Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

TED Tuesday: Rev. James Forbes: Compassion at the dinner table

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Continuing with the Charter for Compassion talks. Rev. Jams Forbes presents a refreshing and everyday perspective on compassion, including sympathetic joy — rejoicing in successes of others. He grew up in a family asking, “Are all the children in?”

Metaphor Monday: Change the Gravitational Constant of the Universe

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

This metaphor comes from the Star Trek Next Generation (STNG) episode, “Deja Q.” In this episode Q arrives freshly kicked out of the “Q Continuum” stripped of his omnipotent powers. He’s now merely human.

He’s reluctantly trying to help the Enterprise crew solve a problem. An asteroid is veering dangerously close to a planet and will cause devastating earthquakes and tsunami if they can’t divert its course. Q suggest petulantly that they simply change the “gravitational constant of the universe.” Of course, he could have done that if he still had his power, but the idea is heuristic and helps the crew to find a solution.
 
Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKANJJleIxU&feature=related 
 
There are situations in our lives, often at work, where we are confronted with the challenge of having to examine our fundamental assumptions about the situation at hand. The solution requires us to undergoe a paradigm shift, to examine our fundamental assumptions, values, beliefs about the situation and to see if they are necessary, true, and useful. Perhaps they are just conditioned by habit. Perhaps they served a useful function in the past but are now limiting, biasing, or even distorting our currrent perceptions.
 
These challenges provide an opportunity for us to examine how we related to ideas about ourselves, others, and the world. If we grip these ideas tightly we expend a lot of energy and may generate anguish for ourselves and others. If we can hold these ideas with a firm but not crushing hand, we may be in a better position.
 
An inflexible relationship to ideas is the antithesis of mindfulness.
 
Take TED for example. TED (Technology-Entertainment-Design) is an annual conference in Montery. Tickets cost $6000 and sell out rapidly. The TED.com website presents talks from the conference free and actually encourages their distribution. In fact, their tag line is “ideas worth spreading.
 
It would seem counterintuitive to do this. Who would want to buy the cow if you can get the milk for free, right? Wrong. Since offering this content online TED has raised the admission price to the conference by 50% and it sells out just as fast.
 
TED has changed the gravitional constant of the universe through this paradigm shift of giving away content. Had they clung to the old paradigm idea of selling content we’d all be worse off
 
Enjoy TED talks relevant to mindfulness every Tuesday here at Mindfulness Matters.
 
 
 

Stress Reduction Sunday: Mindfulness: An Ancient Remedy for a Modern Problem

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

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It’s Stress Reduction Sunday. Read my weekly post in the Connecticut Watchdog, This week’s entry, Mindfulness: An Ancient Remedy for a Modern Problem:

Mindfulness is an ancient technology that has relevance to today’s problem of chronic stress overload.

Part of the reason we are chronically stressed is because there is a mismatch between the environments our stress systems evolved within and the challenges of contemporary life (see my previous entry on “Stress is Crucial, So Is Learning to Decrease It”).

Our capacity for vivid imagination can make things worse if our thoughts run towards worried concerns for the future or regretful ruminations over the past. When our mind is “unsupervised” it can get into a lot of trouble, creating stress overload. There was a cartoon in The New Yorker that showed a stressed looking man clutching the arms of a chair. His wife says to him, with a look of pity and concern, “You should never engage in unsupervised introspection.” This is a good definition of the target for mindfulness. Such unsupervised introspection can cause distressing emotions and automatic reactive behavior leading to stress. Mindfulness shows us how to supervise our minds.

Read More …

Mindfulness in Sport: The Embodiment of Awakening (Part Two)

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

It’s Sport Saturday. This entry continues an essay on using sport to awaken. Click here to read part one.

Non-gravity sports such as road running, road biking, and
swimming offer a ready opportunity to full body awareness. Instead of a
gravity-induced absorption, the immersion in the present moment includes the
entire body. 

Take running, for instance, where we can experience a
moment-to-moment connection with our total body experience, even when this
experience includes pain and discomfort. The challenge is to stay with the
experience at the level of sensation. That is, experiencing it as a pattern of
gross and pointed sensations instead of labeling it “pain.” 

However, our minds
have a tendency to move us out of the moment of experiencing sensation and perception
and to start evaluating and judging the experience. Ultimately, we start to
tell stories about the experience. “Oh, damn it, there is that pain again” …
“this is going to ruin my run” … or “I can’t take this anymore.” 

triathlon_2.jpg

When the mind
is engaged in those sorts of evaluative and judgmental thoughts and spins its
stories of suffering and woe, it is not attending the present moment. It is
pulled into thinking about the future (or even reflecting on the past –
“remember what happened the last time??”). 

When we can be mindful of the
present, the artificial distinctions between mind and body disappear and yield
to an awareness of being. Gravity sports such as snowboarding and skiing,
mountain biking, trail running, kayaking, and rock climbing require more exquisite
attention to the environment than non-gravity sports. 

For instance, when I am
running on the rocky trails behind my house, inattention or becoming engrossed
in my internal dialogue is met almost invariably with tripping on one of the
rocky protrusions that make up the trail. In this activity, as with
snowboarding in the trees, awareness includes my body awareness and a
connection with the terrain. While I might have the opportunity to get lost in
an extensive conversation while riding my road bike, any such diversion on the
trails is met with a reminder (sometimes not so subtle) that exquisite
attention is demanded and required. Numerous bruises, sprains, and broken bones
are the living testament to the perils of my approaching sport without
mindfulness. 

One particularly instructive incident happened during the winter
of 1999 into 2000, which was a stellar snow season. Jay Peak reported getting
600 inches of snow (that is 50 feet!). On New Year’s Day, I was out enjoying
the fresh powder on my snowboard. I did a run through Kitz Woods negotiating
the turns around the trees with alacrity, fluidity, and velocity. 

Towards the
end of that run, things flatten out, and I relaxed from my vigorous turns of a
moment ago. For whatever reason, I started having an imaginary conversation
with my mother in my mind. With the reduced pressure of the environment, my
storytelling mind encroached. 

It is exceedingly difficult to injure a knee
snowboarding, given the way the feet are anchored onto the board. Somehow, in
my distracted state, I managed to insinuate my ride between some saplings, and
in doing so, created a forward torque that gave me a grade 2 medial collateral
ligament sprain. I missed the next six weeks of the best winter riding in
recent history.

 

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