A Mindful Gift from Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) to All of Us

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

thich-nhat-hanhLast week I wrote about Thich Nhat Hanh’s brain hemorrhage landing him in the hospital. The most recent update from Plum Village shows that while his condition is still in a critical stage he has opened his eyes and even reached out to touch the attendant next to him. In continuing this time of honoring his life I wanted to share with you one of the gifts he has given me that I often share with others.

These are the short phrases he weaves into breathing or walking that helps us be more present, loving, grounded, and aware in daily life. If you don’t already, consider trying these out as an experiment in your daily life and seeing what you notice.

For example,

  • You may take three steps while breathing in and say “Breathing in, I calm my body” and then with the following three steps “Breathing out, I relax.” You can then shorten this to saying “calm” as you breathe in, and “relax” as you breathe out.
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Thich Nhat Hanh is in the Hospital, But He Will Never Leave Us

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

YesterdayI received a message that one of the greatest mindfulness and compassion teachers to grace this planet was in the hospital after experiencing a “severe brain hemorrage.” Signs show that he may pull through, but what a scare this has been for those who have been blessed by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. If you’ve been a reader of this blog or alive possibelany of my work you may know how much he has influenced my work and my life. Thich Nhat Hanh or Thay as his followers call him is/was a sort of prophet of awakening and hope.

He said, “Because you are alive, everything is possible.”

He reminded us of the sacred ground we live on and how to walk on it:

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

He lived with wisdom and compassion and shared with us how we can oo, even with the difficult people in our lives:

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”

He revealed to us the simple yet powerful ways to ignite the joy that’s within each of us:

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

He conveyed to reality of our authentic beauty and of radical self-acceptance:

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Can Meditation be Dangerous?

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

This is a story of Zen master, professor, poet, and essayist, Louis Nordstrom. stripes

Over 35 years ago Louis renounced his tenure as a professor in philosophy and robed up to begin his life as a monk. In an NY Times interview with Chip Brown, Nordstrom conveyed some insights into the connection between his trauma and abandonment as a child that revealed a hidden motive in his work with meditation.

He said:

“The Zen experience of forgetting the self was very natural to me,” he told me last fall. “I had already been engaged in forgetting and abandoning the self in my childhood, which was filled with the fear of how unreal things seemed.”

For Nordstrom, meditation felt like a natural fit as there was a familiarity and calmness that came from detaching from thoughts,

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Top 5 Myths about Mindfulness Meditation

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Do you know the myths about mindfulness and what is true or false about this swelling revolution? Take a look at what I think are the top five myths about mindfulness.top-5-banner

Note: There are plenty more, but I thought these top the charts.

Myth #1: Mindfulness if for taking a time-out from life, quieting the mind and reducing stress.

Truth: I think this is the #1 myth out there because it’s my experience that this is how people initially experience the practice. One of the greatest entry points to mindfulness in the West is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This is a fantastic program with wonderful science behind it, but the name is just for marketing. The ultimate goal isn’t meant to be stress reduction. The goal of mindfulness and MBSR is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional and physical processes, recognize the connectedness between people and operate in the world with greater self-compassion and compassion.

However, the initial practices can often give people sense of relief from a busy mind and can then be equated with a mental break. While there’s nothing wrong with using it this way, it also minimizes the power of mindfulness.

The paradox here is when we’re able to do just be present to our minds, emotions and bodies, the stressful relationship tends to quiet down, but when we try and quiet the mind down, we often add fuel to the fire.

Myth #2: You need to carve out plenty of time in a serene “mindful” space.

Continue reading… »



MBCT for Depression Anywhere, Anytime: An Interview with Zindel Segal, PhD

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Over a decade ago, Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale developed Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for helping people not relapse into MindfulNoggin_email_addepression. Over time study after study has come out showing the positive impact MBCT has in relapse depression. I’ve taught this program many many times and have seen the transformative power of it firsthand. At the same time I would get emails from people across the country asking if I knew if it was in their area. Often times it wasn’t, but now Zindel Segal and Sona Dimidjian have solved that problem.

Today, Zindel talks to us about a new online program called Mindful Noggin that can bring MBCT to you anywhere, anytime.

Elisha: The Mindful Noggin is a great name, what exactly is it and how do you see it pushing the needle forward on integrating MBCT into our daily lives?

Continue reading… »



The Neuroscience of Bad Habits and Why It’s Not About Will Power

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Why are bad habits so hard to break? What if the bumper sticker “Just Say No!” actually works against us? If willpower were the answer to breaking bad habits then we decisionswouldn’t have drug addiction or obesity. There’s something going on in our brains where we literally lose the ability for self-control, but all hope isn’t lost.

Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse calls the phrase “Just Say No!” “magical thinking.”

It appears that dopamine is one of the main chemicals regulating the pleasure center of the brain. At the most basic level, it regulates motivation — it sends signals to receptors in the brain saying, “This feels good!”

Whether you’re a heroin addict and you see an association to heroin, you’re a caffeine addict and you see a cup of coffee, you’re a Smartphone addict and you see another person pick up their phone, or if you’re hungry and you see some good-looking food, your brain rushes with dopamine and that is now caught on brain-scanning machines.

The fascinating thing is that Volkow has found that  the images alone affect the rise of dopamine in our brains. So if we pass a McDonald’s and see the arches, our brain associates that with a tasty hamburger (for some) and shoots up dopamine. That good feeling will unconsciously drive the motivation to go in and get a Big Mac. It’s a conditioned response. The same goes for anything including most likely our relationships to our phones.

What can we do? 

Continue reading… »



The Horse is Technology, But the Rider is on Auto-Pilot

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

You wake up the morning and before saying hi to anyone in the house you say hi to your phone. Walking on the way to the bathroom you make sure to grab your phone toonline check any messages on the way. Slowing down at the stoplight in the car is an invitation to see if you have any messages and perhaps even begin responding. At lunch we make sure to have it with us. Waiting anywhere is a cue to engage anything on the phone. Before going to bed it’s the last thing we kiss goodnight.

There’s a very subtle, and for some, not-so-subtle habitual relationship with our technology. I could easily make the argument that most of us have an addiction to our screens. In China there are currently 400 intensive treatment center for web addiction. An entire documentary called Web Junkie has been created to chronicle this issue there (Note: I’ll be at the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles, California on October 5th doing a Q&A after this screening). Many of us may not feel we have a web addiction, but in truth, most of us have some form of this.

In a recent talk the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh compared technology to a horse and said we’re currently riding it. When someone walks up and says to the rider, “Where are you going?” The rider looks at the person and replies, “I don’t know, ask the horse.” There it is, we have lost control of technology, it’s driving us, and we are no longer driving it.

The reality is, technology isn’t a positive or negative force in our lives, it’s technology. But, like riding a horse, we have to learn how to harness it to make good use of it.

To harness your relationship with technology, take a short inventory:

In what ways does my relationship to technology distract me or stress me out?

What information am I taking in that isn’t nourishing to my life or well-being?

Do I use technology to cover up my loneliness?

Does my relationship to technology take me away from friends and family?

When does it feel like technology is stealing time away from taking care of myself?

For many of us technology creates “micro-disconnections” from ourselves, our loved ones and the beauty of the world. But it also has the power to facilitate connection within ourselves, connections to mindfulness, enhancement of compassion and support to those in need foster “micro-connections.”

The choice is in our hands right now.

It’s not about ditching technology, it’s about being intentional with our relationship to it to use it for good. For most of us, if we choose to allow routine to continue, the horse will drive our personal lives. But we can set an intention each day in how we want to use this technology in ways that enhance connection and well-being.

Ask yourself:

How do I or can I use technology to take care of myself?

How do I or can I use technology to help me foster connection?

Let’s gather as a community right now, how do you use technology for good? In what ways do you feel like it steals your time?

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



Use Your Difficult Emotions to Gain Emotional Freedom

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

For a number of months now hundreds of people have been taking the Basics in Mindfulness Meditation: 28 day program challenge to bring more mindfulness, self-compassion, compassion and balance into their lives. Throughout the unbinding the heartcourse questions are asked that I field and one came in recently that I thought important to bring to all people as it is a seminar question of our time.

Here is the question

Hi Elisha, Thank you for this very helpful course. I notice that my thoughts start whirring around in my head when I have had an emotional encounter. I try to accept the thoughts, acknowledge it being there, then focus on breathing or the body scan but my mind races back to that emotion I experience of sadness. How can I pull myself into the moment when this happens? Will appreciate your advice.

Here is an answer

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This Instruction May Seem Simple, Yet it is Very Profound

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Make this week a week to be mindful of your diet.

Not just the food you take in, but what you take into all of your senses — into your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and sense of touch. breathing exercise

What kind of diet are you feeding your senses?

Are they on sensory overload from too much interaction with digital devices? Is there too much time with the news?

What good things might you bring into your diet? Is there music you’d like to listen to? The touch of a loved one? A specific food or maybe a beautiful landscape?

Allow today to be the day, in this Now Moment, to start feeding a life of meaning.



The Neuroscience of Resistance and How to Overcome It!

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

We all experience resistance everyday when we’re trying to do something that matters. Whether you want to sit and meditate, work on a new project, get out and exercise, whatever it is that is in the direction of growth, resistance comes CogniFit Brain Plasticity
alive. In my next book Uncovering Happiness (can’t wait to share it with you – January, 2015), I explore some of the neuroscience behind what keeps us stuck in a depressive loop and how to get unstuck and even find our natural anti-depressants and thrive.  While resistance lies within a depressive spiral, you don’t have to have had experienced depression in the past to know resistance, it’s a universal daily experience for all of us.

But the deeper question is, where does it reside in the brain and how do we overcome it?

I don’t believe anyone has conducted and brain scan specifically on resistance, but one thing we do know is that the right side of the prefrontal region that lies behind your forehead lights up when we’re trying to avoid something. This same region also lights up with negative emotions.

One thing we’re wanting to do is intentionally practice and repeat shifting the activity to the left prefrontal region that is more associated with approaching things in life and with resiliency.

The fact is resistance is relentless, it’s a deeply ingrained wiring that we all have to move away from what the brain anticipates to be uncomfortable and stay with what’s comfortable.  Not only is this hardwired into most of us, but we’ve practiced is so often that it’s strengthened the default. The brain has such a lock on us, that we’re not even aware of it.

This is why procrastination is so common.

So what do we do about it?

K.N.O.W  Your Resistance

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Books and CDs by Dr. Elisha Goldstein:
Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind
The Now Effect: How This Moment Can Change The Rest of Your Life

A Mindfulness-Based
Stress Reduction Workbook Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety and Depression
 

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