Archives for August, 2012


Why You Want to Sweat the Small Stuff

Every day in my inbox I get a Daily Now Moment (DNM) that gives me something short enough to tweak my brain toward the present moment and to what actually matters. Here's one that I received recently that I want to expand on:
"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." ~ Robert Brault

What are those little things you can be on the lookout for today? A hug, a smile, the functionality of your body?

Sometimes it's good to sweat the small stuff.
You may know by now, or maybe it's news, that your brain makes thousands of decisions a day beneath your awareness about what's good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, important or unimportant, urgent or non-urgent. In The Now Effect, I borrowed Malcolm Gladwell's terms "snap judgment" and "rapid cognition" to name this process.
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Reprogram Your Brain to Improve Relationships and Heal Past Wounds

If you've followed my work, you've probably heard me talk about or read something I've written that has talked about the skillful application of doing things that prime our minds in the direction of mindfulness, health and well-being. In fact, Priming the Mind is the third step of the 5 Step Cheat Sheet in The Now Effect.

It's a way of influencing your subconscious mind toward what I like to call healthy reactivity. Most of the time our brains are making hundreds of decisions for us from moment-to-moment and we're never going to be conscious of those snap judgments they happen too rapidly. However, just like our brains have memorized the procedures of walking, talking and eating, so too can we have the brain memorize procedures toward mindfulness, health and well-being.

Here's one thing you can do right now to prime your mind toward greater compassion, which is directly connected to healing ourselves and making the world a better place to live.

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The Courage to Be Present: An Interview with Karen Kissel Wegela, PhD

The first time I came across the title of Karen Kissel Wegela's book, "The Courage to Be Present," I said to myself, "how true." In an age where distraction is encouraged, it actually takes courage to intentionally be present to our lives.

Karen has been a core faculty member at Naropa University for more than 29 years focusing on "Contemplative Psychotherapy" - bringing together Buddhism and traditional psychotherapy. She has a private practice in Boulder, Colorado and gives workshops and lectures nationally and internationally. I think the message she conveys can be extraordinarily helpful to so many of us.

It is my honor to interview her here so we can all glean some of her wisdom.

Question: Karen, what are the differences between traditional psychotherapy and Contemplative Psychotherapy?

Contemplative Psychotherapy differs from other kinds of psychotherapy in being especially interested in what we call "brilliant sanity," our inherent wisdom and compassion.  Although we are not always in touch with that basic nature of who we most deeply are, nonetheless, Contemplative Psychotherapists always assume its presence in ourselves and in our clients and are trained to recognize it even when it is covered or disguised by confusion and habitual patterns.

We work with our clients--and with ourselves--to uncover that sanity within all confused or painful states of mind.
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Refusing to Forgive: An Interview with Dr. Fred Luskin

Today I bring to you one of the foremost experts on a critical topic for individuals and relationships: forgiveness.  Dr. Fred Luskin is the Director of the Stanford Research Project on Forgiveness and author of the popular books "Forgive for Good, Stress Free for Good," and his most recent "Forgive for Love." He currently serves as a Senior Consultant in Health Promotion at Stanford University and is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.

Question: In your newest book, "Forgive for Love," you cite some staggering statistics in your book that over 50% of marriages end in divorce and 60% of second or third marriages end in the first 10 years. An even more alarming statistic is the survey that showed only 25% of spouses saying they are "happy together." What's going on here?

Dr. Luskin: Being happy long term with another human being appears to be a difficult goal to achieve in the United States over the last 30 years. I think there are some unexplored cultural reasons...primarily a culture which has been taught that it is a sign of success to have things our way. That Burger King mentality of looking to have our personal, irrelevant desires gratified makes it more difficult to achieve the kind of compromise, forgiveness and intimacy over time that a relationship requires.
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What Smartphone Phantom Vibration Syndrome is Revealing

A few years ago I was sitting at lunch talking to a friend when my brain picked up a subtle buzz in my pocket. I reached for the phone to see what the message might be and lo and behold, my phone wasn’t there, it was sitting right on the table. I was being visited by a phantom vibration.

If you’ve experienced this, you’re not alone. It’s apparently a widespread phenomenon. But what does it mean to our daily life?

In a recent study, 89 percent of undergraduates experienced phantom vibrations about once every two weeks. That’s fascinating, but even more fascinating as it applies to our mental health is that people who are more reactive to messages on their phones also had a higher rate of phantom vibrations than those who weren’t.

The study suggests that targeting people’s reactivity to Smartphone messaging can help reduce these vibrations.

In my book, the very experience of phantom vibrations has widespread implications in helping us understand the relationship between our brain, perception and why we do what we do in life.

What do I mean?

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Finding Meaning in a Broken Glass

Here's a past post that I wanted to revive due to a lot of recent interest. Enjoy!

Over the course of our lives we’ve been labeled or labeled ourselves as a glass half full or empty kind of person. But what if the glass was already broken? That’s the lesson that Ajahn Chah gives to a group of students including Psychiatrist Mark Epstein, author of "Thoughts Without A Thinker."

Ajahn Chah was a highly respected Buddhist Teacher, maybe well known to some as Jack Kornfield’s teacher. What was he talking about when he said the glass is already broken and how does that relate to our lives?

He says:

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Is the Web Driving Us Crazy? A Mindful Response

It's undeniable. The bond between human and digital device gets stronger every year. The average person sends or receives four times the amount of text messages since 2007. People are starting to feel their phone vibrate in their pockets when in fact there was never a vibration. This has been called “phantom-vibration syndrome.”

There’s a historical shift happening that we’ll only begin to understand years from now.  With the wonderful things that the internet has brought us, it also hard to deny the ADHD and OCD-like qualities many of us are picking up as we continue to merge with our digital devices.

As you practice and repeat something, it becomes a habit, and whether the kick starter was a need to use the internet for business or social reason, the devices we have today are pretty good and getting us to use them over and over again. What do you need to be aware of?

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Learn How to Be Alone Through Mindfulness

If you’ve been following recent news in the mindfulness world, you may have heard about a recent study by David Creswell out of Carnegie Mellon University that showed the wonderful effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as a reduction on perceived loneliness in healthy older adults age 55-85.

Loneliness is something that most of us experience from time to time, caused and exacerbated by stress, anxiety, depression, addiction and trauma, but you may not have known how staggering the statistics truly are. A recent survey taken from the AARP showed over 44 million people are lonely and longing to connect with another living, breathing human being.

There’s a difference between being alone and lonely. The Buddhist Nun, teacher and author of "Taking the Leap," Pema Chodron writes:

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Neuroscience and Compassion Training Predict a Better World

In 2000, Dr. Richie Davidson brought over a number of monks, who practiced a form of compassion meditation, to his lab in Madison, Wisconsin for at least 10,000 hours to find out what was happening in their brains.

He hooked them up to brain imaging machines and found that when exposed to a sound of human pain, their brains weren’t disturbed, but areas of the brain involved with empathy and compassion lit up. That obviously has implications for how we can train our minds to develop compassion and regulate in the face of difficulty, but who is going to practice for 10,000 hours?

The natural question arose, what difference will compassion meditation make for the rest of us?

Here is one thing Richie and his colleagues found:

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