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Thursday, May 30, 2013
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
The Tao: Mindfulness-Based Cognitive-Behavior TherapyBy Jenny C. Yip, Psy.D.
All things in the world come from being. And being comes from non-being.
This is the essence of what we have come to know today as mindfulness. Learning to let go and be without thought, without judgment, without mind.
How do you let go?
By being in the present moment. For many of us, that is easier said than done. Instead, we waste our time either ruminating over past mistakes or worrying about future catastrophes.
We can’t change the past. So why live in it?
There are no guarantees for the future. So why jump to conclusions?
Of course it is intelligent to plan for the future. It is also smart to learn from our past mistakes.
However, it is irrational to worry about that over which we have no control – e.g., the past and the future.
Living in the “now” allows us to be present, mindful, and experience the passing of time.
Whatever emotion or thought you are experiencing, whether positive or negative, over time, has to pass. The moment you read these words has just passed.
Try to hold onto it… you can’t. The moment you read THESE words has passed again. And so on and so forth. This is what is meant by “This too shall pass.”
Every moment is moving toward the next moment. Being present in THIS moment as it occurs leads to mindfulness.
In Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT), this is coined the “process of habituation.” The passage of time allows our triggered fight-or-flight response to exhaust itself.
Remember that classic saber tooth example? How long do you think your motors can keep you running or fighting? Until exhaustion or, as we call it in CBT, habituation occurs. Or until you become the saber tooth’s lunch. Whichever comes first.
So, if you are feeling anxious with fearful thoughts, this will pass.
Similarly, if you are feeling joy with happy thoughts, this too will pass.
Whatever it is, it has to pass. No one thing can ever be static. Everything evolves and passes. And time cannot be recycled. How do you attain mindfulness?
There is no definitive “achievement” of mindfulness, especially when the essence of it is to empty your mind. Mindfulness is just a state of being.
Unfortunately, when dealing with anxiety, the worry and fear along with all of the other uncertainties keep you either in the past or the future, and this has a domino effect. One negative thought typically triggers another and another and yet another. And more often than not, these negative thoughts consist of cognitive distortions in various forms. Before you realize it, your mind is spiraling into a tornado of irrational thoughts.
Because mindfulness requires you to be in the present, it allows you the opportunity to quickly identify these negative thoughts.
Imagine having the ability to stop a distorted thought in its track before it spirals out of control. Being aware of these mental connections allows you to interrupt negative thought cycles. The goal is to identify the cognitive distortions and revalue them to represent reality accurately.
So when you are feeling anxious, instead of getting caught up in those negative thoughts of the past or future, just stay with the present moment. Rather than giving more meaning to the distorted thought than what it’s worth or appraising the unnecessary emotion with more value than it has, focus on the now to let time pass and habituation occur.
In my practice, there are a number of mindfulness methods I’ve integrated with traditional CBT. In the essence of time, I will review a few of the most concrete ones here:
Being mindful of the 5 senses: First and foremost, in beginning mindfulness meditations, I instruct clients to imagine viewing themselves from a bird’s eye perspective. The emphasis is to be mindful of each of the 5 senses (visual, auditory, olfactory, taste, tactile) individually, until the client is able to incorporate all 5 senses together.
Many clients beginning mindfulness practice falsely believe that mindfulness meditation is a relaxing technique where your mind is free to wander off to Never Never Land. Unlike this popular belief, it actually takes concerted effort to empty your mind, and allow your 5 senses to absorb your surroundings thereby keeping you in the present.
Try to take 60 seconds for a super quick mindfulness meditation, and you’ll realize just how easily your mind enjoys wandering off to another world. To assist in this training, clients are also instructed to practice mindfulness eating and mindfulness walking. The goal is to engage slowly in only one activity at a time, while being mindful of all 5 senses in the process.
Narrative writing: Narrative writing is a very powerful mindfulness training that incorporates the process of exposures. This exercise requires clients to write about their most feared situations. Exposures via writing require the highest level of cognitive functioning.
Unlike visual or auditory processing which comes and goes, when we write, we make a concerted effort to mindfully process our thoughts before externalizing them onto paper. This is infinitely more effective.
Even if a client exposes to a feared situation in vivo, s/he can avoid or escape the anxiety-provoking situation mentally. However, it takes much more effort to avoid when you have to be cognitive and mindful as you are writing.
To increase mindfulness, the rules of narrative writing include:
1) staying in the present moment by using present tense;
2) using active versus passive verbs;
3) being as descriptive and detailed as possible.
The client is instructed to continue the narrative writing exposure and stay in the moment with whatever emotions or thoughts arise until habituation occurs.
The “oh well” approach: Finally, the “oh well” method encourages us to let go of those situations that are outside of our control which, I must say, occur more often than not. Certainty and control give us a false sense of security.
Not only do we not have control over people, objects, and situations outside of ourselves, the truth of the matter is that we do not even have direct control over our own emotions or what thoughts enter and exit our minds. We only have control over our behaviors, which include our actions and reactions to those thoughts and emotions.
If we are mindful of this fact and accept it, then we will not have a need to control those areas outside of our behaviors, and we will be able to let go of situations outside of our control. So, the next time you are stuck in traffic, “oh well” it since there is really nothing you can do in that very moment.
Rather than working up a frenzy of one negative thought after another, just breathe and empty your mind. Let’s face it, those negative thoughts aren’t doing your mind or body any good anyways.
Mindfulness as Nutrient
It seems that all we hear about lately relative to health and healing is, ‘Mindfulness this and Mindfulness-based that’.
Along with this wave of ideas on Mindfulness come too many misperceptions. As if mindfulness were a product for purchase, that once we own, will make us better.
I fear that the word itself, in its overuse, leads to the rolling of eyes, “oh no, not that again!”, or an over consumption of its superficial application. It takes a lot of courage to be mindful, not easy this seemingly simple awareness of right now, as it is difficult for us to set down our reflexive judgments that push away what we don’t want, or pull toward us what is known and brings confirmation.
Mindfulness asks us to show up and fully experience what is occurring in the immediacy of this moment, with a simultaneous ability to observe with open curiosity. That means sensing it all, in mind, in heart, and in body. Ah, now we get to the gritty engagement of actually feeling. Otherwise mindfulness just becomes a great concept in search of a body.
Mindful eating is a great “practice” and eventual consistent capability, which helps teach us how to return to the present through this very sensory experience of consuming our food. Quite frankly, if we check ourselves, we might find that we are the one ingredient gone missing at the table!
Have you ever had the experience during a meal of reaching for another bite but finding your plate empty and wondering who ate your food?
How about feeling so speedy that you find the act of chewing to be irritating?
There is no time for all this chewing, there are places to go and people to see! Then there is the classic American style, “Big Gulp”, more is better, leading to our over consumption and an inability to know when we are satiated, and then on to the incessant over-eating/dieting loop.
So how can ‘Mindful Eating’ help?
Simply, it guides us back to a quality of awareness which reconnects us to our body and its real needs; we can know when we are hungry, what types of food we need, and when we have eaten enough.
Direct sensory awareness brings us here, not dulled down in our conceptual knowing that says, ‘been there done that, I know this food because I have had it before’. No, you have never had this before, on this particular day, in this particular moment, and moreover, it will never be like this again.
Now, this attitude can bring forward a new kind of aliveness, preventing our “sleep-eating”, which leads to unconscious consumption and disconnection creating dis-ease and lack of vitality.
This is not the typical awareness of, “I know what I should be eating”, and all the external concepts of what is/is not healthy, or the internal attacks about weight and lack of will. Not the limited awareness of immediate pleasure at the cost of a larger value.
It is a kind awareness, not harsh and attacking, but a gentle re-membering of what it feels like to be in a body, to sense its continual generative capacity, to create a relationship to it which gives an affectionate attention, appreciating and accepting it as it is and attuning to what it needs.
Moreover, mindfulness is an awareness which attunes us to our heart, and what it needs, thereby freeing us to learn how to eat to live, rather than live to eat; eating relative to supplying vital nutrients to sustain good physiological functioning, not eating to soothe or disconnect from being here.
Mindfulness becomes the first necessary nutrient by creating a conducive environment for receiving what is good. Its like tilling the soil to soften and stimulate its richness which then offers the elements for full growth of the seeds planted. Health can’t be found in a particular diet or supplement.
I have counseled many people caught in fear and rigidity about perfectly eating to create the perfect body or the perfect health. The quality of relationship to Self, to our emotions, to our body, determines our health.
This relationship determines the connections made between our mind, brain, nervous system, and all the other interactive loops of our experience between emotion, thought, behavior, and sensation, to create wholeness and health, or stagnation and illness.
The nutrients that make up our health begin with our mind’s quality of awareness. When we direct our attention to the sensory awareness of our body we create neural connections which inform our capacity for self-awareness and regulation of emotions, allowing us to respond rather than to react impulsively or mind-less-ly. Further, we help inform our body it can rest and digest now.
The real physiological process of ingesting, digesting, metabolizing, can only be done efficiently and effectively with a body that is feeling safe and relaxed to allow these processes.
How do I practice Mindful Eating?
Practice is the operant word. We learn how by showing up, over and over, not knowing how, but learning through trying it on. In the case of mindfulness, it’s not ‘practice makes perfect’, but practice reveals already what is perfect, right in the middle of all our mistakes and messiness.
First step to implementing a change in our relationship to eating is to prepare ourselves by seeding our motivation.Change occurs through our commitment to consistent focused attention on the very thing we wish to develop.
Commitment arises from our intention. What is our good enough reason for practicing mindful eating?
Our reason has to relate to some larger value or we will never stay motivated. Our intention is the engine of commitment. Commitment soon falls off when things lose a sense of novelty and excitement and only become a momentary trend without knowing what larger value is guiding the commitment.
And commitment to practice becomes the fuel to keep our intention alive, they work in tandem, each supporting the other toward a steady consistency. This consistency then might allow a “good idea” to be a known as a direct experience that can become an eventual effortless pattern of our lives. Without intention and commitment, mindfulness becomes a fashionable short term idea rather than a long term lifestyle shift. To simplify, intention is the “why bother”, and commitment is the “no matter what”, two components needed prior practice.
With this clarity we can now engage with the two parts of being present to our eating: Experiencing and Observing. There is the content of the experience of eating: the food, our senses, images, thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, emotions, (who knew so much was happening with a hamburger!). Then there is the context in which all this experience takes place.
The context is the essential element which determines if it is mindful or not. The context is the environment, the quality of our relationship, to all those things going in the content.
If it helps, use the acronym C-NOTE to remember what best environment in which to practice mindful eating. C=curious, N=non-judging (or more aptly stated, judging and then noticing it), O=openness, T=turning toward, E=engaged. This is creating the attitude or the ambience for your meal. This environment allows and includes whatever you might be experiencing, (content of experience simple acronym is SITE, S=sensations, I-images, T=thoughts, E=emotions).
Mindfulness is an open, inclusive, relational quality of awareness to what we are directly experiencing.
Now that the table has been set with your intention and commitment and a warm quality of attention creating a conducive ambiance– let’s eat!
Read through the elements of the long form for formal practice of mindful eating. Here you will notice the break down, step by step, of an experience which normally moves very quickly, almost like a slow motion video so we can begin to see how much is really going on in such a seemingly simple act of eating. You can carve out some time and place where this practice might be possible and just take it step by step.
You can also utilize the short form to warm up to the idea, or to use in-between long form practice, and eventually, with the consistent practice, let it be on-the-spot awareness that is implemented whether on an airplane, rushing through breakfast on a way to a meeting, or luxuriating over a beautiful meal with those you love. In the end, mindfulness is not so much about slowness, but about the quality of awareness applied no matter our external/internal circumstance.
Mindful Eating Long form:
Previous to eating
- Set your intention (why bother): why are you interested in mindful eating? What is the larger value which guides your effort?
- Make a commitment (no matter what): for the next 21 days pick one meal per day to practice, (in order to know, you need consistent practice).
- Remove distractions such as TV, phone, computer, reading material, etc.
- Sit down to eat, pause to notice from head to toe the state of your body, feel sensation of bottom against your chair.
- Notice sensation of breathing. Exhale out your mouth, dropping awareness down, like an elevator from head to neck to heart, belly, perineum, bottom, legs, and feet.
- Notice attention of your mind: What are you “chewing” on right now? Where are your thoughts, concerns, anticipations, regrets? Just notice and come back to sensation of feet, bottom, back, heart, neck, head, and breath.
Now attention to food
- Note color, scent, texture, and even the sound of your food
- Consider how it got to your plate: from earth to truck to table.
- Offer some gratitude that you actually have food and for all the work that went into its arrival.
- Notice anticipatory salivation.
- Notice your desire to eat—don’t.
- Now Eat—aware of your hand moving through space and its dexterity to bring food to mouth.
- Chew, noticing chewing, its quality, how much, how hard, how soft, maybe count the number of chews, put down your fork.
- Be aware of impetus to grab more before fully done with what is in your mouth.
- Be aware of the discomfort that might arise in having no distraction. Maybe this full awareness brings feelings of uneasiness, (remember your C-NOTE).
- This is not about being peaceful, not about liking, or disliking, but being aware.
- Sense your inside your body: tongue, throat, stomach, and so on, aware of all it does to make eating happen.
- When you get lost or speedy, just pause, re-member the sensation of your breathing, see your food, feel your feet, and then, gently, begin again.
- When finished eating—pause.
- Notice your body, new sensation of fullness/or not full enough in belly.
- Notice your mind, desire for more, or anticipation of where you are going next.
- Offer yourself some kindness and appreciation for showing up.
- Offer thanks, to this moment, to receiving, to your ability to receive, to your health.
Mindful Eating Short Form:
1. Pause to know you are breathing.
2. Feel sensation of interior of your body.
3. Sense the bottom of your feet.
4. See, smell, touch, hear your food.
5. Then eat—and taste.
6. Chew and know you are chewing.
7. Sense chewing, sense breath, sense body, not thinking, but direct sensation of each.
8. Notice content of mind and return to sensation of eating, (Apply the C-NOTE).
9. Pause when finished
10. Offer kindness to yourself, to your body, to all those who made this food possible.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Happiness Tips: 5 Things You Need To Know About Your Pursuit Of Joy
Which Behaviors Must Leaders Avoid?
by Amy Jen Su and Muriel Maignan Wilkins
If you want to empower, engage, or motivate others, don't just focus on increasing your positive behaviors. Pay attention to what you need to stop doing as well. Why? Because people remember the bad more than the good. To quote from a previous HBR article, How to Play to Your Strengths, "Multiple studies have shown that people pay keen attention to negative information. For example, when asked to recall important emotional events; people remember four negative memories to every positive one." So, which behaviors do leaders most need to avoid? Drawing on thousands of 360 qualitative interviews, here are our top three:
Judgmental, non-verbal body language. No one, especially your successful colleagues, can tolerate perceived condescension. Research studies show that somewhere between 75 to 90 percent of our impact comes from our non-verbal communication, and tone is a key ingredient of this. Do you make comments to others in a way that sounds evaluative, harsh, or condescending? Often, this is not our intention but an in-the- moment reaction. Other non-verbal offenders include scowling, furrowed brows, quizzical looks (as if to say, 'are you stupid?'), rigidity, and sarcasm. While seemingly small, each of these subtle darts creates a considerable amount of relationship damage.
Interrupting and interrogating. There's been a lot of buzz recently around how to have "conversations that drive innovation" and how to "create safe environments for employees to bring their ideas forward."
It's almost impossible for people to feel safe if the boss takes up most of the airtime, cuts people off, or interrogates half-baked ideas. Yes, employees have a responsibility to communicate with clarity, but if you expect every idea to be buttoned up, fully thought out, or structured before someone speaks, your colleagues will assume that you're not willing to invest the time to be a thought partner.
Being inconsistent. Peers and staff often comment on how discouraging it is to see a colleague act in two very different ways — absolutely charming with the executive team and external clients while being disrespectful to those they work with every day. This inconsistency makes these behaviors even more memorable and egregious. Others have shared a different impact — the feeling of walking on eggshells at work, wondering who is going to show up: "smiling, charming, funny person" or "judgmental, intense, snapping person." Over time, this drives passive aggressive responses from others in their attempt to avoid confrontation.
Ultimately, loyalty and followership are the two things we cannot demand or set as an expectation. What is perceived as fear-based motivation, belittlement, or power play can yield real short-term compliance from others. But negative behaviors ultimately diminish the legacy we leave. Consider what behaviors you might need to stop doing so that you can have a positive, lasting impact.