Archives for May, 2012
We are a culture driven by the motto more is better. If we turn on the television or glance over at the magazines at the checkout line in any grocery store, we see the sensational "bling" and the "more" we are looking for. Our minds automatically say, "If I just had a bigger house, a partner, more money, a snow cone, etc... then I'd be happy." Waltor Landor accurately said, "As soon as we wish to be happier, we are no longer happy." Landor's quote echoes a millennia of teachings that say the same thing. As soon as we are reaching or grasping for something that is outside of this present moment, we get the sense that what we are or have is less than adequate in this moment. Our contentment drifts away and so does the potential for happiness right now.
The more you start paying attention to yourself and those around you, the more you start realizing that most of us are living in a routine of rushing that doesn’t seem to have an end. Well, there is an end, but as the introductory story in The Now Effect points out, it’s better to get that clarity now. Recently, Maria Shriver gave a talk at USC in which she told graduates she felt like we as a society are out of control, and asked people to learn how to pause to save our nation. Here are some things she said about the power of pause:
A constant struggle and dissonance with our imperfections may very well be the number 1 issue concerning self-esteem, which opens the door to greater stress, anxiety and depression. Yes, you can quote me on that. We all have self-esteem issues and the media feeds it. When some of us were young, we felt like we had to be perfect in order to get positive attention or love from our parents. Others became enthralled with the media and airbrushed pictures of models showing what a "normal" body looks like. Or maybe it was the billboards and cartoon commercials showing how happy children were when they had a particular expensive toy that many of us didn't have. In some way the message is that we're defective, deficient and imperfect. Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher Dogen Zenji has a wonderful quote: "To be in harmony with the wholeness of things is not to have anxiety over imperfections."
I often quote the Abraham Joshua Heschel saying: "Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder." This quote simply epitomizes how our brains work and why, over time, the things that seemed so interesting or captivating start to lose their luster. Of course we get disconnected from what matters in life; it's the way we're wired. The question is, how do we train our brains to pop out of this auto-pilot and into a space of awareness where the choice points lie to reconnect to what's most meaningful?
Before reading this blog post, take 10 seconds to take a few deep breaths, be aware of your body here and create a moment of being present. Now, read over this poem twice before moving on. Here is a poem by 13th century Sufi Poet, Rumi,: The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don't go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the door sill Where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don't go back to sleep. Right now is an opportunity (which is really available to us at any moment) to recognize that we may be starting this moment off from a place of auto-pilot, falling into the same old habitual styles of thinking and behaving that we really want to change. This might mean engaging in habits that don't serve our health and well-being (e.g., drinking/eating too much, isolating, too much TV, too much digital interaction) or with habitual ways of thinking (e.g., negative self talk).
Why are bad habits so hard to break? What does the bumper sticker "Just Say No!" actually work against us? Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, may have the answer. If you have 10 minutes or so, watch the 60 Minutes video below to understand why habits are so hard to break and what is being done about it:
We're all experiencing the intersection of social media into the landscape of our culture and daily lives. That is why bringing mindfulness to how we interact in this medium is more important than ever. It's my pleasure to bring to you Howard Rheingold, an author who has been talking about our interaction with the online world and how it has changed our reality for years. Howard is author of many books, the most recent being Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. Today in our debut video. Howard answers questions on the landscape of social media today, why mindfulness can help and what the future looks like.
In the spirit of Psychcentral's Slow Eating Challenge and the "Now on Your Diet" chapter in The Now Effect I offer The Slow Down Diet. There’s a funny cartoon out there of some cows in a pasture eating grass. One cow’s head is lifted up with a sense of horror on his face and the caption reads “Hey wait a minute! This is grass! We’ve been eating grass!” If I asked you, have you ever been sitting at a meal with someone or even by yourself and been halfway through the meal without having tasted the food? In my experience, the odds are likely that you’ll be nodding your head up and down. Our heads are simply often somewhere else, worrying about where we need to be, watching television, or engrossed in conversation. This unawareness is the seed for making poor food choices, not to mention missing out on enjoying the food. This unawareness can also drive people to overeat as a way to cope with unacknowledged feelings and emotions. You may be in search of a “quick fix” that consists of caffeinated beverages and highly refined foods that burn very quickly and spike up the metabolism. Many people have learned to comfort and sedate themselves with food. Sadly our “super-size” culture not only supports these tactics but also capitalizes on it. Since preparing and eating food is such an essential component of our lives, why not bring mindful awareness to this?
Before Stephen March wrote his thoughts in The Atlantic that Facebook was making us lonelier, there were been several people arguing both sides for years. It’s intriguing to consider how technology is changing how we relate to one another as it is happening. We’re living in a time of major flux, a real transition in our culture and it would be wonderful if we were aware of what was happening as it is happening. So let’s take a momentary glance at Facebook and the rest of technology that we use every day and see the importance in starting The Great Mindful Experiment.