Positively at Peace

When we become more aware of our negativity biases we can begin to work with them to see the upside of events. By Madeline Johnson

The more I learn about what it takes to become the best version of me, the more I am convinced that the two most important strategies to produce consecutively good days are a positive outlook and a calm demeanor.

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“It’s easy to think about positive psychology as a magic carpet ride,” explains Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Resilient, his latest book about growing an unshakeable core.  For example, someone recommends you keep a gratitude journal and that is what is suppose to transport you to a new level of happiness and joy.

While remaining grateful sounds like good advice (and I know from personal experience that being appreciative of what you have is a better way to be) – – – what happens in the real world? How does keeping a gratitude journal help with the everyday stress and difficulties we deal with and the the reality about hard things in our lives?

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While I haven’t read his book yet, Dr. Rick Hawkins reminds us that if we want to improve our lives we must be aware of our bias towards negativity.

It is perfectly natural for us to look for bad news, threats that might effect our lives and then focus upon the negative and possibly over react to it. This is the fast track to becoming extra irritable and anxious throughout our days.

When we become more aware of our negativity biases we can begin to work with them to see the upside of events, the opportunities and the possibilities that can even come from difficult and challenging experiences.

Two habits that I am nurturing to help me are guided meditation (I highly recommend Jordan Bach’s free 7 minute giveaway guided meditation) and pushing myself to at the bright side of everything that happens. Finding one slice of goodness in even what looks like the worst possible scenario. These are simple strategies, and they are working for me.

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Read Dr. Rick Hawkins books

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and New York Times best-selling author. His books are available in 26 languages and include Resilient, Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s BrainJust One Thing, and Mother Nurture.

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Resilient because it’s vital to grow strengths inside like grit, gratitude, and compassion—the key to resilience, and to lasting well-being in a changing world.

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Hardwiring Happiness because life isn’t easy, and having a brain wired to take in the bad and ignore the good makes us worried, irritated, and stressed, instead of confident, secure, and happy.

Buddha’s Brain draws on the latest research to show how to stimulate your brain for more fulfilling relationships, a deeper spiritual life, and a greater sense of inner confidence and worth.

Just One Thing is a guide that offers simple things you can do routinely, mainly inside your mind, that will support and increase your sense of security and worth, resilience, effectiveness, well-being, insight, and inner peace.

More at Scientific American on the roots of embodied cognition.

Featured Artwork

Yoskay Yamamoto

 

Letting Go of Judgement

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“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

Rainer Maria Rilke.
Read: Letters to a Young Poet

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Inspired by Tara Brach’s Dharma Retreat Talk “Letting Go of Judgement” 9/05/2015

“Letting go of “adversive” judgement does not mean letting go of wise discrimination,” Tara Brach.

We Have To Stop

  Growing in popularity, Instagram’s @We_have_to_stop  is dedicated to capturing people on their phones and devices while in public.  

A crowd-sourced account that documents the social isolation and bizarre relationships we have with our devices of delusion in a world of increasing chaos and confusion.

Photos of people around the world, taking selfies, posting updates, merging calls, drafting emails, filming injustices, snapping and filtering their every meal. 

My Friend Gary calls this the severe maladaptive behavior of Generation K – as in Kardashians.

I wonder what it will take to wake the world up again to true human interaction, face-to-face communication and  co-existence  with compassion.

Living in a World Where Everyone is Real

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One of the most remarkable things I’ve noticed about the Dalai Lama is how he treats everyone equally. While one newspaper photo shows him lovingly embracing Jesse Helms, another shows him with his arms around the poor Tibetan refugee. When the Dalai Lama says, “My religion is kindness,” he is expressing his commitment to live with the unconditionally open and loving heart of compassion. Kindness is a facet of the jewel that arises when we remember that we are connected with every living being we meet.

Each person is precious, each person is fragile and each person matters.

Direct quote from Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Image of a girl at a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.

A Sky Like Mind, Active Abs and The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating

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Have you thought about what pace feels right for you? At times I do have a need for speed and love the energy and creativity that feels supercharged in big cities like Manhattan. Right now, I feel the need to breath deeply, chill out and slow down to refocus. Not unplug, just down shift to first or maybe second gear.

Something clicked the minute I stepped off the plane at Providenciales. An assuring voice inside my head delivered a comforting message “a more intentional pace.” This slower island pace. Not the harried, brisk and hurried hustle of New York, but the more deliberate and intentional easiness, much like the gentle movement of the waves and soothing breezes of this island.  I am not describing a snail-like, creeping, lazy/boozy pace, but that of speaking, thinking, walking and working which is more conscious, considered and purposed. More thoughtful living. This is the pace for now.

And so it goes with meals, especially meals together. My memories of my youth bring me back to four hour dinners around the long outdoor communal table, under the grapevines, with my loud and excited extended Italian family. The never-ending conversations, the slow and relaxed experience of enjoying a meal together.

The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating begins with an intention to create an experience. Setting the mood, dimming the lights, selecting soft and slower music and smaller plates,  create an atmosphere for mindful eating.  Imagine setting a stage to enjoy and savor your meal. This mindful eating ritual can be extended to any meal – from breakfast to dinner. For more tips on mindful eating, check out Dara Rose, PhD, neuroscientist, foodist, author and the creator of Summer Tomato.

I start my meals by saying grace. Sometimes privately, sometimes with my family. Saying grace can transform a mere meal into an act of celebration, focus, and gratitude.

Listening to meditation talks from Tara Brach, I actually envisioned what she describes as “A Sky Like Mind“, a more expansive mind that allows me to open to the very healing, healthy and beautiful moment that is right now, this healing presence.  Tara’s podcasts and book, Radical Acceptance has really helped release the fear, worry and pain that stems from the mental swirl of anxious activity, the grasping and wanting that only proves to enslave my mind.

It is by meeting each moment throughout the day with radical acceptance for what ever is going on and holding those feelings that arise with a compassionate and open heart, a forgiving heart, this is feels like true freedom.

Reading
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Active Abs

With everything moving at a slower pace this week, I had the opportunity to try Pilates class for the first time. One of the slowest classes I have attended in a long time, a slight pick up from yoga, nothing about the Pilates Method is haphazard. The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment.  The one reminder that I have walked away with today is Active Abs and focusing on my posture, especially when sitting at my desk for hours at end.  Two exercises to help you feel your abdominal muscles correctly.

A Beginner’s Mind, The Power of the Mindful Pause and Cultivating Self-Compassion

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As with everything I do, I try to keep a beginners mind.  Shoshin (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

Although I’ve been challenging myself daily to improve my mental and physical health and wellness, each morning requires a daily reset – a reboot to remind myself of my hopes, dreams and aspirations.   If I don’t awake each day with this reminder to tread this path leading to a more deliberate and intentional life, than I backslide. It’s similar to training at the gym, I find that my mind must also be trained, daily.

The Power of the Purposeful Pause

Communication experts will tell you to be aware of the power of silence between conversations. When the other person finishes speaking, take a breath, relax and smile before saying anything. They know that “the pause” is a key part of improving communication and relationships.

I’ve been reading Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance and I am going to share  her mindful technique of practicing the purposeful pause.  Now, while pausing when having a conversation with others is always an intelligent idea, pausing to listen to the conversations happening inside your own head is another. To bow to this experience happening within and around you, whatever it is, right now.

For example, if I’m worried about an argument I had with someone and thoughts of revenge fog my brain, I pause, accept that this is how I am feeling right now, I do not fight it and just accept it and let it go. It’s powerful. Actually recognizing the pain helps make way for a better decision, a better outcome.

Cultivating Self-Compassion

We can practice radical acceptance (note: Tara is not talking about building a victim narrative here), by pausing and then meeting whatever is happening inside of us with an unconditional friendliness and compassion. The way you might treat your best friend or brother or sister.

I practice remembering that I cannot be a fair weather friend to myself. I will not push away anger, jealousy, or pain. Instead I will treat myself with compassion and understanding and recognize the anguish of this moment. This will allow me to create a safe haven for my vulnerability and to be present to the healing that can happen in my mind.

Recommended Reading from Tara Brach
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha