Be 10% Kinder

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

British author Aldous Huxley, most famous for his book Brave New World, spent his life digging into the world’s problems and through that experience inevitably became quite a spiritual man. I guess it rings of Rumi’s quote, “Don’t turn your gaze. Look toward the bandaged place, that’s where the light enters. Late in his life at one of his final public speeches he said something illuminating, “It’s a little embarrassing that after 45 years of research & study, the best advice I can give people is to be a little kinder to each other.”

What would life be like if we each practiced being 10% kinder each day?

10% kinder to ourselves.

10% kinder to one another.

unbinding the heart

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7 Things Mindful People Do Differently Every Day and How to Begin Now!

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

The intention of being more present in our lives is continuing to grow and touch an increasing amount of people. I have friends who I never would have imagined practicing mindfulness who now sit in daily meditation. When I look at the Seattle Seahawks, think of our Army Vets or politicians sitting in the “Quiet Caucus” room, I’m filled with a whole lot of hope. When I see an increasing amount of kids and teens being taught mindfulness in their schools I see possibility. My wife and I ran a family retreat at Denim N’ Dirt Ranch and long before the deadline it was sold out showing me an increasing desire of parents wanting to bring this into their families. As people start to engage mindfulness I’ve noticed a few things they begin to do differently. 

Here are 7 things people who practice mindfulness do differently:

Practice Being Curious

alive possibel

One of the essential attitudes of mindfulness is beginner’s mind. This is engaging something as if for the very first time. People who practice mindfulness bring this attitude with them throughout the day. When they take a shower, they might imagine it was the first time feeling the water, smelling the soap, or watching the steam as it shifts and changes before their eyes. Novelty is one of the fastest routes to creating new neural connections.

Even a meal or snack becomes a chance to pause and reflect on how this simple peace of food holds everything in it, the earth, wind, rain and sunshine. All the people from around the world who contributed in making the ingredients and putting them together into what it is in that moment. This simple snack becomes a source of gratitude and a moment of recognizing the interconnection of all things.

Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder.” Curiosity leads the mindful person to get back in touch with the wonders and possibilities of life.

Forgive Themselves

forgive

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Your Brain’s Greatest Blind Spot to Happiness

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

As fabulous as our brains are, they have their blind spots to happiness. Our brains are wired to chunk data and make things routine so we can handle more complex tasks. But what happens when it applies this method to other human beings or even the people who are dearest to us? When we feel connected, we feel balanced and happy. When we feel disconnected, we feel imbalanced and often unhappy. A little while ago New York Rescue mission tried out a little experiment to see just how invisible the homeless are to most of us. What they found will touch your heart and has implications for all our relationships. 

Here is a short 3-minute video of their experiment:

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The Neuroscience of Focus: Taking Back Control of Our Minds

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

billboardsScientists John Gaspar and John McDonald from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia have recently discovered that we have an anti-distraction mode in our brain (See an overview here or the actual study here). This means that focusing on what matters moment-to-moment is not only about intentionally paying attention to something, like reading this blog post or listening to a friend, but also about suppressing all of the distractions in the background.

Why is this important to us and what can we do about it?

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Essential Skills of Mindfulness and More: An Interview with the Authors of Sitting Together

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

glassesI began the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog on Psychcentral.com over 5 years ago now. Since then I’ve written hundreds of posts on the intersection of mindfulness and psychotherapy. Recently a new book has been published called Sitting Together: Essential Skills for Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy. While this is a wonderful and practical guide for therapists, someone who is not a therapist would also benefit from the guidance and exercises.  Today I have the benefit of interviewing the authors of Sitting Together; Susan Pollak, MTS, Ed.D., clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School and president of the Institute of Meditation and Psychotherapy, Thomas Pedulla, LICSW, faculty at the Institute of Meditation and Psychotherapy and Ronald Siegel, Psy.D., author of The Mindfulness Solution and also faculty at the Institute of Meditation and Psychotherapy.  

Today Susan, Ron and Tom talk to us about introductory practices we can use when feeling overwhelmed, when Lovingkindness is best practiced, the critical importance of equanimity and when not to use mindfulness.

Elisha: What do you find to be the most effective introductory practice(s) for a client who is feeling overwhelmed with the stresses of life?

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The Power of Surrender: Why Giving Up is an Act of Courage and Wisdom

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

In our culture the notion of surrendering has a negative connotation to it. It means you’ve been defeated and that you’re powerless. But if you look to the world’s wisdom traditions you’ll find that the idea of surrendering is a courageous act that creates more insight and freedom from the unnecessary mental struggles of life. 

The 13th century Sufi poet Rumi uses a wonderful metaphor to bring this to life:

Very little grows on jagged rock.

Be ground. Be crumbled,

so wildflowers will come up

where you are.

You’ve been stony for too many years.

Try something different.

Surrender.

Many of us harden into patterns of life that keep the struggle going. We can’t seem to let go of the self-judgment because our brain believes it’s there to keep us in line. We numb out to the world through eating, drinking, over-use of social media, among so many other ways.

Question: Why is our brain so afraid of surrendering our unhealthy patterns of thinking and behaving?

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The Neuroscience of Resiliency: An Interview with Linda Graham

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

From time to time I’ll bring you a leader in the field of Mindfulness who I believe has something to really teach us. Linda Graham, MFT is the author of Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, where she does an excellent job showing us how mindfulness can help to rewire our brain for greater resilience. Linda has a wealth of experience as a seasoned clinician and also as a mindfulness teacher and practitioner.

Today she’ll talk to us about what parts of the brain to bolster for resiliency, a practice to help us do just that and the critical roles of compassion and equanimity.

Elisha: What makes someone resilient has been one of the foremost questions of our time. Are there parts of the brain we want to pay attention to when thinking of resiliency?

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5 Steps to a Worry Cure

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

We’ve all heard the saying that in life there are ups and down and there is the classic eastern saying that life is filled with 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. With this there’s the wisdom that all things come and go, but the brain has a funny way of amplifying the sorrows and minimizing the joys for good evolutionary reasons. Whenever the brain perceived something as “bad” it starts to worry about it. But often times there is no real utility to the worry, it only serves to dig us into a deeper hole and blinds us to the joys that might be waiting around the corner.

Here is one of the best cartoons I’ve found that says it like it is:

Pleanuts worry cartoon

Here are 5 Steps to a Worry Cure

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One Simple Practice to Awaken Joy and Happiness in Your Life

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently creating a new 28-Day Basics in Mindfulness Meditation Program that I’m hopeful will be supportive to many people in launching or deepening their mindfulness practice. As I completed the program I had a wonderful feeling of accomplishment only quickly to be followed by the thought, “Okay, now onto the other book you’re writing on Uncovering Happiness” and immediately my shoulders got tense. I feel so fortunate for the work I do because not too long after that some voices arose in my mind that saved the moment for me and ultimately are a great source of my own happiness.

The main voice that arose said, “Hold on a minute you really worked hard on that, is there a space to appreciate this and can you have joy for your own joy?” Here is some proof that I must’ve changed some neural architecture in there to make this awareness arise spontaneously.

What followed was a more conscious mindful joy practice with the intention of planting the seeds of my ability to feel joy for my own joy and extend that sentiment to people I care about and eventually to all people.

The Following is a Practice for Awakening Joy

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All I Really Need to Know I Learned in an Earthquake!

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

seismographIt was 6:25 am today when the bed started to shake. I heard a picture frame hit the floor outside our bedroom door. Our youngest son was in the bed with us at the time and woke up and said, “What is going on Daddy?” He didn’t seem too worried and either was I having grown up in Los Angeles where the earth’s little “shake and bake” routine happened from time to time. This was a pretty good one with a magnitude of 4.7. I went to check on my other son, he was still asleep, hadn’t even stirred. One thing it did remind me of was that from time to time, life throws us little reminders to pay attention to what matters.

This morning I was reminded that “Life is about who you love and how you love them.” I gave my son and wife a big hug.

As mindful as we can train to be, we can never control what happens to us in any given moment. Training the mind in presence is a way of preparing the mind to respond with more presence during the difficult events of life (and of course to the joyful events as well).

I’ll never forget the year my wife was pregnant with our first child and it seemed like everywhere I turned people were telling me, “Savor this time, it all goes by so fast.” It didn’t matter what race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status the person was coming from, it was a universal experience.

But this experience doesn’t belong to people who have kids; this is a universal experience across human beings that we often wake up to after some a loss or

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Books and CDs by Dr. Elisha Goldstein:
Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind
The Now Effect: How This Moment Can Change The Rest of Your Life

A Mindfulness-Based
Stress Reduction Workbook Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety and Depression
 

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