Thursday, 29 August 2013

#388 Common Wrong Assumptions about Happiness

      My character, personality, happiness & quality of life are determined by hereditary + environmental factors.
     All I can do is try to optimize or otherwise control environmental (external) factors eg work hard to earn money & gain respect, buy a nice house, buy a nice car, take nice vacations, have enough money saved for retirement, etc.
     If work pays well and is interesting, if my spouse, children and I are healthy, if we have a long, interesting, rewarding, enjoyable life, then life's as good as it gets.

     REALITY CHECK. The above seems to be the current idea of "the good life", inflicted on us by the multi-billion dollar advertising industry. Ads insist that we are dissatisfied now - our only hope lies in the future AFTER purchasing their product or service.
     We do require some external stuff: goods & services. It's nice to have some nice things. But NOBODY has all of them. And every item quickly loses it's luster. See:

     Psychosocial maturation (evolution of consciousness) - NOT owning stuff - is the key to profound quality of life. Unless we learn this, we're in for a huge disappointment, regardless of how much or how little stuff we've accumulated. Egocentricity breeds suffering, while allocentricity breeds joy, independent of possessions.
     "Happiness is an inside job." Through mindfulness practices we CAN intentionally & progressively continue to mature psychosocially, throughout our lives - discover for yourself how good it gets!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

#387 Meditation Facilitating Normal Developmental Shift to Healthier Emotion Regulation

     "The challenge is to find ways of regulating our emotions so that we retain their helpful features while limiting their destructive aspects.
     ... two commonly used emotion regulation strategies:
     Cognitive REAPPRAISAL - changing the way one thinks about a potentially emotion-eliciting situation in order to modify its emotional impact; 
     Expressive SUPPRESSION - changing the way one responds behaviorally to an emotion-eliciting event. 

     ... experimental findings show that 
1) reappraisal has a healthier profile of ... consequences (patterns of affect, social functioning, & well-being) than suppression
2) (there's) a normative shift toward an increasingly healthy emotion regulation profile during adulthood (increases in the use of reappraisal & decreases in the use of suppression)."
       John OP, Gross JJ. Healthy and unhealthy emotion regulation: personality processes, individual differences, and life span development. J Pers 2004; 72(6): 1301-33.

     Meditation is based on seeing clearly (awareness). The acceptance aspect of meditation involves letting go of prevalent avoidant tendencies such as suppression by 
accepting reality as it is, rather than demanding that it conform to our preferences.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

#386 Mindfulness feels like Freedom

     "When true mindfulness arises, one feels as if one is stepping back and observing what is happening in experience, rather than being embedded in it. This does not mean separation or detachment, but is rather a sense of not being hooked by a desirable object or not pushing away a repugnant object. There in the middle, equidistant from each extreme, one encounters a sense of freedom that allows for greater intimacy with experience. It may seem paradoxical, but ... we can take an attitude toward the objects of experience that is at the same time both equanimous and benevolent."                    Andrew Olendzki PhD

Friday, 23 August 2013

#385 Understanding Willpower & Competing Goals

     Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal PhD, author of "The WillPower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It", defines a willpower challenge as "basically a competition between two parts of yourself. Even though we have one brain, we actually have two minds. And we are completely different people, depending on which systems of the brain are more active. So a willpower challenge is anything where those two versions of yourself have competing goals
     For example, a part of you may really want to eat a candybar for a snack, and there’s a part of you that has longer-term goals - thinking of health, weight-loss, bikini season, etc and the banana seems like the better snack. Both of these choices you may be drawn to by different parts of your mind – two different versions of yourself. You could be the very same person, but depending on your mindset, energy, stress levels – your brain is going to meet this willpower challenge in a different way, and you’re going to end up making one choice today and another choice tomorrow. 
     There’s a really interesting fundamental gap between what people know they should do and what they want to do. People are very identified with one version of their self – feel deep down that they’re the person who wants the candybar, and this other person who wants the banana – who is that? That’s not really me. 
     So I realized that people don’t just need to KNOW what’s the right or healthy thing to do, or tips for stress-management or productivity, they need to FEEL like this person and they need to BE this person as the default, rather than always walking around feeling like they had to resist this core self who only wants immediate gratification or never wants to do anything difficult.”

     THIS transformative shift - from surface concepts - to understanding in the marrow of one's bones - occurs by way of mindfulness meditation practice. See:

Thursday, 22 August 2013

#384 Health Promotion & Mindfulness

       From my understanding, mindfulness is as central to overall health as an optimal operating system is central to the optimal functioning of a computer. The statements below re health promotion are therefore relevant to mindfulness practice: we are our own life coach and we must believe in ourselves.

      "Health habits are not changed by an act of will. It requires motivational and self-regulatory skills. Self-management operates through a set of psychological subfunctions. People have to learn to monitor their health behavior and the circumstances under which it occurs, and how to use proximal goals to motivate themselves and guide their behavior. They also need to learn how to create incentives for themselves, and to enlist social supports to sustain their efforts. 
      People are producers of their life circumstances not just products of them. By developing self-regulatory functions people can motivate and guide their efforts in personal and social change."

       Bandura A. Swimming against the mainstream: the early years from chilly tributary to transformative mainstream. Behav Res Ther 2004; 42(6): 613-30.

     See also Efficacy Beliefs Regulate Human Functioning:

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

#383 Locus of Control & Self Development

     To a far greater degree than we realize, we ourselves govern the trajectory of our character development. We personally evolve our own consciousness - and inextricably with this - the quality of our life.

     "Human development has been seen for a long time as a passive process shaped by environmental forces acting on an individual's genetic predisposition. Though this approach in developmental psychology explained human nature to a large extent, it failed to address a number of questions regarding an individual's own contribution to his/her development. ... The limited empirical research on intentional self development available so far suggests that a fairly significant proportion of adults, especially youth, see themselves as active agents in their own development, set personal growth-goals, experience a sense of cognitive engagement in such goals and work towards realizing such goals."               Bhattacharya A, Gupta C, Mehrotra S. Intentional self development: A relatively ignored construct. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology 2013; 39(1): 18-25.

     "Locus of control ... refers to causation as perceived by individuals in response to personal outcomes or other events. ... A person's 'locus' is conceptualized as either internal (the person believes they can control their life) or external (meaning they believe that their decisions and life are controlled by environmental factors which they cannot influence)."

      “There exist within us … latent but unexplored creative capacities, depths of psyche, states of consciousness, and stages of development undreamed of by most people.”
       Walsh R, Vaughan F eds. Paths beyond ego. The transpersonal vision. Penguin Putnam Inc, NY, 1993.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

#382 Choosing to be Free - Moment-by-Moment

     "The crucial factor influencing how well we can respond in any given situation seems to be the level of mindfulness we can bring to bear upon the moment.
     If we don't care to be present, unconscious decision-making systems will function by default to get us through to the next moment, albeit in the grips of (often flawed and suffering-causing) learned behaviors and conditioned responses.
     If, on the other hand, we can increase the amount of conscious awareness present by manifesting mindfulness, we expand the range of our possible responses. Even if predisposed to anger, we can choose to act with kindness. This is the essence of our freedom in an otherwise heavily conditioned system."                            Andrew Olendzki PhD

Kensington Market, Toronto

Saturday, 17 August 2013

#381 Each Moment - a New Beginning

     "The goal of becoming a better person is within the reach of us all, at every moment. The tool for emerging from the primitive yoke of conditioned responses to the tangible freedom of the conscious life lies just behind our brow. We need only invoke the power of mindful awareness in any action of body, speech, or mind to elevate that action from the unconscious reflex of a trained creature to the awakened choice of a human being who is guided to a higher life by wisdom."             Andrew Olendzki PhD

     An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. 

     "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
     The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" 

     The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

From Kelly McGonigal's YouTube video - see:

Friday, 16 August 2013

#380 Everything Hinges on the Quality of Our Individual Inner Lives

     "Life itself is a balancing act. We are each of us perched upon a precarious pole, trying to stay centered in a swaying, breezy world. It is difficult enough staying safe ourselves, let alone trying to keep track of all the things stacked upon our shoulders. Mindfulness is a tool for looking inward, adjusting our balance, and staying focused on that still center point upon which everything else is poised. The quality of the present moment of awareness - that bamboo pole upon which we all are perched - can be calm, stable, and focused. And when it is, our well-being and that of all those who depend upon us is well protected. When it is not, no amount of pointing to the doings of others can compensate or restore our balance."            Andrew Olendzki PhD

Hart House, University of Toronto

Thursday, 15 August 2013

#379 Liberating Ourself from Compulsivity

     "Mindfulness practice offers the restraint necessary to overcome the tug of desire upon the senses. As we notice the mind wandering off to explore a gratifying train of thought, or as we notice the body's urging to nudge ourselves into a more comfortable position, we gently abandon the impulse and return attention to the primary object of awareness. We do this again and again, until the mind becomes content being fully present with what is manifesting here and now in the field of experience, rather than rushing off for some other form of stimulation. As the mind settles down it becomes considerably more powerful and thus more empowered."            Andrew Olendzki PhD

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

#378 I am the Sculptor AND Scupture

     "we become what we think. Every thought, emotion, intention, attitude, or aspiration is shaping how ensuing experience will unfold. This means that every single moment of consciousness is a moment of practice, whether we like it or not. We are practicing to become ourselves. The question is really just how much we want to participate in the process."            Andrew Olendzki PhD

Hart House, University of Toronto