The Need to be Mindful of the Mind!

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People of Christen belief are less likely to die 20 days before Christmas than after Christmas. People who believe in something higher themselves are more likely to live longer, generally healthier and more resilient than people who are non-believers. People who meditate are more to feel a sense of wellbeing and are generally happier.

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These statements are rooted in science and from them one may conclude that these people are somehow living and seeing the world in a different way that confers them some benefits.

What’s special about these situations and these people that causes them to experience these benefits?

Research seems to confirm the age-old suspicion that these individuals’ brains are firing differently! That is to say their mind is processing the world differently.  In a sense they are creating their own reality and their own happiness.

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The Buddha realized the world is suffused with suffering and always advocated cultivating the mind to free one of suffering. Science is now discovering that cultivating the mind is indeed very important determinant of our health and wellbeing.

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It is easy to say cultivate your mind but how does one do that? There are many ways, but none surpass the practice of training your attention, which really means meditating. The practice of meditation is a technique used for thousands of years to improve concentration and focus, which improves the control of  our awareness.

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When we are more aware, it allows us to “see and map out” our own mind.  This then allows us to see different aspects of our self. These different aspects of ourselves have different drives, they are all driven to fulfill our different needs and if these needs are in conflict with each other, then this will result in uncomfortable feeling of either chaos or rigidity within us, resulting in ill-health, relationship conflicts and feeling of depression.

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Sciences is now finding out that Practices like prayer, meditation, tai chi, qigong, yoga all help to cultivate our minds in a beneficial way. Even simple exercise is shown to help depression and improve neuroplasticity in the brain.

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So if you are doing any of these practices please don’t let them lapse and if you were thinking about starting, I wholeheartedly support your effort because the benefits are obvious.

Resources

The Mindful Brian by Daniel Siegel

http://flickrhivemind.net/

Self Compassion at Christmas

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It is amazing how many people feel stressed out, sad and hit rock bottom at Christmas. There are so many reasons for this, some under our control and some beyond our control. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how and why you hit rock bottom. The important thing to remember is to be gentle and kind to yourself.

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I have hit rock bottom many times and my experience is that it doesn’t help to blame yourself or anyone else. The hurt and sadness feeling continues to slowly wear you down until there are no deeper darker depths left to fall. At times like these I am actually grateful to life for letting me experience such despair and sadness. It is easier than to let go of my ego, accept the world and everything in it just as it is; including the pain and the suffering. It is only then I see faint light of hope and I know things from then on can only get better because they can’t get any worse than they already are; there is nowhere lower to go. This is where the egoless wisdom resides. Our egos, our assumptions, our values that are not serving us and what others think of us, no longer matter too much.

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One comes out of this depth with new awareness, new purpose and new wisdom. That’s what happened to Gandhoff in the movie Lord of the Rings when he fell deep into the earth as he stood firm to fight the Demon that was chasing them. When he came out of the depth he was wise and powerful. Without the fall and hitting rock bottom he would have just stayed Gandhoff the gray. It is in this deepest depth where powerful life-giving nectar of life resides if you can stand the rigors of going deep down and facing the Demon that’s chasing you.

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So at Christmas, remember to be compassionate to yourself if you reach rock bottom, this will give you strength to withstand the rigors of the deep and fight off your Demon.

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Have a Great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

PS. If you are suffering from depression you may need medical help in addition to self compassion.

Gift Giving and Receiving

Christmas can be the best of times or the worst of times. I see lots of patients very happy at christmas time others sad and stressed out. Christmas could be a great time to renew connections , strengthen bonds with friends and the loved ones. It can be a very joyous and spiritual experience. When I was growing in England even though I didn’t understand the significance of christmas, it is was a time which left profound memories from my childhood. Very body seemed happy and helpful; the houses decorated , special food in the shops, snow on the ground , snow ball fights with children and adults, festive music every where; but most of all – my family and friends would get together ,cook, joke, laugh, eat, tell stories, drink chai and watch festive or inspiring movies. It was for me the best of times.

Things have changed since my childhood, people now feel the Xmas holidays have become more materialistic and there is less meaningful connection with others all around. The patients who are stressed and sad usually have no close friends or family , or if they do they can’t afford the gifts people expect at Xmas, resulting in financial hardship. Giving gifts is old and ancient tradition in most cultures. It has been subject of interest to psychologist , anthropologists, economists, marketers  and some philosophers.

A great twentieth century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in his book , Thus Spoke Zarathustra,  ” a gift giving virtue is the highest virtue”. There are various interpretations of this statement but I like the one which takes gift as meaning –  ideas, experiences, riches of the soul and all the other sorts of giving; including material things, a smile, act of kindness, love etc….anything of value  that is bestowed upon the world , thus making it a better place.However, before we can give we have to accumulate these riches over time  and then…..” they (riches) flow out of your well as the gift of your love”. So if one can’t afford material things then give love , a story, a smile, act of kindness, a loving touch which will enrich someones life and maybe even inspire  them spiritually; spiritual gift would last them a lifetime or even longer when all the material things are long broken, disintegrated and gone. It is these kinds of gifts I received in my childhood that left me with fond memories, I have no recollection of the toys I was given.

Receiving a gift is an art too. We need to acknowledge the act of gift giving. The point of gift giving only comes about after the gift giver has acquired and perfected the gift over time and is ready to be given freely without any expectation or reciprocity . The gift is ready to be bestowed on someone and through them the gift will help the world to be a better place. We need to show the gift giver that we value and honour him/her for making the gift possible and bestowing it on us by accepting it whole heartedly and joyfully; by showing gratitude; by regarding the gift value as priceless, no matter what the gift maybe.

May our minds broaden over the holidays so be may have the best of times.

Quotes without comment:-

” It was by Your gift that I desired what You give

and no more, by Your gift that those who suckled

me willed to give me what You had given them:

for it was by the love implanted in them by You

that they give so willingly that milk which by

Your gift flowed in the breasts. It was a good for

them that I received good from them, though  I

received it not from them but only through them:

since all good things are from You, O God.”

Augustine, Confessions, 1, 6

“The greatest gift God of his largeness made at the

creation, and the most conformed to his own

excellence, and which he most prizeth,

was the will’s liberty, wherewith creatures intelligent,

both all and alone, were and are endowed.”

Dante, Paradiso,V 19

Resources:

Nietzsche and the origin of virtue

By Lester H. Hunt

Great Treasury of Western Thought

Edited by  Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren.

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