General

Has Mindfulness Gone Too Far?

The rise of mindfulness has been incredible.

In part it seems like many of us are responding to a radical fast pace of living where we're in a constant state of doing, doing and doing some more and and longing for something to help us create balance in our lives. The answer has been a variety of mindfulness programs with a heavy emphasis of  "being" to balance out the "doing."

Mindfulness is a fundamental skill for anyone in this day and age and yet at the same time it can go too far.

In the formal practices of mindfulness we do meditative exercises like breathing meditation, the body scan, or an open awareness practice. All of these focus on training the brain to "be with" experience. We need this training because the alternative is the brain's default to try and fix our stress by kicking into auto-pilot and constantly planning in the future or looking to the past to figure out the present.

This juggle between the past and future only stresses our mind and body more. Learning how to "be with" helps turn the volume down on all this thinking and can often bring us into a state of balance.

Sometimes this state of balance teaches us important lessons, like in life all things come and go, otherwise known as the law of
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Addiction

10 Quotes for Mindful Living

Last year when my wife Stefanie Goldstein, PhD and I started The Center for Mindful Living in Los Angeles, our intention was to provide a space for people to integrate mindfulness into their lives for healing and growth. I've found over the years that pictures and quotes have the power to move beyond explanations and speak directly to our hearts and minds.

Here are 10 Quotes for Mindful Living, with some having links back to blog posts where I have explored the quote. There is a lot under these links, so feel free to bookmark this page and come back to it over and again.

Note: One way to go through this is to pause, do a mindful check-in, and then read the quote slowly. See what you notice.

Enjoy!

"You can hold back from suffering of the world,
you have permission to do so,
and it is in accordance with your nature,
but perhaps this very holding back
is the one suffering you could have avoided." ~ Franz Kafka
 "Don't turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That's where the light enters you." ~ Rumi
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Anxiety

12 Striking Photos Depicting Depression and Anxiety

We live in a time where there is simply too much to pay attention to. Our nervous systems are overloaded leading many people to disconnect and now we're seeing rising levels of anxiety and depression. In fact, there isn't a single person I know who hasn't experienced these in one form or another. But when you try to convey what anxiety depression really feel like, words never really do it justice.
"depression is when you can’t feel at all. anxiety is when you feel too much. having both is a constant war within your own mind. having both means never winning."

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Anger

Four Steps to Freedom from Negative Thinking

A number of years ago I created a free email-based program called "Daily Now Moments."  Every day people get an email into their inbox that is meant to inspire a moment of mindfulness or give some practical guidance in the direction of emotional freedom and happiness.

One of the practices is called "The Freedom Practice" and I wanted to share it with you because it can be so useful in gaining freedom from styles of thinking that don't serve us and keep us stuck in stress, anxiety, depression and even our addictive behaviors

Sometimes I call these styles of thinking "Mind Traps."

Mind traps are styles like catastrophizing, blaming, exaggerating the negative and discounting the positive or just your most common negative thoughts.
The Freedom Practice
When you first notice a mind trap or common negative thought, first stop, take an intentional deep breath and from this more mindful space, move through these next four steps (Name, Feel, Release, Redirect):

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Addiction

A Mindful Proposal: Can You Handle 5 Minutes of Solitude?

In a past article, journalist Andrea Chalupa made a Mindful Proposal for everyone to make a plan to take out 24 hours in solitude. She quotes her father, Dr. Leo Chalupa, saying that "A national day of absolute solitude would do more to improve the brains of all Americans than any other one-day program." This might sound scary to some and intriguing to others, but have no fear, this is not going to happen. But what can happen?

Thomas Merton said, "Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it."

We are in an age where there is no solitude at all and if there were any we'd grab for our phones to make sure there wasn't any. Whether you're in the camp who believes it our not, the pace at which we live our lives and the amount of things we try to pay attention to at once are major recipes for stress, anxiety, depression and addictive behaviors.

Spending time in solitude is actually a very healthy thing to do, it's giving us an opportunity to balance the busyness. It's not only a mindful act, but a self-compassionate act too. Furthermore, the more balanced you are, the better you'll rub off on others, so maybe consider it's something that can might even make the world a a little bit better.

So what if we took her proposal to heart, but scaled it back a bit?

How about starting with five minutes of solitude per day? Maybe we can even scale it to two sessions of five minutes a day at some point?

Why even consider this?

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Depression

5 Science-Based Practices for Daily Happiness

Most people I've met, if not all, would try like to be happy. There are all kinds of books on happiness, courses on happiness, and documentaries on happiness. So why aren't we all just happier? If we're approaching happiness as some goal to achieve, we're almost always going to reinforce that something is wrong with us and fall short. If we see it as an unfolding process of learning, we will most likely be able to be more grateful for the good times and more graceful during the more difficult times.
Be Mindful
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Addiction

Smart Phones, Stupid Choices and Alone Together

It’s one of the most pervasive issues in our culture today that’s off and on in the media, but no one talks about in their personal lives – our relationships with our phones.

Not long ago author Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs wrote a blog that really caught my eye. He essentially made the argument that our addictive behaviors are driven more from loneliness or a longing to bond and connect than anything else.

Larry Rosen, Professor at Cal State Dominguez Hills and author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us has studied our relationships with our phones and shows that our compulsions with our phones are a result of anxiety that we are missing out on something.
However, our phones are also inherently devices that have intermittent reinforcement so in some degree they work like the addictive slot machines.

We are living in an age that is more connected than ever, but also seems to be less intimate than ever. People lives are more public and so in some way the intimacy gets diluted and therefore less potent. We are looking into each other’s less and making physical contact less.

The lonelier and less intimate we feel life is, the more we long for it, so the more we turn to our devices as an addictive path toward connection.

More and more these days people are finding themselves checking their devices during any time they are alone. If you’re eating alone you’ll check it, if you’re waiting in a checkout line, you’ll check it, if you’re walking on the way to the bathroom, you’ll check it and if you’re in the car alone, you’ll check it (even though the stats show an increase in fatality rates).

Sherry Turkle is an MIT Professor who wrote,
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compassion

Happiness Means Looking Beyond the Body and Seeing the Person

As soon as we open up our eyes in the morning, stories are running in our minds that influence the way we see people. We have preconceptions about who our wife, husband, kid, roommate or partners are. When we walk out the door, we already have ideas about who the neighbors, baristas, grocery store clerk, colleagues, and even strangers who are walking up the street are. We are wired to sum up whether someone is beautiful simply upon a surface glance of their body.

So the question is: Do we actually even see the person behind our conceptions of who they are? Most of the time the answer is a resounding no.

Mother Teresa said, "The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis but rather the feeling of not belonging."

We live on auto-pilot in our every day relationships and our ability to automatically interpret the world can lead to disconnection, dis-ease and unhappiness in life.

It's that simple.

Here is a four step practice to try out today with anyone you come in contact with to help your eyes look beyond the body and see the person. As we intentionally practice and repeat looking beyond the body, we create connection which is an essential ingredient for a more enduring happiness.

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compassion

The Secrets to Wiring a Happier Brain

One of the secrets to wiring our brain toward happiness is in the simple understanding that what we practice and repeat starts to become more automatic.

Call it a happiness or resiliency habit and it’s something that anyone can create. The fact is, we all have thoughts and behaviors in our lives that influence states of unhappiness or happiness. While the brain defaults toward paying attention to negative stimuli to keep us safe, we are active participants in our health and well-being and can nurture a happier and more resilient brain.

To help us really get to the root of all the elements necessary to make happiness a practice, I did my research. I interviewed over 20 highly respected and accomplished people in the field of happiness and well-being like Sharon Salzberg, Byron Katie, Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, Dan Harris, Kelly McGonigal and so many more. I wanted to hear what their definition of happiness was and discover the practical ways we can make it come alive.

This is the online Uncovering Happiness Symposium and it's live daily right now through July 3rd.

For now, here’s a suggestion to start with that comes from the Daily Now Moments that many people receive in their inbox:
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compassion

Be Mindful of Music – Science Says It’s Good for Your Heart (and Mind)

When people think of mindfulness, they often think that it means "being present," but everyone has a different idea of what you "should" be being present to. For example, I was at a friend's house the other day and some wonderful music was playing and I was "being present" to it. However, apparently he was talking to me and I wasn't paying attention to him. So he said, because he thinks of me as the mindfulness guy, "you're not being very present are you."

The fact is, I was being present, just present to what I felt was most important in that moment, the music.

As it turns out, certain music is being found to be good not only for our mental health, but also for our physical health.

Take a moment to listen to this and see what you notice:

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