Let’s consider ways to cultivate more peace of mind – and even its consummation in profound equanimity – by working with the eight gears of the machine of suffering that we explored in this earlier post. (There are other methods, too, that are more specifically Buddhist, and you might like to explore the Access to Insight website for more information.)
This list is by no means exclusive: it just points to how many great tools are available these days for managing our emotional reactions.
Methods for Appraisals
- Stay mindful of the whole.
- Be mindful of the meanings, the framings, we give things.
- Challenge the significance the mind gives something. Is it really an 8 on the 10- point Ugh scale? If it’s really a 2, why is my anger an 8?
- Challenge the intentions we attribute to others; realize we are usually a bit player in their drama.
- What beliefs are implicit about others, world? Try cognitive therapy methods for challenging inaccurate, negative beliefs.
Methods for Self-Referencing
- Recognize the suffering that comes from selfing.
- Practice mindfulness of the sense of “I”
- What are the implicit representations of self: Strong? Weak? Mistreated? How does this underlying framing affect your experience of situations?
- How much are we taking things personally? (“Negative grandiosity,” I’m so important that they’re deliberately hassling me.)
- How does getting upset intensify or shade self?
- See the interconnectedness of things in the situation, including yourself.
- Identify legitimate rights and needs, and take care of them.
Methods for Vulnerabilities
- Hold a frame of compassion for yourself and self-acceptance
- Do an honest self-appraisal of physiology/health, temperament, and psychology: Weak spots? Hot buttons?
- Protect vulnerabilities in situations: e.g., eat before talking about what upset you; ask people to slow down if you tend to be rigid; push through possible inhibitions in assertiveness due to culture, gender.
- Shore up vulnerabilities over time: e.g., medical care, vitamins, 5-HTP, antidepressants; build up greater control over your attention; take in positive experiences that slowly fill the hole in your heart.
Methods for Memory
- Be aware of the “pre-amp” turbo-charging of memory and sensitization.
- Increase positive emotional memories by “taking in the good.”
- Shift emotional memories in positive directions over time by recalling old painful experiences while simultaneously bringing positive thoughts and feelings prominently to mind.
- With a therapist, consider other methods for painful experiences or traumas (e.g., EMDR)
Methods for Aversion
- Understand the central place in psychology and in spiritual growth of working with aversion; use that to motivate yourself to not act aversively.
- Meditate on the Second Foundation of Mindfulness (feeling).
- Focus on neutral feeling tones.
- Dwell on the conditioned, compounded, and impermanent nature of the unpleasant.
- Find compassion for people who are aversive to you.
- See “21 Ways to Turn Ill Will into Good Will.”
Methods for Bodily Activation
- Understand the mechanical, animal nature of activation.
- Regard stressful activation as an affliction (as the health consequences of chronic stress)
- Use one of the many methods for stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system to down-regulate the SNS.
- Get in the habit of rapidly activating a damping cascade when the body activates.
- Regard bodily activation as just another compounded, “meaningless,” and impermanent phenomenon.
Methods for Negative Emotions
- Practice mindfulness of how thoughts shape emotions . . . and emotions shape thoughts.
- Explore the many practices for letting go of negative emotions (e.g., visualize them leaving the body through valves in the tips of the fingers and the toes).
- Cultivate rapture and joy – and the dopaminergic neurological benefits of those states, including for steadying the mind.
Methods for Loss of Executive Control
- Slow down; buy yourself time.
- Cultivate steadiness of mind.
- Describe your experiences in words (noting).
- Actively enlist internal resources, e.g., the felt sense of others who love you, recollection of what happened the last time you lost your temper.
- Enlist external resources, e.g., call a friend, do therapy, go to a meditation group.
- Stay embodied, which helps dampen runaway emotional-visual reactions.
I recently wrote a post about how we can use listening as a way to quiet the mind, and how the arising of thoughts can become a “mindfulness bell,” calling us back to mindful attentiveness of the sounds around us. (The post was specifically about persistent thoughts that take the form of music, but the same approach works for all thoughts.)
A commenter on that post directed me to a video featuring the Canadian composer, writer, music educator and environmentalist R. Murray Schafer. In the video, Schafer very cleverly leads us into a form of listening meditation, in which he guides us from being mindful of recorded sounds to the “real” sounds in our personal environment. There’s a clever fake-out toward the end of the video that I didn’t see coming!
MedicalXpress: Pay attention to the implication of these new research results: People who pay more attention to their feelings and experiences tend to have better cardiovascular health.
As noted more precisely in a new study in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers at Brown University found a significant association between self-reported “dispositional mindfulness” and better scores on four of seven cardiovascular health indicators, as well as a composite overall health score. Dispositional mindfulness is defined as someone’s awareness and attention to what they are thinking and feeling in the moment.
The study is the first to quantify such an association between mindfulness …
Mindful.org: Scientific evidence shows that we can train the brain to feel more compassion—for others and for ourselves.
Another science-based reason to try loving-kindness meditation! In a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (directed by Dr. Richard J. Davidson, who was featured in Mindful’s August 2014 issue), participants were taught to generate compassion for different categories of people, including both those they love and “difficult” people in their lives.
After only two weeks of online training, participants who practiced compassion meditation every day behaved more altruistically towards strangers compared to another group taught to simply regulate or control …
Kate Lochte & Matt Markgraf, WKMS.org: “One of the cornerstones of treatments for depression is getting out and moving in the world in ways that matter to the individual,” says Dr. Michael Bordieri, assistant professor of psychology at Murray State University. Mindfulness can be a way to help achieve that, by becoming aware of ones thoughts and not changing them, but rather letting them go. This is the topic of the fourth conversation in our series on understanding depression: the emerging therapeutic use of mindfulness.
Mindfulness isn’t necessarily new, it’s been practiced in eastern medicine for centuries. New to western scientific scrutiny and …
Want to experience the physical and mental health benefits of meditation, but have trouble setting up a regular practice?
Sit : Breathe : Love is a 28 Day Meditation Challenge, with the aim of helping you to set up the habit of meditating daily.
The benefits of regular meditation have been demonstrated again and again in multiple studies. Meditating makes you happier, is good for your health, protects your brain from aging, boosts your intelligence, and helps reduce pain, stress, and depression.
But it’s not easy to set up a regular meditation practice.
So we’re here to help you!
The aims in the 28 Day Challenge are:
- To work toward building up a daily habit of meditation
- If possible, to sit every day for 28 days
We set the bar for success low: although we hope you’ll meditate for 20 to 40 minutes a day, a “successful” day is one in which you’ve done some form of sitting meditation for at least five minutes — because there are Days Like That, aren’t there?
In the 28 Day Challenge we’ll teach you how to find a comfortable meditation posture (“Sit”); we’ll teach you how to calm your mind and settle agitated emotions by practicing the mindfulness of breathing (“Breathe”); and we’ll teach you how to appreciate yourself and others more through the practice of lovingkindness (“Love”). Hence, Sit : Breathe : Love”. We’ll also teach you walking meditation.
You’ll receive an email every day containing meditation instructions and links to guided meditations.
There is also a Community on Google Plus where you can share your experiences and receive support and encouragement from other participants in the challenge. If you already have a Google account, then joining the Community is easy. Even if you don’t have a Google account, it’s simple to set one up.
The challenge is free, although we do appreciate donations. In fact we need donations to cover our running costs.
Recently I offered a mantra that can accompany the out-breathing: Relax, Rest, Reveal. These words encourage us, respectively, to let go of unnecessary tensions in the body, to let go of unnecessary mental effort, and to be open and receptive to whatever is arising in our experience.
I’d like now to offer a corresponding mantra for the in-breathing: Energize, Inspire, Enjoy. As with the previous mantra, each of the words has a specific function.
“Energize” connects us with the natural energy of the in-breath. Inhalation is dominated by the sympathetic nervous system, which isn’t always about “fight or flight” but is involved in any physical or emotional arousal. It’s no coincidence that we take a sudden in-breath when we’re startled, and the sympathetic nervous system is activated.
In our normal (non-startled!) breathing pattern, the sympathetic nervous system is active. Each time we inhale there is a subtle but noticeable sense of energy. The body becomes oxygenated and the heart beats a little faster. The body becomes more open and upright, and is more ready to act.
Saying the word “energize” as we inhale is a way of encouraging us to notice the gentle but arousing physical effects of the in-breath.
Saying “Inspire,” connects us with the same physiological processes, but it directs our attention more to the qualities of the mind and how they change as we breathe in. Just as the body becomes more alert and energetic on the in-breath, so does the mind. There’s a subtle but perceptible increase in our alertness, and the mind becomes brighter.
The word “Enjoy,” as you might expect, reminds us to appreciate any pleasure and happiness that are arising in our experience. This brings together everything: the out-breathing and the inbreathing; the body and the mind. Relaxing on the out-breath can be very enjoyable; so can feeling the energy of the in-breath. Resting the mind can be delightful; so can feeling the mind becoming brighter. Saying “Enjoy” as we breathe in encourages us to appreciate what’s positive in our experience. It encourages us to let happiness arise in response to the simple act of noticing the rhythm of our breathing.
Don’t try to do anything as you say these words. Don’t try to make anything happen. Just say the words, and let them have an effect.
Paying attention only to the out-breathing is calming, but in the long-term it tends to make us dull and sleepy. Paying attention only to the in-breathing is energizing, but we can easily become over-excited and distracted.
So if you’re going to use these two sets of mantras, use them skillfully. You may want to start a meditation with the mantras of the out-breath—especially if you need to calm the mind—and then move on to the mantras of the in-breath. But since this latter practice can lead to excitability, there will come a point when we need to drop the mantras and focus just on the breathing, and when we need to focus on the continuity of the breathing process—sensing it as an unbroken stream of sensations—without particular emphasis on either the breathing-out or the breathing-in.
Katherine Shaver, Washington Post: As harried commuters filed aboard a Metro Red Line train at Cleveland Park — jockeying for seats, hoisting bulging tote bags — Denise Keyes gazed straight ahead, took deep breaths and searched for inner peace.
There were no lit candles, no incense, no chanting of “om.” But Keyes was meditating.
Finding stillness on a subway during rush hour might sound impossible. But those who practice “mindful commuting” swear it brings tranquility to the daily misery of crowded trains, late buses, honking horns and traffic jams.
If it sounds too New-Agey or out there for you, consider this: Almost 2 million …
Bodhipaksa will be in New York City on Nov 22, 2014. He’s leading a self-compassion workshop at the New York Insight Meditation Center: “How to Stop Beating Yourself Up.”
In this workshop Bodhipaksa will introduce a step-by-step guide to the core skills of self-compassion. As well as drawing on models from Buddhist psychology, we’ll take a look at insights from neuroscience, and explore Buddhist compassion and lovingkindness meditation so that we can learn to regard ourselves — and our pain — with compassion and kindness.
Do you want to be calmer, happier, and experience more freedom from stress? Mindfulness has been clinically proven to reduce stress, promote feelings of wellbeing, and improve mental and physical health.
The next Power of Mindfulness online course starts November 3, 2014. It’s a four-week meditation course that’s accessible 24 hours a day, every day of the week, wherever you are. All you need is an internet browser. You can even participate on an iPad or other mobile device.
The convenience makes this perfect for people who don’t have meditation classes nearby, or who work irregular hours or who can’t travel because of illness, childcare arrangements, etc.
The course is web-based, and involves readings, guided meditation MP3s that were specially recorded for this course, a discussion forum, and email exchanges with the teacher, Bodhipaksa.
Weaving together the latest scientific research with ancient Buddhist wisdom, this four-week course provides a comprehensive introduction to living mindfully. It’s not just about the skills of meditation. You’ll also learn how to take what you learn into action. This course gives you the tools to gain more insight into yourself, and be more at ease and content through life’s ups and downs.
For more information, or to register for the course click here to go to the online store. Sign up by October 31st and we’ll send you coupon for a free guided meditation MP3!
Polly Vernon, The Telegraph: Happier, healthier and better rested: that’s what 20 minutes a day of meditation has done for one writer. And as a resolute sceptic, she couldn’t be more surprised.
It may be a little early for bold proclamations of this nature, but still: I would bet big money on “mindfulness” being the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of 2014. It was “selfie” in 2013, you’ll recall, and “omnishambles” the year before that. We will have to wait a couple of weeks for the OED to make its decision final, official and public, but still… I am confident.
The Buddhist discipline – which encourages …
Maria Isabel Garcia, Rappler: ‘Meditation’ used to be the exclusive province of robed and hooded men enacting an ancient tradition. Now, science has joined them.
This could be one of the most powerful ways to change your brain and yet, all you have to do is be still. It will help you focus, be keenly observant but not obsessive, and essentially, be a kinder human being.
Meditation. We all have the basic equipment – the 3-pound matter inside our skulls – yet, we generally think that it is only for the religious or for our odd relatives and friends who dress funny.
Carolyn Gregoire, Huffington Post: In 2013, the New York Times declared that mindfulness was “having a moment” (pun intended), and just a few months later, a January 2014 TIME cover story announced that a “Mindful Revolution” was underway, challenging the stressed-out, tech-addicted American status quo. This month, Scientific American has featured meditation on its November 2014 cover, representing another major step toward a meeting of the minds between ancient Eastern wisdom and Western science.
Although Western psychologists have been studying the ancient contemplative practice since the 1970s — mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in 1979 — scientific interest in mindfulness has escalated in the past decade.
There’s an unusual connection between Ebola and Buddhism.
Ashoka Mukpo, one of a handful of Americans who have contracted Ebola, was identified soon after his birth as a reincarnated lama, or Tulku.
Mukpo is the son of Diana Mukpo, who married Tibetan lama Chogyam Tungpa in Scotland. Ashoka is not Trungpa’s biological son, but was raised as his child after his mother became pregnant while romantically involved with another of Trungpa’s followers, Dr. Mitchell Levy.
As a child, Ashoka was identified as the reincarnation of Khamyon Rinpoche, and he was enthroned as a tulku in Tibet.
Although Mukpo regards himself as a practicing Buddhist, he decided not to pursue a monastic life, and he works in the U.S. division of Human Rights Watch. He has also worked as a freelance cameraman for Vice News, NBC News and other media outlets. He spent two years working in Liberia, doing research for the Sustainable Development Institute, a nonprofit that highlights the concerns of workers in mining camps outside the west African country’s capital, Monrovia.
It was in Liberia that he was diagnosed with Ebola. Soon after he was moved to Nebraska Medical Center for treatment, where he is recovering.
NBC News reports that his parents say he “would likely rather the attention be paid to the West African countries that have been ravaged by the disease.”
Although many people in the west are anxious about Ebola, we should remember that the vast bulk of the suffering that’s taking place is in Africa, where thousands have been infected, and where its possible that a million people could contract the disease.
This article on Forbes suggests ways that individuals can contribute to fighting Ebola in Africa.
Bodhipaksa is leading a retreat about the path to insight at the Vimaladhatu Meditation House, Germany, from Saturday, August 1st thru Saturday, August 8, 2015.
The Buddha’s teachings offer a pathway to inner peace, freedom, and compassion. But we can only go so far on this path unless we challenge our deeply held assumptions of our own permanence and separateness. Through understanding the eternally changing nature of our being, we can let go of self-grasping and awaken to a natural, spontaneous joy and freedom.
The retreat will be led in English. For those who wish, simultaneous translation into German will be available using headphones.
Click here for more information or to register.
Enjoy Bodhipaksa’s unique take on the “divine abidings” — four inspiring and transformative practices that progressively expand our sphere of concern to include all beings. In cultivating kindness (metta), compassion (karuna), joyful appreciation (mudita), and loving with wisdom (upekkha), we develop an unselfish concern as deep as the world itself: a love that leads, ultimately, to awakening.
This retreat is being held at the beautiful Dhanakosa Retreat Center, Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Scotland, 24 Jul to 31 Jul 2015.
Click here for more information or to register.
Mihir Patkar, Lifehacker: You’ve probably heard that meditation can be beneficial, but how much do you actually know about it? Many aspects of meditation are often misunderstood or misinterpreted. Let’s debunk some of these myths so you can start reaping the rewards.
Myth: Meditation is About Clearing Your Mind of All Thoughts
In its purest form, meditation is about focusing on emptiness. However, you don’t have to do that. Meditation is effective as long as you merely minimize distracting thoughts.
Mindfulness meditation is perhaps the most accessible form of meditation. And as psychologist Mike Brooks puts it, with mindfulness meditation, it’s not about …
Earworms are those tunes that get stuck in your head. Sometimes you’ll be meditating and have a favorite song stuck on replay. Sometimes it’s a song you hate. Either way, earworms aren’t very helpful to our meditation practice. In fact they can be so persistent that they drive us nuts!
Over the years I’ve tried a whole bunch of techniques to try to get rid of ear-worms. I’ve tried just listening to the song, accepting its presence and using it as an object of meditation, but songs can be intoxicating and I’ve found that I don’t develop much mindfulness and end up rocking out.
Sometimes I’ve listened to the lyrics closely to see if they’re trying to teach me anything, and from time to time I’ve been surprised to find that in some way I hadn’t expected the words of the song are deeply meaningful for me at that moment. That hasn’t necessarily made the song go away, but it’s given me something to reflect on.
I’ve tried imagining that I have a volume control in my head. I visualize turning this slowly from 10 down to 0. As I do so, I hear the song fade out. But then a few moments later I hear it fading back in again.
Finally I came up with an effective approach to earworms. It’s really simple: listen. Really listen.
Listen very attentively to the sounds around you. Include them in your meditation practice. In fact paying mindful attention to them becomes your meditation practice. Sounds make as good an object of meditation as anything else, so doing this isn’t a “distraction” from meditation but going deeper into meditation.
Listen in all directions at once. Listen to sounds in front of you and behind you, to the left and right, above and below. Let your auditory attention feel like it’s being stretched in every direction at once.
Allow all sounds to enter your awareness, rather than focusing on one individual sound, or moving from one sound to another.
The thing is that you can’t listen to the external world in this way and also listen to yourself singing internally. When you’re completely listening to the sounds around you, you can’t create an earworm. Listen intensely enough, and your mind becomes silent.
Whenever your attention begins to drift from the sounds outside, you’ll start to notice the earworm again. Now this might seem like a bad thing, but it’s actually wonderful, because now you have a built-in mindfulness meter! When the earworm appears, it’s letting you know that your mindfulness has slipped a little. So now the earworm is actually helping you to meditate, and instead of seeing it as annoying you can now be grateful toward it.
A sense of playfulness around this whole thing is important. Don’t see it as a test: you can’t fail. See it as just a game, so that you enjoy both the times you are able to pay attention to sounds, and the times that the earworm comes along and gently reminds you to come back to mindful awareness.
Isabelle Lai, The Star Online: How many of us realize that the now is the only real moment we have? That regardless of what has happened or what will happen, the only thing that truly matters is what is happening now?
But holding on to the present is no easy feat. Our thoughts tend to slip and slide all over the place, triggered easily by the constantly changing environment around us.
This is where the magic of mindfulness comes in.
Before I continue, let’s first try a quick mindfulness meditation exercise. No, you don’t have to close your eyes if you don’t want …
Children express what they feel and what they want through their actions, emotions, signals, and, by their second birthday, words. Then people respond, including their parents, teachers, and other children; responses can be active or passive, verbal or nonverbal, positive or negative.
These interactive episodes are usually brief, so there are a lot of them each day. For example, from multiple studies, a reasonable estimates that a typical toddler has his or her wants thwarted about twenty times an hour, or on an average of once every three minutes.
Whether it’s called for or not, each thwarting is a communication, a message, to the child: “No.” Then there are other messages: parents who come to a fussing baby in the middle of the night, children at school who let a new kid into their group, people who listen when you’re upset: “Yes.” Added to your personal experiences are the ones you witnessed: what happened when your siblings (if you had any) expressed themselves, and other children, and adults – and characters, real or fictional, in books, movies, and other media.
This learning about self-expression continues into adulthood and to this day. Throughout it, your brain’s negativity bias has highlighted episodes when self-expression led to painful feelings. The pain could be quite subtle, like mild dismay when a person’s eyes wander away while you’re speaking, or quite intense, like being spanked for mouthing off at a parent. In neural networks, the types of self-expression that led to pain became quickly associated with fear, and then with rewards like relief when you learned to inhibit them.