Posts tagged ‘Meditation’

July 6, 2012

Tip O’ the Iceberg

Although we may be able to control our internal dialogue, generate new thoughts and choose how we want to response to life situations, we need to acknowledge our unconscious thought processes.

The most commonly used analogy of our overall consciousness is that of an iceberg. Our conscious thought processes (the voice inside our head) is just the “tip of the iceberg”. This is the 20% of the iceberg that we see on the surface of the water. Our subconscious thoughts are the remainder of the iceberg that is deep below the surface of the water.

We can directly influence the stream of our conscious thoughts. If we find ourselves thinking about ice cream, we can choose to visualize a nice tasty carrot. Our subconscious thoughts are not under our conscious control. Like a submerged iceberg sinking a ship, certain unconscious thoughts can sabotage our plans.

We can influence our subconscious. One way that can be done is through reflecting on our past and evaluating possible underlying beliefs. I do not feel that you necessarily need twenty years of Freudian-based psychotherapy, however I do believe that the subconscious may need some attention. If you had significant traumatic life events, these events will surely have an effect on how you unconsciously view the world. It is important to be honest with yourself on how these events have shaped your view of the world. If you realize that you have “serious emotional baggage”, then it would be a good idea to check into support from a professional.

May you be able to steer your metaphorical ship through the artic waters without being hit by an iceberg.

But this is just the “tip of the iceberg”…..

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June 7, 2012

Renouncing Resentment

Resentment: a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.

Personally, I have found little or no personal value benefit to the feeling of resentment. I have found that resentment is just longstanding anger that people cling to and feel justified in keeping this feeling of anger due to a perceived wrongdoing.

Imagine the last time you felt resentful towards a person or a course of action. Did you enjoy this feeling, or did you feel a great sense of dis-ease? Did your resentment lead to any positive actions? Did resentment lead to an argument?  Or does your resentment just simmer or boil inside of you?

Resentment is a feeling that is entirely related to how we chose to think and feel about a situation. There is no universal “cause and effect” since resentment is a chosen response.  For example, if someone tells you a joke and you choose to take offense or insult, you are choosing a resentful response. You could just as easily let it go. You are the one defining what “offensive” is. Even if the other person is stating the comment with the intent to offend, it is our choice to take offence.

Resentment can come out of our imagined intentions of others. We may interpret others actions as having the motive to make us feel bad. The majority of the time, other people act the way they are going to act without thinking about us. We are not the central character in their story, but since we are the central character in our own story we can view other people’s motivations as relating to our own.

Resentments can arise due to what we choose to believe about specific situations. I have the tendency to get resentful when interrupted frequently during a conversation. In my mind, I have constructed the belief that I have the right to complete a thought. When I am interrupted, I experience a feeling of “injustice” and I may start to feel “ill will” to the interjecting conversational partner. I know that I need to release this feeling of resentment. I know that the majority of the time there is no animosity from the person interrupting me and the other person is just engaging in his/her own conversational style. Even if the other person is intentionally being rude or argumentative, I can choose to avoid feelings of indignant displeasure.

Sometimes, resentment can arise based on how we define our own roles and the roles of others around us. At home, I occasionally feel resentful when my children make multiple demands regarding what I need to do for them. During these moments, I do not feel that it is fair that my children’s needs should come before my own needs. However, when I analyze this situation, I realize that my children are being developmentally appropriate by considering only their own needs. I also acknowledge that I have the choice of placing my needs, wants and desires before the needs (and requests for toys, games, fun stuff and money) from my children. Since I have composed an internal story that I am a “loving parent” that truly cares for my children, I strive to do everything possible to make sure that feel cared for. When I realize that I am the author of my own story and that I am in total control of the situation at hand, there is no reason for me to feel resentful.

 

“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others– it only changes yours.”

Shannon L. Alder, 300 Questions to Ask Your Parents Before It’s Too Late

 

Strategies to Renounce Resentment

Forgiveness.

Forgiveness is just the act of letting it go. We can forgive the person that we feel has done us wrong and we can forgive ourselves for holding onto unproductive resentment.

A few years back, I harbored a lot of resentment towards a specific individual. I will call this person “Ire” to protect the “guilty”. I kept a long list of grievances against “Ire” that I “knew” were justified. After being miserable for a while, I realized that there was no action that I could take that would make the other person apologize or to make them offer restitution for their actions. The only thing that I had the power to do was to forgive them, and let go of all of my resentment. I still interact with this person in question. Without my emotional baggage, we can interact on a professional level. I have not forgotten the events, but I have forgiven the person for their actions.

Meditation

Meditation can be an effective strategy to let go of the internal dialogue justifying our resentments. By practicing meditation where we the focus is becoming unattached to our thoughts, it becomes easier to let go of thoughts and stories that we keep rattling around in our brains to justify our anger. Sometimes specific meditative practices are helpful as well. When I decided to forgive “Ire” for the multitudes of resentments, I found a specific Buddhist meditation helpful. For this meditation, you start your focus on the people that you love dearly. Then you reflect, “I wish ____ to be free from suffering, and the root of suffering”. After starting with the ones you love the most dearly, you repeat this intention to you close friends, then you repeat it for acquaintances, then finally you wish the people who for whom you harbor anger to be free from suffering, and the root of suffering.

Denounce your victimhood

One of the causes of our resentment is the perception that we are “victims”. In viewing ourselves as victims of the words and actions of other, we give away our personal power. Remember that you are the protagonist in your own story and that you have the power to choose how to respond to all life events.

Write your own story

Journal or write down how you want to feel in a given situation. If you are resentful about a situation where you have no control, record how you can change your emotional response or what lesson you have learned from the situation. It may also be helpful to re-write the life scenario where you are free from resentment. Imagine what it would feel like to let go of that resentment.

Affirmations

There are many affirmations already written about choosing forgiveness and letting go of resentment and anger. I have found that the podcast “My Thought Coach” by Stin has good audio affirmations on this topic. It is also very easy to write your own affirmations and review them every day. For example “I forgive all for every perceived hurt or injustice in my past. I choose to let go of anger and resentment and to learn for every life experience”.

Letters Never Sent

As symbolic exercise to release yourself from causes of resentment, you could write letters to the person that you feel has done you wrong. In these letters, the goal is to get your feelings about the situation on paper with the intent of letting these feelings go. Once you have finished with the letter, you can burn them ceremoniously or shred them into tiny pieces while thinking “I am done with this!”

 

Related Articles

How to Overcome Resentment

 

May 11, 2012

Don’t Be a “Grouch”!

 

There are people in our lives that appear to go out of their way to conversationally invalidate everything we say. When we discuss how to solve a complex problem with them, they will state the obstacle to every possible solution. When you remark on a sunny day, they will inform you of the harmful effects of UV radiation. When you remark on how the cloudy day is a perfect day to work outside without getting too hot, they will complain about the “gray gloom”. When you start to talk about a major problem in your life, instead of validating how you feel or see if there is anything to do to help you, this person will pat you on the back and tell you it will all be OK. When conversing with a constant contrarian, you will likely leave the interaction frustrated and depleted.

I have to acknowledge that I have my own inner “grouch”. This is the voice inside my head that can derail forward progress. My internal contrarian gives me a reason to stay in bed when I plan to wake up early and exercise. This subconscious naysayer provides me with ample reasons to downplay the compliments of others. It takes vigilance to keep this voice in check. I am glad that I have practiced the habit of reviewing my thoughts before they are spoken. Some times this inner curmudgeon presents its’ input during ordinary conversation. For example, a friend of mine informed me of the fun he had discovering an outstanding Mexican marketplace where you could find excellent traditional Mexican food at great prices. My inner killjoy wanted to inform him of the fact that my does not eat a lot Mexican food and that this place, that gave him a sense of satisfaction and pride, just wouldn’t work for me. Luckily my pre-frontal cortex kicked in and allowed me to evaluate my response. What value would I be adding to the conversation by dismissing the value of this new Market? My friend wanted to be validated for his excitement. He did not want to speak with a proverbial “wet blanket”.

One of the benefits of meditation or quiet reflection is that we can evaluate our inner dialogue in a detached manner. We can observe our thought patterns and notice the general feeling of our thoughts. When we realize that our thoughts are just a part of our identity and do not compromise the totality of our identity, we understand that we can control what we think and what we say. We know from experience that is annoying to speak with a constant contrarian. There is no benefit from being a contrarian ourselves.

April 26, 2012

Right Mind-ed-ness

Our left hemisphere is all about the past and the future and serves as the voice inside of our head. Our right hemisphere is all about the NOW and overall perception of being. 

One strategy of “getting into our right minds” is meditation. Meditation is the practice of detaching from one’s thoughts. Many people think that to engage in meditative practice, you have to absolutely free of conscious thoughts. In “Meditation in a New York Minute”,  Mark Thornton reviews many types of meditative practice. The one teaching that was the most valuable for me is that the initial focus of meditation is to detach from your thoughts. When meditating, you can still have your internal dialogue, but the goal is to detach and observe your thoughts as if they are just words floating by. In short, we breathe deeply and try to get in our right hemisphere.

If you are a recovering cynic such as myself, the mere mention of meditation may trigger a belief system that resists this concept. This resistant vision may include pictures of hippies with headbands across their long hair sitting on a grass field making daisy chains while chanting Ohmmm. At least, that was my internal response about six years ago.

Today, I look at meditation pragmatically. I have studied the effects of meditation on myself. The results of my “single-subject research design” (with very loose qualitative data) is that when I have the habit of meditating for at least five minutes per day, I am better able to detach from my thoughts. I also noticed that once I started to observe my thoughts objectively, I was better able to control my thoughts and to change my thought patterns.

In summary, Meditation allows up to observe and evaluate our thoughts and to increase awareness that we can be separate from our stream of thoughts.

Now meditation is good for the 20% of conscious thought that we can control. What do we do about the other 80% of unconscious thoughts and belief systems?

The short answer is….Work on it! On great way to work is through positive affirmations.

Again, six years ago my cynical self groaned a “good grief” every time I heard about positive affirmations. My belief system at that time was that positive affirmations are good for those “new age folks”. I had the comedic image of Al Frankin’s Stewart Smally  –

Affirmation helps re-shape our unconscious beliefs. The more we think and affirm our new belief and the more feeling that we attach to this belief, the more this new belief will become a part of our subconscious belief system. Positive affirmations can help improve our self-concept and self-confidence. Ironically, earlier this morning I was listening to a great podcast on self-confidence on “Life Habits”. http://lifehabits.net/2009/04/24/lh32-self-confidence/

In short, meditation and positive affirmations can be effective strateiges in re-shaping our thoughts and beliefs.

Happy thinking!

April 20, 2012

Get Back on The Horse!

On Day 18 of the “Habit Change Challenge”, life got in the way. I decided to stay up late playing “Ping Pong” with a couple of friends. When I got home, my youngest child kept me awake the remainder of the night and early morning since he had difficulty sleeping. I chose to sleep next to him so he would feel more comfortable and sleep better. Since I did not get much sleep, most of the night, I decided to sleep in to 7 AM. Therefore, I did not exercise or meditate in the morning. In the evening, my wife and I had a birthday party to go to after work. When we got home, I feel asleep with my youngest when I put him to sleep. So, I on this day I strayed from the habits of logging my gratitude, successes, meditating and exercising.

I almost made it! I hope that if you took up this challenge that you are still going. If this is a competition, I hope that you beat me.

I am not a victim of certain circumstances. I made decisions about life priorities that allowed my new habits to fall into the background. I chose to spend time with people that I do not see as much and I had a lot of fun doing so. I had a great time playing games with my friends and going to an adult birthday party without my kids. I choose to prioritize sleep over my target habits. The sleep that I got felt good! I do not feel badly about the choices that I made these last few days.

I am “jumping back on the horse”. I am not giving up on my new habits. I am starting over with the resolve of going another 21 days of being consistent exercising, meditating, listening or reading affirmations and logging my successes & gratitude. I have made progress and I choose to reflect on my “setback” as “feedback” instead of “failure”.

From this setback, I had a few thoughts about “falling off the horse”:

  • 1)   Get back on the habit as soon as possible!
  • 2)   Look at the larger goal of what you want to change
  • 3)   View the break of habit as a “blip on the screen” and start over
  • 4)   Commit to the new habit “one day at a time”
  • 5)   Avoid letting the exception become the rule! If you break a rule once, do not think that it is OK to do it again since you are already “off track”.
  • 6)   Focus on how awesome it feels to keep moving forward towards you goals instead of any possible shame of making a “mistake”
  • 7)   Analyze what happened that lead to you getting off track and use that feedback to get back on track
  • 8)   Forgive yourself!

Remember, the ultimate goal is to appreciate all the good that is a part of your life and make choices that bring more opportunities to appreciate what you have. Have fun with your own adventure!

-Andrew

 

February 29, 2012

Compassion

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

– Dali Lama

Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.

– Dali Lama

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.” – Thomas Merton

Dictionary.com defines compassion as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” I definitely agree that compassion incorporated the strong feeling to alleviate the suffering of others. However, I feel that compassion is much deeper than a “feeling of deep sympathy or sorrow”. Compassion is deeper that “pity” or sympathy alone. When we show compassion to another, we understand the other’s feelings as a part of the human condition. Compassion arises out of the awareness that all people have the possibility to experience the same range of human experience all human experiences and human emotions. Compassion allows understanding of another person’s perspective since we can imagine ourselves reacting to the situation in a similar manner. Compassion is the desire to relieve another’s suffering. We can demonstrate compassion when another person is experiencing great anger, frustration, as well as sadness and loss.

When you demonstrating compassion, you perceive yourself as an equal to the one you are demonstrating compassion for. For example, if we feel compassion for someone who is homeless and down on their luck, we understand that we too could be homeless and it a similar situation. When friends or family make poor decisions (such as engaging in addictive patterns), compassion allows us to see that we have the same possibility to make similar decisions. When we interact with other people compassionately, others are able to feel supported in a non-judgmental fashion. Others can feel our intention to alleviate their suffering.

Compassion can be seen as the emotional equivalent of “the Golden Rule”. As Karen Armstrong from charterforcompassion.org has stated “Always treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself … Don’t do to others what you would not like them to do to you”. Compassion can be viewed as reacting to all others as if they are your self.

What are the benefits of compassion?

First, there are emerging studies that show that compassionate behavior and compassionate meditation are good for our health. In a study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, it was demonstrated that “individuals who engage in compassion meditation may benefit by reductions in inflammatory and behavioral responses to stress that have been linked to depression and a number of medical illnesses”(link) In another study of 59 women, it was found that those who demonstrated high levels of compassion for others were more receptive to social support, enabling them to better handle acute psychological stress and maintain overall well-being, according to psychologists at the University of Maine, University of California – Berkeley and University of California – San Francisco (link).

Second, compassion can help us influence the interactions that we have with others. When we choose a compassionate response when another person gets upset, we are more likely going to have a neutral or understanding response. By responding in this manner, we are more likely to be able to diffuse a potential conflict. Additionally, when we react to others compassionately, we are more likely to build rapport with that person.

Finally, the more compassionate we are, the more compassion we bring into the world. As Ghandi is often quoted “be the change you want to see in the world.” By being more compassionate, we model how to be compassionate and those who are within our zone of influence are more likely to respond compassionately to us.

The next time someone gets angry with you, resist the temptation to engage in a defensive response. Consider what circumstances brought the other person to get angry. Imagine how you would feel in a similar situation. Then focus on the intention of elevating the other person’s suffering. Your compassionate response is not only good for your own health, but it has the opportunity to strengthen your interpersonal relationships and help facilitate a more compassionate world.

Please share your comments on this topic! I am grateful for any insight you may have.

February 1, 2012

Habits and Goals

Habits and Goals
If you have committed to developing and attaining personal goals for the New Year, you will likely need to develop new habits to attain these goals. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you will need to develop the habit of eating less and moving more. Sometimes the new habit itself will be the goal. For example, quitting smoking requires a daily habit of inhaling only air. Your goal will be to maintain habits that are in alignment with your goal. Habit change requires daily focus. 
Some general habits that can support a variety of goals include:
– Reviewing your goals daily
– Keeping a daily journal about progress (and gratitude for what you have)
– Repeating daily affirmations that reinforce the beliefs, thoughts and feelings you need to keep focus on your goals.
– A time of quiet reflection, meditation or prayer (depending on what works best for you) where you can detach from your typical thought pattern. Detaching from you typical internal dialogue can help you modify your internal dialogue to help develop thoughts, feelings and beliefs that support your new habits/actions
– Use a phone app or journal to keep track your habits for personal accountability. I currently use the phone app “Habit Streak” to quickly check off each habit that I have completed on a daily basis.

Get Back on the Wagon
I have heard that the saying “falling off the wagon” was developed during the time where settlers where moving out west in wagon trains. Those that drank too much would “fall off the wagon” and thus fall behind the wagon train. Imagine that the “wagon” is your goal or the vision of where you want to go in life. If you fall off the wagon, GET UP, and get back on the wagon!  You do not want to be left alone on the proverbial prairie. Even if you “slip up” on your goal by eating that cupcake or smoking that cigarette, choose to re-commit to your goal Right Now! Often when people make a backward step or mis-step towards their goal, they may go in a downward spiral by thinking “I have messed up, I guess that it does not matter anymore”. NO, Get up! Get back on the wagon! If you have made a mistake, you may need to do some more work on analyzing your beliefs and feelings. You may need to spend more time with personal affirmations that reinforce that you CAN DO IT!

January 15, 2012

Getting into the groove!

Yesterday, we discussed Meditation a method of getting into the right mind. We also discussed that Meditation is not for everyone.

 

Today, while I was out surfing, I remembered that there are many other ways to get “in the groove” or in a meditative state. When you engage in an activity that you truly love, you may experience being in a “flow state”. When you are “in the flow”, you typically are so absorbed in the activity that you may not experience the passage of time. You will also be deeply routed in the NOW. Your focus will be so intense on the activity that you will be detached from your stream of conscious thoughts.

 

People can get into a flow state through a variety of ways. Playing music, running, biking, surfing, quilting, hiking can all be all lead to a flow experience.

 

I hope that you find that activity that helps you go with the flow.

January 14, 2012

Making Connections

In the last couple of blogs, we have discussed conscious and unconscious thought patterns. We reflected on the role of the left and right hemisphere of our brains. Our left hemisphere is all about the past and the future and serves as the voice inside of our head. Our right hemisphere is all about the NOW and overall perception of being.

One strategy of “getting into our right minds” is meditation. Meditation is the practice of detaching from one’s thoughts. Many people think that to engage in meditative practice, you have to absolutely free of conscious thoughts. In “Meditation in a New York Minute”,  Mark Thornton reviews many types of meditative practice. The one teaching that was the most valuable for me is that the initial focus of meditation is to detach from your thoughts. When meditating, you can still have your internal dialogue, but the goal is to detach and observe your thoughts as if they are just words floating by. In short, we breathe deeply and try to get in our right hemisphere.

If you are a recovering cynic such as myself, the mere mention of meditation may trigger a belief system that resists this concept. This resistant vision may include pictures of hippies with headbands across their long hair sitting on a grass field making daisy chains while chanting Ohmmm. At least, that was my internal response about six years ago.

Today, I look at meditation pragmatically. I have studied the effects of meditation on myself. The results of my “single-subject research design” (with very loose qualitative data) is that when I have the habit of meditating for at least five minutes per day, I am better able to detach from my thoughts. I also noticed that once I started to observe my thoughts objectively, I was better able to control my thoughts and to change my thought patterns.

In summary, Meditation allows up to observe and evaluate our thoughts and to increase awareness that we can be separate from our stream of thoughts.

Now meditation is good for the 20% of conscious thought that we can control. What do we do about the other 80% of unconscious thoughts and belief systems?

The short answer is….Work on it! On great way to work is through positive affirmations.

Again, six years ago my cynical self groaned a “good grief” every time I heard about positive affirmations. My belief system at that time was that positive affirmations are good for those “new age folks”. I had the comedic image of Al Frankin’s Stewart Smally  –

Affirmation helps re-shape our unconscious beliefs. The more we think and affirm our new belief and the more feeling that we attach to this belief, the more this new belief will become a part of our subconscious belief system. Positive affirmations can help improve our self-concept and self-confidence. Ironically, earlier this morning I was listening to a great podcast on self-confidence on “Life Habits”. http://lifehabits.net/2009/04/24/lh32-self-confidence/

In short, meditation and positive affirmations can be effective strateiges in re-shaping our thoughts and beliefs.

Happy thinking!