"Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the presentvmoment, nonjudgmentally. It is about knowing what is on your mind.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn
“ Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We gain immediate access to our own powerful resources for insight, transformation, and healing.” -Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn is the pioneer of bringing Mindfulness to the main stream in 1979. Since then it has grown by leaps and bounds in U S and in many countries of the world. Mindfulness is a life changing practice. Numerous substantial studies have demonstrated the biological,neurological, mental, emotional and relational benefits of consistently practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness cultivates and sustains skills for growth and development in our personal life, interpersonal life, family life and in the community at large.
Numerous research studies have demonstrated benefits of regularly practicing mindfulness.
● Reduces Stress. Calms mind, relaxes body and creates a relaxation response.
● Stay Healthy. Reduces pain and inflammation, builds a stronger immune system, lowers blood pressure, recovers faster and conduces better sleep
● Improves Relationships. Helps us shed our defenses and grudges. Creates attunes,spaciousness and gracefulness that bonds us with others.
● Increases Performance. Mindfulness enhances focus, attention, memory, compassion, collaboration and other critical skills for increasing performance.
● Adding Years to Life. Mindfulness changes gene expression. Telomeres grow stronger and longer, correlating with longevity. Mindfulness adds years to life and life to years.
● Awakens and Expands. Mindfulness helps us connect more consciously with our full self and greater callings.
It is never too late to learn new tricks of the trade! Welcome to the journey of Mindfulness!
True love knows no boundaries and no demands, no conditions. We all have been blessed to experience such unconditional love, love arising and emanating from pure heart, pure consciousness. Life begins with such pure love in the mother’s womb. Life is birthing with such pure love. Life is nurtured and sustained with such pure love. Life blossoms by the loving and tender touch of the other person; life grows by the loving and compassionate support of the other person. In loving relationships, there is loving presence transcending the conditioned and judgmental mind. Such loving relationship is not bound by space and time. Such relationships happen between strangers and may be for a short time leaving the fragrance of connectedness.
Family is the cradle for creating, growing and sustaining such profound and rich relationships. In such relationships we experience oneness and harmony in spite of differences. We relate to each other mindfully with an open mind and heart, with empathy, kindness, and compassion. There is also emotional love. The pure love can be tarnished by the conditioned mind, the judgmental mind, holding on to the past grudges and unfinished businesses. Such love causes disruptions, distress and illness. It may lead to break ups-head aches and heart aches.
We need to awaken our heart and clear our head. Such work requires mindfulness practices on a regular basis. We need to make a wise choice for a greater good. Fear, anger, shaming and blaming hijack our positive emotions such as love, empathy. Kindness and compassion. Emotional self-awareness is very helpful to end a hijack. Emotional self-awareness is paying full and non-judgmental attention to what is happening in our mind and body. Deep belly breathing is a very effective way of regulating our emotional reactions. When we regularly practice processing difficult emotions and thoughts mindfully, it becomes easy to bounce back to our loving presence and compassion. We make a U turn, a shift from negative energy to positive energy. We return to our home, the abode of pure love.
How to deal with this strong affliction affecting us in many ways? To vent or not to vent is the question.
Anger is energy. How do we use it, how do we manage it? This is a big challenge for all of us.
There are four ways we deal with anger: Release angry feelings in an intense and explosive way. Type A personalities display this pattern and these patterns become habitual. We may describe them as “hot heads”. Then there are those who consciously suppress such feelings and stuff them. We may describe them as “suppressers”. There are those who unconsciously suppress their anger-filled feelings. We may describe them as “repressors”. People who stuff their angry feelings and do not deal with them constructively often display passive aggressive behaviors. And there are those who mindfully manage their angry feelings in constructive ways. We may describe them as “cool heads”.
Spending twenty minutes a day to practice Mindfulness Meditation is very beneficial for our mental and emotional wellness. It lays a good foundation for living clearly and peacefully.
We are a social being. We have a need to belong to, to be connected, to take care and to be taken care of, to share our dreams, joys and sorrows. We create a social net work, a world of relationships of all kinds. The closer the relationships, the greater are the challenges and opportunities for growth and development. A big challenge in interpersonal relationship is how to work through differences without causing emotional distances. What do we do to create and sustain bridges instead of walls? How do we communicate as I to I rather than I vs. I or I and It?
This is where the practice of Mindfulness Meditation comes into play.
Create personal space and time for processing the inner stuff by recognizing (awareness) and staying with it(attending) non-judgmentally, non-critically, without reacting , accepting it. This needs to be done gently, patiently and compassionately. We do not get stuck with or dwell on the energy draining recurring negative stuff. We are making a shift from fight, flight and freeze stress response zone to a stress free flowing zone. We are on the path to wellness. We are coming out of the cloudy sky to a clear sky. A wholesome understanding and insight arise from the clear mind. Right knowing leads to right speech and right action. We get numerous opportunities in our daily life to practice mindfulness meditation. We do not hold onto and accumulate negative stress resulting in self and other hurting behaviors.
The same procedure needs to be used when we encounter differences in intimate and important relationships. We follow the same procedure as a couple or as parents, teachers or friends and colleagues. We need to create space within ourselves and between ourselves to create and sustain I to I mode of communication resulting in we-together- mode of communication. We get numerous opportunities to work on ourselves personally and interpersonally.
So let us do it.
Empathy is discovering and understanding the other person’s perspective, his needs and feelings to guide our actions. A revolutionary shift has taken place in postulating the nature of human nature. The old view that the human nature is basically bad and self-centered is being replaced by the research made by psychologists, sociologists, historians, evolutionary biologists and neuroscientists. Their research has shed a new light on the basic nature of human nature. We are also homo empathicus wired for empathy, social cooperation and mutual aid. We are social beings naturally evolved to take care of each other, just like our primate cousins.
We are primed for empathy by having strong attachment and bonding relationships with the care- taker in the first two years of life. The good news is that we can nurture empathy through out our lives. We can make empathy as an attitude and an important part of our daily life.
Research studies of empathic personalities have identified the following six characteristics of empathic persons:
1. They have genuine curiosity about strangers, persons out of their social circle. Such curiosity expands our empathy circle. They show an earnest interest to understand the world inside the mind of the other person.
2. They challenge their own preconceptions and prejudicial labels about people different from themselves. For example, “ Muslims are fundamentalists”; “ Homeless people are lazy and parasites”, “ The well-fare mom”. Have courage to chat with a stranger with a curious and open mind once a week. You will find a lot of commonalities between you and them-the same needs, the same aspirations and the same pains and sufferings. We discover humanness in people who apparently look so different from us.
3. They implement experiential empathy learning model. Peace core workers are a good example of such empathy learning. We may have information and bookish knowledge of people who are different from us. What is missing in our education is the experiential component of real and significant learning. We need to be reminded of John Dewey’s words of wisdom: “ All genuine education comes about through experience.”
4. Listen hard and attentively and open up. This is the radical art of listening. As Marshall Rosenberg says, “ Empathy is our ability to be present to what’s going on within the other person-the unique feelings and needs the person is experiencing in the very present moment.” We need to grasp their emotional state and needs at the present moment.
5. Inspire change on a personal and inter personal level, class -room level, home level and on a community level. We need to plant the seeds of empathy in our children and they will flower on a larger scale. Canada’s pioneering program Roots of Empathy is one of the most effective programs for teaching empathy to schoolchildren. Research shows the positive impact of this program on children’s social and emotional intelligence, decline in aggression and improving their academic learning.
6. They do not interrogate or examine people of differences. They show genuine curiosity to develop deep understanding and relationship. Such open- hearted communication and interaction helps them examine their own limitations, biases and preconceived notions. It opens avenues for both sides to learn from each other and grow within and between.
Parenting our children has become quite difficult in the fast moving, complex and stressful world we live in. Enjoying carefree, safe and stress free childhood has become difficult for our children. We love our children and want the best in their lives. We are interdependent and interconnected. What affects our children affects us. What affects us affects our children. We need a stress-free and mindful mindset to see, understand and respond to our children.
Mindfulness Parenting offers us such a new perspective for working on ourselves and relating
to our children. Mindfulness simply means paying nonjudgmental and compassionate attention to the full spectrum of our inner world and awareness of the inner world of our child. It is all about cultivating our attention and awareness of the field of our experience and our child’s experience or some specific elements of the field of the experience. Such a mindset helps us to be authentic, trustworthy and dependable in our child’s eyes and helps the child to be authentic, trustworthy and dependable in our eyes. Healthy relationship grows and blossoms in such an understanding, authentic and nurturing environment- an environment in which we do not react but respond to each other. We feel cared for and not neglected, accepted and not rejected, healed and not hurt.
The ingredients of mindfulness are nonjudgmental awareness, calmness, clarity and compassion. When we practice mindfulness to work on ourselves and to work on inter-personal issues that cause and continue frustration, irritation, despair and anxiety, we come to a clearer and empathic understanding of each other. We join hands with each other to remove the walls between each other and build a bridge of empathic understanding and make wise choices to resolve the distressing issues. We use our energy creatively and constructively.
Intrapersonal and interpersonal relationship is an ongoing learning and growing process of cultivating and sustaining connectedness, an intimate relationship. Relating to oneself and to the other requires our full presence to ourselves and to the other person.. Mindfulness is an intentional and nonjudgmental awareness of what is happening in the present moment, the existential awareness, of myself in relationship with the other person. It requires our bare and full attention to ourselves and the other person.
Unconditional positive regard, empathy and compassion, and authenticity and congruence are the essential components of such mutually growing relationship.
In order to cultivate these competencies, we need to practice sitting mindfulness, taking time out from our ever- busy and stressful life. This is our quite time to be present to ourselves to be mindful of our inner landscape. It is a holistic mindfulness of our body-body scan-, bodily sensations, breathing, thoughts feelings and emotions arising in us. We compassionately listen to, notice and become aware of our changing inner world. Such sitting mindfulness practice helps us to be free from our consciousness stuck with the past hangover and future worries and anxieties. It opens up fresh and new doors of perception; understanding and insight which helps us act constructively. Quiet mind, clear mind helps us make creative, constructive and wise choices.
We need to practice sitting mindfulness in our relationships with ourselves and others. Sitting mindfulness practice helps us to remain mindful and centered in our transactions with others in our life. Become mindful of the impact of behavior of the other, your friend, teacher, family member on you. When you remain mindful of your inner world at that time, remain centered and mindfully respond to the other (not react), you create a bridge of understanding and working together. Our transactions do not result in power struggle and disconnect.
1. In a hyper connected world, bombarded by multiple forms of stimulation, how can we be aware of the quiet gifts that the present moment has to offer? What are those gifts? Cultivating mindfulness practice can be a powerful way to train our minds and tune into the beauty of here and now. When we take a few minutes to observe our breath, or eat a meal with silent attentiveness or read a book with full attention the subtle impact of such mindfulness practice carries far reaching ripples, within and without.
2. Mindfulness tunes out unwanted distractions. It helps the wandering mind or the monkey mind to be centered and focused. When we multitask, we weaken our brain’s ability to filter out important from irrelevant inputs. Taking time to be mindful can regulate brain waves that focus the mind and screen out unwanted distractions.
3. Mindfulness calms the mind. Mindfulness practice releases the tension in the body and also the mind. Mindfulness practice can help us embrace our worries, our fears, our anger and that is very healing. We need to genuinely learn the art of resting, relaxing and that way restoring our energy. Mindfulness practice reduces rumination, anxiety and stress.
4. Mindfulness inspires us to be compassionate and altruistic. “It is in giving we receive” –Saint Francis of Assisi. A growing body of brain research shows that we are hard wired to be kind. Mindfulness practice enables us to drop into our natural inclination to help. Research at Northeastern and Harvard studied the link between mindfulness and compassion. Extend your loving kindness to yourself, to others.-Words of wisdom from wisdom traditions.
5. Mindfulness helps us feel good about helping others. It also ignites a deeper joy within us while we do it. Research shows that helping behavior could be predicted by two specific aspects of mindfulness: the ability to focus on the present moment-present- focused attention- and maintaining a non-judgmental acceptance of thoughts and experiences. Help others as you help yourself. Love your neighbor as you love yourself- Words of wisdom from wisdom traditions.
6. Mindfulness enables us to show our authenticity. By practicing mindfulness, we develop a more nuanced awareness of who we truly are. We need to feel in order to heal. We need to learn to accept ourselves compassionately and non-judgmentally in order to discover and know our true self. All wisdom traditions remind us “to know thyself.” It is by losing yourself, you find yourself.-Words of wisdom from wisdom traditions.
All of us have intrinsic native goodness and wholeness in us. This is the ground of being from which arises compassion, kindness, love and intuitive knowing. The actualization of this innate potential is affected by the environment we are exposed to. If we are blessed to having loving, caring, wholesome, and nurturing environment, our potential blossoms relatively easily. But when we are exposed to chronic growth restricting, punitive and distressful environment, our growth potential gets adversely affected. The outer environment affects the inner environment. The potential to be whole gets fractured.
Mindfulness practice is an inner work and relational work. We need to bring mindfulness to seven interrelated areas of our life; physical, breathing, mental, emotional, social, natural and spiritual. We need to set aside quality time to mindfully explore these seven significant aspects of our life. We need to practice it regularly, consistently and patiently. It is a good idea to do sitting formal mindfulness practice in a quiet place to avoid disruptions and distractions.
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