mindful communication

Four spiritual love languages

Ai-generated images of the Buddha and a nun, in a colorful style that looks like a painting.

Yesterday on Mastodon, which is the only social media site I use at the moment besides the private online community space I host for Wildmind’s sponsors, someone shared a link to a “love languages” quiz.

I’d heard of this concept of love languages before. The blurb on the official website, based on the best-selling book by Dr. Gary Chapman, says,

The premise of The 5 Love Languages® book is quite simple: different people with different personalities give and receive love in different ways. By learning to recognize these preferences in yourself and in your loved ones, you can learn to identify the root of your conflicts, connect more profoundly, and truly begin to grow closer.

The basic idea is that we don’t all have the same ways of expressing love to each other, and therefore we don’t always recognize when someone is showing us love, or understand how to let them feel loved. And that fits with my experience.

For example, if my partner’s way of showing me love is giving small gifts, but I don’t value material possessions and in fact see them as annoying clutter, I might not feel that she intends to show love when she gives me some tchotchke or other. There’s a mismatch in how we interpret the action of giving.

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Conversely, if my partner wants me to show affection with touch, but I’m not a particularly physical person, then she may not feel that she’s being shown love when I give her praise, even though I might consider that to be a clear expression of my love for her. If I offer help, but the other person interprets this as their competence being called into question, then again there’s a mismatch. It is indeed very much as if we were speaking different languages.

I took the quiz, and was told at the end that there were five love languages:

  • Quality Time™
  • Words of Affirmation™
  • Physical Touch™
  • Acts of Service™
  • Receiving Gifts™

I learned that my preferred “languages” were the first three in the list.

(And yes, the quiz included those oddly obsessive trademark signs, although hopefully we’re allowed to talk about things like “quality time” without getting sued.)

When I reflected on my own experience of being in loving relation to others, it seemed to me that the most profound expressions of love were not included in the five languages offered above. So I thought I’d say a few words about other love languages.

My intention isn’t at all to criticize Chapman’s work, but to offer a wider and deeper perspective on communicating love, for those who might find it helpful.

1. Looking With Love

Looking with love and being looked at with love are profound forms of communication. As Jan Chozen Bays wrote in her wonderful book, “How to Train a Wild Elephant,” in a chapter called Loving Eyes: “We know how to use loving eyes when we are falling in love, when we see a new baby or a cute animal. Why do we not use loving eyes more often?”

Not only do we know how to look with loving eyes, but we know what it’s like to be looked at lovingly. It’s one of the most important communications that goes on in loving relationships, whether between partners, or parents and children, or friends.

Looking with loving eyes has become an important part of the way I practice and teach lovingkindness practice. But it’s something we can do anytime.

Although looking with love plays an important part in showing love, it doesn’t fit into the five-fold schema of the love languages. However, it seems to me to be a love language in its own right. And it’s another place where mismatches in communication styles can take place. Some people are more sensitive to loving looks than others. Some people express love through their eyes more than others.

2. Giving Honesty and Showing Vulnerability

Like everyone, I have bad habits. I get irritable at times, for example. When I’ve behaved badly like that I try to apologize as quickly as possible — often within moments. I usually try to explain what was going on in my being as the irritability arose — “I was stressed and tired, I misinterpreted what you said, old conditioning from childhood traumas was triggered,” and so on. I often say she doesn’t deserve to be treated badly. I do these things as an expression of love.

And she is very good herself at doing the same time, letting me know what led to her acting in unhelpful ways. She too does this as an expression of love.

This, to me, is one of the most profound displays of love we can offer. Giving honesty and showing vulnerability involves a great deal of trust. It too is a kind of love language — Look, I love you enough that I will take this risk!  — yet it doesn’t seem to fit at all in the five love languages schema.

There can be mismatches in language. Some people don’t like apologizing, because they think it makes them look weak, and they’ll see another person’s apologies as a sign of submission. Some people can’t receive expressions of vulnerability because their first instinct is to try to “fix” things by making suggestions, rather than listening empathetically.

3. Showing Patience and Forgiveness

The expressions of love that I most appreciate from my partner are when she is patient with me and when she forgives me. When she does those things I really know I’m loved.

When we accept each other as imperfect, and forgive each others’ missteps, we give each other permission to be ourselves, which is an enormous gift. We see ourselves and each other as works-in-progress, which liberates us both from being afraid we’ll never change and from having to pretend we’re perfect. And we also know that the other person is working on their stuff, which offers immense reassurance.

Patience and forgiveness are also languages through which we show love.

There could be mismatches here, too. One person might show patience and forgiveness as an act of love, while the other person takes it as a sign of having got away with something; they aren’t able to reciprocate with the humility and gratefulness that should accompany being offered forgiveness and so can’t benefit from it. Some people even see conflict as a sign of love, and think that patience is equivalent to not caring — If they really loved me they’d be angry. Some people fear being forgiving because they think it will encourage bad behavior, and so they resort to punishing, resentful behaviors, never letting the other person forget that they’ve transgressed.

4. Sharing the Path

The most powerful way I know for us to connect lovingly with each other is for us to talk about our lives and our relationships as a spiritual practice. This means sharing what we understand love to be, sharing the mistakes we’ve made and what we’ve learned, what our hopes and fears are, and in every way letting ourselves be known not just as a partner, but as a human being struggling our way through life.

It means sharing what we see our life’s purpose to be, and sharing how the relationship we have with the other person — and I’m thinking of partners here, in the main, but also some dear friendships — fits into that purpose.

This may be the deepest love language of all.

Through it, we come to see the other person in a deep way, and to see ourselves more clearly as well. We see the other person as a being who is on a spiritual journey. And we see ourselves in the same way. Sharing the path involves opening up in a deep way. It takes a lot of trust, as well as a shared commitment to growth.  Two people cannot share their paths unless they are both walking a path.

When we share in this way we become clearer about what matters most in our lives. We see ourselves in a very different way from our ordinary view of ourselves as beings who work and do chores and pay bills and relax in front of the TV in order to recuperate from all that.

Sharing the path in this way can lead to a profound sense of transcendence, where we no longer see ourselves and the other person as entirely separate, and where, even, our sense of self becomes tenuous. It is in fact a form of spiritual practice in its own right, as are the other three spiritual love languages I’ve described.

Mismatches here might arise when one person sees the point of such discussions as establishing who is “right” — who has the best philosophy, the most incisive insights, and so on. These kinds of mismatches are particularly painful, because what’s being shared and rejected is so central and important to who we are.

Four spiritual love languages

It’s possible that all this is contained in Chapman’s teaching on love languages — I haven’t read the book — but I saw not even the merest hint of it in the questions I was asked, which were all along the lines of, “It’s more meaningful for me when (a) my partner gives me a gift, or (b) my partner doesn’t check their phone when talking to me.”

It’s fine as far as it goes, but it seems to lack spiritual depth. Then again, not having read Chapman’s book, it may be I’m over-simplifying his approach.

Anyway, as someone who cares about the quality of my loving relationships, and who falteringly works at being a better friend, parent, and partner, I wanted to share a little of what I regard as important where it comes to communicating love.

These four spiritual love languages are areas where we need to learn to speak in ways that others who communicate differently can understand. And we need to learn to listen too, so that we can decipher others’ languages and realize that we are loved, and learn to respond to them, so that the other feels loved too.

Are there other things you would consider “love languages” that aren’t in Chapman’s book or in this article? Why not tell us about them in the comments below?

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Four things to remember when online discussions get heated

While Buddhism teaches that all beings have the potential for awakening, and that we should endeavor to relate with kindness and compassion to everyone, I admit that this is especially difficult for me on social media.

We live in particularly challenging times. Society is becoming more polarized and tribal, and I’m shocked to see a resurgence of racism and of desire for authoritarian rule, for example. Those things really stir me up emotionally when I see them online.

I’d like to offer just a few suggestions that I’ve found helpful when dealing with people I disagree with online. None of this is rocket science, and I’m not presenting myself as an expert. This is all work in (imperfect) progress.

1. See each online communication as an opportunity

Every interaction we have offers us an opportunity to get better at communicating, at dealing with conflict, at learning to practice empathy, and so on.

It’s best not to regard every interaction as an opportunity to show off your skills: Look how good I am in discussions. I’ve fallen into that trap before and it always backfires. It’s not about being right: it’s about learning to connect more compassionately.

2. Be mindful of your feelings

Unpleasant feelings flare up in the face of viewpoints we disagree with in the same way they did for our ancestors when they were physically attacked. We respond to insults and even disagreement as if they were threats to our very existence.

I try to notice when I feel emotionally provoked, and take a break. I step back and recognize the discomfort I’m feeling. When I step back and observe that I’m suffering, I can create a mindful pause in which I can evaluate the best way to respond.

Rarely do we have to reply right now. We can wait. The angry parts of the brain tend to respond very quickly. The wise and compassionate parts of the brain operate more slowly. Give the better angels of your nature time to get their boots on.

It may be that you decide you don’t have to respond at all. Certain people are trolls, just looking to provoke a response. Sometimes ignoring them is the best thing to do.

You don’t need to have the last word. I’ve found that it can be hard to walk away from an argument, though, even when I realize that it’s never going to go anywhere and that engaging is just going to cause more suffering. At first it’s agonizing. Sometimes it takes a couple of days for the painful feeling of not engaging to die down. But it does eventually vanish; all feelings are impermanent. I’ve always been glad in the end to have let someone else have the last word in a pointless argument.

I’m not suggesting that we “just experience our feelings” in order to avoid conflict, by the way. It’s just that there can be times we realize that a productive discussion is never going to happen.

And we shouldn’t ignore actual physical threats. Earlier today I reported both to his web host and to the FBI one person whose blog was advocating violence against political opponents. Some threats need to be taken seriously.

And I’d suggest that you always stand up for others, and not ignore racism, misogyny, or threats of violence. Bullying needs to be stood up to.

3. See the other person as a human being

I find the golden rule helpful in internet communications: This person I am talking to is a human being, just as I am. They have feelings, just as I do. This person I am arguing with is, like me, suffering.

Ask yourself as you’re responding — am I trying to convince this person or am I trying to make them hurt by showing that they are wong? Usually we can’t do both. It’s hard enough for others when we criticize what they say and do — none of us like it when that happens — but it’s even harder for them when we attack their character.

It can be tempting to insult someone in order to change their mind. But how often has being insulted online actually changed your mind? Probably not often. Insults don’t help. I try to remember that they just create further suffering. I try to notice even very subtle digs and delete them before posting. The other person probably won’t see them as subtle.

One beautiful exchange I saw on Twitter involved the comedian, Sarah Silverman. After someone responded to one of her messages with a single offensive word (with four letters, starting with c) she said that she’s read a number of his tweets and empathized with the physical pain he was experiencing. She also invited him to see what would happen if he decided to choose love. This led to a dialog in which he revealed past abuse and in which Silverman helped him to find affordable medical treatment.

One thing we can bear in mind when we’re online is the Scottish writer, the Reverend John Watson’s saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

4. See the other person as capable of change

Many times recently when I’ve seen someone being outrageously offensive online — being racist, or insulting a person’s appearance, for example — I’ve said the same thing: “You can be better than this.” I haven’t criticized them or their words. I haven’t told them how they should behave. I’ve just reminded them that they are capable of acting differently. So far I haven’t had a single angry response to that. Of course I don’t know how this line is actually received, but the fact that people who have said some pretty vicious things to others and have refused to back down in the face of criticism haven’t responded to me adversely makes me think I’ve struck a chord.

“You can be better than this” acknowledges the simple truth that many times we’re capable of acting better than we do. It recognizes that all beings have the potential for awakening. We’re all potential Buddhas, and we need to remind ourselves and each other of that fact.

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How being mindful can benefit relationships

wildmind meditation news

A friend has become a big believer in the power of mindfulness. Recently she said she thinks it has helped improve her marriage. I thought mindfulness was really just a new word for meditation. How can it help with relationships with other people?

While meditation can help a person develop mindfulness, the practice of being mindful is more than meditation. And some studies do suggest that mindfulness can help strengthen relationships.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is known as the “Father of Western Mindfulness” for his work with chronic pain patients at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, as well as for developing the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program and being the founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness at UMass. He describes mindfulness as the ability to remain focused on the reality of the present moment and simply accepting it, without judging or evaluating it.

Mindfulness is seen as a way of life, not simply a method of how to react to different stressors. According to the center’s website, mindfulness involves purposeful action and focused attention that’s grounded in a person’s current experience and held with a sense of curiosity. While mindfulness is a core concept of Buddhism, it is something that anyone, regardless of belief system, can practice.

Being mindful prevents knee-jerk reactions toward other people that can often occur when you’re under stress. So, it seems logical that relationships can improve when one or more people adopt mindfulness techniques. And research lends support to that notion.

One study, published in Behavior Therapy in 2004, analyzed the benefits of an eight-week mindfulness training program on relatively happy couples. Compared with similar couples who hadn’t taken the training, those who did had improved levels of satisfaction, closeness, acceptance and other measures of their relationship, and they also showed higher levels of optimism, spirituality and relaxation as individuals. The results appeared to “take,” as the benefits were maintained in a three-month follow-up.

Two other studies, reported in an article in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy in 2007, also indicated that practicing mindfulness can help couples with communication and help them manage conflicts more smoothly.

To learn more about mindfulness, take a look at Ohio State University Extension’s “Mind and Body” page on the Family and Consumer Sciences LIve Smart Ohio website, livesmartohio.osu.edu. The posts, written by OSU Extension professionals, often incorporate aspects of mindfulness.

In addition, OSU Extension offers a four-week “Mindful Extension: A Guide to Practical Stress Reduction” group program. It was developed by Maryanna Klatt, an associate professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, who focuses her research on mindfulness and stress reduction. For details, see livesmartohio.osu.edu/mindful-extension.

Family Fundamentals is a monthly column on family issues. It is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Family Fundamentals, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1044, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Original article no longer available…

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Helping yourself speak your truth

Old-fashioned rotary telephone off the hookNormal 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 in your relationships. In actual conversations, particularly if they are over the phone or via email or texting, you could set your manifesto, or even just a few jotted notes, in front of yourself. The clarity in explicit language is a kind of secure base that establishes the moral, principled rationale for your self-expression.

2. Similarly, remind yourself that you are responsible for conducting yourself in an honorable way, but not for all the other things affecting a person’s reactions to you.

There are 10,000 causes upstream of this moment in that person’s life that are not wearing your name tag. Fundamentally, each of us is responsible to our reactions to stimuli – including the person with whom you’re communicating. Just because he or she feels bad does not in itself mean that you did anything wrong. In fact, you could be helping a person by bringing something to light that, unfortunately, also makes him or her uncomfortable.

3. Keep exploring your experience. Think of it as a multi-track song, the major tracks being perceptions, body sensations, emotions, thoughts, images, and wants. Particularly sense into the tracks you’re least aware of. Even if you feel out of touch with yourself at first, continuing to gently investigate your inner world and treating what you find with curiosity and kindness, will forge neural connections and increasingly bring unconscious material into awareness. I once did a stint of Jungian dream therapy with a wonderful analyst who had this saying: “When your unconscious knows you’re listening to it, it’ll start talking to you.” (The important exception to this general advice is for people with a trauma history, who are advised to steer clear of painful material until they’re really ready to go there.)

4. Consider how your upbringing, gender, culture, and life experiences have shaped your communication style. Sense their impact in your body, in body sensations, constriction of breath, posture, shoulders hunched forward protectively, etc. For example, for a long time my feelings were blocked by a kind of valve in my throat; I knew what they were but just couldn’t get them through that choke point. Awareness alone often slowly dissolves these patterns. Additionally, there are formal methods for opening up self-expression, such as bioenergetics, psychodrama, counseling, and somatic experiencing.

5. Off-line, not in the moment with the other person, practice expressing the things that you usually avoid. Write and say sentences out loud (by yourself) that would be tough to express directly, such as “I feel really needy” or “I’m very angry with you.” Yes, it’s artificial and theatrical, but you could also act out certain strong feelings just to break the logjam around them – what body-oriented therapists refer to as “armoring” – such as by venting loudly in suitable situations. Until I did an “anger release” workshop in my 20’s, it was nearly impossible for me to express that emotion, but just one day of role-playing and a fair amount of yelling cracked open that capability.

It’s not just the “negative” emotions that are locked up; often the biggest undelivered communication is “I love you.” Here’s another quick story from my 20’s. I was getting Rolfed, a form of deep-tissue bodywork that back then was routinely painful, and in the hands of my particular no-mercy Rolfer sometimes actually led to rising screams coming from her office as I fidgeted in the waiting room: “Stop, Myra, please stop, oh God, please stop!” So I anticipated the fifth session in the series with dread, since it plunged into the abdomen, where I figured buckets of tears were buried. But when she got in there, an incredible wave of love poured out, which had been suppressed for many years.

In your mind or on paper, make a list of your major undelivered communications, past and present. Be sure to include positive emotions and statements which haven’t been expressed. Then decide what you want to do with this list. It will be too late or inappropriate to deliver some communications directly, though you can still experience a lot of benefit from saying them out loud or writing them in a letter that does not get sent. For the rest, it could be good to get them off your chest!

Methods like these can really help you communicate autonomously – and thus help you connect intimately.

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The five principles of wise communication

microphone

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Ah, not really.

Often it’s words – and the tone that comes with them – that actually do the most damage. Just think back on some of the things that have been said to you over the years – especially those said with criticism, derision, shaming, anger, rejection, or scorn – and the impacts they’ve had on your feelings, hopes and ambitions, and sense of yourself.

Words can hurt since the emotional pain networks in your brain overlap with physical pain networks. (The effects of this intertwining go both ways. For example, studies have shown that receiving social support reduces the perceived intensity of physical pain, and – remarkably – that giving people Tylenol reduced the unpleasantness of social rejection.)

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Besides their momentary effects, these hurts can linger – even for a lifetime. The residues of hurtful words sift down into emotional memory to cast long shadows over the inner landscape of your mind.

Plus they can alter a relationship forever. Just think about the ripple effects of things said between parents and children, from one sibling to another, or among in-laws. Or between friends. For example, a good buddy once castigated me morally when we disagreed politically. We tried to talk it through, but the fact that he showed he could indeed go to that place led me to take a step a back; we’re still friends, but our relationship is smaller now since I steer clear of some major subjects.

So do what you can to protect yourself from hurtful words from others. Prevent them in the first place, if possible, by “talking about talking” with others (perhaps share the guidelines below). If that doesn’t work, try to see the underlying pain and needs that could have triggered them to “let ‘er rip,” put their words in perspective, turn toward resources in yourself and in your true friends, and shift the size or nature of the relationship if that’s appropriate (and possible).

And on your own side of the street – my subject in this JOT, because you have much more influence over yourself than you have over others – speak wisely.

How?

I’ve gotten a great deal of personal value from six guidelines offered 2500 years ago by the Buddha; you’ll recognize their essence – sometimes expressed in the same words – in other traditions or philosophies.

From this perspective, wise speech always has five characteristics. It is:

  • Well-intended – Comes from goodwill, not ill will; constructive; aimed to build up, not tear down
  • True – Not overstated, taken out of context, or blown-up out of proportion
  • Beneficial – Helps things get better, not worse (even if it takes a while)
  • Timely – Not driven by impulsivity; rests on a foundation that creates a good chance of it being truly heard
  • Not harsh – It could be firm, pointed, or intense; it could confront mistreatment or injustice; anger could be acknowledged; but it is not prosecutorial, nasty, inflammatory, dismissive, disdainful, or snarky.

And if possible, it is:

  • Wanted by the other person – If they don’t want to hear it, you may just not need to say it; but there will be other cases when you need to speak for yourself whether the other person likes it or not – and then it’s more likely to go well if you follow the first five guidelines.

Of course, there is a place for talking loosely with others when it’s comfortable to do so. And realistically, in the first moments of an argument, sometimes people stray out of bounds.

But in important, tricky, or delicate interactions – or as soon as realize you’ve gone over the line – then it’s time to communicate with care, and with wisdom. The six guidelines do not guarantee that the other person will respond the way you want. But they will raise the odds of a good outcome, plus you will know in your heart that you stayed in control of yourself, had good intentions, and have nothing to feel guilty about later.

Reflect on the six guidelines as you consider how to approach an important conversation. Then, be natural: if you simply speak from your heart, have good intentions, and keep returning to the truth as you know it, it is hard not to speak wisely! If things get heated, stay grounded in wise speech; be clear that how you speak your own responsibility, no matter what the other person does. If you stray from the guidelines, acknowledge that to yourself, and perhaps to the other person.

With time and a little practice, you will find yourself “speaking wisely” without consciously thinking about it. You might be amazed at the powerful, assertive ways you can communicate within the frame of the six guidelines; consider the well-known examples of Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And – for a little bonus here – how about practicing wise speech in the way you talk to yourself?!

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Letting go of limiting self-views, embracing our potential

Recently a woman wrote to me to tell me about her meditation practice. One thing she said was very interesting. She said “I can’t connect with lovingkindness meditation.” We hear this kind of statement all the time, and most of us use this kind of language frequently: “I can’t…”

  • I can’t stop worrying
  • I can’t sleep
  • I can’t make friends
  • I can’t talk to anyone about this
  • I can’t relax

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it represents a very fixed view of ourselves. These statements purport to define the speaker. Moreover the definition is a very limiting one. Once we say that we “can’t” do something we’ve made it less likely that we ever will. Once you’ve said something like “I can’t sleep” you’ve moved from description to something more like a declaration of intent. You might as well say “I won’t sleep.”

I’m not saying that every use of the words “I can’t” or “I can never” is always self-limiting. “I can’t run a mile in three minutes” or “I can’t be in two places at once” are just simple statements of fact. But very often these words suggest that the speaker has lost faith in him or her self. When we speak this way we suggest that we are passive victims of circumstance — that we real have no choice, because there are no choices open to us. We’ve given up.

When I hear people using “I can’t” language, I usually suggest that they try out a different way of expressing themselves and see how that feels. So compare the feeling tone of the following statements with those above:

  • I haven’t yet found a way to stop worrying
  • I haven’t yet found a way to get to sleep
  • I haven’t yet found a way to make friends
  • I haven’t yet found a way to talk to anyone about this
  • I haven’t yet found a way to relax

Do you see how these “I haven’t yet” statements are more open? They inherently recognize this possibility of change, while “I can’t” statements suggest that change isn’t possible. The “I haven’t yet” statement also suggests that we’re actively seeking change, while the “I can’t” statement suggests that we’ve given up (which we probably, on some deep level, have not, since we haven’t found peace or acceptance within our imagined limitation).

Who’s more likely to find a way to relax: the person who says “I can’t relax” or the one who says “I haven’t yet found a way to relax”?

There can be added complications. Take the statement “I can’t meditate.” This one represents an extra problem. It limiting, in the same way that other “I can’t” statements are limiting, but it’s not quite adequate to say “I haven’t yet found a way to meditate.” Why is this? It’s because the statement “I can’t meditate” is a compounded error. Not only is it limiting us by defining ourselves (saying that we have a lack of ability), but it goes a step further by falsely defining meditation.

What does it mean to “meditate”? When someone says “I can’t meditate,” they probably really mean to say something like “When I tried meditating I didn’t like the results I experienced.” They have an idea of meditating (it’ll be blissful and I’ll be able to stop the flow of anxious, angry, restless thoughts) and what they experience isn’t like that. So they think they’re doing meditation wrong. Having decided they’re doing meditation wrong, they assume that they are incapable of doing it right: hence, “I can’t meditate.”

But the thing is, it doesn’t mean you’re not meditating properly just because you’re experiencing lots of thinking and don’t feel happy. In meditation we have to start where we are, and work from there. So if there are lots of thoughts, there are lots of thoughts. If you’ve noticed that fact, that’s not failure. It’s success. So the person who says “I can’t meditate” has actually been meditating; it’s just that they’ve assumed that they weren’t. They’ve had unrealistic expectations. They hadn’t yet found a way to accept their experience while meditating.

So sometimes we need to dig a little deeper, and to uncover other false assumptions that lurk behind that innocuous-looking “I can’t.” Sometimes we need to peel away the onion-skins of self-definition, and to liberate ourselves from limiting self-views.

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Meditation training lessens doctor burnout

UPI: Training in mindfulness meditation and communication can alleviate the psychological stress and burnout experienced by many physicians, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. Michael S. Krasner, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York who was the study leader, says the training can also expand a physician’s capacity to relate to patients and enhance patient-centered care.

Mindful communication utilizes the techniques of meditation to help people maintain an open and non-judgmental outlook as they tackle everyday tasks, Krasner explains.

“From the patient’s perspective, we hear all too often of dissatisfaction in the quality of presence from their physician,” Krasner said in a statement. “From the practitioner’s perspective, the opportunity for deeper connection is all too often missed in the stressful, complex and chaotic reality of medical practice.”

Seventy physicians from Rochester, N.Y., completed a series of assessment surveys designed to measure burnout and empathy, characterize beliefs about patient care, personality and mood.

The training involved eight intensive weekly sessions that were 2.5 hours long, an all-day session and a maintenance phase of 10 monthly 2.5-hour sessions.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found the trained primary care physicians experienced improved well-being, including significant decreases in burnout and mood disturbance, while empathy increased.

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