Shame is a very primal emotion, one that has a lot of traction in the mind.
As we grow up, from infants to adults, shame elaborates many nuances, like the branches and twigs growing from a single trunk.
Let’s consider four common sources of shame spectrum feelings.
First, consider a young child who is continually signaling her state of being and her needs. Maybe her caregivers respond routinely with attunement, empathy, and skillful responsiveness: this sends messages, associated with positive feelings, of existing for and mattering to her caregivers, of being inside the circle.
Or maybe her caregivers ignore her signals, or continually misinterpret them, or simply have a kind of dismissive tone – “I’ll … Read more »
Have you ever scolded a dog and seen him or her look guilty?
Obviously, animals do not have the elaborated textures of thoughts and feelings that humans do. But our emotions, even the subtlest ones, have their roots in our ancient evolutionary history. By understanding that history better, we do not reduce our feelings to animal instincts, but instead find illuminations from our past that paradoxically give us more choices in manifesting ourselves as fully human.
We can find two sources of shame spectrum emotions in our evolutionary history.
First, many animal species live in social groups with clear dominance hierarchies. Once those pecking orders are established, it can be lethal to challenge them. Consequently, … Read more »
It’s been said that the most powerful tool for physical health is a fork (or spoon), since the choices you make with it determine the good or bad things you put into your body.
In the same way, perhaps the most powerful tool for your mental health – and certainly for the health of your relationships – is your tongue. Thousands of times each day, it (or your fingers on a keyboard: same thing) offers the good word or the bad one out into your world.
If you say what’s true for you, and say it clearly and kindly, you get one kind of results. But if you use a sharp tongue, speak falsely, exaggerate, … Read more »
Meditation MP3 – The Heart’s Wisdom: Development of Compassion Everyone messes up. Me, you, the neighbors, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, King David, the Buddha, everybody.
It’s important to acknowledge mistakes, feel appropriate remorse, and learn from them so they don’t happen again. But most people keep beating themselves up way past the point of usefulness: they’re unfairly self-critical.
Inside the mind are many sub-personalities. For example, one part of me might set the alarm clock for 6 am to get up and exercise . . . and then when it goes off, another part of me could grumble: “Who set the darn clock?” More broadly, there is a kind of inner critic and inner protector … Read more »
So why should we go out of our way to develop mindfulness?
Mindful presence feels good in its own right: relaxed, alert, and peaceful. Not contending with anything. No struggle.
In addition to the inherent, experiential rewards of mindful presence, studies have shown that it lowers stress, makes discomfort and pain more bearable, reduces depression, and increases self-knowledge and self-acceptance.
To quote the father of American psychology, William James: “The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and … Read more »
What Are You Holding Onto?
I’ve done a lot of rock climbing, so I know firsthand the importance sometimes of not letting go! This applies to other things as well: keeping hold of a child’s hand while crossing the street, staying true to your ethics in a tricky situation, or sustaining attention to your breath while meditating.
On the other hand, think of all the stuff – both physical and nonphysical – we cling to that creates problems for us and others: clutter in the home, “shoulds,” rigid opinions, resentments, regrets, status, guilt, resistance to the facts on the ground, needing to be one-up with others, the past, people who are gone, bad habits, hopeless … Read more »
Meditations for Happiness (3 CDs) When you consider all this, it’s clear that we spend a lot of time giving to others. It’s the most natural thing in the world. Most giving is small, in passing, hardly noticed, the breath and wallpaper of life. It’s not hard to overlook. And with all the attention paid in the media to images and words of destruction and horrible mistreatment, it is easy to conclude that the true home of humanity is on the dark side of the force.
Yet, while it is certainly true that we are animals atop the food chain and capable of great aggressiveness, it is even more true that we are genetically programmed … Read more »
Stress-Proof Your Brain, by Rick Hanson (2CDs) This article is about developing the skill of mindful presence.
Let’s unpack those two words, mindful presence.
Mindfulness is simply a clear, non-judgmental awareness of your inner and outer worlds. In particular, it’s an awareness of the flow of experience in your inner world – an alert observing of your thoughts, emotions, body sensations, desires, memories, images, personality dynamics, attitudes, etc.
When you are mindful of something, you are observing it, not caught up in it and not identified with it. The psychological term, “the observing ego” – considered to be essential for healthy functioning – refers to this capacity (i.e., mindfulness) to detach from the stream of … Read more »
The Enlightened Brain: The Neuroscience of Awakening, by Rick Hanson (7 CDs) The specific meaning of “dana” is giving, which is related to the quality of “caga” (in Pali), or generosity. The one involves doing, while the other involves being.
While this distinction is useful in its comprehensiveness, in actuality generosity and giving, being and doing, are intertwined and inextricable. Being is itself a kind of doing, as you cannot help but radiate certain qualities out into the world. And every doing – at each endlessly disappearing and regenerating instant of NOW – is a microscopic slice of being.
Giving and generosity can be expressive or restrained. For example, we might give to our child … Read more »
Normal as they are, these inhibitions limit your autonomy, and consequently, your intimacy. Their regulation is excessive and thus unskillful. And they harm others by denying them important information about how you are feeling and what you really care about. Here are some ways to deal with them:
1. Draw on the slow but powerful prefrontal cortex to keep reminding yourself that you are entitled to the pursuit of your own happiness, to your own experience, and your own view – and that you will communicate in a virtuous manner. It could help to write out a kind of manifesto – usually for your eyes alone – declaring what is fair and just for you … Read more »