The following blog was written by a dear friend, Tom Stacey of TheWordsmith.com. I worked for a number of years with Tom for 4 years at Vistage. A man of many talents attested to by wide and varied background:
– Web content strategy and execution– Messaging via social channels: blogs, Facebook, G+, Twitter, LinkedIn, drip email campaigns, landing pages, sales letters, SEO, landing-pages– Brand presentation, evangelism, customer retention — Online client experience, building social networks, marketing strategy, publishing — Internal and external communications: concept and production of branded print, Web, video, and audio content — Copywriting: e-mails, letters, Web pages, collateral, articles, blog posts, books, ebooks — Collaborate to create remarkable stories that resonate with targeted audiences
WHY MINDFULNESS MATTERS NOW MORE THAN EVER
by Tom Stacey
No wonder you’re distracted:
In the last second, 6,000 new tweets went up.
In the last minute, 100 hours of new video were posted on YouTube.
In the last year, 292,000 new books were published, just in the U.S.
That’s the tip of the iceberg. The crazy thing? Almost none of this content matters to you or me. Yet the rivers of distraction are always raging, beckoning us to wade into our Facebook or LinkedIn news stream, into the depths of Netflix or Amazon Prime, into every targeted, branded long-tail torrent of data and blather that’s now at our fingertips.
In this ocean of noise, what does matter? How do you avoid wasting minutes, hours, your time — the coin of your life — on so much stuff that’s in your face, yet has no value to you? You already know: The answer is not out there, it’s within.
Recently I decided to try an iPhone app called Headspace, through which an Englishman named Andy guides you through a daily meditation designed to increase your mindfulness.
Can ‘mindfulness’ really help you maintain your focus?
I had a time-efficient way to test Headspace. Since starting a new job I’ve been riding the San Diego Coaster, which zooms above the spectacular beaches of Encinitas and Del Mar, and along Interstate 5. Now that I’m not white-knuckling my way up and down the freeway every day, I’ve been taking advantage of that 40-minute commute. I read, listen to podcasts, and lately, instead of falling straight into the always-on global data stream, I’ve been turning on Headspace and letting Andy guide my breathing and thoughts.
So, what happens when you close your eyes and focus your attention inward while you’re hurtling down the coastline in a train at 90 miles an hour? First, you notice every creak, squeak, screech and groan. Every jiggle, jostle and rumble registers. You realize what a noisy, bumpy ride this is. But when you keep returning your focus to your breath, those noises and sensations gradually recede, to an outer layer of your awareness.
There’s value in just this — realizing that you can control your focus. You discover that you can live with the annoying squeak, you can actually put it completely out of your mind. As you can with every other thought or sensation. Once you experience this, it’s not a big leap to grasp how easily we allow ourselves to become distracted. Hooked. Preoccupied. Triggered. Obsessed. Addicted.
Yes, the entire spectrum of Things That Keep You From What Really Matters. Which begs the question: What does really matter? That’s up to you of course, but you can’t decide that until you allow yourself to be in the moment, untethered from the past, unbound by the future.
None of this is new if you’re into mindful meditation. You know that being in the moment might mean feeling scared or anxious or nervous or pissed. But when you’re mindful, you recognize those as passing states.
You don’t have to bury the anxious thought in a place where it will eventually come back as a monster that ties you in knots. Nor do you have to gloom on to outrage, judgment or any of the other unwanted states you might have found yourself inhabiting in the past. You can decide that those places are not where you want to live.
As for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and all the other places where we compulsively hunt for the latest: Now you see the hooks. People have gotten very good at baiting those hooks. As Pema Chodron says, you don’t have to bite.
Easier said than done, right? The start is being more aware of your awareness. It’s working for me — how about you?
Today is the feast of St. Nicholas of Tolentine. Fifty-five years ago on this day I along with 43 other novices of the Fratrum Ordinis Eremitarum Sancti Augustini (Augustinians). As Brothers of the Order of Hermits of St Augustine we professed our vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. I realize that it is all the small things in my life that bring me to this present moment. Those memories of a yesterday in a yesteryear seem so far away. Yet so close in my mind’s eye. The beginning of 9 years of spiritual training and development so long at the time and from the perspective of time just a moment, an eighth or 12.5% of my life.
The Preface of the Rule of St. Augustine written in 400 A.D. read every Friday during a silent lunch helped remind me: Before all else, beloved, love God and then your neighbor, for these are the chief commandments given to us.
It is with gratitude and appreciation for the lessons learned that I received by living in community.
It was in all the small things along the way. In the early years the schedule of monastic life was taken as a chore. Only years later did I recognize the schedule was about a practice not imposed as was the feeling during formation but a practice chosen. A practice that frees one and allows for doing what needs to be done in order to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.
In Lee Thayer’s newest book Mental Hygiene he touches on be addicted to habits that lead to good mental hygiene and habits that lead to bad mental hygiene. That hygiene starts in how I think influences who I am and who I am impacts what I do and what I do creates my habits and then my habits create me. How I know if my habits of mental hygiene are good or bad is seen in their efficacy. I will know if the habits I’m addicted to are good or bad by the consequences of my practice. I go back to the Kalama Sutra
“After thorough observation, investigation, analysis and reflection, when you find that anything agrees with reason and your experience, and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, and of the world at large; accept only that as true, and shape your life in accordance with it; and live up to it.”
Daily, I walk up the back stairs to enter my home. The habit is to get out my keys as I close the door to the back house and walk up the steps. Unlock the door and go in making sure the cats don’t sneak out. A few months ago I saw a piece of one of our potted plans had grown and a small flower had budded on the edge of the door mat. I noticed it because I saw I would step on it. I realized I had been walking past that plant for a year or more and never really noticed the small flowers the plant had put out. It was a moment for reflection of how many little things go unnoticed through out my day, oh yea of mindfulness.
Looking behind a pot the partially hid other pieces of the plant growth, I found one of the plants other flowers in full bloom.
Now as I walk up the steps I am reminded to be mindful of the small things. A please. A thank you. A smile. A word of appreciation or gratitude. Blinking my lights to allow another car to enter in front of me. Listening to what is being said with care.
The Way of Chuang Tzuu
© 1965 Abbey of Gethsemani
New Directions Publishing Corp
There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased with his own footsteps that he determined to get rid of both. The method he hit upon was to run away from them.
So he got up and ran. But every time he put his foot down there was another step, which his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty.
He attributed his failure to the fact that he was not running fast enough. So he ran faster and faster, without stopping, until he finally dropped dead.
He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade, his shadow would vanish, and if he sat down and stayed still, there would be no more footsteps. [xxxi.]
It is so easy to get caught or caught up in our doing. It helps me to remember there is always a place in the shade where my shadow disappears. There is also a spot where I can sit and my foot steps are silenced.
It’s only a matter of observing my breath and putting a smile on my face and I am back in the gift of life, the present.
The practice of mindful running begins with being a good animal and a mindful athlete. The good animal runs playfully. The mindful athlete observes what is humanly possible and participates fully in life: balance, flexibility, agility, awareness, clarity, stamina and fortitude.
Be a non-anxious presence in an anxious world.
Last Monday I went to the Ken Theater to see the movie: Alive Inside. In communication, the seemingly inert brain comes alive. To me it is an example of where the mind is not synonymous with the brain. The brain is a secondary organ like heart, liver, lungs. Often mind and brain are seen as the same.
Lee Thayer in his most recent book: Mental Health shares:
The healthy mind cannot be reduced to a healthy brain. The brain is a biological phenomenon. The mind is a social phenomenon. The brain is initially created by our genes. The mind is created by those who surround us from birth. The mind is born and evolves as a matter of social necessity. We function in the human world as we do not – because we have a brain, but because we have a mind.
In simple and complex ways, our mind is a social creation. it is something that is created in us by how others talk to us– verbally and nonverbally. it is in the meaning of what they say to us that our our mind is born, and originally nurtured.
Lee talks about our minds are created, maintained, or altered through communication. Our communities are created by people talking to each other. Those before us created our culture…and then our culture creates us.
So we see Henry how he comes alive once he is touched with what communicated with him from his past. What have we done by believing that our elders are lost in dementia, Alzheimer’s and DSM-V diagnosis. Have we forgotten that DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. My mother, father, brother, sister, best friend, grandfather and grandmother are not abstractions. What have we done by the misunderstanding of statistical when applied to an individual?
Bruce West in his book Where Medicine Went Wrong talks about medicine choosing to use the Standard Error of The Mean rather than the Inverse Power-Curve. That choice and the Gaussian or bell-shaped curve is about about averages where individuality is replaced by the idea of “average value.”
Where Medicine Went Wrong explores how the idea of an average value has been misapplied to medical phenomena, distorted understanding and lead to flawed medical decisions. Through new insights into the science of complexity, traditional physiology is replaced with fractal physiology, in which variability is more indicative of health than is an average. The capricious nature of physiological systems is made conceptually manageable by smoothing over fluctuations and thinking in terms of averages. But these variations in such aspects as heart rate, breathing and walking are much more susceptible to the early influence of disease than are averages. It may be useful to quote from the late Stephen Jay Gould s book Full House on the errant nature of averages: … our culture encodes a strong bias either to neglect or ignore variation. We tend to focus instead on measures of central tendency, and as a result we make some terrible mistakes, often with considerable practical import. Dr West has quantified this observation and make it useful for the diagnosis of disease.
What are we learning about community? While we call ourselves social animals may forget that we are also herd and pack animals? We are one in our uniqueness. How do we honor the unique contribution each of us brings?
The Fifth Agreement says: Be skeptical but listen. It resonates with the skepticism of philosopher Schopenhauer who influenced many modern thinkers:
In his essay: “The Wisdom of Life” he reminds us:
“With health, every;thing is a source of pleasure;
without it, nothing else, whatever it mat be, is enjoyable. . .
Health is by far the most important element in human happiness
Buddha says it another way in the Kalama Sutra. Basically he reminded the people of Kalama to be skeptical, even of his own teachings saying:
However, after thorough observation, investigation, analysis and reflection, when you find that anything agrees with reason and your experience, and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, and of the world at large; accept only that as true, and shape your life in accordance with it; and live up to it.
When you get the opportunity watch Inside Alive. You may be able to affect changes in the way you communicate with your own loved ones. You may want to become part of founder Dan Cohen’s iPod Project Read More »
“Yesterday is already a dream
and tomorrow only a vision,
but today, well lived, makes
every yesterday a dream of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.”
Gustavo Grodnitzky is in the final days of releasing his book on “Culture Trumps Everything:The Unexpected Truth About the Ways Environment Changes Biology, Psychology, and Behavior.” When speaking about how we view time he brings into perspective why the Buddhist practice of meditation is fundamental to the Mindfulness Revolution that is being experienced by so many in all venues of our lives.
Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old;
Rather seek what they sought
Below is a video of Philip Zimbardo’s thoughts on Time Perspective from his book The Time Paradox. A look at aspects of past, present and future.
Added to these aspects of time has been added the term “Holistic Expanded Present.” It is what Buddhist meditation has taught for 2600 years. The path is the practice of meditation.
The July edition of Shambhala Sun has a wonderful Guide to numerous types of meditation.
• The View: Why We Meditate, by Chögyam Trungpa
• Insight Meditation: Present, Open & Aware, by Emily Horn
• Walking: Meditation in Motion, by Brother Phap Hai
• Loving-Kindness: It Starts with You, by Josh Korda
• Zazen: Just Ordinary Mind, by Susan Murphy
• Koans: One with the Question, by Melissa Myozen Blacker
• Tonglen: In with the Bad, Out with the Good, by Ethan Nichtern
• The Middle Way: Investigating Reality, by Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel
• Mahamudra: Look Directly at the Knower, by Andy Karr
• Visualization: Developing Pure Perception, by Anyen Rinpoche & Allison Choying Zangmo
• Dzogchen: The Sky of Wisdom, by Tsoknyi Rinpoche
To better understand your own Time Perspective you can take a free Time Perspective Assessment you can go to The Time Paradox Survey.
The paths to enlightenment are as numerous as there are people. Some gain it in an instant. Others struggle for years. Some never attain it.
Carl Sagan in this interview with Charlie Rose touches on this topic of learning what we need to learn. He speaks to our need to be educated (life-long learners) and to practice our education and skepticism.
I remember learning many years ago: If I think and believe that I am right in what I think about something and I am incorrect; then I will not change my thinking.
If you ask anyone in the United States what color is a Yield sign; more often than not you’ll get the answer: Yellow. Yet Yield signs in the US have not been yellow since we adopted the National Signage Code back in the late 1980′s. If you just thought that they are Yellow, you’ll realize how righteousness can get in the way of seeing what is.
We often hear: We learn from our experience. While the reality is that we learn from our interpretation of the experience. Two people can have the same experience. One has a transforming experience that changes the course of their life for the positive. For the other it becomes the trauma they live and suffer with for the rest of their lives.
One of my early posts was titled: Seeking Personal Experience and Personal Authority. In it I shared the Kalama Sutra.
James Hollis in his book, Finding Meaning In The Second Half of Life, touches on this issue under what he calls “personal authority” or more appropriately the recovery of personal authority. He shared what Buddha said in the Kalama Sutra in these words: “Personal Authority means to find what is true for oneself and to live it in the world.”
Some quotes from Buddha to bring home the point
It is wrong to think that misfortunes come from the east or from the west; they originate within one’s own mind. Therefore, it is foolish to guard against misfortunes from the external world and leave the inner mind uncontrolled.~ Buddha
As the Fletcher whittles and makes straight his arrows, so the master directs his straying thoughts. All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.~ Buddha
We are what we think. All that we are arises With our thoughts. With our thoughts, We make our world.~ Buddha
Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.~ Buddha
Here is an animated version of the story of the Kalama people.
Bob Anderson of Leading Challenges talking about EQ shared with Jim Wyner’s and my Vistage KEY 777 yesterday a definition of the word: Empathy. Empathy is defined as: Recognizing, understanding, and appreciating how other people feel. Empathy involves being able to articulate my understanding of another perspective and behaving in a way that respects others’ feelings.
Bring in the perspective of non-judgmental and we see how difficult empathy can be for many of us depending on our prejudgments, our prejudices.
I am reminded by Jon Kabat-Zinn’s observation: You sitting there, breathing is enough.
We learn the depth of love in so many ways. For many of us it is learning to love ourselves, and realize that me sitting here, breathing is enough. Again the unique contribution that we each bring to the world. For my family love was caring for my younger sister who had PKU that went undetected. From a vibrant baby she was basically brain dead at 6 months of age. We cared for her until she was institutionalized at 9.
On this day we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day. Truly love conquers all as this video shows as it answers a question from a mother who knows she is having a Down Syndrome baby.
My daughters from early childhood were raised with the saying: If you want to know the future, create it. Their children are now creating their future. The future is created by what we do now, and hopefully intentionally.
I had the opportunity to dialogue with Leah Kalish, MA, former Program Director of Yoga Ed., about the importance of influencing our future generations mind, body and spirit.
Leah is Founder and Chief Learning Officer of Move with Me Action Adventures. She believes, alond with many early childhood educators, that movement and mindfulness skills are two essential missing links in early childhood learning.They are of one mind that we all are responsible to support all children in being physically fit, emotionally stable, and learning able.
She and her small team of educators at Move with Me develop, produce and offer a unique interdisciplinary integration of story + exercise + self-regulation that truly engages the whole child. Their offerings fulfill educational standards while building focus, fitness, motor and social-emotional skills the the children involved. Move with Me is part of an ever growing number of educators bringing Mindfulness to our school systems. Just put “Mindfulness and Children” in a YouTube search and you will see what I mean.
Leah and her team have created their award-winning movement story video programs. Their comprehensive curriculum provide affordable, easy-to-use resources. These programs help anyone working with young children to provide active play and mindfulness practice needed to maintain the self-control necessary for academic and social success. At the same time it helps the children sustain a healthy weight to counteract the problem with obesity among our children.
Learning how to de-stress when young is essential to our children’s nervous systems, brains, and personalities. All of us have experienced the stresses of growing up. Imagine if we had coping skills as children to deal with what frightened, scared or bothered us. How many of us carry the scars into adulthood caused by “amygdula highjack” or letting others “live in our head rent free.” How much of our creativity and coping abilities were derailed by chronic or excessive stress. Many of us live with the damaging effects on our learning, behaviors, and health because we reacted poorly to what bothered us.
Move with Me, like the growing number of programs, are resources and trainings to teach children and their care-givers/teachers to handle stressed states. They learn needed skills to overcome the triggered survival mechanisms of the stress response.
They learn and use movement and mindfulness practices to change their emotional state as needed. They cultivate and sustain a less-reactive, more aware, and compassionate state by recognizing the signs of stress and choosing to take positive action via self-care practices.
Remember Mindfulness is a practice. Daily, regular participation in self-regulation exercises reinforces our ability to sustain an optimal state of focus to better manage stress. Check out the Scooter & Me Program. Also they have a good number of YouTube videos to watch.
Remember to give the children in your life a foundation for a mindful life!
This conference presentation by Jon Kabat-Zinn’s was part of a benefit for Mindful Schools: The Role of Mindfulness in Education. As Jon mentions, he didn’t need to use the work Mindfulness to teach these techniques that help anyone no matter their age.
Andrea Miller shares her experience in the March issue of Pema Chodron on 4 Keys To Waking Up:
Stabilize Your Mind
Make Friends with Yourself
Be Free from Fixed Mind
take Care of Others
You can read an excerpt of Andrea’s article on “Stabilize Your Mind.”
Andrea shares a moment when Ani Pema is answering questions.
Do you have a regular meditation practice” Ani Pema asks
“And how does that feel these days?”
“It feels hurried.”
“I have a child with disabilities, so meditation has to be fit in. I can’t just decide to go sit down. It has to be set up.”
“I get it,” Ani Pema says slowly. “So, okay, that’s how it is currently–uncomfortable, hurried. Things as they are.” Then she comes back to what we’ve been talking about this morning unconditional friendship. Ani Pema’s advice is this: don’t reject what you see in yourself; embrace it instead. Feeling Hurried Buddha, Feeling Cut Off from Nature Buddha, Feeling No Compassion Buddha–recognize the Buddha in each feeling.
I realize how difficult it is to embrace all of me. The song pops in my head as a song I can sing to myself: “All of me, why not take all of me. Can’t you see, I’m no good without you.” And the courage it takes to be gentle with myself.
When I go to bed at night with my wife, the saying goes: There are 16 people sleeping with me:
Me and my wife (2)
Our inner voice that is with us 24 hours a day (2)
Our parents on both sides (4)
Our grandparents on both sides (8)
They all live on in us. They all have an opinion, an influence and a voice. So I get to experience the impact that sitting quietly observing breath can have on all those voices.
So while it is about “loving myself so much that I don’t want to make myself suffer anymore” I was reflecting on what is it that I have to let go.
Kay Harkins who is helping me put together my writings on running, walking, marathoning, running and walking therapy said in our first meeting: “I’d like you to think about what it is that is “falling away” so that you can get to the core of what you want to share.
Falling away, letting go rang a bell but the gong for me was shared by Thich Nhat Hanh saying that one must: Throw away. His talk on Letting Go resonated as he touched on what it means to throw away the notions, perceptions or mind-objects as he calls them. (42:00)
He shows how I need to throw away my notions and perceptions of self, human being, living beings and life span.
A match cannot become nothing. It cannot be annihilated. The flame manifests itself. It comes and it goes. Medititate to deeply listen to the flame. Hear the voice of the flame. When conditions come together, it manifests.
A cloud cannot become nothing. It is a manifestation and was many other things before it became a cloud. A river, a rose, a match – looking deeply no birth/no death.
Birth and death are notions. There are no human beings without non-human elements. Hmmmm. Where is the human race without oxygen? Or calcium?
The Diamond Sutra looks deeply so that I can meditate and throw away my notions/perceptions/ideas of self, human being, dualism, living being, life span.
Through my Consciousness/Feelings/perceptions/mental formations I am aware of impermanence. Impermanence is the object of my/our looking deeply.
Coming and going are notions. Like the match, like the cloud when conditions are no longer sufficient they cease their manifestation.
So I ask myself this question as I push publish and head off for the rest of my day: How am I manifesting now? Am I doing me fully awake, fully present and living my life intentionally?
How about you? Are you embracing all of you…today? What are you throwing away…today?
We have no word for Good Bye for Life is Forever.
If you want to view the entire KPBS presentation go to: A Concert for Reconciliation of the Cultures (Live at Mt. Rushmore)
Mindfulness is a reminder that: We Are All One.
“The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth.”
Thích Nhat Hanh