Being mindful of the effects of your thinking

February 3, 2013

100 day meditation challenge 034Some kinds of thinking are helpful in terms of what we’re trying to achieve in the meditation, and some kinds aren’t.

So in mindfulness of breathing the counting (which is a form of thought) is helpful. In lovingkindness practice the phrases that we say (“may you be well,” etc.) are also helpful. And less “programmatic’ thoughts can also be helpful in bringing about greater attentiveness, relaxation, calmness, or other qualities. You can recognize these by their effects.

But generally, most of the thinking we do is concerned with worrying, doubting, arguing, criticizing, yearning, etc., and most of that thinking perceptibly stirs up suffering of one sort or another.

I’d simply suggest looking at what your … Read more »

Access Concentration: Day 21 of Wildmind’s 100 Day Meditation Challenge

January 21, 2013

100 day meditation challenge 021You know when you’re counting your breaths in the Mindfulness of Breathing, and you manage to keep the numbers going continually and follow the sensations of the breathing, but you also have a continuous stream of thoughts going on? You probably get very annoyed by this. But you shouldn’t.

The continuity of awareness that accompanies the counting is valuable, and it’s part of what we call “access concentration,” which is where you’re on the verge of a “flow state” in meditation where everything becomes much easier and distractions fade away. So this “multitasking” stage (noticing the breathing, counting, thinking) is actually a helpful thing. We just need to take it a step further.

What you’re … Read more »

Day 20 of Wildmind’s 100 Day Meditation Challenge

January 20, 2013

100 day meditation challenge 020The other day when I was meditating, I was really beset with thinking for 35 minutes, because of being tired and being overwhelmed at work, and probably also because it was late in the evening. I don’t freak out about that kind of thing, but it did feel like a struggle.

And then for the last five minutes, something really interesting happened. I just gave up — in a very positive way. Out of the blue, I found I just wanted to let the mind rest. And I was able to just sit there, in what seemed like a slightly low energy but calm and content state. It felt absolutely right.

Sometimes these creative impulses … Read more »

Help, I can’t stop thinking!

January 4, 2013

rb-calm-woman-eyes-closed-0809-mdnMany of us feel that our thoughts are out of our control. We think about work long after we have left, we worry about the future and keep going over things that have gone wrong in the past. Meanwhile, life seems to be slipping by.

Modern psychology also recognises that compulsive thinking can lead us into stress, anxiety and depression. Worrying about our problems seems important, but it leaves us feeling worse and believing we have less power to change things.

Mindfulness helps by giving us the mental space to stand back, recognise what’s happening and explore alternatives. Here are some helpful approaches associated with mindfulness and meditation.

1. Learning to let go of thoughtsRead more »

Poet and memoirist Mary Karr on meditation, depression, and the ego

December 10, 2012

The Poetry Foundation has an interview with the American poet and memoirist Mary Karr, in which she discusses how the mind can be its own worst enemy:

If you’re suicidal, your mind is actually the keenest threat to your survival. Yet depressed people still listen intensely to their minds even though said minds NEVER have anything good to say. Think of it, you try to employ the diseased organ to cure itself! If someone outside your body were shouting those awful things you say to yourself  in such times, you’d plug your ears and sing lalalala. You have to stop that mind or die.

A simple meditation practice I started twenty-three years ago involves counting

Read more »

The opportunity of “the magic quarter-second”

November 13, 2012

In her book My Stroke of Insight, brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor explains that the natural life span of an emotion—the average time it takes for it to move through the nervous system and body—is only a minute and a half, a mere ninety seconds. After that, we need thoughts to keep the emotion rolling. So, if we wonder why we lock into painful emotional states like anxiety, depression, or rage, we need look no further than our own endless stream of inner dialogue.

Modern neuroscience has discovered a fundamental truth: Neurons that fire together, wire together. When we rehearse a looping set of thoughts and emotions, we create deeply grooved patterns of emotional … Read more »

Stepping out of obsessive thinking

October 27, 2012

I’d gone into therapy during my sophomore year in college, and remember the day I brought up my current prime-time fixation: how to stop binge eating. No matter how committed I felt to my newest diet plan, I kept blowing it each day, and mercilessly judged myself for being out of control. When I wasn’t obsessing on how I might concoct a stricter, more dramatic weight-loss program, I was getting caught up in food cravings.

My therapist listened quietly for a while, and then asked a question that has stayed with me ever since: “When you are obsessing about eating, what are you feeling in your body?” As my attention shifted, I immediately noticed the … Read more »

Looking for the silver lining of our dysfunction

October 23, 2012
“A mess in process”
One of the indisputable realities about being human is that we all have weaknesses. No one escapes this.

Some of us are able to acknowledge these less attractive aspects without being unduly fazed. Others tend to cultivate strategies to help hide the cracks. Yet others convince themselves that their weaknesses are inherent aberrations, with this view then becoming a rationale for indulging in aberrant behaviour. It is the last of these views that I tend to work with in addiction.

Some of us convince ourselves that we are such a waste of space that really, we should commit ourselves to a life of substance-induced mayhem or simply rid the rest of … Read more »

Business Insight: To lead, don’t be afraid to pause

October 15, 2012

Dawn House, The Salt Lake Tribune: Kevin Cashman, a business coach and author of “The Pause Principle: Step Back to Lead Forward,” says economic and personal crashes can be tied to addiction for constant action.

Why is it important to step back?

In our 24/7 globally connected culture with a deluge of information and so much coming at us at once, the loss of pause potential is epidemic.

If leaders do not step back to stop momentum, gain perspective, to transcend the immediacies of life and to accelerate their leadership, we will continue to crash economically, personally and collectively.

Pause is the antidote to …

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How to kill a thought (in a good way): more on mindfulness

June 26, 2012

A friend recently said to me, “I often feel like my thoughts are hammers, and they keep on hammering down on this thing known as my brain.” This is a pretty apt description of how a lot of people feel every day; I’ve certainly experienced it.

I’ve written, here and there, about how the brain copes and how to dial down the background level of stress. But an even more fundamental question is how to deal with the negative, or otherwise undesirable, thoughts we have, on a moment-to-moment basis.

In other words, when just you and your brain are alone together, how do …

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