Once in a while a moment occurs in your life that causes your jaw to drop open in awe. Recently, my wife, Stefanie Goldstein, PhD and I were at Denim N’ Dirt Ranch in Santa Clarita, California giving a workshop on mindfulness for equine-assisted psychotherapists. The premise of the workshop was to teach how mindfulness and self-compassion enhanced presence for the therapists and ultimately made them more effective at the work they did with their clients. But what happened was completely unexpected and I might even borrow a word from one of the participants, “magical.”
We were all sitting in a circle in the horse ring, here’s a picture of me talking and my impromptu horse assistant “Jazz” encouraging me.
Science points to the statistic that our minds wander on average about 46.9% of the time from what we’re intending to pay attention to. This statistic is mainly from an adult population. Now, imagine if you grew up (and you might have) with all the digital distractions of the modern world and you can inflate that number. The alarming piece is that research shows that kids’ ability to resist distraction predicts how he or she will fare health-wise in adulthood. Dan Goleman, PhD author of the international best seller Emotional Intelligence and his new groundbreaking book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence shows us the science behind why the mental asset of attention may be the most important thing to focus on this year.
But while science and theory can peak our interest change never happens unless we put it into action. That’s what I’m glad Dan created an audio series that complements the book, giving us the practical techniques to increase focus of adults, teens and kids.
Today I’m going to keep it short and give you something to immediately put into practice to feel a sense of personal control and freedom in your life.
First, a story:
I was driving on the way to my office this morning and noticed a number of occurrences where my attention was brought to my phone. It was as if my brain and body were hijacked and pulled me in that direction. In an instant there was a feeling of tightening in the chest and my breathing became a bit shallower. I decided to just be aware of this for the duration of the drive and noticed it a few more times. Each time I would note it and redirect my attention to the road ahead of me. Each time I did that my body relaxed. I decided in that moment that the diagnosis of ADHD nation is incorrect; we have now become an Obsessive Compulsive Nation (OCN).
But even this has an upside…
Over 10 years ago I had a realization that we walk through life often times unaware of all the sacred moments that are there. I was curious whether we could become more aware of these moments as they were happening and also were they possible to cultivate? After conducting a national research study I found that not only can we train ourselves to be more aware of them and we can also cultivate meaningful moments. Not only that it’s associated with stress reduction and increased well-being, but all the interviews pointed to a common theme of feeling more connected to life.
What is sacred in life is right in front of us and we often time don’t realize it until it’s passed. We’re “too busy” in our own heads to see it.
Now I’m going to share it with you.
Yes, you know it, I know it, the holidays are coming up. With the holidays comes travel and when there are a lot of people traveling for most of us that’s stressful. It doesn’t matter whether it’s traveling via trains, planes or automobiles we could all use a little help in making this world a better place to move around in. What’s something we can all do that not only reduces travel stress, but also makes the world a better place?
It’s all about learning how to be the “Ambassador of Compassion” and here’s how you do it:
You may remember the story of Pavlov’s dog. Ivan Pavlov was a Russian psychologist who made the conditioned reflex famous. He rang a bell and at the same time introduced the dog to a bowl of food. Every time he introduced the food, the dog would salivate. Eventually all Pavlov had to do to get the dog to salivate was ring the bell because the bell was now associated with food in the dog’s brain. In this same way our brains have a “conditioned reflex” to try and get away from stressful or uncomfortable feelings. As it does this the body contracts and the mind frantically looks for solutions piling on more stress to the difficulty that is already there. There is a simple practice to play with that can help you break free from this stress cycle and into choice, perspective and freedom.
Why do we have it in our heads that we’ll only help another person out if we get something back in return. Maybe it’s because at the core we always need to get something back for survival. Or maybe it’s because as kids, if you want a toy that another kid has you learn to ask for it, but it often works better if you have something to trade. Fast forward to adulthood, we’re happy to help others out, as long as we get something back. Unfortunately, the mentality of expecting something back drives mental and social dis-ease. However, if we understand at a deep level that when we give without being attached to any expectation of getting return, we get so much more, true happiness.
All research points to the reality that when we do things for other people as an act of altruism or compassion, we feel happier.
Perhaps the 13th Sufi poet Rumi said it best, “Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters.” The entrance into all that’s beautiful in life is in what’s vulnerable. When something or someone is vulnerable before us we feel connected and connection is at the essence of feel well. This is because ultimately all things and people in life are connected and to feel connection is a feeling of belonging, it’s a feeling of being home. But to feel vulnerable we have to be brave and in this lies the freedom we long for.
The problem is our brains and our culture equates vulnerability with weakness. One of my newest favorite researchers and authors Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like
Throughout the last number of years mindfulness, the practice of cultivating awareness, has gone mainstream into all kinds of sectors and ages of life. Researchers have a seemingly unending amount of data at this point to its efficacy for health and well-being. For many it’s a kind of feel-good aspirational practice to be connected to or identified with. However, the reality is, it’s completely useless unless it’s actually practiced in daily life.
We can all write and read blog after blog, book after book or go hear speaker after speaker, but until we actually implement this into our lives, it’s fairly useless. Not much changes unless we put something into practice.
Take gratitude for example.
It’s become such a cliché to say, “be grateful” that many people roll their eyes when they hear this. But when’s the last time those same people practiced a gratitude ritual in their
Everyone has ups and downs in life, sometimes they’re more extreme than others. Today I am thrilled to bring you an interview with Toni Berhard, someone I deeply respect and a longtime practitioner and leader in mindfulness. She is author of her newest book How to Wake Up helping us navigate these ups and downs with greater ease and also the past award winning book How to Be Sick which speaks of how to live with greater peace with chronic illness. Toni was dean of students at the University of California Davis School of Law and the writings and practices in these books have been inspired by over 20 years of personal practice.
Today, Toni talks to us about why it’s so hard to be present to our lives, practices that Toni finds to be personally impactful, why we have to navigate joy, and some personal advice for the rest of us.
Elisha: You say that the key to peace and well-being is to be present for your life as it is. Why is that so hard to do?