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Blog/News

Are You Addicted to Being Judgy?

When we practice investigating judgments and diffusing them we can learn to choose how we look at things and react to them.

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Of all the wondrous array of thoughts that are possible, negative judgments about ourselves and others are one of the mind’s compulsive obsessions. It’s as if the human brain has a hyperactive gland that secretes judgments, just like the adrenal gland secretes adrenaline. Negative and reactive judgments can arise instantaneously and in regard to almost anything. Sometimes they focus almost exclusively on you, and sometimes almost exclusively on others.

Exercise: Investigating Judgments

If you allow critical judgments to remain unexamined, they can come to occupy many of your thoughts and emotions, and even your dreams. But if you examine them, you’ll find repetitive themes that are connected to earlier life events and discover that even your judgments regarding others are often rooted in self-judgment or events that happened earlier in your life—sometimes when you were very young. It’s a good practice to investigate all of your judgments, and this practice will help you do exactly that. Give yourself about thirty minutes for this inquiry.

  • Settle into the moment. Spend at least five minutes practicing mindful breathing.
  • Recall a judgment. Next, see if you can remember a strong judgment you’ve had about yourself or someone else in the last few days.
  • Take note of the sensations in the body. As you feel into the judgment, notice if there’s a physical component—something you feel in your body. Spend a few minutes investigating the way your body feels as you reflect on this judgment.
  • Explore the thoughts accompany the judgment. Was there anything automatic in the way this judgment came up? For example, was the judgment a reaction to something or someone? Spend at least five minutes investigating the thoughts that arise in relation to this judgment.
  • Explore the emotions that accompany the judgment. For example, some judgments may call forth anger, whereas others evoke shame and yet others evoke compassion. Spend some time investigating the emotions that arise in relation to this judgment.
  • Notice your observing mind. Notice that the part of you that is investigating this judgment is not itself judging anything; it’s simply observing bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions with balance and curiosity.
  • Recall whether this kind of judgment has come up before. Does it come up often? If so, do you have any sense of why you have this strong and automatic reaction? Does it isolate you from others or make you feel more connected? Can you sense where it comes from? Please spend a few minutes reflecting on the historical associations related to this judgment.
  • Write about some of the ideas that just came up. Take a little time to write about what came up for you as you investigated your judgments. What sorts of physical sensations and emotions were associated with different judgments? Did you discover any associations between judgments and earlier life events?

If you allow critical judgments to remain unexamined, they can come to occupy many of your thoughts and emotions, and even your dreams.

Try this exercise the next time you find you’re having a strong critical reaction toward someone. See if you can notice what happens in your body, how your body feels. Then imagine that you’re leaning toward the other person with your index finger pointing at the person and a tense, mean look on your face (sometimes you might even actually catch yourself in this posture). Appreciate that when you point at others, you have three other fingers pointed back at yourself. Follow them back to yourself and investigate how this judgment toward someone else has something to do with you. Many judgmental thoughts about others have their origins in painful events earlier in life. These kinds of judgments call for deep personal non-judgmental inquiry.

Defusing Judgments

Judgments are like bombs that can be triggered by life events. Imagine that you’re in the grocery store and see a mother angrily slap her daughter’s leg, and the child looks humiliated when she sees you watching. Or imagine that someone cuts in front of you near an intersection, so that you get stuck at the stoplight while he drives on. Picture a scenario in which your spouse criticizes your house cleaning. These types of events can trigger strong judgments and anger.

Negative judgments can explode in our minds at any moment and overwhelm us with immediate and emotionally overwhelming condemnations of others or ourselves. The body contracts, blood pressure rises, and the breath moves up into the chest and becomes shallow and rapid. The fight-or-flight response has been triggered, and an urge to say or do something floods you. In these moments, regrettable words can leap out of your mouth and injure others, and even yourself. Many of us have extremely short fuses when similar triggering events occur again and again, and our reactions can be like bombs that go off almost instantaneously.

Although we’re usually unaware of our projections, we can learn a great deal about them if we’re willing to investigate our reactive judgments with an intention to defuse them.

The bombs with the shortest fuses are often found in our relationships with other people. Politicians and strangers in traffic are a common source of small, frequent reactions that come and go like firecrackers. But our love relationships can set off huge explosive reactions that can create enormous suffering for years. Careless words can cut deeply and leave scars that never go away. Because love relationships are so intimate, they have the capacity to call forth emotional reactions that are tied to earlier traumatic interpersonal events. This is one reason why these relationships are so rife with projections. Projections are ego defense mechanisms that operate mostly unconsciously and impose on current relationships the emotional injuries from earlier close relationships, such as with your mother, your father, or your first love. Although we’re usually unaware of our projections, we can learn a great deal about them if we’re willing to investigate our reactive judgments with an intention to defuse them.

Exercise: Defusing Judgments

This practice will help you strengthen your ability to defuse judgments by bringing awareness and compassion to aversive feelings. An inextricable part of developing this skill is to deliberately make contact with difficult feelings. However, if at any point this mindful exploration becomes too disturbing, return to feeling your breath in your belly. This is a home base you can return to throughout the exercise until you feel grounded, and then you can be with the difficult feeling once again and try to stay with it. Also, please note that defusing a judgment doesn’t mean getting rid of it; it means neutralizing it or removing its sting.

  • Sit comfortably and begin by bringing your full attention to the breath coming and going in your belly. If you like, place your hand on your belly and feel it rising with the in breath and falling with the out breath. Stay with this practice as long as you like before proceeding.
  • Recall the judgment you explored in the previous exercise, or any other judgment that you’d like to explore and defuse. First note who or what you were judging. Notice the reactive thoughts and emotions connected to the judgment, including any stories, beliefs, or memories that emerge. What are you judging about this event and the people involved in it? Be open to and welcome the emotions that arise in this exploration, and respond to these feelings with kindness and self-compassion. Note that these feelings and memories are connected to the judgment yet separate from it.
  • Feel the bodily sensations connected to the memories and emotions that came up as you considered your judgment, and move back and forth between these sensations and the thoughts and emotions a few times. Notice the difference between the mental formations (thoughts, emotions, memories) and the sensory formations (experiences of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste). In this way, you can use the body to anchor in the here and now and defuse di cult thoughts and emotions, removing some of their charge.
  • Notice your observing mind. Shift away from focusing on the judgment and the mental and physical phenomena associated with it and take a few minutes to reflect on the part of you that just explored these mental, emotional, and physical states—a part of your consciousness you can think of as the observing or witnessing awareness. Notice that the part of you that is aware of judging is curious but not itself judgmental. Awareness can notice the judging and the mental and physical phenomena associated with it without getting caught up in them. As you reflect on this awareness, notice if your heart softens in any way and you feel a little less critical.
  • From this perspective you can extend love and compassion to yourself for whatever comes up for you in this mindful reflection. You may also extend compassion and loving-kindness to whomever you may have been judging. What are the words and gestures you would like to offer to yourself for any pain or unhappiness that came up? What would you say to someone you love who was feeling this way?
  • Notice what happens in your body and mind as you offer these expressions of compassion and loving-kindness. Pay attention to what comes up for you physically, mentally, and emotionally, and look for connections between mental events and their emotional or physical counterparts. For example, self-compassion may create a feeling of release in the chest, or self-forgiveness may allow the belly to soften.
  • Return to conscious breathing, bringing your full attention to the breath coming and going in your belly for a few moments before concluding this exercise.
  • Take some time to write about the thoughts and feelings you experienced in this exercise. Write about your reflections on the questions above as specifically as possible. Bring particular attention to reactive judgments and any historical associations they may have in your life, as well as any sensations associated with the judgments you worked with. What words of self-compassion and loving-kindness came up for you in this exercise? How did the sensations associated with judgments change when you offered yourself words of loving-kindness and compassion?

Sometimes our thoughts and feelings create reactive judgments simply because we refuse to acknowledge or feel them.

Wisdom grows from the “one step removed” kind of awareness cultivated by this practice. Indeed, simply naming a thing (“judgment”) is a powerful first step toward defusing it. Sometimes our thoughts and feelings create reactive judgments simply because we refuse to acknowledge or feel them.

 

This article was adapted from Dr. Bob Stahl’s and Steve Flowers’ book, Living with Your Heart Wide Open.

Blog/News

Meditating with Noise

How To Meditate with Noise: A 3-Minute Practice for Anywhere
Meditation can’t always happen in blissful silence. By tuning in to the cacophony of everyday activity, we can find a space to rest and settle the mind.

By

1. Begin this meditation by noticing the posture that you’re in. You may be standing or sitting or lying down.

2. Notice your body exactly as it is. See if you can tune in to any sensations that are present to you in your body in this moment. There might be heaviness or lightness, pressure, weight. There might be vibration, pulsating, movement, warmth, coolness, These sensations can be anywhere in your body, and all you have to do is notice them. Notice what’s happening with curiosity and interest.

3. Take a breath. As you breathe, relax. Not much to do except be fully present and aware.

4. Now let go of the body’s sensations, and turn your attention to the sounds inside or outside the room. There may be all sorts of sounds happening: loud sounds, quiet sounds. You can also notice the silence between the sounds. But the sounds are coming and going. Notice them coming and going.

5. Note the sounds instead of narrating them. One tendency of our mind is to want to think about the sounds, to start to make up a story about the sound, or we have a reaction to it: I like it, I don’t like it. See if instead, you can simply listen to the sound. Notice it with curiosity and interest. The sounds are coming and going.

6. Check in before you check out. Now once again, notice your body standing, present, or seated, or lying down. Notice any body sensations that are obvious to you. Take another breath, soften, and when you’re ready, you can open your eyes.

Blog/News

Gratitude: Three Good Things

Three Good Things Each Day

Image result for gratitude

Each day before going to bed take a few minutes for gratitude. Before I made this practice a daily ritual I typically went to sleep focusing on either self-critical thoughts or planning, which both tended to keep my mind overly busy.  That has all changed.  Now by practicing gratitude, I experience my compassionate soothing emotional system blossoming relaxing my mind and body which helps me drift off to sleep. Try it yourself for a week and see what you notice.

HOW TO DO IT – 5-10 minutes/day for one week.

(source Greater Good: http://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/three-good-things)

Each day for at least one week, write down three things that went well for you that day, and provide an explanation for why they went well. It is important to create a physical record of your items by writing them down; it is not enough simply to do this exercise in your head. The items can be relatively small in importance (e.g., “my co-worker made the coffee today”) or relatively large (e.g., “I earned a big promotion”). To make this exercise part of your daily routine, some find that writing before bed is helpful.

As you write, follow these instructions:

  1. Give the event a title (e.g., “co-worker complimented my work on a project”)
  2. Write down exactly what happened in as much detail as possible, including what you did or said and, if others were involved, what they did or said.
  3. Include how this event made you feel at the time and how this event made you feel later (including now, as you remember it).
  4. Explain what you think caused this event—why it came to pass.
  5. Use whatever writing style you please, and do not worry about perfect grammar and spelling. Use as much detail as you’d like.
  6. If you find yourself focusing on negative feelings, refocus your mind on the good event and the positive feelings that came with it. This can take effort but gets easier with practice and can make a real difference in how you feel.
Blog/News

Letting Go of Judgment

3-Elements-of-Self-Compassion1

Self-Observation Without Judgment  

by Danna Faulds

Release the harsh and pointed inner
voice. it’s just a throwback to the past,
and holds no truth about this moment.

Let go of self-judgment, the old,
learned ways of beating yourself up
for each imagined inadequacy.

Allow the dialogue within the mind
to grow friendlier, and quiet. Shift
out of inner criticism and life
suddenly looks very different.

I can say this only because I make
the choice a hundred times a day to release the voice that refuses to
acknowledge the real me.

What’s needed here isn’t more prodding toward perfection, but
intimacy – seeing clearly, and
embracing what I see.

Blog/News

Unconditional

Unconditional ( by Jennifer Paine Welwood)

Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;
Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;
Opening to my loss,
I gain the embrace of the universe;
Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.

Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed
Into its radiant jewel-like essence.
I bow to the one who has made it so,
Who has crafted this Master Game;
To play it is purest delight –
To honor its form, true devotion.

Blog/News

Little Mind and Big Mind: It’s All ONE

Shunryu Suzuki uses a metaphor of waves and water to talk about “big mind, little mind” excerpt from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind:

(source: Traverse City Sangha:  http://tcmmg.org/big-mind-little-mind/ )

waves“That everything is included within your mind is the essence of mind. To experience this is to have a religious feeling. Even though waves arise, the essence of your mind is pure; it is just like clear water with a few waves.  .  .  . To speak of waves as apart from water or water apart from waves is a delusion. Water and waves are one. Big mind and small mind are one.  When you understand your mind in this way, you have some security in your feeling. As your mind does not expect anything from the outside, it is always filled. A mind with waves in it is not a disturbed mind, but actually a simplified one. Whatever you experience is an expression of big mind.”

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Take a Moment for Gratitude Each Morning

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Gratitude is a simple but essential way of being in the world. Given our media saturated live it is all too easy to become numbed out to the suffering of others. Gratitude can be a powerful antidote to the cynicism or hopelessness we may experience. This simple practice was created by Mayo Clinic professor of medicine Amit Sood M.D.
 
Dr. Sood states that “gratitude is an acknowledgment and appreciation for things, experiences or people.” When we extend gratitude to those beings most supportive to us it can help reduce our sense of helplessness, anxiety, loneliness, alienation and even depression.
 
You can use the practice anytime, however doing it upon waking or going to bed can be particularly healing. Begin by taking three deep breaths, feeling into the chest and heart area and invite the body to soften and relax. Now bring into your awareness each being one at a time you wish to extend gratitude to. You can even silently say their name as you send gratitude and appreciation, do this for 5-10 seconds, you can even invite an inner smile into your awareness. Send gratitude one at a time to 5 or more beings and end the practice by sending gratitude yourself. That’s it. Enjoy and pass on the gratitude one appreciation at a time.
 
I extend gratitude and give thanks to:
 
loved ones……….
friends……..
colleagues……..
nature…………….
pets…………….
colleagues………..
people who have died…………
inspiring people…
Blog/News

Thoughts are Not Facts Practice

thoughts not factsWhen we get caught in strong opinions, preconceptions, memories and expectations, based on past experiences, we filter out a lot of important information that is available and emerging in the present moment. This way of perceiving is a product of our evolution and socialization, helping us to create a world of experience that is somewhat stable and predictable, but it comes at a cost.

When we ONLY perceive the world through the lens of past memory and experience we miss the uniqueness of what is emerging in the present moment. By suspending for just a few moments our judgements, commentary and decision making mind, we create space for novelty and fresh possibilities to be seen.

Practice: Thoughts are Not Fact

When difficult thoughts arise in the mind, about ourselves or others, notice how the thought is influencing your mood and how you are react to yourself and others. Next ask yourself these 4 questions:

  1. Is it true? – often the answer is, Well Yes.  This is the brain initially reacting – the habitual autopilot you live with and believe is you.
  2. Is it absolutely true? – is this thought 100% accurate? Can you see the thought in a different way?
  3. How does this thought make me feel? – Notice any storylines you’re holding onto, and name your feelings: sad, angry, jealous, hurt.
  4. What would things be like if I didn’t hold this belief? – Imagine possible benefits to your relationships, energy levels and motivations.

Adapted from Uncovering Happiness by Elisha Goldstein and Love What Is by Byron Katie.

Blog/News

Mindful Exercising

 

mindful runningWe all know that exercise done 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week makes a huge difference in your emotional and physical health.  And the same goes for mindfulness practice. So how do we find time to do both? While exercising mindfully is not a complete substitute for formal sitting practice it does augment formal practice and improve your capacity to be mindful throughout your day.

How to Practice Mindful Exercise

Working out is a golden opportunity to practice mindfulness of the body.  Being mindful of the body is the foundational practice taught by all mindfulness programs, so exercise is the perfect opportunity to practice.

When you begin your exercise program we ask that you bring your full attention to every moment of your physical experience. So set aside the distractions like music or screen activities if you are in a gym.  Instead take the opportunity to observe the physical sensations of the body before, during and after your workout.

Begin your exercise with 8-10 full breaths, experience the physical sensation of breathing and you can even invite the body to let go of tension as you exhale, feeling the body soften and relax.

Next as you begin exercising notice your very first intention to move as you begin. Bring you full attention to simply watching the body as it moves from a perspective that is non-judgmental and accepting of whatever arises related to thoughts, emotions or physical sensations.

Just as in formal mindfulness sitting practice when the mind wanders from our object of attention and in this case body sensations, we simply notice the distraction, relate to the distraction with acceptance, non-judgment and kindness and gently return our attention back to the sensations in the body that is most prominent  in each moment i.e., breathing, tightening and relaxing of muscles, physical contact of exercise with hands, feet, buttock etc., noticing sweating, hot parts of the body, cool parts of body, noticing air or water on the skin, etc.  Also notice when you move toward your edge of physical capability and become aware of when to slow down and when to speed up, maintaining a  proper balance.

At the end of your workout do a two-minute mindfulness practice by noticing your thoughts, emotions and body sensations, and spend a minute noticing the physical sensation of the breath in the chest and expand your sense of breathing as though the whole body is breathing, feeling oxygen flowing to every cell.

So, I encourage you to experiment with mindful exercise and notice the impact it has on both your mind and body.

Blog/News

May 7, Mindfulness Workshop Fundraiser for Suzuki Music

fundraiser

Stress less and relax!

A Suzuki parent, Eric Nelson, is offering a free stress reduction class as a fundraiser. This class will be held following group lessons on Saturday, May 7th. We suggest a donation of $10, and all proceeds benefit the Suzuki Academy of Kalamazoo.

Come join us and learn simple mindfulness-based practices that research has shown to improve: attention, emotional balance (anxiety, fear, anger) and relationships.

Eric has 25 years experience in the Mind-Body Health field, received his mindfulness training through the University of Massachusetts Medical School and worked at the Fetzer Institute as a program officer for 20 years.

So take a stress break and stop by our class on May 7 at 10-10:50 am, located at the Suzuki Academy of Kalamazoo 3054 South 9th Street, ste B Kalamazoo, MI, 49009