Archives for compassion

Altruism

The True Upside of Hard Times


I often say if there's two things in life that we can't evade aside from death and taxes, it's stress and pain. Suffering is a part of life, but the mindset we layer over it makes all the difference.

I have so many examples in my life, and you may as well, where a difficult time was upon me and that very time was the seed which brought on the growth of the next moment.

The reality is, we never truly know whether an experience in life is good or bad because we don't know what's going to happen next.

In
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Addiction

Difficult People are Messengers for Our Unhealed Parts


We all have difficult people in our lives, it's part of the human experience. Typically, we tend to see them as a nuisance, individuals we have to put up with, or even avoid. This also comes with it's share of suffering. I'm not familiar with the author of the quote above, but the message is worth being curious about.

What if we could change our perception to seeing difficult people as messengers or teachers who arouse something inside of us that needs to be cared for or loved?

If we do this, might we become less reactive toward ourselves and other people? Inevitably, won't this provide a chance for more relationships to improve? Might it be easier to let go of bitter grudges and move toward strengthening mindfulness, self-compassion, and forgiveness? This isn't Pollyanna, it's a practical approach that can help us focus more on what matters in life.

Moreover, consider this: If relationships improve, might that support communities, regions and countries to improve?

Is it possible to set off a spark in this way that leads to not only the healing of our individual being, but the healing of humanity?

Whoa, that's a bit too large to imagine perhaps, so let's just begin with today and ourselves.

Today, try this...

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Altruism

We Can All Do a Little Every Day

Many of us have set New Year's intentions to be more compassionate, but like the mainstream spread of mindfulness, it's often something that's more talked about than practiced.

But let this be the moment where we all dig deep from wherever we are to do small things every day to restore a sense of humanity in this world. Really, what would the world be like if we all were more connected with the understanding that we're all in this together. We all want to feel accepted, understood, cared about, that sense of belonging.

Allow this video to be a small moment of inspiration: We can all do small things that are focused on daily giving. Here are 10 ideas, or use your own, mix it up it infuses novelty, creativity and fun:

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compassion

9 Calming Tips (with Less Calories) this Holiday with Dr. Susan Albers

The holidays are well under way and what comes with that is the inevitable holiday stress! It can be a not-so-merry time for parents--kids are out of their normal routine, hyped-up on sugar and grumpy after being up too late at holiday parties! Instead of soothing and calming your nerves this year with sugar cookies and candy canes, one of my favorite mindful eating experts and New York Bestselling author, Dr. Susan Albers, recommends these 9 natural techniques from her new book, 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food.

Treat these following 9 techniques as an experiment and see what you learn along the way:

1) Ho-Ho-Ho Meditation: Holidays are stressful and a recipe for stress eating. Close your eyes and do 3 Santa Clause like belly laughs—this is a simple laughing yoga exercise. Laughing yoga has been shown to reduce your cortisol level, the stress hormone that makes you crave sugary, fatty, salty foods. Creating a moment of laughter can be as simple as googling "funny baby videos" or "viral videos" on youtube.

2) Tea Time. Bye-bye pumpkin lattes! Sip Cinnamon tea. Cinnamon is clinically shown to help regulate your blood sugar which can help to avoid sugary treats. Also, the scent of cinnamon is calming and a sweet, calorie free reminder of the holiday.

3) Munch Well. Does simply chewing on something make you feel better? Try gnawing on leftover pumpkin seeds that you dry and roast. Not only is this chewy and will satisfy your need to munch, it contains L-tryptophan which helps to naturally combat depression and the blues.

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Altruism

It’s Time to Build an Army of Compassion and Here’s How We Do It

After the recent attacks in Paris, the Dalai Lama said: “Unless we make serious attempts to achieve peace, we will continue to see a replay of the mayhem humanity experienced in the 20th century.” It's easy to feel helpless when watching the news or thinking about how deeply rooted the suffering is in this situation and in many other situations of conflict around the world today. When a person watches a relative die in a conflict, their contempt for the other side can last a lifetime. There are so many powerful people and strong forces at play, what can we really do?

One answer I came up with is be a force that helps build an army of compassion.

The fact is I can do this and you can too.

Life is full of actions and reactions. This is what makes up the world around us from the trees we see, to the relationships that are kindled and to the babies that come from them. Every single thing we do matters. When Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” underlying that was the simple assumption that everything we do matters. Now we know the science behind the wisdom of his words, and why all the compassionate acts we do can have a significant impact on our mental health and a potential healing in the world.

Part of understanding the science isn’t a whole lot different than the understanding of neuroplasticity. How we pay attention and what we pay attention to influences the way our brain grows throughout the lifespan. So if we have a continuous series of moments where we are paying attention to helpless thoughts and worrying, so goes the brain. If we have a continuous series of moments where we are cultivating compassion, joy and curiosity in life, so goes the brain.

In the same way, we can have this impact not only on our mental health, but on the relationships that surround us and the world as a whole. You may not be a single force in solving the Middle East conflict or in reversing global warming, but everything you do matters. In order to better understand why everything you do matters, it’s important to understand how emotional contagion works:

The social scientists Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, and James Fowler, PhD, conducted a study to look at the effect of social networks. To determine if there was a causal relationship for obesity,
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Anxiety

STOP: The Surprising Power of Waiting

Most people believe that waiting is a waste of time and it's best to fill that time with something... anything. Whether we're in line at a the grocery story, waiting at a doctor's office, or sitting at a stoplight, the brain seems to be cued to fill that space. Nowadays, many of us pull out our phones and begin sifting through various messages, reading over documents, or surfing the web.

However, the belief that waiting has no value is mistaken. In fact, the secret to a sense of personal control, general satisfaction with life and even success, lies in learning how to find peace with waiting.

We've all heard the famous adage, "Patience is a virtue" or "Good things come to those who wait."

Easier said than done, why?

We're not in control of our brains

Because underneath the subtle yet intolerable experience of waiting is a little anxious gremlin that fears being alone. This gremlin is operating on old software that says if you're alone that means you're not being protected by your clan and it's a threat to your safety. In those small moments of waiting, the gremlin takes the controls of your brain and reaches for something to "be with" so you're not alone anymore.

In other words, the anxious gremlin is in control and you're not. Studies are clear that lacking a sense of control is associated with negative stress, anxiety and depression. Also, the more we let the gremlin run our brain, the stronger it gets - or as the Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb says, "neurons that fire together, wire together."

Using waiting for good

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Anger

Four Questions to Happiness (And Video Interview with Byron Katie)

A while back I decided to try an experiment.

I interviewed over 20 top leading experts in the field of happiness to ask them what that word actually meant and in their professional experience, what are some practical ways to begin making it a reality.

This was called the Uncovering Happiness Symposium and some of the people interviewed included Sharon Salzberg, Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Jack Kornfield, Dan Harris, Kelly McGonigal, Tara Brach, Byron Katie and more. Byron Katie struggled throughout her life with deep deep depression and ultimately found a path that led her to a simple way to break free from the internal negativity and into greater states of freedom.

She defined this as happiness.

Here are the four questions to ask ourselves to help challenge compelling negative thoughts:

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Anxiety

How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: An Interview with Toni Bernhard

One of the essential commonalities we have as human beings is that at some point or another we all experience some form of suffering. This isn't meant to be a downer, it's simply a fact of being human. Today, you're going to hear from an incredible woman, Toni Bernhard. She is the author of the award-winning book How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers and How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow. Her newest book is called How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide. She also writes a great blog called, “Turning Straw Into Gold."

Today Toni talks to us about why the path to peace begins with facing difficult realities, how mindfulness can help with chronic pain and illness, and some of the key lessons she's learned.

Elisha: How is this book different from your other book on chronic pain and illness, How to Be Sick?

Toni: The new book is broader in scope than How to Be Sick, and it’s organized differently. How to Be Sick is organized around concepts and practices to help people learn to live with grace and purpose despite the limitations imposed by their health.

By contrast, the new book is organized around specific difficulties and challenges that people face, such as dealing with others who don’t (or refuse to) understand; making the best use of your short time with the doctor; coping with isolation and loneliness; handling mood swings and painful emotions; the difficult challenge of being young and chronically ill. The new book goes beyond my personal experience because I draw on the thousands of people who’ve written to me about their health struggles.

What the books have in common is a liberal use of personal anecdotes, easy-to-learn practices (such as mindfulness and self-compassion), and my conversational style of writing. People tell me they feel as if we’re sitting in the kitchen together chatting over coffee or tea.

Elisha: In the introduction, you say the path to peace begins with facing life’s stark realities. What do you mean by that?

Toni: I’m referring to some of the inescapable realities of the human condition. First of all, we’re in bodies and they get sick and injured and old. Coming to terms with this opens the door to
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compassion

Depression: New Mindfulness-Based Online Treatments

Let's start with the bottom line: 

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has been shown to be equally as effective in preventing relapse as anti-depressant medication. 

This came from a study conducted at the University of Exeter where researchers randomly assigned 424 people into a group simply taking anti-depressant medication and another group going through an 8-week MBCT course. In this course participants learned mindfulness skills, how to relate to negative thoughts differently, and how to recognize signs of relapse and take action.

The MBCT group were offered four follow-up sessions within the year and after two years many had tapered off the medication.

The results found that the relapse was similar (44% for MBCT group and 47% for anti-depressant medication group).

This doesn't mean that if you're on anti-depressant medication you should get off of it, but it does provide hope that we have the power within us to train our brain with natural anti-depressants.

These are incredibly hopeful and encouraging results and it's been accepted as a primary intervention for depression in England and Wales.

The Bad News

MBCT is still hard to find for a lot of people. While an increasing amount of people are being trained in it, it's still largely unavailable to many of us.

The Good News

The Center for Mindful Living is now offering an 8-week live online MBCT course. The next course begins September 27th and the class is only open to 15 participants.

More Good News: Building Natural Anti-Depressants. 

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Addiction

10 Quotes for Mindful Living

Last year when my wife Stefanie Goldstein, PhD and I started The Center for Mindful Living in Los Angeles, our intention was to provide a space for people to integrate mindfulness into their lives for healing and growth. I've found over the years that pictures and quotes have the power to move beyond explanations and speak directly to our hearts and minds.

Here are 10 Quotes for Mindful Living, with some having links back to blog posts where I have explored the quote. There is a lot under these links, so feel free to bookmark this page and come back to it over and again.

Note: One way to go through this is to pause, do a mindful check-in, and then read the quote slowly. See what you notice.

Enjoy!

"You can hold back from suffering of the world,
you have permission to do so,
and it is in accordance with your nature,
but perhaps this very holding back
is the one suffering you could have avoided." ~ Franz Kafka
 "Don't turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That's where the light enters you." ~ Rumi
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