Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Sport Saturday :: Mindfulness in Sport :: The Embodiment of Awakening (Part Four)

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Sport, like life, can be joyful, and some of this joy comes
from the quality of attention we bring to the sport, in addition to the
activity being fun. 

However, sometimes we can get caught in a trap of trying
too hard or of getting tripped up by expectations that are strident and
unreasonable. This driven feeling can bring distress into the sports activity. 

Sport becomes work and many of the patterns of feeling and behavior that are
present for us in work get transferred to play. When distress is present, a
form of compulsive behavior may be present that may be a consequence of what I
term the Strident Self. 

Any activity is vulnerable to this harsh aspect of
self. I have seen this in myself with advanced snowboarding – a pressure that
is applied from within the self that is pushing towards a peak experience. The
enjoyment of the moment can become supplanted with fretful decisions – which
trail to take, and beating oneself up for not making a great run. There have
been days when I have come off the mountain bruised and broken, psychologically
as well as physically. 

buddha_snow.jpg

I remember this happening one day after a big snowstorm.
After becoming aware that I was beating myself up and not connecting with the
pure joy of the experience, I paused and sat down in the trees. I ate some snow
and moved my attention from the harsh conversation inside my head to my breath
and then the trees laden with snow, and the beauty of the woods and the
unbroken snow lying before me. I gave myself permission to be present without
expectations or requirements. 

I invoked the kind of gentle self-awareness that
I try to teach my psychotherapy patients and participants in my
mindfulness-based stress reduction classes that I teach. That shifting of
awareness was enough to take me out of my head and into the moment and the full
and indescribable joy of riding the trees in deep powder.

They say, hot Buddha sweats, cold Buddha shivers, and snow-covered Buddha smiles surfing down the mountain. 

This is something to look forward to as winter approaches. 

Freeform Friday :: Poetry

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak
Soul is one of those words that is used quite frequently in different ways without being clearly defined. We can mean it in the metaphysical sense of some quality of being that transcends the body after death and transmigrates to heaven or to another human life. Or we can mean it in the sense of a depth of character; a warmth of being — soulfulness. 
The Buddha didn’t think it was useful to speculate about the metaphysical status of concepts like the soul. He rejected the Vedantic notion of the atman — a transcendent self — in favor of seeing the self as an illusion arising out of the aggregation of our moment-to-moment experience.
One day while contemplating the notion of soul, I wrote this poem:
Soul
 
That sense of place arising
from the resurrection of a word,
from death to connection.
A word, this breath,
this glimpse of the possible and miraculous
that is now.
Unfurling towards this moment,
making everything real and everything worthwhile.
 
This word is my signature,
vouchsafed in my heart.
Never to be spoken aloud,
or in silent conversation.
Only to be lived. 


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This poem was recently published in est, a Burlington-based, hand sewn, literary and visual art magazine published by Heather Bischoff of Bish Productions. Check out a sample of the current issue and subscribe

Teachers and Talks Thursday: Susan Woods and Miv London

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a research demonstrated effective treatment for depression, especially for preventing future recurrences of depressive episodes. It is built upon the foundation of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and was founded by the cognitive psychologists, Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale. They wrote the now classic text, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression.

When these experts in cognitive therapy first heard about mindfulness they saw a natural fit between the two approaches. To paraphrase, they asked Jon Kabat-Zinn if they could integrate mindfulness to create MBCT. He said, “Sure, now sit down to meditate.” They said, “Oh no, we don’t want to meditate, we just want to use the techniques.” To which, Jon smiled and shook his head. Once they did meditate, they realized that one cannot teach any mindfulness-based intervention without having one’s own practice.

My dharma friends and colleagues Susan Woods and Miv London will be presenting an introductory MBCT training at Kripalu the weekend of 22-24 October. If you are a mental health professional or student interested in this potent approach you I recommend that you check it out and register here. In this workshop, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to begin or deepen your mindfulness practice and this is the core to practicing MBCT.

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Susan Woods, MSW, LICSW, is a mindfulness-based psychotherapist in private practice. She has worked in a variety of clinical settings since she began practicing in 1989. Susan provides supervision and consultation in mindfulness-based approaches to mental health professionals and businesses. She leads MBCT professional training programs for health professionals and mindfulness-based professional training retreats. Susan is a published author in the training of health professionals in mindfulness and has been involved in MBCT clinical research projects. She is a certified yoga instructor and has been practicing yoga and meditation since 1981. www.slwoods.com

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Miriam “Miv” London, PhD, received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Yale University in 1984 and has held a variety of clinical and academic positions. Since 1994, she has worked at the University of Vermont as assistant clinical professor of psychology and staff psychologist at the Counseling Center. She cofounded the UVM Mindfulness Practice Center in 1999 and currently serves as its coordinator. Miv has developed a comprehensive program of meditation programs and mindfulness-based interventions for the campus community. She has integrated yoga and meditation into her personal and professional life for more than 20 years.


Wisdom Wednesday :: FOGWINE: Fear of Getting What is Not Enjoyed

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

In a previous entry we explored FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. Today we’ll explore its counterpart, FOGWINE: Fear of Getting What is not Enjoyed. 

FOGWINE explains much of the Second Noble Truth — the cause of suffering, anguish, and pervasive dissatisfaction. 

Flynndog_2.jpg

Fear suggests that the emotional brain is being activated. It’s job is to protect us from danger. In the old days of humanity 50,000 years ago these dangers were limited to things like predators and starvation. Today, however, our emotional brain is protecting us from the “danger” of not getting what we want. 
This is, perhaps, not the best use for this system. Off-label use of the emotional brain can lead to the frequent flush of stress response system. We feel as though we are being threatened, but in the case of FOGWINE it’s hard to pinpoint what the fear is about because its about something that might occur in the future.
I might not get what I want; I might be uncomfortable; I might be disappointed, let down, or not get my needs meet; I might have to deal with an unpleasant emotion, a discomfort, a pain; I might have to deal with disapproval, criticism, or judgment from someone else. The list goes on. 
The underlying formula seems to be, “If I get what I don’t want, I can’t be OK.” Or put another way, “I can only be OK if I get what I want and don’t get what I don’t want.” Since we can’t control many of these outcomes, we set ourselves up for a lot of anguish, suffering, and dissatisfaction. At some basic level we may harbor a pervasive feeling that we are not “OK”
That’s a crazy way to live. Instead we can look within our experience to see if this contingency is active. Likely it is in some form. Mindfulness can help us to see how we construct this contingency and to deconstruct it. Perhaps we can issue some encouragement, “Hey, I’ll be OK no matter what happens.” Then we can turn our attention away from stories about how awful things are or might be to an open curiosity to what is occurring in the moment. 
This can lead us from insanity towards sanity and a sense of ease of being in the world.
(original photography by Arnie Kozak)
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posted 9:59:05am Oct. 14, 2014 | read full post »

The Present Heart: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Discovery
Polly Young-Eisendrath has a new book out, her fourteenth. This is a book like no other that I've ever read. It is a memoir and it recounts events that I lived through as dharma friends of Polly and the love of her life, Ed Epstein. The Present Heart is a statement on the nature of love. It defin

posted 8:41:37am Oct. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Mindfulness and Climate Action
One Earth Sangha presents Mindfulness and Climate Action, a series of online conversations. These are free and start today and will continue through October into November. I am especially excited that Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield will be presenting today. I hope you can catch it. You can regi

posted 8:31:51am Oct. 05, 2014 | read full post »

A Chilling View Inside the Quiet Room: Electric Shocks Preferred to Sitting Still
A study recently published in Science provides a window into the restless soul of Americans and a compelling case of why we need mindfulness. University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues conducted a series of experiments where subjects spent time alone in an unadorned room. We

posted 8:53:12am Aug. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Drive by Shooting: Mindfulness on NPR
It's not surprising when a feature on mindfulness appears in a major media outlet. Mindfulness is popular. This time it is a sub-four minute interview on NPR. Tamara Keith spoke with Sharon Salzberg, one of the co-

posted 6:25:54pm Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »


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