It’s not our fault; blame it on the evolutionary impulse of our brains. We’re wired toward routine and because of that we often walk around asleep concerned about what is immediately in front of us. I was talking with a friend recently who has been jolted out of the matrix of life’s daily routine and into a space of awareness of human potential. He sat me down at his house and read me the following poem by poet/activist Drew Dellinger:
“It’s 3:23 in the morning
And I’m awake
Because my great great grandchildren
Ask me in dreams
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.
When it comes to mindfulness, there are a number of great short practices that help us be more present to our lives. In this post I’m going to reveal three key mindfulness practices that can help us pause, break out of auto-pilot, step into emotional freedom and even open up to a source of connection that is ultimately healing to ourselves and the world. Plus, I’ll reveal a new practice that people are starting to love.
I know it sounds lofty, but give them a shot and let your experience be the teacher.
RIGHT NOW, practice;
I calm my brain.
I feel the gift of my body that is here.
~ Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler
It happens to all of us.
Our brains are wired to get caught up in the routine of everyday life. It seems like the older we get, the more responsibilities we have and the easier it is to practice that continuous fractured attention that we’ve all become so accustomed to.
The joke goes:
“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?
“Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote a wonderful book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, but perhaps it’s more accurate to say, ‘Wherever you go, here you are.’
At any given moment, whether you’re waiting at a stop light, waiting for a plane to take off, in line for a movie ticket, or getting ready to present at a meeting, here you are.
The truth is you’re never anywhere but here.
When we learn to embrace the hereness, all things come into place.”
~ Excerpt from Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler
All modes of suffering including anxiety, depression, trauma reactions and addictive behaviors arise from the brain’s very simple strategy of trying to get away from here.
If we can learn how to be okay with being here, a lot of the cycling of suffering will cease to exist.
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:
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.
Here’s another Daily Now Moment that if spread around can have tremendous ripple effects in your relationships, communities and beyond.
The ancient Greek writer Aesop left us with these words:
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Be on the lookout for kindness in others today. You may find more of it in the world than you think is there.
Then, try bringing more intentionality to your own acts of kindness.
We may not always get it back, but in the long run this simple practice primes your mind for good and can be life changing.
Try it out today.
Elisha Goldstein, PhD
Little brothers embracing photo available from Shutterstock