Archives for September, 2011


7 Steps to Making Real Change Last

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the term “Mindful Recovery?”

Is it Addiction? Trauma? Depression? Or maybe something else?

Maybe it’s all of those things, but I’m going to pose this moment to be a time to look back on the last year and ask yourself, “What afflictions have I suffered this year that I am in recovery for?” Maybe this last year you let stress get the best of you? Maybe your relationship slipped this past year as you got roped into more television programs or Facebook addictions. Maybe you did slip into abuse with drugs, alcohol, sex, work, or overly accommodating people in life who abuse you.

What’s going to be different in the coming hours, days, weeks and months ahead?

Perhaps the simplest path is to make the intention an awareness of the moments you get sucked into these destructive behaviors that you want to change. In this space of awareness we draw a second intention which is to get curious about what the feeling is that you’re trying to escape from.

I think where we make our greatest error is when we make those resolutions that say, “I’m going to go the gym more, meditate more, start playing guitar or bring the romance back.” This jumps the gun. There are so many steps that occur before taking action with any of these things. There’s already a built up resistance to them and to skip over that is a recipe for failure.

What if these changes you wanted to make were couched in less immediacy? It’s helpful to actually understand what going on with the auto-pilot that lives within each one of us.

Here’s 7 steps to get underneath the hood and give yourself the change of making real change last:

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Voices: A Simple Reminder to Bring Us Back to What Really Matters

A short while ago I opened an opportunity for people to send me stories of mindfulness that can show the rest of us how it has had a practical impact on a particular event or their lives. I'm calling this column of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, "Voices."

A number of people wrote it with stories and now, as long as there are good stories that teach the rest of us how mindfulness can work in our lives, I will choose from them from time to time to post on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy.

Of course those that get chosen can also send me a link that I’ll include in the post where people can learn more about them.

Here’s a true story from Sara Boilen, Psy.D. about a simple way to bring us back to our intentions.
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Invitation: Get Your Story Posted on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog

A couple weeks ago I highlighted a therapist in Los Angeles named Stan Friedman who had a story of how he broke free from the auto-pilot of negative thinking and into a space of choice and possibility. I want to open this up as an opportunity for people to send me stories of mindfulness that can show the rest of us how it has had a practical impact on a particular event or their lives.

I will choose from them from time to time to post on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy to help give insight to the rest of us of how mindfulness can be practically applied for our health and well-being.

Of course those that get chosen can also send me a link that I’ll include in the post where people can learn more about them.
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You are Exactly Where You Need to Be

We spend a lot of our attention day in and day out, knowingly and unknowingly trying to be somewhere else than where we are. You may have had this thought before, but still the same process continues. It’s as if our mind is in the business of constantly trying to evade life as it is.

On the subtle end it’s when we’re in the shower and planning what needs to get done at work, on the more blatant end it’s when we have a fear of heights and we stay away from getting on anything that’s taller than us. What would life be like in the days, weeks and months ahead if you truly believed the following thought?

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5 Keys to Preparing for Fall and Winter Blues

As I look out my window right now and see the overcast, gray sky I’m reminded of the seasons changing and although fall is coming up, winter is just around the corner. While it’s a wonderful practice to be in the present moment, at times it’s good to look toward the future so we can use this moment for planning.

I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” When it comes to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or just being negatively affected by less light or shorter days, this is a great opportunity to get your ducks in a row to stave off a depressive slide.

Here are 5 key tips to stave off any upcoming fall and winter blues:

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A Metaphor of Possibility: Stan Friedman, PhD

Sometimes you run across a story that provides a great teaching. Stan Friedman, PhD, a Psychologist in West Los Angeles, has such a story; a story that uses a metaphor to explore the possibility of breaking free from the confines of our minds and into a world of choice and freedom.
The grapevine section of highway 5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco was closed due to a rare winter snowstorm, and I had to turn around and use a different route. What would otherwise have been a 5 1/2 hour drive to complete the 400 mile journey became instead a 6 1/2 hour ordeal in heavy rain and stop-and-go traffic surrounded by the frequent honking of impatient drivers in covering only 100 of those miles. It was pretty miserable out there.

I was bemoaning my fate, realizing that there was no way out of this experience for at least the next 3 hours before reaching the motel I'd had the foresight to book along the way. Once I was mindful that I was ruminating towards the future, “When I'd be out of this mess and in a safe, warm peaceful bed.”

I asked myself a question: “If there were no way out--if I had no choice but to endure this undesirable circumstance—let’s say the world were to end at the end of those 3 hours---would I choose to be out of my misery early, to take death now? After all, there'd be no way out. Or conversely, would I rather choose to live those 3 hours?

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A Mindful Way Through Depression

Depression is one of the most profound challenges of our time. We know that 25% of women and up to 12% of men will suffer a clinical depression in their lifetime and many more will suffer with mild depression. Author and professional blog writer, Therese Borchard writes a wonderful blog about personal experiences with depression. Whether you or someone you know is suffering from depression or some psychological pain like sorrow or grief, it can feel like a burden on the mind and heart. Maybe we hold the feeling in and we become numb, walking around like a zombie, or maybe we feel like if we actually let the tears flow they would never end. Perhaps there is another way, a more gentle way to approach the pain inside.

In an earlier blog I mentioned a way we can work with the tormented mind through acknowledging the reality of the present moment and then sending a message internally to calm the distressed mind.  For example, the mind can seem fragmented, thrashing, anxious, fuzzy, numb, or any number of other ways. These states of mind can be uncomfortable and our automatic struggle with them or judgments of them only serves to feed the depression. The problem is, this struggle and avoidance of it leads to disconnection of what we are truly feeling and so the mind begins to get the better of us.

Here is another approach:

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A Simple Practice to Make You Feel More Alive

Every day we walk outside our door to go to work, the post office, the grocery store or wherever, our mind is already ahead of itself. In many of the mindfulness-based classes I teach we start with Jon Kabat-Zinn’s raisin exercise where we pretend we’ve never seen this raisin before and proceed to bring all our five senses to it. Inevitably people come out saying they noticed so much more about the raisin than they ever knew. Many say they enjoyed it so much more and found it satisfying.

The question remains, how much of life do we miss out on day-to-day as we spend so much attention in the past and future?

Jan Chozen Bays is a physician and Zen teacher and her latest book How to Train a Wild Elephant: & other adventures in mindfulness, she teaches us many practices to engage in week to week, but here’s a simple one to show us how much we usually miss.
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