Archives for April, 2011
This is the last blog in a 3 part series on Mindfulness and Addiction. This one is all about getting our hands dirty in practice when it comes to working with cravings and urges. Let me set the landscape. The late Dr. Alan Marlatt had a friend who was a surfer and also a cigarette smoker and no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't quit. Alan described this process of bringing attention to the breath while observing the physical sensations of the urge and watching them as they came and went. His friend said to him "It's like you're using the breath to surf the urge." And so it was, urge surfing was born.
Not long ago I was talking to a good friend who was starting a project on really investigating the benefits of what he called, “the good.” That is that all of us have goodness inside that when brought out seems to not only benefit us, but those around us. The problem is for some reason we’re not always primed for it. Henry David Thoreau said: “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” I tend to believe this, but each of us may have a different idea of what constitutes, “the good.” When my friend was doing his investigation he would have calls or meetings with people individually to nonjudgmentally explore what the good was to each person. The purpose of this was to really do an honest inquiry into what each person felt the good was in them without our usual biased lenses.
I was recently at a conference introducing Jon Kabat-Zinn and the beginning of the talk focused around my experience when I read page 14 of his book Wherever You Go, There You Are. This was a particularly difficult time in my life when I was feeling uneasy, confused and dissatisfied with things. Now, if you’ve read this book you know he has all kinds of wonderful suggestions in it to sprinkle the philosophy and practice of mindfulness into everyday life. But when I came upon this one section it said to try reminding yourself from time to time that “this is it.” And I said, “Really, this is it?” This is all there is? Well, apparently it was… Later on that day I stood looking at the Golden Gate Bridge in awe at the beauty of San Francisco and the headlands and the phrase naturally arose in my mind, “this is it.” What a wonderful moment. That phrase has since traveled with me as a friend reminding me to accept the reality of each moment as it is. When I was sad, this is it! When I was joyful, this is it! When I was anxious, frustrated, or bored, this is it! Learning how to accept the moment as it was opened my eyes to so much more.
There is a well known proverb that says, "All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today." Do yourself a favor, read that quote over again and allow your mind to see it as if for the very first time. Our minds are very clever and make instant decisions about whether something is important to pay attention to and act on. When our minds see something over and again it becomes routine and we glance over it without really paying attention. What arises is, “yup, I know that one, that’s good advice, been there done that” and the day goes on without actually taking action with it. Ask yourself, when’s the last time I actually intentionally paid attention to the seeds I plant day to day or moment to moment?
A few months ago I was walking with a long time friend of mine who has had a long history of working in the field of personal and professional development. He said something that really surprised me. He had developed a discipline of checking into the present moment every minute of the day. Just for a few seconds he’s check to see where he was, what he was thinking, and how he was feeling. Over a short time he got pretty good at this and his mind just started to automatically bring him to the moment. This may seem extreme, but maybe there’s something for the rest of us to learn here. What if during multiple moments of the day you had a mini-moment practice where you brought your mind to the present moment and checked in with yourself. What would change?
Once in a while we all come across some information, a person, a story, or a quote that lifts us up for that moment and makes a difference in our day. What you may not realize is that momentary difference goes on to become a difference in many people that you came in contact with during the day. In their book Connected, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler make the argument that even our friend’s friend’s friends have an impact on us, that’s how deep the fabric of our interconnectedness goes. We all want to make change in ourselves and our communities and it’s important to be mindful of the fact that in order to get motivated to make change, we need to be inspired. Recently I came across the website www.weresoinspired.com that is 100% about helping us get inspired for the better. It started when a couple started sending each other emails every day trying to inspire one another to live "as if it mattered" and then made a life change to make that what they want to help others do in the moments of their lives.