Yesterday I discovered a secret to happiness: learning that Donald Trump has been criminally indicted. Check out my Salem Political Snark blog post, "Joyous day! Trump is indicted."
Yesterday I discovered a secret to happiness: learning that Donald Trump has been criminally indicted. Check out my Salem Political Snark blog post, "Joyous day! Trump is indicted."
Posted at 09:44 AM in Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)
I used to believe that meditation, and its close relative, mindfulness, were supposed to make me and my life better.
Wiser. Calmer. More spiritual. Happier. And more besides.
In other words, I looked upon mindfulness and meditation as akin to exercise. I put in the work of training my mind and I benefit from that workout. Maybe not instantly, but over time I'd reap the rewards.
I can't say that I've totally discarded that perspective. However, it isn't as strong in me anymore.
Instead, I've come around to the notion that the idea of gaining something from mindfulness and meditation is at odds with what these practices are all about: being in touch with here-and-now reality.
When part of me is resting contentedly on my meditation cushion (which happens to be attached to a chair) and part of me is expecting to become someone better than I am now, there's a disconnect.
It's difficult to embrace what is happening inside and outside of me now, while also anticipating that what I'm doing now will lead to future positive changes.
I recall that Buddhists speak of this sort of thing as having "gaining ideas." Meaning, an expectation that mindfulness and meditation will help the practitioner gain something.
Another way of putting it is being attached to the outcome of mindfulness and meditation, as contrasted with simply pursuing those activities without desiring particular changes.
Here's a few passages from Seth Gillihan's book, Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, that get at what I'm trying to describe.
My patient Jon had stopped meditating when he found that it didn't get rid of his anxiety. Many of us expect that meditation practice will get rid of the less desirable parts of our lives, such as stress, anxiety, and other difficult emotions.
Sometimes that happens, given the calming nature of mindfulness practice. But feeling more comfortable is not the purpose of openhearted presence -- and it is less likely to happen if we make it the goal.
Expecting certain outcomes from our mindfulness practice will get in the way of our experience. Expectations lead to evaluation -- Am I relaxing? Is my mind quieting? Am I having a mystical expericnce? -- which pulls us out of the present.
Instead, we can approach each moment of meditation as if it's the first time we've experienced it, without preconceptions or goals.
Mindful awareness is about relationship. In my work with Jon, he practiced a new way of relating to his anxiety. When the anxious spells came, he opened to the experience with curiosity rather than resistance.
Instead of telling himself, "I can't stand this!" and "I have to make it stop," he said, "Let me see what this is like. What's happening in my body? How does the anxiety shift over time?" Jon discovered not only that he suffered much less but also that the attacks came less often.
Mindfulness changes our relationship with our experience, not necessarily the experience itself.
...As you invite mindful presence, you don't have to force anything or try to make it feel "spiritual." Keep it very ordinary and uncomplicated, and just notice what's happening. See what you're seeing. Hear what you're hearing. Take in colors and textures around you.
You can turn inward, too, seeing what emotions are present and watching what your mind is up to. This can all happen in real time as you go about your activities. You can try it with cooking, cleaning walking, bathing -- anything at all, including reading this book.
As you pay attention, open to anything that comes your way. Receive it. Proactively say yes to it all. Release the constant drive to improve your situation. Settle into it instead: "This is what's happening. This is my reality."
That doesn't mean you don't fix something that's wrong or tell someone no. Just stay open to all of the experience as it's happening, even the uncomfortable parts.
Posted at 09:47 PM in Mindfulness, Spiritual practice/meditation | Permalink | Comments (3)
For most of my life I marveled at the classic question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?"
But with advancing age, and maybe some advancing wisdom, I came to prefer "There is something rather than nothing."
No why required. Just a factual statement.
Because that why takes us into the realm of religion, and I'm no longer religious. Most religions, with the notable exception of Buddhism, assume there was a creator of the cosmos.
So God is the answer to the why question. There's something rather than nothing due to God bringing the creation into being.
Of course, we then have to ask, "Why is there God?" For religions have to believe that something has always existed: God.
While atheists like me prefer to believe that it is the cosmos that has always existed.
Sure, that's a mind-boggling notion. But only because the human mind is prone to boggle at the idea that existence has no beginning and no end.
It just is. No creator of creation required.
The way I see it, our difficulty in wrapping our minds around that proposition is a big reason, maybe even the primary reason, why religions came into being and have such an attraction to most people.
For everything else we're familiar with has a cause that brought it into being. Even our universe, which is why I prefer to use the term "cosmos" when referring to everything in existence.
Science is confident that the big bang was how the universe came to be.
However, big bang theories don't start with absolutely nothing. They start with something: the laws of nature, and matter/energy that the laws of nature operate on.
So it seems clear that something always has existed. Those four words, something always has existed, never fail to produce a tingling sense of awe in me.
I guess that feeling is somewhat akin to how religious people look upon God. However, there's a big difference between religious awe and secular awe.
I'm blown away by my inability to fathom how existence could have always existed. I don't have an answer for this. The question seems to be forever beyond human comprehension.
By contrast, religious believers push this mystery away by assuming that God has always existed, and God created the cosmos.
They choose not to grapple with the notion that the cosmos just is. Always has been. Always will be. It just is.
I sympathize with that choice, though I think it leads to the false conclusion of God.
For there's no doubt that the human mind is limited. We see beginnings everywhere in our world and the universe at large. Most people assume, then, that the cosmos must have had a beginning.
Our inability to rest easily in the blunt fact of the cosmos' "is'ness" seems to relate to a fundamental limitation of the human mind.
We're habituated to causes and effects. So the idea of existence having no cause elicits a short-circuit in the human mind, which I believe results in awe.
There is something rather than nothing. Wow! How freaking awesome!
But another sort of mind -- like an artificial intelligence or alien intelligence -- could look upon the simple "Is" of the cosmos as being completely natural.
That other sort of mind wouldn't have any inclination to fashion a creator God, since that other sort of mind would see reality much differently than we do. Obviously I don't know what that vision would be like, since I have a limited human mind.
And maybe I've gone too far in even speculating about what that other sort of mind might be like.
All I'm saying is that I see a distinct possibility that religion has developed as a crutch to explain what our human minds struggle to comprehend about the cosmos.
Being largely eludes us. We're much more comfortable with becoming, with creation. Yet what if the cosmos simply is?
Nothing to figure out. No God stories required. Just an is with no beginning and no end.
Posted at 09:59 PM in God, Reality | Permalink | Comments (5)
Here's a new Open Thread.
Remember, off-topic comments should go in an Open Thread.
If you don't see a recent comment, or comments, posted, it might be because you've failed to follow the above rule. Keep to the subject of a blog post if you leave a comment on it. And if you want to use this blog as a "chat room," do that in an open thread.
As noted before, it's good to have comments in a regular blog post related to its subject, and it's also good to have a place where almost anything goes in regard to sharing ideas, feelings, experiences, and such. That place is an Open Thread.
Leave a comment on this post about anything you want to talk about. Personal attacks on someone are an exception, as is hate speech. Argue with ideas, not insults.
Though I haven't been doing too well on this, I'll try to remember to always have an Open Thread showing in the Recent Posts section in the right sidebar. If one isn't showing, I've added an Open Threads category in, naturally, the Categories section. You can always find an Open Thread that way.
So if you're a believer in some form of religion, mysticism, or spirituality, this is where you can put your "praise God," "praise Guru," or "praise _______" comments.
Posted at 08:30 PM in Open Threads | Permalink | Comments (1)
Today I watched a recorded episode of Bill Maher's Real Time HBO show. Scott Galloway, one of Maher's guests, was really down on TikTok, the video sharing service owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance.
Galloway thought TikTok should be banned in the United States because he believes the Chinese Communist Party is using it to undermine the patriotism of American young people.
But he couldn't provide any evidence that this is happening.
Galloway just believed that the Chinese government was messing with the minds of our youth. At one point he said that it wasn't up to those opposed to TikTok to prove that the Chinese Communist Party was doing nasty stuff, it was up to those who support TikTok to prove that the Chinese Communist Party wasn't up to no good.
Which made no sense to me.
That's the sort of argument I've heard a lot of from commenters on this blog who believe in God and don't like my skepticism about the existence of God. Prove that God doesn't exist, Brian, they'll say.
I'll usually respond with something like, That isn't how proof usually works. For it's very difficult, if not impossible, to prove that an entity doesn't exist.
Yes, I realize after some Googling just now that some people do consider that it is possible to prove a negative. But reading some of those arguments made my head hurt, because they involved philosophical logic rather than common sense -- which is how I see the situation.
It seems to me that rather than arguing this question abstractly, it is easier to grasp by looking at a specific example.
With TikTok, how could anyone be certain that the Chinese Communist Party isn't using the video sharing service to make young people have less faith in the United States?
Even if a diligent search of TikTok videos and the algorithm used to share those videos with TikTok users (i'm one of them) showed no evidence of dirty tricks by the Chinese Communist Party, it still would be possible, albeit unlikely, that the CCP was using a very subtle undetectable means of screwing with the minds of American young people.
That's why I believe that TikTok shouldn't be banned in this country unless there's actual evidence of malfeasance by the Chinese Communist Party. The First Amendment to our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, which includes the freedom to view online content even if it is critical of the United States.
Meaning, while private companies can put limits on what people can read and see, the United States government can't ban a service like TikTok just because some politicians think it might be used to undermine confidence in our way of life.
So someone who wants to ban TikTok needs to have solid evidence that this is justified, not just a belief that TikTok might become an arm of the Chinese Communist Party.
Likewise, someone who claims that God exists needs to provide solid evidence of this if they want skeptics like me to agree with them. There's no way to prove that God doesn't exist, since even if we assume that a search for God will come up empty -- as has been the case since the dawn of history -- the possibility that God is lurking behind some cosmic veil can't be ruled out.
In another blog post on this subject, I quoted Armin Navabi:
"There's no evidence that God doesn't exist."
When confronted with criticism, some theists will pull out this argument in an attempt to shift the burden of proof toward the critic. Although this tactic can feel very clever, it opens a door to absurdity.
This argument seems to suggest that we believe in everything, even things we have yet to think about, until that belief is proven false. That's simply not a logical way to perceive reality.
If the criteria for something being accepted as true was based purely on there being no evidence against it, an endless number of hypothetical objects could suddenly become "real." This has been the source of numerous playful thought experiments by skeptics around the world.
-- The flying spaghetti monster, who created the earth with his noodly appendage.
-- The invisible pink unicorn, whose "believers" logically know that she must be invisible because she has not been seen, yet have faith that she's pink.
-- The dragon in Carl Sagan's garage, a thought experiment he describes in The Demon-Haunted World. The dragon is invisible, floats in the air, generates no heat and is incorporeal, thus evading all forms of sensory detection.
-- Russell's Teapot, a hypothetical teapot that you cannot prove isn't orbiting the sun.
Of course, all of these examples were designed in good fun. Bertrand Russell does not actually believe that there is a teapot orbiting the sun. However, there is no way to definitively prove that these fanciful claims aren't true, which demonstrates the total absurdity of this line of thinking.
Posted at 10:07 PM in Atheism, God | Permalink | Comments (1)
I've come to feel that the strangest thing about religion and mysticism is how these dogmas introduce a big dose of strangeness into life that makes living way more complicated than it needs to be.
Here's another way of saying this: everybody's life is full of problems and challenges. But life itself isn't a problem or challenge. It's just life.
So when a religion or mystical path tells you that you need to be saved, or enlightened, or self-realized, or god-realized, or cleansed of sin, or any other bit of bullshit that holier-than-thou preachers, gurus, and such like to blab on about, don't believe them.
You're absolutely fine just the way you are.
Again, I'm not claiming that you should give up all effort and let things happen however they might. Keep on trying to improve the life of yourself, your loved ones, and other people.
Just discard the notion of some cosmic flaw at the core of your being that needs fixing.
You don't need to know God because almost certainly God doesn't exist. You don't need to attain a state of divine virtue, since that's a religious myth. You don't need to soul-travel your way to a supernatural realm, as there's no demonstrable evidence that you have a soul or that anything beyond the physical is real.
Simply be the human being that you already are.
Imperfect. Flawed. Yet doing the best you can. And that's plenty good enough. No need to beat yourself up about not attaining some religious or mystical fantasy about a heavenly world other than the one you, and me, and everyone else already inhabits.
I'd been thinking along these lines before I read this comment from Ron E., but Ron's thoughts stimulated me to ponder more deeply the theme of giving up imaginary life problems.
I’ve just come across this quote from U. G. Krishnamurti; Although he often comes across as somewhat exasperating in what he says, the quotes below describes a certain life truism:
“This question haunted me all my life and suddenly it hit me: 'There is no self to realize. What the hell have I been doing all this time?' You see, that hits you like lightning. Once that hits you, the whole mechanism of the body that is controlled by this thought is shattered. What is left is the tremendous living organism with an intelligence of its own. What you are left with is the pulse, the beat and the throb of life.” - U. G. Krishnamurti.
It’s perhaps possible, that when certain thoughts, concepts and words are realised as being unnecessary in life, and cease to carry the ponderous weights of anticipated hopes and fears, then a certain lightness and freedom ensues – taking one back to the simplicity of being what one is and seeing life in general being as it is.
Posted at 09:53 PM in Delusions | Permalink | Comments (3)
Reality can't be captured in concepts.
After all, it's extremely unlikely that the human brain has evolved to be able to completely capture the nature of the reality that fashioned both the human brain and everything else in existence.
But this doesn't take away the utility of concepts for making sense of the world.
"Tree" is a useful way of describing the general nature of vegetative entities that vary tremendously in size, appearance, and such, yet share common characteristics.
However, trees are part of the natural world. They are obviously real.
Concepts that refer to entities which can't be observed by the human senses, or leave no trace via the effects they cause in the world (the quantum realm is an example of something unseen, yet decidedly real because of observable quantum effects) have less value.
Of course, I just made a value judgement about the value of concepts like "unicorn," "fairy," "devil," "god," "soul," "heaven," and other notions whose only discernible reality lies in the human mind.
Or better put, human imagination.
For many years I enjoyed a fantasy that I shared with billions of other religious believers: that the concepts of the faith I embraced at the time referred to things that were real, even though there was no evidence of them.
Karma. Astral plane. Divine light. Soul travel. Grace. God. Radiant form.
These and so many other concepts were repeated so often in books, talks, and other communications of the religion that I followed (Radha Soami Satsang Beas, or RSSB), members of RSSB come to view the concepts as something as real as gravity or earthquakes.
What helped me deconvert from this religious and mystical fantasy was a realization that I was tired of living so much in the world of abstract concepts. I longed for substance, of being grounded in here-and-now reality rather than floating in there-and-then spiritual stories.
A thoughtful comment by Ron E. on a recent blog post stimulated these reflections about concepts.
He made some good points in the comment about how religious and mystically inclined people chase after concepts that point to nothing substantial. They're merely ideas that stimulate other ideas in the minds of people who enjoy a good religious or mystical story, even if the story is almost certainly fiction.
Here's what Ron had to say.
Gillihan makes the point that “...We are constantly thinking: even if we decide to stop thinking, our minds will keep doing it anyway. It's what they are good at. If they aren't telling us stories in words, they're crafting made-up scenes or pulling up images from our memory banks. Our minds are actually so caught up in thinking that we don't realize we're thinking.”
Maybe then, we can point to thinking as being the main cause of much of our perceived problems. Leaving to one side at the moment that thinking and the abilities we have for planning and generally improving our lives are beneficial, some aspects of thinking definitely have their down sides.
I’m thinking!! how we accept certain words as truths, as being able to explain something that is purely inference. I’m thinking of terms such as spirit, mind, soul, self, ego, spiritual etc. All these terms are concepts, ideas that do not exist in the natural world unlike body, brain, sight, sound, pain, joy and so on – yes, the physical world.
It seems that we invent many words and spend the rest of our lives trying to think (or meditate) our way into experiencing the states that we believe they describe.
When it comes to mental phenomena it is of course convenient to label the cognitive processes, but perhaps we need to remember that they are just terms describing what the body and brain does naturally.
Otherwise, we can easily become slaves in believing that there is something ‘spiritual’ or ‘other worldly’ about them – and off we go chasing the myths we believe they describe.
Posted at 09:41 PM in Mystics, Reality, Religions | Permalink | Comments (5)
Looking back, one of the strangest things about the India-based religious group I belonged to for 35 years, Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), is how the RSSB teachings taught that the mind wasn't to be trusted, supposedly being an agent of Kal, the negative power that rules the lower regions of creation.
Yet like all other religions, RSSB was thoroughly in the grip of mental concepts that had no foundation in any sort of discernible reality.
Of course, I didn't realize that at the time, since I was in the grip of a mental concept called "blind faith" that led me to believe that what the RSSB gurus said was true, really was. So even though there was no demonstrable evidence of soul, God, Kal, divine light/sound, heaven, or any of the other entities RSSB claimed to exist, I trusted that with time all would be revealed.
That didn't happen. Not for me. And not for anybody else in RSSB that I knew. Which was a lot of people given how long I was a member of the organization.
So this taught me to be wary of any theology or philosophy that claims knowledge of a supernatural realm, because invariably the proof of that claim is mere words and concepts, not anything substantial. If I want empty promises, it's easier to listen to politicians rather than embrace a religion.
Yesterday I attended a 3-hour seminar that focused on the martial art aspect of Tai Chi. I wrote about it on my HinesSight blog: Why I enjoy Tai Chi as a martial art.
Having spent about 12 years practicing the hard martial art style of karate, and now about 19 years practicing the soft martial art style of Tai Chi, with a bunch of years playing competitive tennis before that, like so many other people I enjoy the physicality of sports and physical activity.
One reason is that physical activity can't be faked. You either can do something physical, or you can't. While naturally there's talking involved in learning a physical activity, a sermon can't be a substitute for it, whereas with religions words and concepts are their foundation.
Recently I wrote about Seth Gillihan's talks about Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on Sam Harris' Waking Up app. I liked what he had to say so much, I ordered his most recent book from Amazon.
Here's some excerpts from the book that's called, unsurprisingly, Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Simple Path to Healing, Hope, and Peace. Though Gillihan says he embraces Christianity along with secular Buddhism, his religious approach is pleasingly rooted in reality.
When I first heard the call of my inner self, I thought it was beckoning me to become "more spiritual," as if my ideal self were a disembodied spirit, floating through life unfettered by thoughts and untouched by feelings.
But idolizing our spiritual selves would mean abandoning our minds and bodies and becoming less of who we are. In truth, our spirits are not narrowly focused on "spiritual" things, to the exclusion of our physical and mental realities.
...Our spirit permeates all of our experience and is intimately connected to the rest of us.
...Knowing what is true about ourselves does not need to be deep and mysterious. My wife reminded me of a truth about myself when she encouraged me to go swimming at Cape May. She knew I am happiest when I am swimming; that is one of my truths.
We know mental truth when we practice right ways of thinking that bring us happiness and peace. We can find that truth in our relationship with our thoughts as we see through the endless fictions our minds create that can make us miserable, such as that we don't deserve to be happy and that we aren't lovable.
The cognitive part of CBT helps us to replace these false beliefs with ones that are faithful to reality. We find joy as our mind dwells in the truth.
We experience physical truth when we give our bodies what they need and consistently do the things that bring us alive. We can enact truth through eating nourishing foods, getting adequate rest, moving our bodies every day, spending time with our favorite people, being of service, and doing work that we enjoy.
...We find spiritual truth through being wholly present in our lives because our spirits are always in the here and now of our experience. My swim in the bay was an encounter with spiritual truth as I reconnected with myself and what I love.
As my example shows, mindful presence is not an esoteric experience that's available only to a select few; being in our lives is a habit that all of us can cultivate in each moment.
Our mind, body, and spirit form an integrated whole, intersecting with and affecting one another. For example, our bodies affect our minds, as when we're well rested and it's easier to recognize our negative thinking.
Our bodies affect our spirits, too, as when we step out of compulsive activity and thereby enter into connection with our spirit.
And our spirits affect our minds, as when we focus our awareness on the present and discover that in doing so, it's easier to recognize when our thoughts are telling us lies.
...We are constantly thinking: even if we decide to stop thinking, our minds will keep doing it anyway. It's what they are good at. If they aren't telling us stories in words, they're crafting made-up scenes or pulling up images from our memory banks.
Our minds are actually so caught up in thinking that we don't realize we're thinking.
We assume that the nonstop stream in our heads is something real and meaningful, and we mistake thoughts for actual observations of something true. In subtle ways we probably don't notice, mental events in our brains are fashioning our lives.
...We often don't realize when our mind has shifted from reading us front-page news to reading the op-eds. If we don't recognize our thoughts for what they are and treat them accordingly, we'll live in a false reality of our mind's creation.
That's a great description of what religions offer: a false reality of our mind's creation.
Posted at 09:35 PM in Radha Soami Satsang Beas, Spiritual practice/meditation | Permalink | Comments (3)
If there's one thing that religious zealots aren't, it's humble.
Well, actually there's many other things that they aren't also. Like, in touch with reality; thoughtful; reasonable; open-minded; respectful of truth.
But a lack of humility stood out in a quote I came across in an article in the February 27 issue of The New Yorker, Minister of Chaos: Itamar Ben-Gvir and the politics of reaction.
It's about one of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's cabinet members. Ben-Gvir is a right-wing extremist who was named the national security minister.
The quote came from Dov Morell.
Morell used to embrace the views of Ben-Gvir and those like him who don't believe that Muslims should have any place in what they'd like to be a completely Jewish Israel, and are fine with killing Palestinians who protest draconian Israeli policies in the West Bank.
Morell now says he is "firmly in the left," having seen the error of his previous ways. The article says:
As part of his religious activism, Morell came to know Ayala Ben-Gvir. He described her and Ben-Gvir as "amazing people who want to do terrible things."
Those on the far right did not consider themselves extremists, Morell said: "When you believe that the world came with manufacturer's instructions, then you have to follow those instructions."
Not only do Ben-Gvir and his wife, Ayala, believe that their Jewish God created the world, they also believe that cherry-picked passages in the Old Testament and other Jewish scriptures reflect the instructions of God as regards Israel and the so-called Holy Land.
Which isn't holy enough to encompass love and respect for the Palestinians whose territory Israel has occupied since the 1967 war enabled Israel to take the West Bank, and thereafter commence the building of Jewish settlements on land that was supposed to be part of a two-state solution.
Currently Israel is being torn apart by the division between Israelis who want their country to respect the rights of Palestinians and be a nation of largely secular laws, and Israelis who embrace right-wing religious authoritarianism aimed at making non-Jews second-class citizens in their country.
Usually politics is marked by compromise and negotiating.
But as Morell noted, Ben-Gvir and his allies view themselves as being God's agents -- which doesn't leave room for flexibility in interpreting the "manufacturer's instructions." Such is the danger of religious extremism.
It makes people with passionate political views unwilling to compromise. Political extremism is bad enough. When combined with religious extremism, we get a holier-than-thou sanctimoniousness that sees no limits to what should be done to bring about God's will on Earth.
Of course, no one has any demonstrable proof that God even exists, much less what God's will is. However, that doesn't stop religious zealots from believing that they're acting in accord with a divine decree.
Posted at 09:51 PM in Fundamentalism, Religions | Permalink | Comments (2)
I got a Master's Degree in Social Work way back in 1973 that exposed me to the fundamentals of counseling before I headed off in the direction of health services research and planning.
Then I married my second wife, Laurel, in 1990. She also had a MSW, but unlike me, pursued a career in social work, ending up after our marriage by starting a private psychotherapy practice.
Laurel would talk about how cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was used in her practice, since it is fairly short-term and insurance companies don't like paying for lengthy psychotherapy aimed at delving into the root causes of someone's problems.
They want results. Which is what everybody wants, really.
So when I saw that a series on "Mindful CBT" by Seth Gillihan had been added to Sam Harris' Waking Up app, I decided to listen to what Gillihan had to say. I've finished Part 1 of Mindful CBT, which includes eight short (8-10 minutes) talks by Gillihan.
Here's some of what Gillihan had to say. I took notes, most of which I can actually read -- my handwriting is terrible, even to me -- but these aren't verbatim quotes.
In Fundamentals of CBT, I learned that traditionally thoughts, feelings, and actions comprise CBT. These interact with each other. You can change any one and affect the others. Integrating mindfulness introduces depth to thoughts, feelings, and actions.
The quality of changes is based on the quality of attention. How do we relate to our thoughts, feelings, and actions? Instead of pushing away anxious thoughts, give them less weight. We shift from "should" to mindful acceptance.
In Finding Leverage, Gillihan said that we have to match our intention with the right tools. Advice alone isn't very helpful. Willpower alone is a recipe for failure. For example, if someone is afraid of spiders, they need to start small and work up from there -- not by letting a giant tarantula crawl on your arm right off the bat. A ladder is a series of small steps. The question isn't why did I fail, but what can I do to succeed?
In Working With Thoughts, I heard that thoughts can cause anxiety and affect actions. But thoughts often are misguided in some way. We ask, what story is my mind telling me? Not objective facts, often, but a subjective story.
Examine the evidence underlying thoughts, like a scientist. What evidence is for and against the thought? What's true in the situation? Is there a more realistic way of thinking that fits the data better?
These are some some common cognitive disturbances: (1) Fortune telling -- making predictions about a future that hasn't happened yet; (2) Catastrophizing -- seeing things in the worst possible light; (3) Mind reading of another person -- believing we know what someone else is thinking.
In Addressing Core Beliefs, Gillihan says that you become more aware of negative thoughts. Our core beliefs drive thoughts. These are regular patterns, a lens that guides how we see the world. Example: seeing disapproval everywhere, even though you're doing a good job.
Thoughts can feed back into a core belief and strengthen it. This is circular, yet completely convincing. Instead, focus on what is actually happening right now. Minds invent stories that often aren't true. Be in a situation as it is. Brush off unhelpful thoughts.
Not "oh no" but "oh well." Just a mental event. One core belief might be that wellbeing depends on things working out for us. Don't assume how life has to go. Life doesn't have to meet our expectations.
In Thoughts Support Mindful Presence, I learned that mindfulness supports thinking and thinking supports mindfulness. Thinking is just what the mind does. We don't have to take thoughts too seriously. Thoughts can play a positive role in our lives. Meditation is being present with what is, noticing what's already there.
In Working With Behavior, I heard about Pavlov's dogs. Animals learn certain things go together. Ringing of a bell is followed by food. Dogs salivated just with the bell. This is classical conditioning. A baby begins to cry when at the doctor's office because previous visits were disturbing.
We also learn by consequences of actions. This is operant conditioning. We learn patterns in the world and outcomes of our behavior. Classical and operant go together. A cat goes to the kitchen after hearing the can opener.
Make it easier to do what you intend to do. Make exercising rewarding, right-sized, starting easy. Put things in place to guide actions when motivation leaves you.
In Mindful Action, Gillihan says that mindfulness determines the quality of actions. With more awareness, you experience a walk more fully. But beware of this taking on a moral quality: you're bad if you're not mindful.
Sometimes it's helpful to be on autopilot, like while driving, when you can carry on a conversation or listen to the radio. But there are costs when we're in divided attention much of the time. We'll have richer memories if we're more present.
Act in ways that align with reality. Mindful action doesn't try to force an outcome. Stop struggling against what is. Notice when your actions are at odds with reality.
In Working With Distress, I learned there are three ways to feel better in Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Shift thinking. Act differently. Practice mindfulness. However, sometimes these tools don't work, so we need to make peace with discomfort.
Respond with openness and curiosity to discomfort. Maybe it will feel interesting, not bad. Mindful acceptance helps us endure uncomfortable situations. Stop fighting against reality. Change your life to match your limitations.
Focus on what's happening right now. Don't subject yourself to future pain that you're anticipating, but hasn't happened yet, and may never happen. Be present with uncomfortable feelings. Stand up for issues you care about even if it upsets some people.
Wellbeing doesn't depend on eliminating stress. Can I open to this?
Posted at 09:56 PM in Awareness, Mindfulness | Permalink | Comments (5)
Brian Hines: Break Free of Dogma: Churchless sermons preaching the gospel of spiritual independence
Brian Hines: God's Whisper, Creation's Thunder: Echoes of Spiritual Reality In the New Physics
Brian Hines: Return to the One: Plotinus's Guide to God-Realization.