Posts Tagged ‘MEDITATION’

“In Touch”: Conditioned to try to control how we appear to others. Part one

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Our deeper tension, however, is chronic and psychological.
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We are conditioned to try to control how we appear to others.
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We want to maintain an acceptable image within our “tribe,” whether that tribe is our immediate family, a circle of friends, or our larger community.
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When we scratch the surface of a well-educated modern human, we find a tribal member.
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There is a biological fear behind this concern for self-image.
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Outcasts never fared well in tribal societies—shunning meant almost certain death.
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When I explore my clients’ social anxieties around acceptance and approval, there is always an underlying fear of rejection.
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Once they uncover this layer, I will ask, “Then what will happen?”
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They inevitably discover a fear of being abandoned, becoming homeless, and eventually dying.
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In most cases a secure middle-class lifestyle does not seem to lessen this primal fear.
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Accept by Lao Tzu

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Because one believes in oneself,
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one doesn’t try to convince others.
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Because one is content with oneself,
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one doesn’t need others’ approval.
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Because one accepts oneself,
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the whole world accepts him or her.
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– Lao Tzu
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“In Touch”: Awareness: The Witnessing of Thoughts

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So far I have been describing different kinds of thoughts.
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But what is it that is aware of thought?
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What is it that is witnessing?
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Something is aware of thought that is not itself a thought.
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Some call it awareness; others call it bare attention.
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The name is not important. When attention, either purposefully or spontaneously, turns away or steps back from thoughts, it relaxes into its source.
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Attention is like a wave of awareness.
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It arises to focus on a thought, feeling, or sensation and then resolves back into an open state, much as a wave subsides into the ocean.
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Attention has also been compared to the lens of a camera that can focus when needed on an object and then defocus back to a panoramic overview.
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At some point, as you simply notice thoughts, allow your attention to shift to that which is noticing.
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What is the nature of this awareness?
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“In Touch”: dialogue, the weather or people?

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Many of our thoughts are arguments with reality—judgments that something should or should not be happening.
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Have you noticed that reality never conforms to an ideal? Often these arguments are with other people.
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We usually don’t argue with the weather; we see how it is and adjust to it. If it is raining, we take an umbrella. If it is cold, we put on a coat.
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On the other hand, we tend to inwardly argue with people at great length, particularly if we feel hurt or misunderstood.
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It is fascinating to see all of the judgments of others that arise during these inner arguments.
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As we saw earlier in this chapter, it is freeing to withdraw these projections and see how they may apply to ourselves.
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Thinking is associative; one thought will lead to another in a train of thought.
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It is useful to observe this associative process and see how easily attention unknowingly boards this train.
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As soon as we see it, our attention is off the train—it spontaneously disembarks.
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Daydreaming is a form of inner train-hopping. Most of our thinking is repetitive. It is as if attention follows a familiar groove, like a needle on a vinyl record.
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There are almost certainly neurological correlates—networks of synapses that correspond to these habitual thought patterns.
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Occasionally our thinking is new and creative.
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We make new connections, learn new things, and are sometimes inspired by what feels like a higher source.
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The Inner Critic from the book “In Touch”. Part Two

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Judging always creates distance within yourself and between yourself and others.
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For example, if you believe that you should not be experiencing a difficult feeling such as anger, shame, or fear, you will not give your full affectionate attention to it.
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You will ignore it, push it away, or try to change it. The same process of refusal applies to others.
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If you believe that others should not be as they are, you will also try to ignore them, keep them at a distance, or change them.
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On the other hand, if you approach your life with the question, “What is actually happening?” you will have a very different experience.
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Judging always creates alienation. Nonjudgmental, affectionate attention fosters intimacy and understanding.
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Judging is different from discerning. Judging is about determining what is right or wrong, good or bad.
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Discerning is about clear seeing.
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Letting go of our judgments does not mean that we lose discernment. In fact, judging is a distortion of discernment.
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Once we are able to see through the mind’s tendency to judge everything dualistically, in terms of good and bad and right and wrong, we are actually much freer to see things as they are and respond appropriately.
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The Inner Critic from the book “In Touch”. Part One

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We have an inner critic—that part of the mind that creates an idea of how we and the world should be.
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The critic is actually a mental process, rather than a discrete entity.
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This inner critic is never satisfied; no matter how we or the world are, it is never good enough.
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When political and religious ideologues assume positions of power and try to impose their ideals, they bring great suffering to their subjects.
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Pol Pot, the idealistic communist leader who transformed the former Cambodia into a killing field in the 1980s, is a good example. Similarly, when we give the inner critic authority by believing it, we create a kind of inner killing field that chokes off any spontaneity and self-trust.
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You can easily detect the presence of this kind of tyrannical thinking within yourself: just notice when you have a thought that includes “should” or “should not.”
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How often do you torment yourself by thinking, “I should not be experiencing this” or “This should or should not be happening” or “He or she should or should not be doing that.”
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If you observe your thinking for a few minutes, you will usually find evidence of this critical tendency. It is pervasive and persuasive.
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Judging always creates distance within yourself and between yourself and others.
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I can recall the relief I felt as I gradually discovered the difference between how I thought I should be versus how I actually was, between an ideal and the real.
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If you relate to your experience as you think it should be, you keep it at arm’s length.
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Just Beginning, what are the chances you become a daily meditator?

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Mindfulness has exploded in America. Meditation carries many connotations for a novice’s initial investigation. Meditation books can be abstract, complex and overwhelming.
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Many people experience a frustrating practice with thoughts cascading constantly, filling their mind with distracting storylines laced with emotion. Many judge meditation as not helpful for them or a waste of time.
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Meditation seems mundane, feeble on the surface. We sit and follow our breath and it is going to do what? Neuroscience has now documented the powerful, dramatic changes capable with a mind so plastic. Where we place our attention has more influence on our life than anything else we can do.
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Mindfulness uses an intense, specific kind of focus to train the brain/mind. We are attempting to slow our breath, to let thoughts fade, thus emptying the mind by focusing on the breath.
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How that is accomplished varies. In my opinion, the best way starts with one breath and expands from there. I use this “Model” in the photo to help.
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First with eyes open we trace a breath, starting from the lower right hand corner, inhaling slowly. Then transitioning to the first pause which is connected to our exhale. Followed by the balancing last pause.
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This is one cycle, one breath, the basic building block of meditation.
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With eyes open work up to ten breaths without thought invading your mind. Focus and practice. Once you can accomplish this task, close your eyes and envision the model. With eyes closed continue as before.
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Perfect one breath, focus intently, then add another.
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The model will become second nature, a soothing habit. Next we start listening intently, feeling body sensations.
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When thoughts arrive, we gently let go and come back to the model without judgment or breathe into the body sensation.
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This is a learned skill like riding a bike or hitting a baseball.
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The benefits of practice are now documented by neuroscience.
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