful if we could wake up with that awareness every day. The implicit connection and gratitude associated with it are associated with resiliency and well-being. Drop your shoulders, settle in, here is a meditation for the Earth... enjoy! 7 Step Meditation to Start Your (Earth) Day First, start off by sitting in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Consider what the world needs more of - More kindness, reverence for nature, protecting life on this planet, thriving wildlife and rainforests that continue to produce beauty for our eyes and oxygen to survive. Consider what the world needs less of - Global stress, human disconnection, over consumption, over fishing, world hunger, maybe pollution. Sense your connection to this planet - Remember you were born on this planet and it is this very planet that sustains you. and how you will eventually be released back to the earth.
When people practice mindfulness they say things like, it makes me calm, it softens my body, it helps me be more aware of choice or I seem to be more clear about what matters. The question I love to follow with is, "what would the days, weeks and months ahead be like if there is more of this in your life?" After this, there is often some kind of "aha moment." They say, "Life would be really good." With that in mind I want to share seven Mindful things you can today Today! Relax - Mindfulness is not about relaxation, this is true. However, learning how to relax supports your mindfulness practice. In fact, it's so important that I'm spending the first month of a six month Course in Mindful Living teaching people how to really calm their minds. When you do this, it not only supports your mindfulness practice, but your mindfulness practices also supports the awareness to do things that support ease. It's a spiral up! Find moments of awareness in the day to pause and soften your body, relax. Use your breath - It's the most portable anchor we have. It's a wonderful practice to start your day, settling into your breath or even just taking a few deep breaths. If you're feeling overwhelmed, see if you can notice where you experience it in the body while staying connected to your breath. Then see what you notice. Pay attention to food - This was my introduction into mindfulness. Paying attention to food can not only help us find more joy in it, but
In 2010, when A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook was about to be published I stepped into my publisher and right there on the wall were printouts of dozens of covers for all the new mindfulness books coming out in the next year. In that moment I said, "Oh no, mindfulness is going to get watered down and people are going to get turned off to it." Well, that didn't happen, but something else has... The Current Mindful Wave - Shallow Waters are Noisy Science and technology have brought on the dawn of delivering mindfulness in a million different ways. The options are endless at this point, you can access mindful learning through a variety of apps at your finger tips, you can pick through various meditations or find an ever expanding list of self-paced pre-recorded courses online, you can find it live online and if you're lucky you can find a local group to access in-person. You can learn it in businesses, schools, healthcare companies, Buddhist centers and in secular meditation studios popping up all over the country. In many ways this is so incredible, but in the process it seems like the stage of mindfulness has reached a point there's a lot of "mindful noise" out there that has the potential of making it difficult to decipher what the practice is anymore, who is credible and where to start or continue. For example, learning mindfulness is not just about sitting down and practicing mindfulness. There are other important factors to weave in to optimize the integration of the practice in daily life. One example is the essential need to take the time and space to learn how to create calm and stability in our minds in preparation to settling into many of the practices that are just being offered through most apps and programs out there. It's like telling someone to get on an untamed horse and just ride. This usually doesn't go well. As a result, many people have difficulty truly realizing the fruits of the practice in any enduring way for themselves and in relationships. The Next Mindful Wave - Still Waters Run Deep