“Knowing the way you think and where you place your energy allows you to step away from the various stories and mind traps that don’t serve you and enter the space of awareness where you can consider alternatives for creating a more flexible, healthier mind.”
~ The Now Effect
Cheerios recently came out with a commercial that has brought to light how our learned mental models about how things in life “should” can create powerful emotional reactions. A recent Cheerios commercial depicts a mixed race American family pouring some cheerios. While there were many positive comments, many of the comments online were so racist and extreme that they had to take off the comments section online.
Here’s the commercial:
There’s an inherent trap in trying to become a mindful person. Any moment that you are acting mindlessly you fall into the category of deficiency. You are less than what you are trying to be and this leads to some form of suffering. It reminds of a quote by Walter Landor that said, “As soon as you want to be happier, you are no longer happy.” There’s a more optimal way to view living mindfully.
Our most fundamental need in life is to be safe. When we feel safe, the body relaxes, we become more flexible in the way we see life and are generally happier. But throughout life we all suffer different traumas and feel vulnerable. Maybe we were made fun as a child at school, were a child of divorce, felt inadequate as a parent or perhaps suffered more severe traumas such as some form of physical or sexual abuse. All of these are now reference points for your brain to bring up from time to time arousing feelings of insecurity and vulnerability.
How to we heal insecurity and feel safe again?
I’m going to give you a simple acronym to play with that builds on the practice that Christopher Germer, PhD and Kristen Neff PhD use to cultivate self-compassion called “Soften, Soothe, Allow.” The new acronym of S.A.F.E which I’ll explain in a moment, integrates the ability to inquire a bit deeper into the vulnerability that is there and expands a wiser, more secure awareness of our common humanity.
The acronym for this practice is S.A.F.E:
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~ Aristotle
I’m not so sure I agree with you Aristotle. There are plenty of educated people who have trouble entertaining thoughts without accepting them. In any intense emotional state we become strict believers of the thoughts we think. If you’re depressed, educated or not, you often accept the thought that things are hopeless. When you’re anxious, educated or not, you believe that catastrophe is around the corner. It may be more accurate to say, “It is the mark of a wise mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
But what helps us shape a wiser brain?
Unfortunately, our brains don’t seem to be built to pay attention to what’s good in life, but more to what seems urgent or threatening. That makes sense as fundamentally safety and security trump happiness and well-being. However, having our minds roll around in past hurts and regrets of the past or potential catastrophes in the future isn’t really keeping us safe nor is it making us happy. It’s more likely stressing us out. It’s a lose, lose. At times it’s skillful to grab hold of our minds and incline them in ways that create a reinforcing spiral up to feeling good.
One of those ways is to build a wall of gratitude and here’s how.
The reason there is no definitive guide on parenting is because every baby and child is unique and all parents come with unique baggage from childhood and genetics. Becoming a parent is wonderful for stirring up all of those old memories and connections from our own upbringing. Mix this in with our fractured attention spans and we begin to see why it is becoming increasingly important for us to learn how to practice presence with our own thoughts, feelings and emotions so we can have the ability to do that with our children.
Note: To get more direction with the power of bringing more presence into your parenting please join my wife, Stefanie Goldstein, PhD and I, as well as 20 other leaders such as Marianne Williamson, Harvel Hendrix, Don Miguel Ruiz, John Gray, and others for a powerful Parenting with Presence FREE teleseminar, hosted by Susan Stiffelman author of Parenting Without Power Struggles, June 4-7.
One of the things that make it difficult to be present as a parent is because as children we coped through disconnection. For many, childhood was a time of betrayal and
Everyone has tough days and for some the days seem to be a never ending string of murkiness. All of our mental afflictions, stress, anxiety, depression, addictive urges and trauma responses are experienced as contractions in the body. An antidote to this would naturally be opening the body up and that is one among many reasons why yoga can be helpful. But to take it one step further, laughter opens our bodies up, vibrates core areas where the stuck energy resides while simultaneously igniting resiliency centers of the brain.
Do yourself a favor, simply watch this 3-minute video and see what you notice:
When we think of what we’re thankful for we often think of the light in our lives. Who and what represents the light in your life?
The poet Hafiz writes in his poem “It Felt Love”:
How did the rose
Ever open its heart
And give to this world
All its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light
Against its being,
We all remain
This is so true. It becomes easier to open up and reveal our own gifts to this world when we feel positive loving encouragement within.
Here is an opportunity to do a practice inspired by this poem that can help us cultivate a sense of gratitude and lovingkindness right now.
Here is short practice to feel that encouragement of light right now (what do you have to lose):
You may have seen the video and maybe it touched you in a way that brought you to tears. A forensic artist sat down and asked the woman sitting on the couch next to him to tell him about her face. He opens with the question, “Tell me about your hair?” and then, “Tell me about your chin. After one woman thinks about it she says, “It protrudes a bit especially when I smile.” He continues, “What about your jaw?” Another woman answers, “My mom always told me I had a big jaw.” He then asks, “What’s your most prominent feature?” Taking a moment, she answers “Kind of a fat rounder face” or “I would say I have a pretty big forehead.” After he got his sketch he said thank you very much and left.
He didn’t see them again. But what happened next reveals a truth we each need to hear.
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.