Category Archives: Uncategorized

“Learning MABT has profoundly shifted my work” Bodyworker Elizabeth Chaison

By Elizabeth Chaison, LMT MEd

Elizabeth combines her interest and passion for meditation, energy medicine, bodywork and counseling to help her clients integrate mind and body. She has a thriving practice in Seattle and is currently working as a therapist on a University of Washington study to examine Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT) for women in recovery from chemical dependency. Trained in MABT and a certified Hakomi Therapist, Elizabeth uses these mindful, somatic-experience approaches to improve sensory and emotional awareness and to assist her clients in creating lasting change. Contact Elizabeth Chaison: Email: elizabethchaison@gmail.com

A few years ago I was looking for additional trainings in somatic psychology and learned of Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT).  I trained in the MABT approach, worked as a MABT therapist on one of Dr. Price’s research studies, and incorporated MABT into my work with private practice clients. I have been a bodyworker for almost 20 years. I have a graduate degree in counseling psychology and I have a well-developed personal mindfulness practice.

Learning MABT has profoundly shifted my work. I’ve learned how to guide clients into their bodies and stay with sensation in a rich and in-depth way  ~ primarily due to two fundamental processes underlying this approach:

  • MABT is a process of inquiry. It’s about discovery. It’s about helping clients develop a sense of curiosity for what they feel and experience. It helps facilitate their ability to connect physical and emotional sensations. This approach is not about trying to change, fix, or alleviate someone else’s pain. It supports clients in forming a connection with their inner world. Through this process, clients develop tools for self-care based on their own journey of self-discovery.
  • MABT facilitates engagement and the client’s active participation. This work is a team effort between client and therapist. I learned how to effectively dialogue with clients, deepening their sense of awareness. Learning this technique helped me interact in more ways with clients’ present-moment experience, thus facilitating client learning and inner connection.

Because of these two ways of engaging with clients, I have more ease in my practice. I have learned to slow down, to be more present as a therapist, and to facilitate a relationship of co-presence with my clients that leads to a natural unfolding of the therapeutic work. Even though I am a long-time student of mindfulness, this approach helped deepen my own meditation practice and the exploration of subtle sensation.

In MABT, clients learn mindfulness skills and develop body awareness practices that they can incorporate into their daily lives and that are specific to their individual needs. The hands-on approach of MABT helps to deepen clients’ physical and emotional relationship to self, facilitating a safe way to explore. There is tremendous power in bringing attention into the body and staying with sensation; clients develop a sense of freedom and empowerment. The enhanced ability to stay in brings a sense of peace, ease, connection and well-being.

Elizabeth Chaison, LMT MEd

Experience  professional training, April 28 – May 7, 2018 at Joshua Tree Retreat Center, Joshua Tree, CA. Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT) is an empirically validated 8-week intervention that combines manual, psychoeducation, and mindfulness approaches to teach interoceptive awareness and related practices for self-care and regulation.  To learn more, listen to the Liberated Body podcast in which Cynthia Price describes the MABT approach:  https://www.liberatedbody.com/podcast/cynthia-price-lbp-060

 

Advertisements

Taking down the walls: Challenges and opportunities of forgiveness

By Margaret Cullen and Gonzalo Brito

wall-copy“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility”
— (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

These are challenging times.  There is more divisiveness than many of us can remember in our lifetimes.  This climate of fear and destabilization promotes distrust, antagonism and even hatred.  These emotions, moods and mental states not only undermine society, they rob us of our peace of mind, and send even the most “enlightened” among us into reactivity and contraction making us incapable of seeing clearly and acting from our highest intentions.
In the midst of this unprecedented sense of foreboding and dystopia, we need more than ever to work against the tendency to close the heart and solidify the sense of enemies “out there”.  We read in the papers every day what it looks like when anger and fear are driving behavior:  walls, travel bans, partisanship, polarization, racism and irrationality.  Forgiveness is the antidote.  It is the anti-wall, the anti-ban, the refusal to foreclose on our own humanity, no matter what is happening “out there”.

With our current president, this can seem impossible.  There is so much at stake, so much to fight for.  And yet, if we look to history at those who succeeded in transforming society, in creating greater social justice, we see paragons of forgiveness.  Desmond Tutu, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and His Holiness the Dalai Lama effected societal transformation through the power of their love and forgiveness.   It was this force that mobilized millions and catalyzed change.  It was the refusal to hate, the refusal to respond “in kind” by making their opponents the enemy, which gave them the strength and the power to prevail.   Forgiveness and love did not weaken them, nor diminish their capacity to act.  Not only did it make their actions more powerful, it allowed them to maintain their dignity and self-respect even as they were being vilified by the forces of fear and anger.

“Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral”  said Martin Luther King. “It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.”

Can you imagine how would it be to live in a planet in which each one of the 7.5 billion human beings carried every single hurt, every resentment, accompanied by every anger and desire for revenge? Even from a biological perspective, forgiveness can be seen as a survival strategy for humankind, since without forgiveness our species would have annihilated itself in endless rounds of retribution. So, forgiveness makes sense not only morally, but also practically. From time immemorial, wisdom traditions have insisted that forgiveness is the path to attaining enduring peace. In the Dhammapada, a collection of sayings of the Buddha, it is said: “In this world hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate. This is the law.”

But I’m not Ghandi, why should I forgive?

In more personal terms, forgiveness gives us our life back right at that moment when the soul starts drying up from unforgiveness.   To forgive ourselves, or to allow ourselves to accept forgiveness from others, takes down the walls of the heart.  These walls don’t succeed in protecting us any more than they protect our borders.  In fact, they keep out the joy and creativity that comes from connection and expansion, just as our travel bans and walls keep out the vibrancy of multi-culturalism.  From a purely pragmatic perspective, it is clear that exactly because we are deeply relational beings, our lives will be full of small and large hurts.  We bump up against each other all the time and, much as we’d rather not think so, we will be the perpetrators of hurt as often as we will be the victims. Forgiveness has the potential to restore a sense of belonging to our family or community and, in a more basic sense, to return our basic humanity and capacity for love and joy.

Forgiveness is the way the heart knows how to heal from the inevitable hurts and disappointments of life. It involves a softening of the heart and a letting go of resentment and anger toward those who have harmed us, betrayed us, or abandoned us (including ourselves!). Contrary to popular caricatures of strength and power, forgiveness isn’t for sissies! As Gandhi said “the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” And like any other complex process, it can’t be forced or imposed.  It is a process and needs to honor the heart’s organic rhythm of opening and closing. Nevertheless, forgiveness can be consciously practiced, and the mind and heart can cultivate the habit of letting go of resentment and finding peace.

For those who think that the benefits of forgiveness are just anecdotal or something that happens to “spiritual people”, it might be interesting to know that there is a growing body of scientific research on the psychological and physical benefits of forgiveness. For example, forgiveness has been associated with reduced stress and reduced anger (Harris et al. 2006), reduced depression, anxiety, and cholesterol levels (Friedberg, Suchday, and Srinivas 2009), better sleep (Stoia-Caraballo et al. 2008), and reduced back pain (Carson et al. 2005), to name just a few findings. These findings are also interesting metaphors for what we already know intuitively. How much weight are we carrying on our backs through the resentments and grudges we’re holding on to? How easy is it to fall asleep if we’re caught in rumination about past hurts?

Holding on to resentment has been described like swallowing poison and hoping the enemy will die. Although this analogy might seem exaggerated, it points to something important: resentment mainly affects those who feel it, not the object of their resentment. In fact, the other person may not even be aware of or care about our resentment. This is why the promise to never forgive someone is condemning oneself to suffer. Because the long term effects of resentment can be quite toxic to the body and mind, forgiveness makes sense even from a purely selfish perspective—it frees us and lightens us.

Finally, forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning, forgetting, sweeping under the carpet, or putting a smiley face sticker over injustice. Forgiving does not make an immoral or hurtful act become okay. To the contrary, it says: what happened hurt, but I choose to move on with my life. Forgiveness is a declaration of independence that can be done no matter what the other person does or doesn’t do. In this sense it is an unalienable right.

Meditation for cultivating forgiveness

The capacity to forgive is basic to the human (and perhaps mammalian) heart, and it’s also a skill that we can develop through practice. The following is a guided meditation from our book The Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance Workbook, which has a chapter on forgiveness. We encourage you to listen to this guided meditation in which forgiveness is directed three ways: asking for forgiveness from others, self-forgiveness and forgiving others. This practice can help you to find peace with what is unresolved in your own heart, and generate space for more love and connection. Even at those times when the heart is hard and dry, setting the intention and orienting the mind in the direction of forgiveness on a regular basis can help improve your quality of life.

Link to audio file.

Margaret and Gonzalo co-authored “The Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance Workbook. Join them for the Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance (MBEB) Teacher Training Intensive, April 9-15, 2017 at EarthRise Retreat Center, Petaluma, CA. Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance is an empirically-supported 9-week psycho-educational group intervention that teaches mindfulness meditation and emotion training.

References

Carson, J. W., F. J. Keefe, V. Goli, A. M. Fras, T. R. Lynch, S. R. Thorp, and J. L. Buechler. 2005. “Forgiveness and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Preliminary Study Examining the Relationship of Forgiveness to Pain, Anger, and Psychological Distress.” Journal of Pain 6: 84–91.
Friedberg, J. P., S. Suchday, and V. S. Srinivas. 2009. “Relationship Between Forgiveness and Psychological and Physiological Indices in Cardiac Patients.” International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 16: 205–211.
Harris, A. H. S., F. Luskin, S. B. Norman, S. Standard, J. Bruning, S. Evans, and C. E. Thoresen. 2006. “Effects of a Group Forgiveness Intervention on Forgiveness, Perceived Stress, and Trait-Anger.” Journal of Clinical Psychology 62: 715–733.
Stoia-Caraballo, R., M. S. Rye, W. Pan, K. J. B. Kirschman, C. Lutz-Zois, and A. M. Lyons. 2008. “Negative Affect and Anger Rumination as Mediators Between Forgiveness and Sleep Quality.” Journal of Behavioral Medicine 31: 478–88.

Mindfulness Building Resilience and Improving Care in Modern Medicine

We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.  – Confucius

By Michael Krasner, MD, FACP

mindfulpracticeAfter 6 years of sharing Mindful Practice in intensive retreat trainings with over 400 physicians, medical educators and other health professionals from all over the globe, Ron Epstein and I began to ask ourselves- why wait for our colleagues to come to us? If the need for building resilience among our colleagues is pressing, and the tools for helping improve quality of care, quality of caring, and our own well-being are effective, relevant and accessible, why delay offering this training to more professionals? So we have decided to take Mindful Practice trainings into regional settings, offering it in a new, multi-modal, and engaging way. We already have two trainings scheduled for San Diego and Boston this winter. We will soon announce a workshop next fall in the Pacific Northwest, and, in 2018 in the Midwest and Europe. Our goal is to reach 10,000 health professionals, and we believe that we can.   We realize that in order to achieve this goal, the 4-5 day intensives near Rochester are simply not possible for many of our colleagues.  Therefore, we have designed our new offering to include a single weekend course followed by 4 online sessions in the two months following that are designed for participants to still experience the depth of the work, create community, and incorporate what is learned into daily practice.

Through our Mindful Practice programs, we’ve created a worldwide community of physicians, nurses, psychologists and other health professionals. They are energized to take direct action to explore their own experiences, share with others, and engage in self-care for the purpose of improving the care they provide to patients and their families while enhancing the meaning they derive from their work. Together, they are exploring with rigor, joy and challenge their very real personal experiences of patient care and teaching, exploring themes of burnout, uncertainty, errors, grief, attraction, and other dynamics of the clinical life, all held within a container of mindfulness. They are stretching their capacities to listen deeply, not only to each other, but to their own hearts and minds.

When will it be the right time for you to begin the professional life you have worked so assiduously for? To deliver the care you so strongly believe your patients deserve? To derive the deep meaning and satisfaction that you so much need to not only sustain yourself, but to energize you and activate you toward compassionate action, and motivate you to continue to learn and grow? Will it be now, when you realize that now is the only time you really have to step into your new life, the one you have been living all along, but now find yourself awakening to?

Please have a look at our regional courses, our Mindful Practice Website and Facebook page, our intensive retreats, and much more about Mindful Practice. Consider joining us, as we come to your backyard.

San Diego, February 4-5, 2017

Boston, March 18-19, 2017

Mindful Practice Website

Mindful Practice Facebook Page

 

Answering the Fundamental Question of Mindful Self-Compassion

by By Steven Hickman, Psy.D.
Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher and Teacher Trainer
Executive Director, UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness

steve-hickmanTo locate an 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion course near you, or to locate a 5-day intensive MSC program, see the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion website. Dr. Hickman will be co-leading upcoming MSC intensives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in late August and near Rome, Italy in early October. For mindfulness and self-compassion courses in San Diego, see the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness website.

It’s a simple question, really. But one that often brings on a state of perplexed astonishment when someone asks us.

“What do you need?”

Unless we are a sobbing child who has come rushing to his mother after some sort of sibling transgression, or we are urgently and frantically searching for the restroom in an unfamiliar restaurant, we have an unusually hard time answering that question.

In a moment of suffering, sorrow, despair or betrayal, can we actually answer the very deep and important question of “What do I need? Right now, in this moment.”

What we often needed as children when we were distressed, was to be comforted, reassured that we are still loved and cared for, and soothed by the gentle unconditional touch of a loving parent. We needed someone to kiss our “booboo” when we stumbled and fell. Or to be consoled by a loving embrace when we were excluded from a game of hide-and-seek.

But for many of us, our distress was met by something else, or as we grew older we had difficult or traumatic experiences that disconnected us from our deep need to be loved, accepted and appreciated. For whatever the reason, we have found ourselves removed from a sense of what we really need when we suffer, and often are not even aware much of the time when we DO suffer. We overlook our fears of being disconnected, unloved or, ironically, overlooked, often by tending to the needs of others instead.

We throw ourselves into caring for the needs of those around us and many of us are quite adept at such acts of service. We channel our inner desires to be cared for by caring for others, and when done with a true connection to one’s own heart, this can be a beautiful thing. And we often instinctively know just exactly what others need. Our mirror neurons fire wildly when we contact another person’s pain and difficulty and through that resonance with another, we are miraculously able to muster up just the right expression of comfort, the perfect words and the much-appreciated offer of kindness or consolation.

But what of the darker moments of our own despair, fear or desperation? What do we need in those moments for ourselves, because this one matters too? We often struggle to answer that question and as a result, further suffering arises as we resort to other less helpful and more destructive ways of meeting that deep inner need to be loved and connected. We criticize ourselves for having this need, we tell ourselves that if we just tried harder, got things right more often (or better yet, if we were perfect), or removed ourselves from contact with others, THEN we would feel OK.

And so it is that a growing number of people find themselves in the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) course developed by leading self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff, Ph.D. and noted author and expert on compassion and mindfulness in psychotherapy Christopher Germer, Ph.D.

MSC could be considered an “antidote” to the shame and self-criticism that many of us bear, and which cripples many of us with self-doubt, fear and self-loathing. By systematically cultivating the ability to be kind and loving to ourselves, especially in those moments of suffering that arise when we feel disconnected, lost, alienated or dismissed, MSC slowly helps restore in each of us our natural capacity to be kind, loving and compassionate to ourselves in the way that we do so effortlessly for others.

One of the first questions that MSC participants ponder in the course is the curious one of “How would you treat a friend when they are struggling, when they fail or feel inadequate?” Typically, the responses flow quickly and fluidly when we contemplate that question. And then, when the question turns to how we typically treat ourselves in those very same situations, the responses are often starkly in contrast. Especially when considering something as seemingly innocuous as the tone of voice of our inner dialogue. Many find that their inner critic is harsh, demanding, dismissive and belittling (and often echoes with the pain of the voice of people from the past who have treated them in this way). They notice how it feels to be spoken to in this way and it can often be a revelation for people who have never actually considered how it feels to be talked to in this way.

This revelation is often reflected in comments by participants like “I would NEVER talk to someone else like this!” In fact, this phenomenon is more widespread than one might think. In fact, Dove recently dramatized this fact in a YouTube video where they asked women to write down the things they say to themselves about their appearance. They then set up public conversations between two women in cafes and restaurants where one woman said those same things out loud to her companion. Strangers nearby were horrified and, in some cases, actually interrupted the two actors to comment on how terrible it was that one person would speak to another in such a way!

The MSC program sets about to help participants begin to “warm up the inner conversation” and begin to cultivate a loving, tender, accepting attitude toward oneself, that motivates us out of a desire to be happy and free from suffering, rather than one of perfectionism, fruitless striving, fear and shame. Early research on the program is promising and the huge existing body of research done by Kristin Neff and others already demonstrates a strong association between self-compassion and a huge variety of measures of well-being and good mental health, as well as the ability to make changes in unhealthy behavior, persist in the face of adversity, and to be perceived more positively in intimate relationships, just to name a few.

If you find it difficult to answer the fundamental question of Mindful Self-Compassion of “What do you need?” when you are feeling overwhelmed, afraid, sad or fearful, you might benefit from a greater ability to bring kindness to yourself and soothe yourself in these moments, as well as in your daily stressful life. Consider taking the Mindful Self-Compassion course to discover your compassionate inner voice and to find a way to meet yourself in the way in which you tend to meet others, reversing the Golden Rule and doing unto yourself what you would do (and say) to others!

Register for Mindful Self-Compassion locally in San Diego! Registration is now open to attend the next Mindful Self-Compassion program at the UCSD CFM beginning Thursday Afternoon, September 24th, 2015, 1:00pm-3:45pm.

________

A Mindful Approach to Procrastination

Written December 10, 2014 by Holly Rogers

About the Author

Holly-RogersHolly has been a staff psychiatrist at Duke University’s student counseling center since 1996, and she is a Clinical Associate in the Department of Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. Her professional interests include the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders in the context of young adult development. She has a special interest in using mindfulness and meditation to facilitate health and personal growth in young adults. She is the co-developer of Koru Mindfulness and a co-founder of the Center for Koru Mindfulness.

Image by Lynn Friedman from Flickr. Creative Commons Copyrigh

On college campuses across the country, ‘tis theseason…to procrastinate. Mindfulness offers a strategy to get moving.

It’s that time of year again, final’s week at many of the colleges around the country; the time when a semester’s worth of procrastination finally kicks you in the butt. For the lucky student, awareness that she has reached the bitter end will catapult her into efficient activity that allows her to complete all the necessary tasks on time. The less lucky student may find himself trapped in a paralysis of panic, weighed down by anxious dread as he sees clearly the train coming down the tracks towards him.

Of course, not everyone procrastinates, but in my experience it is pretty common. Procrastination is just one of the many ways we learn to avoid discomfort.

We get very practiced at avoiding discomfort. Our smart phones are an ever-present distraction, saving us from even a minute of boredom or restlessness. It seems practical, avoiding discomfort; what could possibly be the problem with avoiding discomfort? The savvy reader already knows the answer: not all discomfort can be avoided. Life, in case you hadn’t noticed, is not just a non-stop series of delightful events.

Somewhere along the way, we humans got the idea that if we got everything organized just right we would be able to avoid all discomfort. If we can make the work easier, the homes more comfortable, the food more tasty, the sex more available, the internet even faster, then we won’t ever have to experience unpleasantness.

Most of us have gotten pretty good at constructing a life that minimizes our contact with things we don’t like. Unfortunately, that leaves us unpracticed at managing the disappointments and losses that life will inevitably serve up. If we aren’t practiced at managing disappointments, then we easily get overwhelmed when troubles arise. We don’t have a strategy for dealing with the discomfort; even more problematic, we don’t trust that we can cope with whatever challenge comes our way.

One advantage of learning mindfulness meditation is that it helps build your capacity for tolerating unpleasantness without getting overwhelmed. If you are always avoiding discomfort, your capacity for holding difficult feelings shrinks very small, down to the size of an espresso cup, or a shot glass. When you have only a very small cup to hold tough feelings, your cup is easily flooded, and you quickly become overwhelmed. If you can increase the capacity of your cup to hold difficult feelings, say up to the size of a Starbucks’ Trenta, then you can handle a greater degree of discomfort without your cup flooding over. It stays more manageable. Meditation helps you increase the size of your cup.

For me personally, this has been one of the most tangible benefits of my meditation practice. Over time I have developed the ability to sit quietly, still-ly, and watch the way difficult feelings come and then go again. I’ve learned that if I just breathe and watch, everything moves on. I’ve seen over and over and over again that my thoughts can grab onto a situation that has produced an unpleasant feeling, and review it endlessly, forcing the unpleasant feeling to last indefinitely. Or, I can just let it go. Watch my breath. See what’s next. Maybe the feeling comes back. Or not.

I’ve been meditating long enough that I’ve developed a small amount of skill at doing this. I can do it now even when I’m not meditating, like when I’m in a rush and the light turns red. Or when I’m just about finished writing an article, and the computer crashes. I’m not even close to perfect at this trick of course, but it comes easier these days. Perfection was never the goal, anyway.

What does all this have to do with procrastination? Typically, underlying procrastination are some negative thoughts. I don’t want to do this stupid paper. I’ll never get it done. I don’t know where to start. I’m a horrible writer. This is a waste of time. What if I fail? These thoughts breed anxious dread and are of no practical use when completing a task. Rather than just tolerating these unpleasant feelings and carrying on, we try to avoid them by avoiding our work.

So how might mindfulness help with this? If you can bring some mindfulness to these moments, you might become aware of the thoughts coming up, notice the accompanying anxious dread and also notice the feeling of your feet on the floor, your fingers on your computer, your breath going in and out. The thoughts about your potential failure and your feeling of dread need have no more significance than the feel of your body in the chair. They are just thoughts passing through. You don’t have to make the negative thoughts and doubts go away, just leave them alone. Tolerate the discomfort without fretting about it. It’s OK to have those thoughts. And you also don’t need to be controlled by them or wait until your mood changes to get started. Just turn your attention to the work at hand and begin.

With practice, you can learn to notice your distracting doubts without getting caught in them or taking them too seriously. You can feel the discomfort they cause without having to react to them. You move on. The work gets done. It’s no big deal.

Koru-Logo1-300x182Register for the upcoming Koru Mindfulness Teacher Certification Training presented through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness (UCSD CFM) Professional Training Institute, August 2-6, 2015, held at EarthRise Retreat Center, Petaluma, CA.

This workshop/retreat is the first phase of the Koru Mindfulness three-phase teacher certification program. Participants in the workshop must be accepted into the Koru Mindfulness teacher certification program. A complete description of the Koru Mindfulness certification program and an application can be found here.

 

 

 

 

Can We “Be Enough” and Still Mindfully Pursue Our Goals? Part 2

By Pete Kirchmer

About The Author

ccf9e-headshot2Pete Kirchmer is  the Assistant Director for the UCSD Center For Mindfulness mPEAK (Mindful, Performance Enhancement, Awareness & Knowledge) Program. Pete specializes in coaching his clients in applying the practice of mindfulness to making healthy lifestyle changes as well as improving performance in life, work and sport. For more information about Pete Kirchmer please visit his Mindfulness Based Health Coaching website.

There are risks of becoming attached and consumed by our goals. In Part 1 of this blog, we considered how striving for results and clinging to outcomes can lead to stress and anxiety, diminishing well-being and eroding performance over time. However, goals don’t need to be eliminated because of this, just approached more mindfully. I’ve found that while it may not be helpful to set a specific and measurable goal to achieve mindfulness, it can be very helpful to bring more mindfulness to achieving goals in life, work and sport. In this blog we’ll explore a few of the ways to practice working with goals that can both enhance performance and lead to greater fulfillment.

The biggest distinction of Mindfulness Based Goal Setting (MBGS for those who needed one more acronym) is to hold your goals lightly. Treating a goal as an intention or a commitment rather than a rigid destination helps to decrease attachment and clinging to an expected outcome.

The Goal is an Anchor

Participants of the mPEAK program and others who know the basic instructions for Awareness of Breath Meditation will be quite familiar with the intention and commitment to following the breath as a single point of focus. We set out attending carefully to the sensations of each in-breath and out-breath… until we don’t. When we get distracted by thoughts, feelings, sounds or sensations, the instruction is to simply notice the wandering mind and return to the breath with kindness. This is the same way to practice with our goals! We set an intention or commitment to finishing a project, going to the gym, eating less gluten or being nicer to our spouse. When we inevitably lose motivation, get distracted or begin a pattern of self-sabotage, the instructions are to simply notice and gently but firmly come back to the goal.

The word “aspiration” is related to the Latin word spiritus, breath, and comes from the french aspirare meaning ‘to breathe out.’ When we relate to goals as aspirations, they can be used like the breath as a focus for practice, developing greater concentration and anchoring us to the present moment. I often tell my clients, it’s not the one who clings tightest to the goal who succeeds, it’s the one who continually comes back to the goal over and over.

I’ve been practicing this way with my own aspiration while writing this blog. For instance I’ve been aware of a desire to stop writing and fix a snack about every twenty minutes or so. I’ve noticed that the sound of an incoming email pulls my attention away and creates a sense of imagined importance and urgency. I can also hear the thoughts of my own inner critic judging my writing, “This blog is long and boring and nobody will probably read it”. But with mindfulness, I can simply notice the thoughts and impulses and make a choice to either indulge the distraction, or continue writing toward my goal.

Goals as an Experiment

Another way to loosen our grip on goals is to treat them like experiments. Rather than measuring success only by the specific outcome, we can begin to look for value in the learning and development that comes around any goal. Whenever I set a goal that stretches me from my comfort zone, I can count on all my “stuff” being triggered. By bringing curiosity to my thoughts and patterns that arise during the process of working toward a goal, I deepen my understanding of what makes me perform well and what holds me back.

While working toward the goal of finishing this blog, I’ve learned that I’m more creative and enjoy writing in the mornings rather than in the evenings. Because of the introceptive awareness I’ve cultivated through practicing the Body Scan Meditation, I am keenly aware that 1 cup of coffee engages my body and mind, stimulating my fingers to type efficiently. However with a cup and a half, a subtle nervousness sets in that leads to more distractibility, typos, made up words and run on sentences. There has also been self-awareness and knowledge gained around how to prepare to write. I’ve found that a little prep work of reading other material on my topic can help me get into my flow. But without watching carefully, this preparation can take on a life of it’s own, becoming an all-consuming research project fueled by the fear of not knowing enough.

Goals as a Gateway

“The view changes as we walk along the path and we abandon the goals that, at first, we had in mind. It’s painful to let go of our original intentions but, eventually, they are in the way because we have been changed, we are no longer the person who set off. Our intentions gave us the journey and that is enough.” – John Tarrant, Zen Teacher

Another way to hold goals lightly is to trust that our goals will evolve naturally as our practice deepens. When I first began meditating, over a decade ago, I was clear that my goal for meditation was to be a Jedi- Samurai warrior. I had practiced martial arts for many years and watched enough Kung Fu movies to know that anyone who wanted to seriously kick butt had to meditate. Was this the wisest aspiration for a meditation practice? Ultimately no, but it’s the one I had and it’s what got me through the door. Since then my aspiration for meditation has gone through many incarnations with each new understanding giving rise to a new “goal”. Letting go of “kicking butt” gave rise to wanting to be more “spiritual”. Letting go of trying to be spiritual made space for acceptance of who I truly am, which set the stage for greater compassion towards the people in my life. Eventually this may even lead to the realized aspiration of compassion for all beings…but I’m still holding that one lightly.

Not only have I noticed that my goals have evolved with practice, they’ve also started dropping away. I’ve written a goal list every New Years since I was 13. Recently, as I reviewed goals from each of the last five years, I noticed a progression toward more simplicity and less ambition. This isn’t because I want my life to be less rich or have less impact, it’s because I trust myself more. Ultimately at this stage of practice, I know what’s in my heart. I know the path I’m on. I know the work that needs to be done and I trust that in most moments, I’ll make appropriate choices that align with my deepest values. Even without rigid goal setting I eat clean, give it my all at the gym, continue to grow my coaching practice and find fulfillment in my relationships. For me, that is enough.

When it comes to setting goals, the most important thing is to start where you’re at, which is typically right here. Look deeply into your own heart and ask yourself what you really, really want out of your life, your practice, your sport, your work and your relationships. Set goals that move and inspire you to stretch and grow. Work toward these goals mindfully and diligently with kindness and non- attachment, allowing them to naturally evolve… and evolve you, over time.

2015_3_DayMindful Performance Enhancement, Awareness & Knowledge
3-Day Intensive mPEAK course Program activities include: meditation; talks on the relationship between neuroscientific findings, peak performance and mindfulness; experiential exercises; group discussion; and home practices.
CE credits are available. June 26-28, 2015 The Catamaran Hotel, San Diego, CA

For our local San Diego residence you are also invited to register for the full 8-Week mPEAK program held at the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness.

 

Discover Koru Mindfulness: Mindfulness Sparking Joy, Mindfully

Weeks ago I read an article by Penelope Green about a woman named Marie Kondo who gives advice on de-cluttering our lives. I was quite taken by her advice, and I have continued to ponder her suggestion that if we pay attention when sorting through our stuff, we will see that some of our possessions “spark joy” while others don’t. According to Green, Kondo says we should keep only those items that spark joy. I decided to turn the search for sparks of joy into a daily mindfulness activity; to my delight, I found joy sparking in all sorts of unexpected places.Sparks of Joy MindfullyThe first thing that is remarkable about this is the fact that I remembered anything for several weeks. The half-life of my memory seems to be about 24 hours, so I’m usually completely blank about anything that occurred more than five days ago. That just tells you how compelling Kondo’s idea is.The second thing that is remarkable, is that I read this article the day after I had completed a clean out of my closet, doing the semi-annual migration of seasonal clothes between the storage boxes under the bed and the closet. During the migration, I tossed out or kept items based on some idea of what I “should” keep. If something was expensive, then I “should” keep it, even if I was not fond of it. If something was old and showing a bit of wear, I “should” toss it, even if I loved it.The sorting was mostly a cognitive exercise, without much attention paid to feelings. After all, what feelings does one expect to have for a tattered hat or an old pair of socks?

Then I read about Kondo’s advice to pay careful attention to our emotional responses to our possessions when we are clearing out our clutter. Items that “spark joy” should be kept. Items that do not “spark joy” should be honored and thanked for their service, and then tossed.

“Often, it’s the unnoticed moments that are the islands of comfort and calm in our day.”

I must admit it had never occurred to me to systematically assess my possessions for their ability to spark joy. I tend to think of friends and family, occasions and events, sparking joy, but not possessions so much. It seemed like a great mindfulness exercise though, so I returned to my closet and my cast offs to apply the joy-sparking test.

I was surprised to find that many of my possessions did spark joy, and it wasn’t always the ones I expected. The disparity was enough to require a re-sort of the keepers and the cast offs. For example, the pale pink sweater that is incredibly soft had been placed in the cast off pile because really, I’ve just been wearing it too long. It looks tattered. When I picked it up, though, I felt definite sparks of joy, identifying the tired sweater as a keeper. But the expensive tweed jacket that had survived the cut the day before? It was a joy kill, so into the cast-off pile it went.

Other surprises. The socks that I’d kept when helping my sister clean out our mother’s belongings after her death three years ago sparked smiles and warm memories. Strangely, her sweater just made me feel sad. So I kept the socks and gave the sweater an honored farewell. Sadness is a useful emotion, but it didn’t feel like a prompt for saving old things.

I was so delighted by this new mindfulness game, that I carried on into the kitchen. Sorting through drawers, eliminating those things that did not spark joy and noting with delight how many items surprisingly created sparks. The bright yellow lemon squeezer and the tattered old wooden spoon were definite keepers.

In our Koru Mindfulness classes, we ask our students to choose an activity that they do daily and do it will full attention and mindfulness. We call this our “mindful daily activity”. The idea is to bring the practice of mindfulness more fully into our lives by paying closer attention to moments that typically go unnoticed.

Often, it’s the unnoticed moments that are the islands of comfort and calm in our day; it is helpful to take notice of them. For several weeks now my mindful daily activity has been to apply the joy-sparking test wherever I go. All manner of things are joy-sparkers: evening light, brisk wind, distant laughter, salty chips, soft mittens, warm water, and on and on.

I have been delighted to find this to be a useful and transformative exercise. It has helped me see that I am surrounded by little puddles of joy that I usually fail to recognize. Yes, I have problems. Yes, life is busy and things don’t always go as I would wish. But if I pay attention, there are little sparks of joy all around me. I just have to remember to notice.

Koru-Logo1-300x182Register for the upcoming Koru Mindfulness Teacher Certification Training presented through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness (UCSD CFM) Professional Training Institute, August 2-6, 2015, held at EarthRise Retreat Center, Petaluma, CA.

This workshop/retreat is the first phase of the Koru Mindfulness three-phase teacher certification program. Participants in the workshop must be accepted into the Koru Mindfulness teacher certification program. A complete description of the Koru Mindfulness certification program and an application can be found here.

Opening To The Beauty Of The World: An iBme Teen Retreat Alumni’s Experience

Adolescence is an extraordinary and vulnerable time- teens face so many possibilities and opportunities and also pitfalls. The sad statistics point to the high incidence of depression onset during the teenage years, of bullying and stress. Despite being the healthiest time of life, adolescence is also the riskiest- with the highest risk of death from accidents and suicide.

As someone who works with teens, it feels cliché to say “teens today have it worse than past generations” – but I also remember quite well my teen years before the internet and cell phones- it did seem a lot easier. Challenges and distractions multiply every day for teens who face with ubiquitous technology, social media, school and social pressures.

For these reasons, learning mindfulness in adolescence can have a lifelong positive impact. Particularly learning “relational mindfulness” – empathy, compassion, deep listening and heartfelt communication – in the context of an immersive retreat has the power to change the trajectory of a life. I’ve witnessed this in my own life- as a teen retreatant 20 years ago- and in the feedback from hundreds of teens and their parents that I’ve worked with over the past five years.

One Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme) retreat alumni, Emily Yuen, wrote eloquently about her experience on retreat:

“My father had pushed me to meditate with him in the past, but I had always been doubtful about its effectiveness. It had seemed too abstract to be applicable to my life. When he enrolled me in the iBme teen meditation retreat, I immediately wanted to cancel. But because I was in such an exceptionally fragile state, I decided I would try it.

Upon arrival at the retreat center, I felt pleasantly welcomed. The warm air kissed my cheeks, and open smiles greeted my every turn. Although frightened, I was open to change. But the first day was still a bit of a jolt. I wasn’t expecting the kids on the retreat to be so friendly, the leaders to be so empathetic, or the weather to be so beautiful.

Most of all, I wasn’t expecting the exercises to be so challenging. It was difficult to sit with myself and brew over lifetime repressions, to face things I’ve never wanted to face. The lack of cellphones, email, and social media, as well as the absence of traffic, crowds, and obligations led me to a state of puzzlement. Who was I without all these references?

Through the intensity of tai chi, a healthy diet, meditation exercises, and sharing personal stories in a supportive group setting, my eyes slowly started to open to the world. I had a moment alone in the wilderness where tears trickled down my awe-stricken face. The spider webs reflected infinite rainbows; the weeds emitted a fragrance worthy of royalty; the sun warmed my inner soul; and the breeze whispered words of love. The earth no longer seemed a bitter place I needed to escape but rather a tender setting I wanted to embrace. My body quivered at all the time I had been wasting in my dark, heartless, and blind state.

Since then, there are of course still times I feel bleak and overwhelmed with the business of life; times I feel my mind will explode from the amount of information I have to retain; and times I swear the day does not contain enough hours to complete my dulling tasks. But I remember what I have learned… For the first time in my life, I am able to remember to be mindful of my cluttered conscious and to see the constant beauty of the world. I continue to remember those pesky, eight-legged critters that produce masterpieces and the persistent weeds I liken to blooming roses. I also look for the sun to send rays of light that peacefully wake me, and the chilling winds that blow tunes of harmony throughout the land.”

This summer iBme is offering four retreats in California – including a Young Adult Wilderness Retreat for Teens and a Teen Retreat in Wrightwood, 90 minutes outside of L.A. Please be in touch with any questions- jessica@ibme.info.

Finding the Magic in Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT): A Participant’s Perspective

by a CCT Participant

self-compassion-smCompassion Cultivation Training is an eight-week educational program designed to help you improve your resilience and feel more connected to others—ultimately providing an overall sense of well-being. CCT combines traditional contemplative practices with contemporary psychology and scientific research to help you lead a more compassionate life. Through instruction, daily meditation, mindfulness, and in-class interaction, you can strengthen the qualities of compassion, empathy, and kindness.”

I would like to share my experience with the Compassion Cultivation Training course (CCT) taught by Sara Schraier in January 2014.

I had a couple of questions up front, but they were only going to be answered after I finished the course. I already practice and teach a meditation technique I love. But I wanted more compassion in my life. Would there be a conflict trying to do both practices daily? My other question was about the guided meditations that the CCT course provides. If I listened to these guided meditations over and over again, would I lose interest in them?

The 8 classes were fun and intriguing. This class was a 130 mile drive round trip for me (because I live in Orange County), but I looked forward to the trip each week. Within fifteen minutes of the first class, Sara created a welcome and safe atmosphere. Made me feel like I was in the right place. Sara’s honesty and authenticity was refreshing as she shared how compassion helped her deal with difficult life circumstances.

In spite of our prior experiences with meditation, compassion cultivation was a new experience for all of us. There was a nice balance to class with a short talk, active group discussions & a guided compassion practice at the end. Each class had a new theme supported by the lecture and guided meditation. Sara did a wonderful job explaining the themes and helping us look at how they apply in our own lives. The CCT guided meditations by Thupten Jinpa are a treasure. He has a mesmerizing voice and cadence and he guides the listener with a humble simplicity and an open heart.

I am writing this review 10 weeks after the last CCT class. Jinpa’s guided meditations don’t get old. As part of the instructions, Jinpa asks you to bring into the meditation people you feel close to and those who you are having difficulties with. What keeps the guided meditations fresh is the substitution of different people in my life as the subjects for Jinpa’s compassion cultivation. There is no conflict adding compassion cultivation to another meditation practice, if you can do them in separate sittings. The CCT guided meditations work great on a CD in my car’s stereo. Waiting in a school parking lot to pick up our son is a great time to listen to Jinpa’s wisdom.

What intrigued me about this CCT course? I learned that compassion is a skill that can be strengthened. It’s not a passive trait that some of us have & some of us don’t. The common humanity theme is a magical component because it helps me pay attention to what I have in common with others. But it will only work its magic if I stick with a compassion practice on a regular basis. This was explained in a discussion about neuroplasticity and how daily meditation creates new brain pathways. In short, the CCT course inspired me to make room for compassion cultivation in my life. I intend to study it further, so I can share it with others.

About CCT teacher Sara Schairer

SaraSara Schairer is the founder and CEO of COMPASSION IT, a start-up nonprofit organization and global social movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions. She invented the one-of-a-kind reversible COMPASSION IT bracelet that is now creating compassionate actions on six continents, 40+ countries and nearly all 50 states. As a public speaker, Sara encourages her audiences to “compassion it” in their daily lives and pursue their passions. Sara teaches Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness

Sara’s next CCT program begins July 16, 2014, Wednesday evenings from 6:00 – 8:00pm. Please visit our Schedule and Registration page (scroll down to CCT) for future program information and registration.

 

 

 

Conference Keynote Speaker Daniel J. Siegel, Neuropsychiatrist, on Why Our Teenagers Feel Compelled to Connect on Social Media

by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. republished from The Huffington Post , Dec. 30, 2013

n-TEENS-TEXTING-large570

bridgingTile_forUCSDWe are inviting you to start the new year by reading this insightful post on the effects of social media from Dr. Daniel Siegel  (author of the forthcoming book (Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain). Hear, see, and meet him at this year’s Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth Conference! Dan will offer a keynote talk on Saturday afternoon following the regular sessions. The general public will be able to purchase tickets to hear his talk, and attendance will be free for conference registrants.

In these fast and furious days of digital overload, we parents often worry about our teenagers’ interactions with one another on social media. Who hasn’t seen a teenager deeply absorbed with a smartphone or breaking off a face-to-face conversation to take a picture for their friends on Snapchat? With heads down and screens lit up, watching our teens plug in can feel confusing, disappointing and even like rejection to us.

It can, however, be helpful to realize that the teen years are a time of incredibly important brain changes. Changes that drive an adolescent to turn toward peers rather than to the parents they leaned on for support during their childhood years.

In one way, it’s simply evolution: Throughout history, adolescents banded together to find safety in numbers as they moved out into the world, a world that was unfamiliar, uncertain and unsafe.

That world remains risky, even with all the advantages that modern gadgets provide us to map out our routes and pinpoint our coordinates. But to leave home and feel safe, we need to belong to other teens on the same journey. As teenagers, we are compelled to turn towards one another.

In order to get ready to leave the home nest, adolescents seek out membership in groups of other adolescents in order not only to feel good, but to survive. And feeling connected to others doesn’t just seem crucial to contemporary teenagers. In fact, the very engrained genetic programming of our brains gives us a feeling that connection is a matter of life and death.

Understandably then, social media can become a modern medium of connection that is deeply compelling for adolescents.

Here’s the great news: Social media provides a way for our evolved (and evolving) teenagers to find that connection in one another. That’s because social media actually provides the opportunity for creating relationships, and even can promote more face-to-face time.

Our traveling son, headed out to a new country without any contacts, checked on Facebook and found some college classmates headed to exactly the same town — with a spare room in their rented apartment! Years ago, when we traveled, such a connection would have been impossible to create.

While this medium may not be right for all teens, especially those with social challenges like anxiety, phobia or communication difficulties such as those on the autistic spectrum, some studies suggest that social media actually enhances positive relationships in adolescence — as it did for our son. And these relationships not only influence us, supportive relationships actually create health in our lives. Isn’t that something we all want for our adolescents? (And, yes, for ourselves too!)

Indeed, many of the changes in the remodeling adolescent brain can be seen to support a drive to explore novelty and to take risks, just like it encourages teenagers to make and sustain social connections. These adolescent changes are not signs of immaturity, but signs of preparation.

The emotional spark and social engagement, the novelty seeking, the courage and creativity of adolescence all have downsides and upsides, but the essence of these changes is to prepare for the transition between childhood dependence and adult responsibility. And social media may just be a modern means to make us become more deeply social and even more fulfilled in our lives.

Instead of viewing their behavior as impulsive or irresponsible, we can now see the adolescent period as one of wonderful transformation, of needed exploration of a new and changing world. The key is how to best make these vital means of social connection deeper, more meaningful and more likely to cultivate a sense of well-being in all our lives.

In the Wisdom 2.0 meeting held in Northern California each year, these are the very issues we toss around in our in-person meetings. You should see the pre-meeting buzz on social media channels that gets us all connected and primed to engage with each other face-to-face!

Together, we can cultivate a new conversation in our culture about how to make the most of these channels of communication, our collective effort to create media with meaning.

Brainstorm_Cover_LGLearn more about ways to communicate with your teen in Dan’s new book Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain available on January 7, 2014.

Like Dr. Dan Siegel on Facebook
Follow @DrDanSiegel on Twitter (#Brainstorm)