Ever since mindfulness began spreading its wings in Western culture, there has been the fear that it would be stripped down, diluted and packaged for sale by greedy money-hoarding capitalists just wanting to make their bank accounts fatter. If this happened, inevitably it would just become a passing trend that the public would eventually grow weary of. The most cautionary piece about this was an article published on Huffington Post called Beyond McMindfulness. While the sentiment of commodifying mindfulness into a marketable technique is alive, and worth cautioning against, it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The new holy bible of psychiatric diagnosis is about to go on sale tomorrow. No matter what our conclusions of it are, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is destined to be a best seller as it is the defacto guide to mental illness that most all institutions, physicians, therapists, healthcare providers and educational systems use. But it’s important for us to take a step back once in a while and ask, is this book helping or hindering the field of mental health and in turn, our individual and cultural stigma of mental health?
It’s not often that I interview someone on the mindfulness and psychotherapy blog who has put out a novel. However, Diana Gould has had a long career in film and television and in her practice with mindfulness. She currently teaches at InsightLA in Santa Monica, California and has recently released her first novel Coldwater. She has also put out a special Coldwater Challenge contest: Find the Mindfulness! Nestled within the pages of this noir thriller are little nuggets of mindfulness teachings. How many can you find? Make a list, give your reasons, and submit to firstname.lastname@example.org. The winner will receive your choice of a free basics class at InsightLA or a personal consultation with Diana about dharma practice & writing or both!
Today, Diana talks to us about what inspired her to write this novel, how mindfulness integrates into the novel, the themes of destruction and redemption are applicable in our lives, and some thoughts for the times we are suffering.
Elisha: What inspired you to write Coldwater?
You may have read, and you’ve certainly experienced, that our brains are wired with a negative bias. From and evolutionary perspective this is to keep us on the lookout for danger in order to be prepared if it is ever to strike. But when we get a new job, relationship, parenting or many other areas of life, it squashes what could be a joyful and exciting experience. In fact, one of the greatest offenders when it comes to the negativity bias is “doubt,” but there’s a way to reverse the doubting habit and open up to the joy that is already there.
Here’s the practice and I’ll keep it short and sweet so you can take it and begin experimenting with it in your life today:
A research study just came out in the Journal of Neuroscience where scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston used sea snail nerve cells to reverse memory loss. The scientists were able to help the cells compensate for memory loss by retraining them when the nerve cells were primed for optimal learning. Of course they’re hoping this has implications for working with Alzheimer’s, but the implications don’t stop there, it could also support a neuroscience for learning to trust ourselves in times of difficulty.
One of most essential relationships in life is with the food we eat. What we bring into our bodies affects our level of energy, ability to pay attention, and general well-being. That is why being mindful in our lives has to integrate the food we eat. Brandt Passalacqua, author of the audio program Being At Peace With Food, is also a speaker who discovered yoga and meditation after struggling with his weight, food and substance addiction, and serious illness. Since founding Peaceful Weight Loss™ Through Yoga, his personal journey has served as an inspiration to countless others looking to make peace with food. You can also check out his webinar here.
Today, Brandt talks to us about what our most impactful bad eating habits are, how he developed a healthy relationship to food, a meditation to get us started and a little advice at the end.
Elisha: Hi Brandt, to get us started tell us what some of the most impactful negative eating habits are that affect us today?
I recently led a workshop focused on helping us develop a wiser relationship to our technology (Smartphones, IPads, computers, television, etc.). In the beginning of the workshop I explained how as much as we feel that technology is a part of our lives, historically, we’re really just becoming acquainted with it. We talked about how in many ways, the people who came to the group were like “Digital Warriors,” at the frontier of optimizing this new wiser relationship to technology.
Here are a five benefits we found and one thing that surprised me most about what would come in life we practiced more digital awareness.
All of us have an innate desire to heal our suffering and step into a wiser and happier life. Today it is my great pleasure to bring a favorite author, teacher and psychologist of mine who is at the forefront of integrating mindfulness into psychotherapy and our lives. Tara Brach, PhD is author of the recently released and the soon-to-be-a-classic True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart, bestselling book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha, and many more. Tara has weekly podcasts from her Wednesday night sitting groups and is senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Communityof Washington. She embodies and emphasizes that beneath the turbulence of our minds and hearts is a loving awareness that as we learn to tap into over and again can reveal a source of resiliency, peace and genuine happiness.
Today, Tara will talk to us about her own journey through suffering that led to true refuge, the differences between true and false refuges, key practices to begin with this in our lives, how this applies to anxiety and depression and a final message for us to walk away with.
Elisha: One of the aspects of your book that I deeply appreciated was your personal journey from suffering to find your true refuge. Can you share a little of that with us here?
Life goes by quickly and it’s only later that we look back with nostalgia. In The Now Effect I write about the ability to create “Present Nostalgia” as a means to savor the moment. This is the practice of imaging yourself in the future in a time when things have changed and looking back to see what is precious about this moment. Then, in the present moment you can savor what you’ve been missing. However, in his recent inauguration, President Obama also shows us how savoring is done.
Here’s the clip to watch:
Our kids are our future and nowadays we are seeing them in them higher states of anxiety, impulsivity and other behavioral problems. In recent years mindfulness has been shown as an effective approach for children in lower stress and anxiety and even increasing states of feeling well. Susan Kaiser Greenland wrote The Mindful Child, I did an interview with Meg Cowan on her work with Mindful Schools, and Goldie Hawn has successfully started and organization called Mind Up. There is another very special organization started by two brothers Ali and Atman Smith and their friend Andres Gonzalez called Holistic Life Foundation. The three men made a choice to move back to their hometown and make a difference helping the kids transform their lives.
Today Ali, Atman and Andres talk to us about how mindfulness is helpful for behavioral problems, some key practices they have found to make a difference, why it’s important to help kids lead, and some advice for parents and teachers. Ali, Atman and Andres will be speaking at the Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference in San Diego, Ca Feb 1-3, 2013.
Elisha: How is mindfulness helpful with kids who are impulsive, prone to behavioral problems and anger issues?