Being non-judgemental

“I used to think anyone doing anything weird was weird. Now I know that it is the people that call others weird that are weird.” Paul McCartney

 

The definition of Mindfulness that I use comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the modern mindfulness movement. It states:

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” Jon Kabat-Zinn

One of the biggest elements of the practice of Mindfulness is the non-judgemental element. We are filled with “self-talk”, with thousand’s of thoughts flowing through our monds per day. Many of these are where we are reflecting and often ruminating. Typically, along a negative path. Thoughts such as:

“I can’t do this…..”; “I keep failing at….”; “Why does it always happen to me?”;

“I am no good at….”; “It will never work….” You get the picture.

What is so amazing, is that up to 70% of most people’s thoughts are negative. We fill our minds every day with negativity. When you consider we have up to 70,000 thoughts per day, that means upwards of 49,000 negative self-hits. We are constantly beating ourselves up thinking we are failing. All too often we find it difficult to accept what we’re feeling. A common pattern is to experience some initial unpleasant experience and then to feel bad because of feeling bad, and then to feel bad about feeling bad about feeling bad, and so on. It’s a vicious cycle of feeling bad about feeling bad.

So, what does Mindfulness do to counteract this?

Recognition: The first aspect of the meditation practice is to recognise that you do have these negative and judgemental thoughts. No matter how much you practice, you will never get rid of them totally. The benefit of regular pracice is that the number and frequency will decline over time.

Diary: You can use a mindfulness diary and write down all the judging, evaluating, appraising and so on thoughts that go on in your mind during the course of a short period of time, say half an hour. Don’t be shocked if you find hundreds of jjudgmentsgoing on. Afterward, note down any patterns in your likes or dislikes. For example, do you mainly judge yourself, other people, life, the government or activities you engage with, or just everything? The starting point to any change is to understand what you are seeking to change.  

Patience: Be patient in your practice. When you start to practice and you are asked to concentrate on your breath, you will notice that your thoughts will drift off. Don’t judge yourself. Accept that it will happen. And simply return to the basics of the breath. The in breath. The out breath.

Acceptance: Acceptance indicates that you’re prepared to do a reality check. Acknowledging that, for example, you drink too much, sleep too little, feel down in the dumps or bad about choices you’ve made. You can feel that if you accept things as they are, at least for now, you may never be able to change them, but as the song says, this ‘ain’t necessarily so’. In fact, the exact opposite may be the outcome when you’ve faced your demons.

Compassion: One of the best practices is called the Metta Bhavana, or Development of Loving Kindness meditation. This practice directly addresses the idea of forgiving yourself, other people, events and situations and  brings you to a sense of peace and wellbeing.

There are many different approaches that you can take. Some that work for me, might not work for you and visa versa.

I have found that being non-judgemental has become more than just a practice by practice thing. It pervades my whole waking day. When I am in a traffic jam and someone jumps the queue, I am less judgemental and quick to anger. When some does not complete a deadline at work, I am more forgiving and patient with them. Does this mean I never get cross, ofr judge people? I still do, but much less than before I started Mindfulness.

If you would like any help, or would like further details on the Loving Kindness practice, do get in touch.

I leave you with the following quote:

 

“Of course we need to accept ourselves as we are, but we can’t stop there. We also need to value ourselves enough make needed changes.” ― Steve Goodier

What you see and hear isn’t always what it seems

Our prisons are other people’s eyes; our cages are their thoughts. – Ruby Wax, from her autobiography, How do you want me?

The world revolves around the events and the interactions that we all participate in. We create our own world inside of us; recreating and reinforcing our thoughts and perceptions, moment by moment, every day of our lives.

Our challenge to ourselves is that we are biologically and mentally stimulated by the negative as well as the positive. Unfortunately, we have a natural born tendency to think more negative thoughts than positive ones. In fact, it is a 9:1 ratio. Yes, we have nine negative thoughts for every positive one. When you consider that the average person will have upwards of 70,000 thoughts per day; that means you are whacking yourself with upwards of 63,000 negative thoughts and only 7,000 positive ones.  

We reinforce this from a cultural perspective. Think of the news you might have seen or heard or read today. How many articles were positive? Uplifting? That made you feel that the world was a great place to be? Advertising does the same, but in a more subtle manner. ‘You can change and become this’. ‘Better, faster, cheaper’ A consumption led idea of tomorrow that is going to be different and positive, rather than recognising for most of us, what we have now is sufficient and in many cases what we want.

It’s no wonder then that our internal dialogue is so negative and we can suffer from depression.

We all go through the rollercoaster of emotions – in relationships, in friendships, at work, or even when we play. If you are not careful you can end up in a negative spiral, where you feel completely out of control and not able to deal with any situation. That level of negativity can be terrible to experience and can be equally horrible to see someone else go through. Your instinctive reaction is to reach out to them. To try to help them. You may even offer words of support or guidance. Don’t.

It is a painful lesson to learn. Our perceptions of others are not the reality that they feel.

Words expressed by yourself to say one thing can so easily be picked up in a completely different manner by others. Your offer of support can actually be regarded negatively. You think you are being helpful when in fact you may be reinforcing negative thoughts in the other person. It is so hard to not step in. Harder still if you feel that you can help.

What advice can I give when you are faced with such a situation?

When I am faced with these situations, it takes a real effort on my part to try to stay positive and not to jump in with advice and offers of help. To remain calm. To remain focused on the other person and not let my own thoughts and perceptions take over. Sometimes a walk and some “self-talking” helps. Be careful though you don’t get noticed walking the streets talking to yourself. You could be considered one of the “special” people!

My mindfulness practice really comes into its own as well. The compassionate practice is one of my favorites and helps to centre yourself both in the present moment and allow you realise that the thoughts you are experiencing are only transient, not permanent. If nothing else, being able to feel calm. The practice uses the mantra of:

“May xx be safe and free from suffering”

“May xx be happy and healthy”

“May xx have ease of being”

The first time you internalise the words, the xx, is “May I…”. The second time you internalise the words, the “xx” is the name of the person who is suffering. Give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

What do you do when you are faced with the situation? Suggestions always welcome.

I leave you with the following quote. With kind wishes to my brother…. As his most recent blog post prompted the title of mine.

“Stop judging long enough to understand that what you see and hear isn’t always what it seems.” – Julian Summerhayes

 

You can check out Julian’s post at: http://juliansummerhayes.com/the-unexamined-life/

What’s been missing in my Mindfulness practice?

“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut”. – Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

As I have written before, I practice Mindfulness on an almost daily basis. I have been practicing and experiencing the benefits for the past eighteen months. I have found the ability to be fully aware in the present moment really uplifting, both at work and also at home. I have been calmer, more peaceful and more engaged with life in general.

However, just recently, in fact, this past month, I have felt that I have not been as present as I was before. I have felt disconnected and more “stressed”.

Was it work related? I was given a “wonderful work opportunity” just before Christmas. It is a very compressed project that would have normally taken three months to complete and instead try to do in one month. This has meant 8am to 6pm conference calls every day of every week since the New Year and a lot of work related pressure. Nope, it is not that.

Was it social related? I am just about to start a new volunteer role in the scouting movement, so have been spending a raft of time thinking and planning the new role. In addition, I attended the first scouting meeting of the year and I missed the first group Mindfulness session of the year. So, what that the cause? Nope.

Was it family related? We are looking to save to go on a foreign holiday this year as an expanded family group, which means we are trying to plan a trip for ten people and at the same time try to economize and budget for the holiday. Nope, it has not been that either.

Finally, is it because it has been dark, wet and miserable so far this year and I have not walked and exercised as much. Nope.

I now know what it is. I changed my morning Mindfulness routine slightly and instead I have been practicing a basic breathing mindfulness practice. I have not practiced the Metta Bhavana, or Development of Lovingkindness practice for over a month.

The practice helps us to actively cultivate positive emotional states towards ourselves and others so that we become more patient, kind, accepting, and compassionate. It covers:

  • lovingkindness
  • compassion (empathizing with others’ suffering)
  • empathetic joy (rejoicing in others’ wellbeing and joy)
  • and equanimity (patient acceptance of both joy and suffering, both our own and others’).

That at is why I have felt disconnected and more “stressed”. I have forgotten the five major premises of the practice, that of:

The practice is in five stages. We cultivate the practice for:

  • Loving kindness to ourselves
  • Loving kindness to a good friend / loved one [at one stage late last year, it was a whole group of people]
  • Loving kindness to a “neutral” person — someone we don’t have any strong feelings for
  • Loving kindness to a “difficult” person — someone we have conflicts with or feelings of ill will towards
  • Finally, Loving kindness to a all sentient beings

I have restarted the practice and can already feel the benefits. f you practice Mindfulness, I’d love to hear if you too have seen the impact of the Loving Kindness Meditation practice and its positive results on yourself.

I leave you with the following quote which really touched me when I came across it:

 

“We leave you a tradition with a future.

The tender loving care of human beings will never become obsolete.

People even more than things have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed and redeemed and redeemed.

Never throw out anybody.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

Your “good old days” are still ahead of you, may you have many of them.”

Sam Levenson, In One Era & Out the Other

 

How you can forgive Yourself and Other People

““The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi, All Men are Brothers: Autobiographical Reflections

One of the biggest issues we have, at work, in our social interactions and personal lives, it the ability to forgive and move on. Too often, people bring up issues and commentary about people that is generally conjecture and opinioned. We also individually beat ourselves up constantly when we fail to do something; when we fail to achieve a goal;, when we have failed in our own personal expectations or when we believe we have failed to meet someone else’s perceived  expectations.

Part of living a balanced life, I think, is the ability to forgive. Not necessarily forget, but our ability to forgive ourselves and others for a perceived transgression. For some people, forgiveness is a foreign land, never to be visited, shunned and avoided. They carry the hurt and issues like a snail carries its shell, permanent and unyielding. What then tends to happen is that the hurt and issues become so embedded, that they affect how the person thinks and feels and acts. More negative, less trusting, quicker to anger, quicker to resent, etc, etc. You may agree, or you may not.

I have always sought to forgive and move on. At times it has been difficult, but since taking up mindfulness, there is one of the meditations that is taught in the eight-week Mindfulness Stress Reduction program, the Befriending Meditation, that can really help you.

It is also known as the Forgiveness meditation. This is one of THE most powerful practices available. Having practiced it regularly, I can feel the difference in my normal day-2-day activities and the engagement that I have with people. I am less self-critical; more open; honest; forgiving and engaging. People have reacted to the change in me, by becoming more open, honest and engaging themselves. At work, when an issue arises, rather than seek to do the “blame game” on someone, I seek to understand what the issues was, what caused it and how to prevent it in the future. People feel more trusted and self-aware of their actions. In fact, the number of issues has fallen as a result.

So what is the Befriending Meditation? This is focused on helping you‘… bring kindness back into your life – kindness not just for others but for yourself too.’ This is where you are guided through the concept of self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. Once you have started to move along that path, you extend it to your loved ones, your family, etc.

The meditation focuses on these three key phrases as a gateway into a deep sense of  friendliness towards yourself:

May I be safe and free from suffering

May I be as happy and as healthy as it is possible to be

May I have ease of being

It is about repeating these slowly and silently in your mind. The analogy is further extended by imagining dropping a pebble down a deep well and listening for the ‘sound’ as it hits the water.  Being aware of any thoughts. Feelings. Or physical body sensations.

You are then encouraged to extend the phrase to holding a person, or even a pet, in mind who in the present or past loved you unconditionally. At this point, I think of our dogs and specifically Mitzie. She is always running up to me and giving me licks and showing complete unconditional love, even when there is no food involved!  Though if there is food, she goes nuts.

You are then asked to repeat the phrases while holding a loved one in mind and wishing them well.

May they be safe and free from suffering

May they be as happy and as healthy as it is possible to be

May they have ease of being

Next a stranger or someone you see regularly, perhaps on a bus, or at work, but you didn’t know their name.

May they be safe and free from suffering

May they be as happy and as healthy as it is possible to be

May they have ease of being

Next, and this is where is can become harder, extend to someone whom you have found difficult at the moment. Perhaps a member of the family or someone at work. For a lot of people, it is very difficult to remain calm, but with this practices, it leads you to it slowly and you feel in control.

May they be safe and free from suffering

May they be as happy and as healthy as it is possible to be

May they have ease of being

Finally, to close you extend loving kindness to all living beings on the planet, including yourself. That is the rhythm and approach. I would suggest you give it a try. It is amazing what you might feel.

May all be safe and free from suffering

May all be as happy and as healthy as it is possible to be

May all have ease of being

If you have specific ways that you practice or ways you have developed, feel free to share.

The specific Befriending Meditation for you to listen to, can be found at:

http://cdn.franticworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Befriending-Meditation-from-book-Mindfulness-Finding-Peace-in-a-Frantic-World.mp3

 

I leave you with the following quote:

“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”

Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

10 Second meditation, what have you got to lose?

“God gave you a gift of 86 400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you ” William Arthur Ward

I came across another talk by Matthieu Ricard, this time talking to the actor, Richard Gere about Altruism. During the talk, there was an opportunity for people in the audience to ask questions and one was asked by a ten-year-old girl. The question was “What was the one thing we could practice every day that would help us be more compassionate and altruistic?”

Matthieu talked about the fact that as we grow up, we learn new things, sports, playing the piano, learning to read and write. None of these things happened just like that, but over time. So like any of these things, becoming more altruistic and compassionate takes time.

Matthieu then said that the other secret is the 10-second meditation. He heard it from a friend at Google. That sounds nuts? 10 seconds of meditation is going to make a difference? Come on? But wait a moment and think about it.

If you do something and repeat it many times, it starts to become a habit. Think about driving a car. You certainly did not start knowing how to change gears, going round corners, or reverse parking. Instead, you learnt each of these skills by repetition, constant repetition over a period of time. And even when you eventually passed your driving test, it takes years to become proficient at driving. So the 10-second meditation does sort of make sense.

So how does it work. For 10 seconds, maybe every hour or whenever you have a moment during the day; just pause, look around and when you see someone, say to yourself:

  • May you be safe and free from suffering
  • May you be as happy and as healthy as it is possible to be
  • May you have ease of being

He then goes on to give the analogy about a bottle of perfume. You open the stopper and just let the perfume out briefly. You do it often enough and the perfume begins to pervade the space around you. So to, if you do the 10-second meditation often enough, the feelings of altruism and compassion will begin to spread and be pervasive around you.

So does it work? Yes it does. I have been practicing mindfulness for a long time and the noticeable difference it makes to you and how you interact with other people is amazing. At work, in social situations and with my family and friends. Everyone has noticed how different I have become. Go on give it a try. After all, what have you got to lose? 10 seconds, that’s all.

By the way, if you want to watch the YouTube video I mentioned at the start, even for the section on 10-second meditation, then follow the link below. The 10-second meditation question and answer is at the 55-minute mark.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGVzRwM7EVI

I leave you with the following quote:

“Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.” ― Denis Waitley

Mindfulness and the six paths of meditation

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Further to the recent article I wrote on Matthieu Ricard on Altruism and the talk he gave at the Action for Happiness event in London, I bought his book at the event and have been reading it ever since. The book is called Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World. It is 700 pages in length, with a total of 149 pages at the end of references. So it is not a quick read, but well worth it never the less.

One of the chapters in the book deals with “Training the Mind” and I found it fascinating to see the references to the Mindfulness meditation practices that I have been following and their roots in the Buddhist meditation techniques Mathieu was discussing. Of the 6 meditation practices in Buddhism, the mindfulness approach appears to focus on the first three. The three that appear not to be covered in the  – Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction mindfulness programme I follow are – visualisation of mental images, fearlessness and devotion.  The techniques he talks about that I follow and use are as follows:

Focused Attention:

This is where you sit and focus on the Breath. The breathing in and out, the tiny gap at the top and at the bottom of every breath you take. Focusing your mind on the present moment of breathing and not allowing it to wander off into the myriad of thoughts that we all have every moment of every day.

Open Presence

Meditation on open presence consists of letting your mind rest in a clear state, at once vast and vivid. The mind is not focused on any particular object but remains completely present. When thoughts arise, the idea is to let them come and go and not to dwell on them. The MBSR approach is to think of a sky, with the clouds containing the memories, thoughts, and feelings. Attaching them to the clouds and letting them drift off. I tend to think of post-it notes that I write on, attach them to the clouds and then watch as they drift off.

Altruistic love combined with compassion:

This is one of the MBSR meditations that I have followed regularly. The practice involves reciting the following:

May xxx be safe and free from suffering

May xxx be as happy and as healthy as it is possible to be

May xxx have ease of being

Where the xxx, for the first round is I. For the second extends itself out to loved ones, then the third round out to friends, fourth round strangers and finally every living being on the planet. This is at the heart of what Matthieu talks about in terms of creating a compassionate and altruistic mindset. I love this meditation and it is one of the ones I practice all the time. 

I would love to know which practice you enjoy, or even if you practice other techniques that I could learn as well. Maybe, you have techniques that involve the other three paths of meditation – visualisation of mental images, fearlessness and devotion.

As always, I leave you with a quote….

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Mindfulness – Benefits and Positive outcomes for you and me

“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love …” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Even though the academic research on mindfulness meditation isn’t as robust as, say, nutrition or exercise, there is a reason why it’s been around for literally thousands of years. And we’re starting to get a better understanding of why it seems to be beneficial for so many aspects of life, from disease and pain management, to sleep, to control of emotions.

With that in mind, here are a list of reasons why you might want to consider incorporating mindfulness meditation into your daily life. I’ve collected these from a number of articles.

1. It lowers stress — literally. Anxiety, stress, depression, exhaustion and irritability all decrease with regular sessions of meditation. MBSR – Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is the formal programme, recognised by the UK NHS, that is the most often quoted programme. Memory improves, reaction times become faster and mental and physical stamina increase. In short, regular meditators are happier and more contented, while being far less likely to suffer from psychological distress. Research published in the journal Health Psychology shows that mindfulness is not only associated with feeling less stressed, it’s also linked with decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

2. It can reduce chronic pain.The work that Jon Kabat Zin prove that mindfulness enhances mental and physical wellbeing and reduces chronic pain. Clinical trials show that mindfulness is at least as effective as the main prescription painkillers while also enhancing the body’s natural healing systems.

3. It can make your results better. Mindfulness improves working memory, creativity, attention span and reaction speeds. It also enhances mental and physical stamina and resilience.

4. It improves emotional intelligence. It helps with the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. “emotional intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success”

5. It could help people with arthritis. A 2011 study in the journal Annals of Rheumatic Disease shows that even though mindfulness training may not help to lessen pain for people with rheumatoid arthritis, it could help to lower their stress and fatigue.

6. Mindfulness is at least as good as drugs or counselling for the treatment of clinical-level depression. One structured programme known as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is now one of the preferred treatments recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

7. It works as the brain’s “volume knob.” Ever wondered why mindfulness meditation can make you feel more focused? It’s because it helps the brain to have better control over processing pain and emotions, specifically through the control of cortical alpha rhythms (which play a role in what senses our minds are attentive to), according to a study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

8. It makes music sound better. Mindfulness meditation improves our focused engagement in music, helping us to truly enjoy and experience what we’re listening to, according to a study in the journal Psychology of Music.

9. It helps us even when we’re not actively practicing it. You don’t have to actually be meditating for it to still benefit your brain’s emotional processing. That’s the finding of a study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, which shows that the amygdala brain region’s response to emotional stimuli is changed by meditation, and this effect occurs even when a person isn’t actively meditating.

10. It could help your doctor be better at their job. Doctors, listen up: Mindfulness meditation could help you better care for your patients. Research from the University of Rochester Medical Center shows that doctors who are trained in mindfulness meditation are less judgmental, more self-aware and better listeners when it comes to interacting with patients.

11. It makes you a better person. It it can also benefit people we interact with, by making us more compassionate, according to a study in the journal Psychological Science. Researchers from Northeastern and Harvard universities found that meditation is linked with more virtuous, “do-good” behavior.

12. It could make going through cancer just a little less stressful. Research from the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine shows that mindfulness coupled with art therapy can successfully decrease stress symptoms among women with breast cancer. And not only that, but imaging tests show that it is actually linked with brain changes related to stress, emotions and reward.

13. It could help with other non-cancer related illnesses. Clinical trials show that mindfulness improves mood and quality of life in chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and lower-back pain, in chronic functional disorders such as IBS, and in challenging medical illnesses, and multiple sclerosis.

14. Finally, It can help you sleep better. A University of Utah study found that mindfulness training can not only help us better control our emotions and moods, but it can also help us sleep better at night. “People who reported higher levels of mindfulness described better control over their emotions and behaviors during the day. In addition, higher mindfulness was associated with lower activation at bedtime, which could have benefits for sleep quality and future ability to manage stress”.

so what have you got to lose by trying it? If you want any help, do get in touch.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” ― Bernard M. Baruch