No matter what tradition you are celebrating, it's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle this time of year. This link to an article by Ed Halliwell gives you five ways to slow down and appreciate what's going on around you. Click on the link to open the article: http://www.mindful.org/mindful-voices/the-examined-life/five-ways-to-slow-down-and-appreciate-the-season
Following up on yesterday's R.A.I.N post; here is "See, Touch, Go".....R.A.I.N and See, Touch, Go are both simple, yet effective ways to work with emotions through a more accepting, compassionate stance. "If all you did was put your hand on your heart, and wish yourself well, it would be a moment well spent" ~ Elisha Goldstein. His article, published in mindful.org, is below. (Link to original article is at the end.)
3 Ways to Train the Compassionate Brain ~ Elisha Goldstein, Phd
When you’re focused on any activity, whether it’s your email, listening to a friend, or sitting in a formal meditation practice, your mind is bound to wander. In The Now Effect, I introduce the phrase “See, Touch, Go” as a way to remember how to work with the wandering mind. When it wanders we “See” that it wandered, then we “Touch” or spend a moment with the thought, and “Gently Go” back to the initial intention. Recently, a friend opened my eyes to how this phrase can be adapted to be a simple and practical way to strengthen a more compassionate brain.
I can’t wait to share it with you.
One day my friend Robin and I were discussing the power of “See, Touch, Go” to help stay focused on what matters. We talked about how it’s made us better listeners, more focused at work and less judgmental of ourselves when we veer from our intentions. She also told me that the other night she had an idea that adapted it for compassion. She said that the other night she was having a particularly difficult conversation with a friend and in that moment was able to See her own frustration arising and because she was aware of this she took an opportunity to Touch her heart to ignite a more loving awareness and decided to Go from there.
This transformed the moment from a battle to seeing the person in front of her as a woman with her own moment of struggling and that behind her eyes she had the same needs of wanting to feel understand and cared about. Wanting to feel accepted and have a sense of belonging.
With this compassionate awareness, Robin dropped down from her mental chatter and decided to listen to her friend and try and understand what she needed. The conversation went a whole lot better from there.
We can use this version of “See, Touch, Go” with self-compassion too. In a moment we that the volume in our minds is turned up with self-criticism and self-judgment, we can See what is happening, Touch our hearts as a gesture of self-kindness, maybe even asking what we actually need in that moment and Go from there. Instead of allowing the ruminative mind to spiral, maybe we step into a loving kindness practice to connect deeper to our hearts, or maybe a forgiveness practice to practice letting go. Or maybe what we need is to connect with another person so we call a friend, or get some space by taking a walk outside.
This reminds me of a saying in The Now Effect:
If all you did was put your hand on your heart and wish yourself well, it would be a moment well spent.
Here is the compassionate version of “See, Touch, Go” spelled out:
• See the struggle that is there, within you or within the relationship in the moment.
• Touch your heart either mentally or physically. Sensing into this area of the body is likely turn the volume down on the chatter and connect you to what really matters in the moment.
• Go from there, Go from the heart. Ask yourself, what do I need in this moment? What really matters? What action will align with what I need or what matters? Then do it.
It’s easy to see where this can come into play with ourselves, in parenting, at work, or in many of our relationships. Play with this practice with yourself and with others in the days to come and fine tune the skill of self-compassion and compassion. Allow your experience to enlighten you.
If we set the intention to practice the compassionate version of “See, Touch, Go” throughout the day I guarantee you that not only will you find more moments of love and joy, but the world would be a better place.
Elisha Goldstein, PhD
Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and conducts a private practice in West Los Angeles. He is author of book The Now Effect (Atria Books, 2012), Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler (Atria Books, 2013), and co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger, 2010).
Learning how to manage emotions, so they don't manage you. Let it R.A.I.N....R = Recognize, A = Accept (Allow), I = Investigate (Inquire), N = Not-identify (Not-self). R.A.I.N. and related practices of spacious awareness can sometimes enable painful or challenging contents of mind to dissipate and pass away" ~ Rick Hanson, PhD and his "Just One Thing" e-newsletters - (sign up, they are free!) Learning how to be with "what is" rather than push away "what is" is an important skill in learning to manage emotions, especially the ones we would rather not have. Below is Rick Hanson's original post, link included at the end as well.
By Rick Hanson, PhD.
Can you be with the whole of your psyche?
Let it R.A.I.N.
When you're young, the territory of the psyche is like a vast estate, with rolling hills, forests and plains, swamps and meadows. So many things can be experienced, expressed, wanted, and loved.
But as life goes along, most people pull back from major parts of their psyche. Perhaps a swamp of sadness was painful, or fumes of toxic wishes were alarming, or jumping exuberantly in a meadow of joy irritated a parent into a scolding. Or maybe you saw someone else get in trouble for feeling, saying, or doing something and you resolved, consciously or unconsciously, to Stay Away From That Place Forever.
In whatever way it happens, most of us end up by mid-adulthood living in the gate house, venturing out a bit, but lacking much sense of the whole estate, the great endowment of the whole psyche. Emotions are shut down, energetic and erotic wellsprings of vitality are capped, deep longings are set aside, sub-personalities are shackled and silenced, old pain and troubles are buried, the roots of reactions - hurt, anger, feelings of inadequacy - are veiled so we can't get at
them, and we live at odds with both Nature and our own nature.
Sure, the processes of the psyche need some regulation. Not all thoughts should be spoken, and not all desires should be acted upon! But if you suppress, disown, push away, recoil from, or deny major parts of yourself, then you feel cut off, alienated from yourself, lacking vital information about what is really going on inside, no longer at home in your own skin or your own mind - which feels bad, lowers effectiveness at home and work, fuels interpersonal issues, and contributes to health problems.
So what can we do? How can we reclaim, use, enjoy, and be at peace with our whole estate - without being overwhelmed by its occasional swamps and fumes?
This is where R.A.I.N. comes in.
R.A.I.N. is an acronym developed by Michelle McDonald, a senior mindfulness teacher, to summarize a powerful way to expand self-awareness. (I've adapted it a bit below, and any flaws in the adaptation are my own, not Michelle's.)
R = Recognize: Notice that you are experiencing something, such as irritation at the tone of voice used by your partner, child, or co-worker. Step back into observation rather than reaction. Without getting into story, simply name what is present, such as "annoyance," "thoughts of being mistreated," "body firing up," "hurt," "wanting to cry."
A = Accept (Allow): Acknowledge that your experience is what it is, even if it's unpleasant. Be with it without attempting to change it. Try to have self-compassion instead of self-criticism. Don't add to the difficulty by being hard on yourself.
I = Investigate (Inquire): Try to find an attitude of interest, curiosity, and openness. Not detached intellectual analysis but a gently engaged exploration, often with a sense of tenderness or friendliness toward what it finds. Open to other aspects of the experience, such as softer feelings of hurt under the brittle armor of anger. It's OK for your inquiry to be guided by a bit of insight into your own history and personality, but try to stay close to the raw experience and out of psychoanalyzing yourself.
N = Not-identify (Not-self): Have a feeling/thought/etc., instead of being it. Disentangle yourself from the various parts of the experience, knowing that they are small, fleeting aspects of the totality you are. See the streaming nature of sights, sounds, thoughts, and other contents of mind, arising and passing away due mainly to causes that have nothing to do with you, that are impersonal. Feel the contraction, stress, and pain that comes from claiming any part of this stream as "I," or "me," or "mine" - and sense the spaciousness and peace that comes when experiences simply flow.
* * *
R.A.I.N. and related practices of spacious awareness are fundamental to mental health, and always worth doing in their own right. Additionally, sometimes they alone enable painful or challenging contents of mind to dissipate and pass away.
But often it is not enough to simply be with the mind, even in as profound a way as R.A.I.N. Then we need to work with the mind, by reducing what's negative and increasing what's positive. (It's also necessary to work with the mind to build up the inner resources needed to be with it; being with and working with the mind are not at odds with each other as some say, but in fact support each other.)
And whatever ways we work with the garden of the mind - pulling weeds and planting flowers - will be more successful after it R.A.I.N.s.
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and New York Times best-selling author. His books include Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (in 13 languages), Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (in 25 languages), Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time (in 13 languages), and Mother Nurture: A Mother’s Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and on the Advisory Board of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA, his work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, CBC, FoxBusiness, Consumer Reports Health, U.S. News and World Report,and O Magazine and he has several audio programs with Sounds True. His weekly e-newsletter – Just One Thing – has over 100,000 subscribers, and also appears on Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and other major websites.
For more information, please see his full profile at www.RickHanson.net.
MIndfulness: is it a fad or a powerful life-changing coping skill. A look at the science ~ Amanda Mascarelli, washington Post, HEalth, Science and the Environment
This article is written by Amanda Mascarelli and appeared in the Washington Post, Mar 1oth, 2014. Original link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/mindfulness-is-it-a-fad-or-a-powerful-life-changing-coping-skill-a-look-at-the-science/2014/03/07/a43d36f4-a2ed-11e3-8466-d34c451760b9_story.html
Imagine this scenario: You come home from work tired and frazzled, and your little kids are running wild. Perhaps this doesn’t require much imagination. People in such situations might find solace in a popular meditative practice called mindfulness. With mindfulness, you train your mind to focus on the present and respond with reason before emotion. It’s about taking a pause and guiding yourself to become “aware enough in the moment so that before you react, you’re aware of how you’re responding to a situation,” says Ronald Epstein, a professor of family medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. “That gives you the choice to blow up or not to blow up. You recognize and say, ‘I’m about to lose my temper,’ rather than losing your temper.”
In our high-stress culture, the idea has caught on. Mindfulness is being practiced not just by New Age-types, celebrities and executives. Education leaders in many states have received training for how to incorporate mindfulness into K-12 curricula. Most medical schools now offer an elective in mindfulness in medicine, Epstein says.
For the rest of us, a popular way to learn the technique is through eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) courses, says Kirk Warren Brown, a psychologist at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, who has been studying and practicing mindfulness for more than 20 years. MBSR courses are often held in churches, schools, hospitals and community centers. A typical course in the Washington area costs about $550. For faster, less expensive options, you can find mindfulness courses online and tutorials on apps such as Buddhify.
Popularity is not necessarily a gauge of effectiveness, of course. So what’s the science behind mindfulness: Is it really a powerful life-coping skill?
“It’s not a cure-all; it doesn’t take all the problems away,” says Luke Fortney, a family medicine doctor in Madison, Wis., who has conducted clinical studies on the practice. “But it can help reframe our focus around how we approach these stresses.”
Research shows that being mindful can have tangible benefits, such as alleviating chronic pain and helping to curb depression and anxiety. Various studies have linked mindfulness practice to improvements in attention, eating and sleeping habits, weight management, and recovery from substance abuse. Research also suggests that mindfulness can help people cope better with heart disease, breast cancer, fibromyalgia, asthma and other conditions.
One way to assess the validity of studies is to do a meta-analysis, a comprehensive review of multiple studies. One such analysis published this year in JAMA Internal Medicine found “moderate evidence” that mindfulness meditation programs can have small but significant effects on anxiety, depression and pain. But the review did not find sufficient evidence that mindfulness could help with other health problems.
This doesn’t mean that mindfulness can’t help people with other conditions, but just that stronger study designs are needed to know whether it is effective, says Madhav Goyal, an assistant professor of general internal medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and lead author of the meta-analysis. The important message from the study, he says, is that after evaluating thousands of people, including patients with anxiety, fibromyalgia, low back pain, HIV and heart disease who underwent approximately eight weeks of mindfulness training, “we were seeing a fairly consistent but small effect of improvement in all of those populations for anxiety, depression and pain.”
Brown points out that these moderate reductions are “nothing to sneeze at.” The meta-analysis demonstrates “that the average person may be able to cut back on anti-anxiety, antidepressant or other medications they are taking, which is not insignificant given the side effects and other issues such as tolerance that many psychotropic medications have,” he says. And as the authors note in their paper: “these small effects are comparable with what would be expected from the use of an antidepressant in a primary care population but without the associated toxicities.”
Last year, Brown published one of the first studies to look at how mindfulness practice affects the early unfolding of emotional reactions. By studying how brain waves change in response to emotional stimuli such as unpleasant images, he and his colleagues found that individuals deemed to be more mindful had lower stress responses than less-mindful individuals.
Mindfulness practice seems to alter how emotional centers in the brain are activated, Brown says. “Rather than simply helping people cope better with negative emotions and stress — which is certainly important — mindfulness seems to help inoculate against the arising of stress in the first place.”
The beauty of mindfulness is that once it’s learned, it can be done easily, while doing other things. “It’s something that can be applied under any kind of circumstance: washing the dishes, doing child care, driving, sitting in front of the computer,” Brown says.
As the mother of three young children, I find this to be perhaps its greatest appeal. It’s empowering to be able to step back, pause to assess the situation — however stressful it is — and recognize what I’m feeling. Then I can choose how to respond rather than letting my response happen to me.
Author: Amanda Mascarelli
"The art of living is neither careless drifting on the one hand, nor fearful clinging on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive." - Alan Watts
Sitting mindfully with our sorrows and fears, or with those of another, is an act of courage. It is mindfulness as fearless presence. With patience and courage, each of us can learn how to sit firmly on the earth... feel the flood of emotions...see the endless mental stories that repeat over and over, and with the resources of mindfulness and compassion, to let them go and relax, to steady the mind and return to the present.
Excellent article on raising awareness about digital tools (cellphones, email, FB, the Internet, etc) and distraction. (click on link below) http://chronicle.com/article/Youre-Distracted-This/138079/%3E
Wise words on mindfulness by author and long-time meditation instructor Joseph Goldstein.
"Mindfulness is the quality and power of mind that is aware of what's happening — without judgment and without interference. It is like a mirror that simply reflects whatever comes before it. It serves us in the humblest ways, keeping us connected to brushing our teeth or having a cup of tea. It keeps us connected to the people around us, so that we're not simply rushing by them in the busyness of our lives.
We can start the practice of mindfulness meditation with the simple observation and feeling of each breath. Breathing in, we know we're breathing in; breathing out, we know we're breathing out. It's very simple, although not easy. After just a few breaths, we hop on trains of association, getting lost in plans, memories, judgments and fantasies.
This habit of wandering mind is very strong, even though our reveries are often not pleasant and sometimes not even true. As Mark Twain so aptly put it, "Some of the worst things in my life never happened." So we need to train our minds, coming back again and again to the breath, simply beginning again.
Slowly, though, our minds steady and we begin to experience some space of inner calm and peace. This environment of inner stillness makes possible a deeper investigation of our thoughts and emotions. What is a thought— that strange, ephemeral phenomenon that can so dominate our lives? When we look directly at a thought, we see that it is little more than nothing. Yet when it is unnoticed, it wields tremendous power.
Notice the difference between being lost in a thought and being mindful that we're thinking. Becoming aware of the thought is like waking up from a dream or coming out of a movie theater after being absorbed in the story. Through mindfulness, we gradually awaken from the movies of our minds."