Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

Living in Anticipation or Living in Frustration

December 15, 2016

Wherever I go, there I am.

Are you totally present right now? Just focused on reading this post?

Or, are you looking at this post while your mind races off in many directions?

That ancient phrase I quoted packs a lot of meaning.

This time of year is flooded with anticipation. But it is often the anticipation that leads to frustration.

We anticipate giving just the right gift that elicits exclamations of joy. We anticipate joyful family gatherings.

But…

The picture of the good, old-fashioned, Griswold family Christmas (from the movie Christmas Vacation) spring into our minds. All the old family bickering comes out as everyone is frustrated by being together. Nothing goes right. The turkey is over cooked.

They are all living in future expectations.

But just to be in the moment. Yes, we have anticipation, but we are present in the now. We experience the lights, the trees, the songs, the one time in the year when people are nice to each other.

As we rush from crowded store to crowded store, frustrated at the inability to be inspired by any gift suggestion.

It’s time to stop, children, what’s that sound….

We stop. Take a deep breath. Actually notice what is around us. Experience the sights, sounds, smells.

Tomorrow will take care of itself. Today I am present.

Do You Know What Pulls Your Trigger?

February 15, 2016

Jesus was annoyed by a fig tree that had no fruit. He cursed it. It died.

Jesus was angered by how the Temple had been converted from a holy place of worship into a commercial marketplace where apparently people gouged gullible pilgrims with high prices. He overturned tables scattering money and “souvenirs”.

In a way, I don’t feel so bad about the times I’ve lost it–except I wasn’t nearly so righteous.

Do you know what pulls your trigger?

I haven’t had a bad one for years. The incident is embedded in memory. It recurs in a flash. It’s a blend of insecurity and attitude. I hold great dislike for arrogant and condescending attitudes. Especially from someone less experienced or knowledgeable who tries to teach.

There are warning signs I need to remain aware of. Sometimes I see it coming. Sometimes they sneak up on me and catch me asleep, so to speak.

  • When I’m tired.
  • When I’m overworked and frazzled.
  • When I’m stressed.

There were a couple of seasons of life over the past 10 years or so when stress buried itself deep within me. Meditation and Yoga–no help. Awareness and mindfulness–no help. I know all this stuff, yet, a mild but persistent living with stress took a toll on my health and response to others at times.

Recognition is a great first step. Probably talking with others would help–if they the helpful sort, not the enabling sort.

A recent talk from a person with a similar experience was enlightening. He tried mindfulness. Meditation–trying to be still and focus on breath was more stressful than his original stress.

He discovered curiosity. He rather toyed with the thoughts. Was curious about them. Asked questions of them. Explored what their hold was. By treating the stressful thoughts as an object of curiosity, he was able to move them from the dominant place of consciousness that gripped him.

He was right. When you finally realize the stressful thought and stop to analyze it, just the stopping helps. Then the curiosity and the calmer exploring of the situation brings peace–or at least a plan of action.

What do you find that works?

Read With Mindfulness

April 22, 2015

Did you miss National “Pot” Day? 

Sometimes I wonder about all these “national days”. Or “national months”.

We are in National Overeaters Month. Did you know that?

Paul, the apostle, talked of keeping the mind and body fit along with the spirit. But Christianity often became just a theology rather than a complete way of life. If we are bringing our entire selves as a sacrifice to God making our body a Temple of the Spirit, then overall fitness should be part of our daily habits.

The reason I know that it’s National Overeaters Month is because among all the sources of information I digest daily are writings on health and fitness.

One such source discussed how we eat–indeed, over-eat–due to a response to our emotions. When we feel down, we eat. Doesn’t a big bowl of ice cream seem especially delicious and enticing when we have bad feelings?

Aside from opinions about religion, no other topic has such a diversity of views (and mis-information) than health. Especially nutrition. No carb, who cares about carbs, high fat, no fat, eat as much as you want, starve yourself, and on and on.

Most of us know that in America one of the greatest national diseases is piling our plates too high with food. I just returned from 9 days in Europe. The emphasis was on reasonable portions of high quality food.

One woman said to me following our first dinner served on the river boat, “The amount of food on our plates looked incredibly small. But after I ate, I was satisfied.”

The one buffet on board was for breakfast. I noticed people taking an omelette, a couple of scoops of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, bread. Wow. I found an omelette with a couple of the small hard-crusted rolls sufficient for the entire morning (considering that this week, breakfast is just an English muffin).

Neither my wife or I gained weight over the 10 days we were gone.

But…

Scanning my nutrition news yesterday, I ran across an article that said be careful of limiting your portions. You may not be getting enough to eat. This was an American source writing to Americans (this blog is read globally, so I try to differentiate). 

I would hate for someone to read this and use it as an excuse to pile the food on higher so as not to starve!

When you read, read mindfully. Be aware of context. Be aware when someone is just filling up space. Even when reading the Bible, be mindful. Don’t just grab a verse at random. Read it in the context of the paragraph, the story, the whole of the Bible.

Be as fit as possible within your capabilities and constraints–emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually. Take your entire body to God as a worthy sacrifice.

Being Mindful As A Discipline

January 7, 2015

Being mindful is to focus on what you are doing. Awareness of where you are, who you are, what you are.

The dominant (not the only) cause of obesity and being overweight is simply eating too much. We eat too much because we simply start shoving food into our mouth without paying any attention.

When you eat, focus on your eating. The sights, sounds, smells, tastes. Slow down and eat with mindfulness.

When I cut myself while shaving, it is almost always because my mind has drifted and I am no longer mindful of what I am doing with that sharp instrument in my hand.

Nehemiah prays (chapter 9) about his people saying they have not been mindful of God for a long time.

Do we wake up in the morning and set our mind first thing on God and the mindfulness that we are part of God’s people? Doing so will start our day off in a good way.

The best way to return to mindfulness is simply to pause. It is in the pause that true life returns. We can then return to our work refreshed. The pause before saying something hurtful can turn our words into words of encouragement rather than destruction.

When we work, work. Focus on the task at hand. Don’t be like Martha of whom Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are distracted by many things.”

Mindfulness also is a key to listening. Being mindful of the other person–focusing on them and not us–will help us grow and love more.

Mindfulness is a foundation to putting disciplines into practice.

Tricks Our Minds Play on Us

April 2, 2014

Why is it that we hold some beliefs so firmly in the face of overwhelming evidence against them?

I notice this in religion, where people are convinced of the truth of a passage in the Bible, except that there is no such passage. Take a look at political discourse, that is, if you can with a measure of objectivity. Mostly it’s just a parroting of a mixture of opinion and fact–usually with precious little fact–held firmly as fact.

Pondering this question years ago led me to study brain science–at least from the standpoint of an educated layperson. My favorite works were by Antonio D’Amasio.

The current book open on my Kindle reader is Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova. One chapter on deductive reasoning really delves into findings on how our brain tricks us. It is well known in many circles that the mind will believe anything we tell it to believe. Well, it can also tell us we saw something that we never saw with our eyes. It is now legendary in legal trial circles that the worst evidence is eyewitness evidence.

I try to remember this research often as I trust my memory. Sometimes the memory is good. I interview many people for my day job. I’ve only had one instance where I misquoted the intent of my source in the past 16 years.

The secret is focus, paying close attention to the speaker, concentrating. The conversation comes back with only a few notes for important points.

There are things that happen where you didn’t have such focus. You thought you read it, when maybe you only heard it somewhere. You thought you saw the incident, when maybe your attention was elsewhere and only diverted over to the incident and then returned.

This means that we need to intentionally sharpen our awareness of what is around us. Be mindful of what we see, do and read. Go back and read again. Question our assumptions and test them.

Live with intention, not as if in a dream.

Give the Gift of Your Attention

February 4, 2014

Give whatever you are doing and whomever you are talking with the gift of your attention. Jim Rohn

My thoughts on mindfulness resonated with many yesterday. There are three words, or concepts, that play well together–attention, focus, and mindfulness.

In my youth, I loved the murder mystery series by Earle Stanley Gardner about the legendary attorney, Perry Mason. There was a comment Gardner made about Mason’s personality that stuck. “He had such great power of concentration that he could move from the murder case he was on to complete concentrate on another case.”

Our current age is marked by “multi-tasking.” That’s a term borrowed from microprocessor hardware developement. Chips can be so designed that they partition off parts and can therefore support many tasks running simultaneously. Humans think they can do the same thing. (Actually, the chips usually use “time slicing” where moving at an extremely rapid speed, they work on each task a little at a time and it only appears to the much slower humans that the tasks are accomplished simultaneously.)

Humans cannot multi-task. Period. Humans can try time-slicing. Doesn’t work well.

When you are at a task, give it the gift of your attention. When you are in conversation with someone, give that person the gift of your attention (ouch, my weakness at times).

There is a mindfulness diet. It’s not what you eat (but please make good choices). It’s how you eat. What was the taste of the last thing you ate? The texture? Are you like so many humans who eat so quickly that the flavors and textures are lost in the speed of eating?

In the mindfulness diet, take a bite of food. Stop your hand and arm motion. Chew the food with attention. Notice the flavors, aromas, textures. Enjoy it. Then, and only then, take the next bite. By slowing down and becoming aware of the food, we actually eat less. For most of the people in the world, that’s a good thing.

Don’t fall into a trap thinking this is only a Buddhist or New Age concept. If you carefully read the stories about Jesus, not for what he said, but to gain a sense of how he acted and related. He had marvelous powers of concentration and focus. Remember him being startled by the woman who touched him seeking healing? He was concentrating elsewhere when he felt energy leaving him.

Thank you for your attention 😉

A Little Mindfulness Every Day

February 3, 2014

It is better to master your attention than to have a to-do list.

I try to practice the discipline of Getting Things Done (book by that name by David Allen). The practice is to write down everything on your mind so that it is free to concentrate on the task at hand. You write down ideas about tasks you need to do, projects to be completed, what you’d like to do this day/month/year. Then your mind is empty and you can turn your attention to the immediate task that needs to be done.

Being digital, I use an application called Nozbe (affiliate link) to keep track of and organize my list.

Michael Sliwinski created Nozbe and then started “Productive! Magazine” to write more about practices for Getting Things Done. You can download the magazine to your tablet via the App Store. In a recent issue, Augusto Pinaud discusses the importance of where you place your attention.

Do you focus your attention on the task at hand? Or does your attention drift? In her book “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes,” Maria Konnikova begins with a discussion of the ability to be mindful–the ability to focus attention. Holmes was observant of the smallest detail because he was mindful–his attention was focused in the present and on what he was seeing.

I believe Jesus exhibited the same characteristic. He took time alone to be with God. When he was with people his attention was focused on people–so much so that he could see right through to their needs and motivations.

There are health benefits to slowing down for 15 minutes or so every day. Just practicing mindfulness, placing attention on the breath or a phrase or a single thought. The spiritual benefits are greater if you place your attention on spiritual things–a story from the Bible, for example.

I thought I’d start off the week suggesting we organize our week around mindfulness, attention, focusing on the right things. I do this to remind myself as much as to teach others.