Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

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My dharma friend and mindfulness colleague, Elisha Goldstein has a fascinating new book out. It describes the ways that we can harness our own healing power to create natural antidepressants. These five include mindfulness, of course, self-compassion, living in accordance with purpose, play, and a sense of mastery.

His book contains practical guidance that can be helpful for just about anyone who ever struggles with depression or self-loathing, which pretty much covers most of us.

Here is the promise of the book:

Mindfulness works by interrupting the conditioned cycle of thoughts, emotions, sensations, and behavior that mire people in a downward spiral of depression. Using mindfulness allows us to transform our harsh internal critics to voices of support by increasing the capacity for self-compassion that nurtures self-worth and resiliency.

This is a very appealing invitation for bringing mindfulness into your life. Mindfulness would also interrupt any downward spiral such as anxiety.

The book is organized into three sections, the first focuses on depression, the second focuses on the five natural antidepressants mentioned above, and the final section is a practical, hands-on resource for making lasting change in your life.

Elisha is not only a pioneer in mindfulness treatment methods, he is a practitioner himself. Without shame, he shares the story of how he came to mindfulness from a very vulnerable position in his life. Mindfulness is not some intellectual curiosity to him, then, it is a living and breathing and life-saving practice.

Mindfulness and self-compassion are part of living an awakened life and dictate, encourage, and support behaviors, attitudes, and insights that can harness our natural healing capacities.

Depression is on the rise in this culture and so is the reliance on anti-depressant medication. He makes an eloquent case that depression is not your fault; however you must take responsibility for it if you want to change.

It might be the case that our culture is increasingly depressed precisely because of the lack of the five natural antidepressants in our lives. We go through our days harried, mindless, and stressed. We beat ourselves up relentlessly. We’ve lost touch with purpose and play. Mastery is not in short supply but it is often done in a task-driven way that squeezes out the joy.

This is a book that I will recommend to my depressed patients and those who are not clinically depressed but are simply too hard on themselves. I have enjoyed reading it myself as a reminder of the things that I know about these practices and I value seeing the novel ways that he packages the practices. It’s safe to say that Dr. Goldstein is the mindfulness therapist’s, mindful therapist. 

Pre-order your copy now. 

 

 

 

 

Find Your GPS for Success

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

GPS has become part of our lives. We find it in our cars, our phones, and even in watches (I got one as a gift over the holidays). In any moment, we can know where we are and also communicate that information to others. GPS can be helpful for getting to a destination and lends itself as a metaphor for guiding a journey.

G. P. S. is also an acronym for a series of steps that you can take to help insure the success of your journey. These are: “Get some rest; Persist in what you are doing; Start again tomorrow (or in the next moment).”

Get some rest refers to the obvious need for adequate sleep. It also refers to resting from our ceaseless to do lists to enjoy this moment or to play. It means getting out of our heads from time to time to appreciate life as it is unfolding within and without. Resting may also require unplugging from our technologies (even the GPS!).

Relative to other cultures, I think we do a poor job at recognizing the need for rest. We put in longer hours at work, we work on vacation, and we eat on the run. Our weekends are spent catching up on laundry and fighting crowds at the super market. We are collectively drained by this lack of repose.

Persist in what you are doing is an antidote to the discouragement that can arise when you don’t get enough rest. The entirety of that to-do list can feel daunting when you look at it through tired eyes. At these times, it is best to keep your focus on the narrow band in front of  you and leave off considerations of the big picture. Don’t worry how much you haven’t accomplished, with some rest, you will begin again tomorrow (or in the next moment after the rest).

Start again tomorrow (or in the next moment) is the rhythm of our lives. Starting again is both metaphor and actual. We are always starting again in the next moment when we breathe. We have to let go of the past (the CO2) in our lungs to greet the new (the O2). With sufficient rest and a commitment to persist, we can always start again tomorrow. We give ourselves a vote of confidence that our energy will renew and that the time spent “doing nothing” (aka not grinding on your to-do list) will pay dividends.

I recently moved after being in one place for over sixteen years. Moving is always a stressful event no matter how organized you are. There is always too much stuff even after two dumpster’s full of junk and several trips to Good Will (our relationship to material may be a topic for another entry). Moving in winter in Northern Vermont adds to that stress.

All went well with the move and much energy went into setting up the new home. Sleep was elusive and I had a few nights of early morning awakening. It’s cold and very quiet at 3, 4, and 5 AM, times of the morning that I became well acquainted with. By Sunday, I was just done. I didn’t have the energy to power through my to do list and I decided to cut myself some slack. I watched some football and cooked dinner (an activity that is rest for me because it feels like play).

My energy was restored on Monday morning and I resumed work on my to-do list or as I prefer to call it, my GOIL (get-on-it-list). The acronym of GPS came to me just after my morning meditation, which is also key to restfulness. Mindfulness meditation practice is a practice of resting into this moment with little in the way of an agenda and a relinquishment of the internal dialogues generated by the default mode network of our brains.

Think about your GPS and where you can introduce rest into your life and how this may help you to persist and refresh your energies in all that you want to do in your life.

 

Getting Past the Tyranny of Should: A Timely Message for the Holiday Season

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

4.1.1There are many things we “should” be doing around the holidays. We should be happy, merry, and jolly. We should be with family. We should be the consummate hosts.

In the course of the day, we might impose expectations, rules, and agendas on ourselves tirelessly. This is the tyranny of should.

Cognitive behavioral therapists like me are fond to say: “Don’t should on yourself.”The author Anne Lammott said that when the word should is spoken a lie is in the neighborhood.

Instead of the tyranny of should, consider an alternative phraseology. In any situation where you accuse yourself of “I should have” you could say, “I could have …” or “I might have.” These phrases are statements of fact and don’t carry the implied judgment of “should.” Could have and might have suggest that something was possible and that the possibility was not realized for whatever reason (and there are always reasons). There is no tyranny in could/might. There is no condemnation.

Should implies contingency: “I should have and since I didn’t, I am deficient in some way.” I should have implies am omniscient perspective usually constructed in hindsight and forced on a situation without proper context. We are neither omniscient nor perfect.

Looking at the role of shoulds in our mental life is a prerequisite for a self-compassionate approach and one that could be very useful during the holiday season.

There is no shortage of opportunities to beat up on ourselves for perceived transgressions against the hidden agendas we live by. By examining our internal conversations, we can uncover the shoulds and convert them to coulds and learn from our mistakes, miscues, and missed opportunities.

We might even be able to laugh at ourselves and that is the best kind of holiday cheer.

All my best for the holiday season.

Peace,

Arnie.

 

Finding the Fall Line: The Technique of Practice

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Stowe_1As I was meditating this morning, I came up with a new practice metaphor. There were times when I was clearly in the flow of my body, very attuned the myriad body sensations and there were other moments where I was somewhere else or trying to manage some aspect of the moment, almost as if I was trying to push the clock forward to be finished.

That in-flow feeling reminded me of being in the fall line while snowboarding. The image works for skiers too. When you are in the fall line, you are flowing with gravity and heading in a parallel fashion down the mountain. It’s exhilarating and requires skill to maintain a sense of control. This control can feel effortless and preconscious. In fact, it is best done without narrative self-consciousness. This starts to sound like meditation.

That fall line experience is always present since the body never stops generating rich sensations. It gets obscured by the activity of the mind. I notice there are two types of obscuration: micromanagement and macromanagement.

Macromanagement are obvious gestures of resistance: shifts in postures (for me it is usually cracking my neck), checking the clock, or some other outer action. Micromanagement happens with attention. Instead of enjoying the fall line, I am rehearsing some future scenario or reviewing some past one. I am trying to get everything just right and this effort gets in the way of that flow.

Recognizing the similarity between practice and riding helped to keep me in the fall line. I know from snowboarding that fear or a lack confidence keep me from the fall line. I am braking excessively and sometimes instead of having more control, I have less, perhaps even falling as I linger too long on my heel-side edge. Physics is begging me to let go but sometimes the mind does not want to release. Sound familiar?

When you are in the fall line either on the mountain or on the cushion, time passes more quickly since there is no self-consciousness marking time. You are in a natural state unencumbered internal dialogues and their incessant wish to control things. Releasing into the fall line requires confidence that relinquishing the micro and macro attempts to manage are not required.

It is a spiritual experience because we have transcended our individual narratives for at least a few moments. Chance are, things will be okay if you relinquish thinking for the moments that comprise a practice session and just enjoy the subtle thrill of the fall line.

Previous Posts

Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion
My dharma friend and mindfulness colleague, Elisha Goldstein has a fascinating new book out. It describes the ways that we can harness our own healing power to create natural antidepressants. These five include mindfulness, of course, self-compassion, living in accordance with purpose, play, and a s

posted 12:42:14pm Jan. 18, 2015 | read full post »

Find Your GPS for Success
GPS has become part of our lives. We find it in our cars, our phones, and even in watches (I got one as a gift over the holidays). In any moment, we can know where we are and also communicate that information to others. GPS can be helpful for getting to a destination and lends itself as a metaphor f

posted 11:02:53am Jan. 06, 2015 | read full post »

Getting Past the Tyranny of Should: A Timely Message for the Holiday Season
There are many things we "should" be doing around the holidays. We should be happy, merry, and jolly. We should be with family. We should be the consummate hosts. In the course of the day, we might impose expectations, rules, and agendas on ourselves tirelessly. This is the tyranny of should.

posted 10:36:45am Dec. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Finding the Fall Line: The Technique of Practice
As I was meditating this morning, I came up with a new practice metaphor. There were times when I was clearly in the flow of my body, very attuned the myriad body sensations and there were other moments where I was somewhere else or trying to manage some aspect of the moment, almost as if I was tryi

posted 10:13:53am Dec. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Prime Time, All the Time
An add for television streaming service Hulu states, "Every minute of every day should be considered prime time." This clever quip has a double meaning. On the one hand, it reflects the tyrannical notion that every experience that we have should be exciting, entertaining, and novel. On the other han

posted 9:31:08am Dec. 08, 2014 | read full post »


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