The Mindful Self-Express

The mind-body experiment.

Nine Essential Qualities of Mindfulness

Most people these days are stressed out by the fast pace of life, economy, and worries about the future. It is no wonder that mindfulness has rapidly gained attention. But what exactly is mindfulness? Read More

Good article, you must follow

Good article, you must follow it and live today, not the future. Thank you!

Thank You

Appreciate the comment.

I enjoyed this article as I

I enjoyed this article as I feel it broke down mindfulness into easy accomplishable steps. I feel that our current culture almost directly opposes mindfulness. We are focused so highly on success and consumerism that we feel we do not have “time” to be mindful. And we are constantly being bombarded with product ads telling us that if we do not have them, we won’t be happy. Why do you think that even though we are aware of the multitude of benefits that we can gain from being mindful, that most people still haven’t incorporated these ideas into their life? Is it because it seems so mysterious that many people haven’t been able to figure out how to incorporate it? Or do you think it’s a relatively new idea (in western culture) so people just haven’t quite caught onto it yet? I am hoping that due to globalization and ideas spreading from culture to culture as well as the recent economic downturn, people will be looking for comfort and peace more internally rather than externally. I think we could all benefit from society being more mindful.

Great questions!

I like your questions a lot. i think people misunderstand mindfulness and what it can contribute. They think it is just focusing on breathing or passive acceptance. Mindful awareness takes months of practice to develop. People often don't spend the time. Our fear-based lower brain centers keep telling us we have to move and do so we don't take the time to sit still.

Wonderful article

Thank you for this wonderful article. I recent re-discovered inner peace after years of being lost, I didn't realize what it was until I read your article. "Mindfulness", I like that :)

Thanks for sharing

Appreciate you sharing your personal experience Maggie. Glad you found your center :)

Mindfulness is one of the

Mindfulness is one of the slippery beasts, the more we try to grasp it tightly, the more it seems to slip from our grasp. It takes equal parts effort and non-effort. What makes it powerful also makes it elusive. I am finding that by focusing on meditation for a short while each day, it makes being present easier in the other moments. But, ultimately, I am stilllearning2b mindful and present.
http://lessonsfromtheendofamarriage.com

Thank you for weighing in

Mindfulness definitely is elusive and difficult to define. It is one of those things learned only by experience. If you try to grasp it only in the language- and logic-based left hemisphere of your brain, it slips away.

Non-Attachment?

Maybe I'm using a different definition of Attachment in my life than you're referring to above, but to me Attachment is not based in fear, but in love. It is not clingy, but more the 'secure attachment' described in developmental psych that I think of when I think of or use 'Attachment'. Without this sense of attachment or connection to others and to the world, I think we'd all be lost, no matter how mindful we are.

Thanks

I agree, I don't think attachment is necessarily wrong

Indeed, the idea that attachment is a source of suffering sounds more like a Buddhist religious teaching rather than a technique for stress reduction.

And the idea that staying in the present is ideal seems to me to ignore the value of the past and future. I love looking back into history, my own and the world's. There's so much to see. And it can be fascinating to think about what the future may hold.

And I think that acceptance can cause trouble as well, if one does nothing about situations that need to change. Sometimes it's better (and sometimes a moral imperative) to try and change the situation rather than your mind. And I suspect that there is a limit to what your mind can accept.

Perhaps this is why mindfulness has never really worked for me, even though I've tried to read Kabat-Zinn several times. Perhaps you have to have a more Eastern outlook to make it work.

Thanks for sharing

I agree with your and the previous commenter's opinion that we need to work to change unacceptable situations and that life narratives and setting goals for the future can be helpful coping strategies. I don't think being mindful precludes doing these things. Kabat-Zinn distinguishes between "doing" and "being" states of mind. While "doing" (i.e. planning, coping,logically understanding) is a useful skill, he argues that it is less effective when it comes to dealing with emotions or sensations like pain. We can't reason our emotions away and evaluating how far we are from what would like to feel makes us feel worse. Therefore, mindfulness is an additional skill to cope with things that are uncontrollable or that flow and change naturally. It's not the only skill we should ever use. By staying in the moment, we can change our brains to be more cognitively flexible, slow down, and choose how to act, rather than being automatically driven to respond out of fear. Regarding attachment, I think it depends how you define it. My definition of non-attachment is the radical acceptance that everything flows and changes and it's better to ride the waves than try to keep things from changing. This includes our views of ourselves, the people we love, our status, etc. Trying to stop something from changing or being hung up on people acting a certain way is trying to control the uncontrollable, which brings mental suffering. Marsha Linhan talks about radical acceptance as a stress reduction technique. I hope this helps clarify what it means to be mindful.

Great piece, Melanie -- I

Great piece, Melanie -- I love your nine tips. You've helped a good deal to de-mystify mindfulness, but, as evidenced by some comments, many people still find it a pretty arcane goal. At least for me it's not a quest. We don't find this kind of wonder; it finds us!

Thank You for commenting

Jeffrey,

Your comments illustrate the point I made earlier that mindfulness is experiential and very difficult to grasp unless you have experienced it. It is often a challenge to get clients to see the point of sitting, focusing on the breath, but I and many other clinicians have seen big changes when people stick with the practice. The practice teaches you to observe the workings of your mind, while simultaneously having distance from it. The realization that you are not just your thoughts can be groundbreaking in therapy, especially when the thoughts are negative.

Mindfulness vs. peacefulness

I don't think being mindful means always being at peace. Bad things happen, and bad emotions may exist in the moment. Mindfulness calls for allowing those emotions to exist, being natural, but also allowing them to run their normal course by not attaching to them. When the Dalai Lama was visiting Seattle a few years ago, he had to cancel an event to address new Chinese atrocities going on in Tibet at the time. As he left a press conference on the topic, he turned back and said, "I am not happy." If he were trying to maintain his image, he would not have admitted such a thing in public. But mindfulness freed him to be true to the stress of the moment.

thanks For Chiming In

I like Dan Siegel's idea of a wheel. At the center is a sense of grounded peacefulness, but at the same time, you can be consciously aware of all the thoughts and feelings swirling around the hub. The peace at the center holds them. I agree, though, that mindfulness is not the absence of emotion - it's containing the emotion in a great sense of peace while still being aware of it.

The 9 Essential Qualities fines my inner core.

Thanks for writing this piece for it brought back what I had forgotten about myself. For years I have been searching for that one thing to explain to Psychologists, just how I did it.
Psychologists in different fields of practice, from working with people traumatized by severe head injuries, working with autistic children, to teaching Psychology with 90 plus years combined experience can't explain my success. "I don't know how you did it. But, you have been able to rewire your brain." ""Your spirit inside you is perfect and your spirit helped you get better" One Psychologist was dumbstruck, had a loss for words. All she could say, Would you like to give a talk to my students?
Here is what happens when you live in this mind-set, now remember, its not a turn-on switch to be used at certain times. Its a way of life. Living in this mind-set removes stress, anxiety, depression, frustration, mental illnesses go away, it allows your brain to grow and heal itself, naturally.
The question I have for you. Can you find interest in the tiniest thing that a baby would find interesting, or a one year old, or a two year old, or a three year old, do you see where I'm going with this. You have to care about all things on this planet, even people who rub you the wrong way.
Example, Robert P. 7th grade, new kid at school, I'm coming back from lunch and I see him walking towards me. Walks up to me kicks me in the groin, I'm hurting, and my mind isn't working, its my mind-set based on the 9 Essential Qualities, I'm in the moment.
He backs away and leaves, this mind-set does something to pain, I didn't hit the ground or cry, once I could walk, I went back to what it was that I was doing like as if, this event never took place, forgotten. It didn't belong in what I was doing in the first place, forgotten.
By the end of 7th grade we were friends. and I learned Robert was acting out in a way that he was taught at home. He ended up being a confused kid with a good nature.
This is just one example, when you can live by these set of qualities, you can achieve anything in life, over-come any mental or physical challenge, people will enjoy being around you.
Another thing, fear can't be a part of this state of mind. Living in this state of mind, over time you will be able to remove fear from your life, life's challenges will slowly fade.

Good Example

Hi Rusty,

Thanks for providing such a great example of mindful acceptance and lovingkindness. Learning not to react for a prolonged period to pain or insult can many months or years of daily practice. Thich Nhat Hanh expresses this idea by saying that it's not a matter of Good versus Bad, but rather than Good and Bad are brothers. Good takes bad's hand and walks alongside him, teaching him....

I have had some experience

I have had some experience with meditation and mindfulness. It brought me peace of mind. I liked it, and feel that it would be good for me to develop more of a practice. I, however, don't entirely buy the passivity toward the world that sometimes seems to be a component of mindfulness, or at least how it is described. Life, sometimes, is a struggle. Justice has always only come into the world through our best human efforts. Bertrand Russell wrote "Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom." A recent protest sign from Idle No More reads "I am through accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept." "To everything there is a season," says the old proverb. There is a time for meditation and acceptance, but also a time for shouting and resistance. "Anger is a gift," goes the Rage Against the Machine lyric.

I do believe that I can benefit personally from meditation and mindfulness practice, but humanity is on the brink of a grave global ecological injustice if we do not stop changing the climate. I feel, in my personal life, some strains due to my fixation on this injustice. Does mindfulness tell me to accept it? To understand that the people perpetrating this injustice must have their reasons and that I should not judge them. Because I sometimes feel overwhelmed by fatalism, and want to disengage from struggle with something that seems inevitable. I don't want to experience the negative emotions of anger and disgust that accompany witness to inaction and injustice. Shall I accept the world as it is, or continue to struggle to change it?

Quote from The Dalai Lama

T

You raise an important point. Yes, It doesn't make sense to sit passively accepting injustice or destruction of nature. This is not what Mindfulness prescribes. Jack Kornfield in his book, Bringing Home the Dharma says that the world needs both more meditation and more service. Meditation makes your daily interactions more caring and spreads love. Service exemplifies our mutual responsibility. The below quote from the Dalai Lama clarifies the issue as well:

"Broadly speaking there are two types of happiness and suffering, mental and physical, and of the two, I believe that mental suffering and happiness are the more acute. Hence, I stress the training of the mind to endure suffering and attain a more lasting state of happiness. However, I also have a more general and concrete idea of happiness: a combination of inner peace, economic development, and, above all, world peace. To achieve such goals I feel it is necessary to develop a sense of universal responsibility, a deep concern for all irrespective of creed, colour, sex, or nationality.

The premise behind this idea of universal responsibility is the simple fact that, in general terms, all others' desires are the same as mine. Every being wants happiness and does not want suffering. If we, as intelligent human beings, do not accept this fact, there will be more and more suffering on this planet. If we adopt a self-centred approach to life and constantly try to use others for our own self-interest, we may gain temporary benefits, but in the long run we will not succeed in achieving even personal happiness, and world peace will be completely out of the question."

I don't know that "service"

I don't know that "service" is entirely adequate. Yes, we should be charitable, but as Martin Luther King said it is not enough to be the Good Samaritan, "we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway." Resistance is a more appropriate response to injustice. You wrote, "You don't try to force or change reality to fit your vision of what it should be." This is a cry far from "transform the Jericho Road." I think that's not the right response to injustice. What if the abolitionists thought that? What if the suffragettes did? Or Dr. King and the civil rights marchers? Sometimes, it seems to me that resistance, defined precisely as the effort to change reality to fit one's vision of what it should be, is the appropriate stance to take. To suggest otherwise it to take a normative position that goes beyond advocating the psychological benefits of meditation for personal well-being.

Quote from The Dalai Lama

You raise an important point. Yes, It doesn't make sense to sit passively accepting injustice or destruction of nature. This is not what Mindfulness prescribes. Jack Kornfield in his book, Bringing Home the Dharma says that the world needs both more meditation and more service. Meditation makes your daily interactions more caring and spreads love. Service exemplifies our mutual responsibility. The below quote from the Dalai Lama clarifies the issue as well:

"Broadly speaking there are two types of happiness and suffering, mental and physical, and of the two, I believe that mental suffering and happiness are the more acute. Hence, I stress the training of the mind to endure suffering and attain a more lasting state of happiness. However, I also have a more general and concrete idea of happiness: a combination of inner peace, economic development, and, above all, world peace. To achieve such goals I feel it is necessary to develop a sense of universal responsibility, a deep concern for all irrespective of creed, colour, sex, or nationality.

The premise behind this idea of universal responsibility is the simple fact that, in general terms, all others' desires are the same as mine. Every being wants happiness and does not want suffering. If we, as intelligent human beings, do not accept this fact, there will be more and more suffering on this planet. If we adopt a self-centred approach to life and constantly try to use others for our own self-interest, we may gain temporary benefits, but in the long run we will not succeed in achieving even personal happiness, and world peace will be completely out of the question."

Thinking resolves matters quickly, however

Have you ever wondered how a new born baby learns how to sit, stand, walk, learn a language and hundreds of other things before the age of two?
This powerful ability slowly fades once a child learns how to think. Can you remember the first 16 months of your life? When you didn't think, you responded according to what your brain told you to do.
What come next that sets the tone for the rest of your life? School, come in, sit down and think. Think about this and think about that and what is 2+2, what is a noun, and so on.
Now, your're entering adolescents with classroom thinking skills. And how is this going to help you navigate through adolescents? Its not going to go well for you.
Since, birth your brain has been developing and your mind has been wondering off on things that do not work with the brain maturing over time.
So, confusion and distress due to a maturing brain with a child like value system created from early childhood and adolescent thinking.
Go ahead and think all you want. Just like everybody I have know for thirty years and guess what I'm the only one continuing to make progress with my brain development.
When will people learn to trust their brain like they did at the most crucial time you their lives, the beginning of life. If, you like knowing what tomorrow will bring, then, keep right on thinking, after, all isn't this what mental profession wants you to do.
The more you think the more work they get trying to untie the knots created through confusion, that created the stress in your life.
The problems in the world didn't come about by people with open minds. They were created by people who know only how to THINK!
If, you want to fix the problems in the world you have to stop thinking in order to over-come your challenges.

Our Thoughts Are Not Us

I believe that thinking and solving problems are important human functions. Not all of our thinking is accurate, however. We develop scripts about our own lives that perpetuate themselves. These scripts are often based on early childhood experience in a limited and, perhaps, dysfunctional environment. Our brains have biases towards being fearful, looking for the negative, being conservative, disliking change. Social cognition is a field of Psychology that studies these errors. The problem is that we accept our automatic thoughts and views of ourselves as the truth, without proper evaluation. Therefore, we also need to develop an observing brain that is separate from our thoughts.

Yes But...

Under non attachement next line begins do not.. Already a condition or attachment in itself.

maybe better to say what is is.

André

Life is like a West Texas muddy road.

Have you ever seen a pickup drive on a dirt road that has turned to mud? Have you ever tried to drive on a muddy road? There are potholes, super slick spots, ruts, bumps and turns that force you right off the road. This is muddy road like a life experience. And there will be millions in a life time.
Some people will find it to be scary and not be a good experience. Some will find it to be fun. Some will be in the middle with no excitement at all and on the scary and on the fun side of the experience.
For me, I enjoyed each experience that the muddy road could throw at me. It wasn't a challenge, conflict or a problem because I was into each second of the ride.
I bet those of you who wouldn't enjoy bouncing around on a muddy rode at 50 miles an hour are the ones who stopped and had to think about the road before going through it.
What people fail to understand about life experiences is that they are there to help us discover new feelings that spark new emotions.
The only way for this to happen is to keep an open mind and let go of your comfort zone. Simply put, stop thinking about everything in your life.
After, Psychologists learn about my childhood mental without feelings, emotions and having a simple mind like the character Dustin Huffman played in Rainman. They become lost without the ability to explain it.
Its like this, go outside and explore it. And you have to keep people out of it. You can't think about anybody, or look at anybody for its about exploring the outside.
Once, you can explore life outside without involving people. You are ready to move on to exploring your five senses. What you put into it depends on what you get out of it.
Eventually, you will regain that which you lost as a child and you will be in control of your life, not your emotions.
Practice this over and over, think about something from yesterday all the way through. Now, do it again and I want you to stop at some point right after getting started. Do it again and again until, you can do with ease.
By practicing this you will be able to control emotional impulses or thoughts that generate the need to think. The most important thing about this practice is to stay focused and in the moment.
Be a Passion Chaser. Passion can only come the deepest, strongest emotion that can only be created by the brain. Anything else is just a desire created from thinking.

So, you think you can think?

This will be short and sweet, so pay close attention to what I write. I want you to stop what you are doing and look around you at everything, home, work and play. The things that were created by people.
Lets just say about all this stuff or material things and by the way all situations or experiences were created from the imagination, not from thinking.

Mindfulness meditation

Melanie,

Thank you for this insightful article. You’re right. There are still many misconceptions about mindfulness.

The way I teach mindfulness is to focus on the meditation itself. This will help the practitioner develop the ability to see the world as it really is. When I lead a meditation session, participants see an immediate impact. They’re usually more peaceful and focused than they’ve ever been before. After the session, it’s not very hard to convince them of the benefits of the practice, because they’ve experienced it for themselves.

The natural outcomes of the development of mindfulness are living in the present moment, acceptance, non-judgment, deeper connections with others, non-attachment, compassion, etc. The overall result is inner peace and happiness. Now who doesn’t want that?

Charles A. Francis
Author of “Meditation for Beginners”
http://www.MindfulnessMeditationInstitute.org

You make an important point

Charles,

Thanks for weighing in and providing the reference to your book. I think you make an excellent point that it's difficult to know what Mindfulness is without the experience. Beginning a meditation practice is very simple and can be done for just 5 or 10 minutes a day to begin with.

Practice

And, with practice, and being reminded over and over to take this approach, it works! I think that I make no progress, but looking back one year, I have made a lot of progress!

This is probably the best

This is probably the best article on mindfulness that I've ever read and I thank the author for writing it.

I do, however, have a lot of questions. Firstly, the article states that one shouldn't try to change or act on thoughts or feelings. But if a person is in emotional pain caused by another person how should they go about eliminating the pain without acting on their thoughts and feelings? For example, if my friend calls me a bad name and I feel bad afterwards, should I avoid talking to her about it? Would that be acting on my feelings?

Another question. The article states "You don't try to force or change reality to fit your vision of what it should be, feel like a victim, or bemoan the unfairness of life." Does that mean that when something unfair happens I shouldn't fight for justice? I should just lie down and take whatever happens to me?

Last question. "You do not try to hold onto things, people, or experiences, knowing that life is in constant flow." Does that mean that if I lose a friend I shouldn't try to get them back?

I'd be very grateful if somebody could help me understand this article better.

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Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., studies the health effects of expressive writing, cognitive adaptation to trauma, the genesis and treatment of chronic pain, among other coping issues.

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