Wednesday, 19 December 2018

#758 Towards Stillness ...

     Mindfulness practice gradually leads us from feeling uncomfortable in our own skin, distractions & mindless compulsive activity, towards stillness, peace & seeing things as they are, clearly, right here & now, and appropriate responses.

     “… meditation practice can show you how helpful the practice of restraint can be. You sit … and you don’t move. If you’re uncomfortable, you remain sitting still with the discomfort for an entire half hour. You do not move. You don’t get up after five minutes just because you have an odd thought; you stay with it and see what happens.

     When we hold still, we create a field of clarity for ourselves. We learn restraint. Yes, there are parts of the self that resist that clarity, and then the body jumps into movement to cloud the field: we scratch our nose, rearrange our limbs, and shift our attention. And we miss the moment of holding still, of clarity and readiness. Doing this practice for many years, I find that learning restraint in this way is especially valuable for people like me who jump around from one thing to the next. The restraint of holding still allows me to enter a state of presence and intimacy that I wouldn’t get otherwise. Without it, I might embarrass myself by getting up and walking out of the meditation room!
     But learning restraint is much more important. In terms of sex, anger, and greediness, restraint can be the key to compassion and skillful action. When we’re ready to do something really unskillful, suddenly a little shadow of awareness comes up in our minds, and we don’t abuse, we don’t yell, we don’t grasp; we just stay still. In that moment of restraint, we can discover our own strength, our own integrity.” Pat Enkyo O’Hara

Sunday, 9 December 2018

#757 Intimacy with Oneself

No umbrella, getting soaked.
I’ll just use the rain as my raincoat.               Daito Kokushi

      "Facing yourself intimately and without judgment is like finding yourself in a sudden downpour without an umbrella or a shelter. You try to escape the cold and wet by huddling into your clothes, head down, but there’s no way to move away from the rain, just like there’s no way to move away from your own issues, sorrow, or anger. If you can just let go of trying to escape and acknowledge, ‘This is me, and this is what I’m experiencing,’ the need to escape vanishes. You are free to be truly there for yourself and others. It’s like standing in the rain with nothing to lose: your self is the raincoat that will protect you and protect your loved ones through your honesty. If you can see that you are not the world, but that the world is actually you, then you can begin to experience an intimacy with all things. The key is to train yourself to see this in your moment-to-moment life, to consciously dissolve the made-up boundaries between self and other, to appreciate that we are all linked together in this magic circle of relationship.

     This might sound rather airy-fairy, but it is what gives us freedom, and freedom is what we really want. We want to be spontaneously alive, not stuck in our old habits of body and mind. So we flow with change; we nurture awareness; we listen with open heart-minds to ourselves and to each other. We recognize our own ‘selflessness’ and our own ‘self-fullness.’
     It is the fulcrum of our relationships – with family, friends, coworkers – that can lead us to this continuous path of awakening. The key is to train ourselves to recognize how we are in our moment-to-moment lives and to honestly connect with others without fear or shame. Because, strange as it may seem, we learn more from relationships than from any other source. And they are not always easy! Buddha’s teachings tell us that suffering arises from grasping for things to be different than they are, from not meeting the moment just as it is. We’re so preoccupied with the idea of what we want, that we miss what’s really alive in the present moment. We always want to be safe and happy and to avoid any suffering, so we try to control our own lives and the lives of those close to us. We don’t feel safe enough to just let things fall apart and reassemble. We try to ‘fix’ the other people when that’s not needed, and so we create more suffering.

      It may sound strange, but even when we are struggling, we can find appreciation in the struggle itself. If we are willing to experience others and ourselves as evolving beings, we may realize that even the most disturbing insight into our self may be exactly what we need. At that moment, we can appreciate our willingness and courage to take the step into reality.”

       Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara. “Most Intimate. A Zen Approach to Life’s Challenges.” Shambhala, 2014.

     "You need not worry about your worries. Just be. Do not try to be quiet; do not make 'being quiet' into a task to be performed. Don't be restless about 'being quiet', miserable about 'being happy'. Just be aware that you are and remain aware - don't say: 'yes, I am; what next?' There is not 'next' in 'I am'. It is a timeless state." Nisargadatta

Monday, 3 December 2018

#756 How and Who am I - Right Now? and Now? and Now?

     It's critical to keep tabs on ourself - often. Why? Because we drift & get lost - a LOT!

     "… studies on attentiveness show that people are only briefly & unpredictably attentive. Attention habitually diverts to unrelated thoughts & feelings, leaving any task at hand to be managed 'on autopilot.' These studies suggest that mindlessness ('mind wandering,' 'zoning out,' 'task-unrelated thought') is 'one of the most ubiquitous & pervasive of all cognitive phenomena' and that it often occurs unintentionally, without awareness, occupies a substantial proportion of our day, and leads to failures in task performance." Lovas JG, Lovas DA, Lovas PM. Mindfulness and Professionalism in Dentistry. J Dent Educ 2008; 72(9): 998-1009.
     And that doesn't even mention wallowing & catastrophizing - our addiction to the re-runs of the never-ending-story-of-me!

     So, CHECK IN - often & regularly

1. Where am I physically - right here & now?
This is to actually "land" from thought-world, to reality. 

2. How am I feeling - Stressed or Peaceful?
If stressed, is this beneficial (functional) in any way, or just conditioning? If your current situation is more appropriately handled peacefully (almost always), can I accept & gently release stress with self-compassion?

3. Can I shift into Authenticity?
Of course you can, no questionAs soon as you let go of being stress - not feeling or having stress, but stress-as-an-identity - you return to being authenticity. Authenticity - who you are & have always been - is still, silent, at peace, and spacious enough to hold any & all of life's challenges, including your young frightened part ("poor,  hurt, needy me"), with unshakable equanimity & grace.
     This young part is a very small, temporary part, that reflects the effects of traumas & conditioning. It's nowhere near your actual identity, which is inconceivably vast. Don't take your young part so personally, so seriously! Hold it lovingly BUT lightly. Your authenticity is vast, fluid & completely untouched by life's inevitable ups & downs: gain & loss, status & disgrace, censure & praise, pleasure & pain. 
     Your authenticity can be compared to a wise, loving, nurturing grandparent or wise elder. Your young part can be compared to a three-year-old grandchild. The two have vastly different depths, scopes & capacities.  
     Who you really are is spacious enough to easily hold your young, beat-up part in safety & unconditional love. BE authenticity.

     “Inner peace doesn't come from getting what we want, but from remembering who we are.” Marianne Williamson


Friday, 30 November 2018

#755 Peril and Possibility

     “I have come to see that mental states are also ecosystems. These sometimes friendly and at times hazardous terrains are natural environments embedded in the greater system of our character. I believe it is important to study our inner ecology so that we can recognize when we are on the edge, in danger of slipping from health into pathology. And when we do fall into the less habitable regions of our minds, we can learn from these dangerous territories. Edges are places where opposites meet. Where fear meets courage and suffering meets freedom. Where solid ground ends in a cliff face. Where we can gain a view that takes in so much more of our world. And where we need to maintain great awareness, lest we trip and fall. 
     Our journey through life is one of peril and possibility – and sometimes both at once. How can we stand on the threshold between suffering and freedom and remain informed by both worlds? With our penchant for dualities, humans tend to identify either with the terrible truth of suffering or with freedom from suffering. But I believe that excluding any part of the larger landscape or our lives reduces the territory of our understanding.
     I have come to see the profound value of taking in the whole landscape of life and not rejecting or denying what we are given. I have also learned that our waywardness, difficulties, and ‘crises’ might not be terminal obstacles. They can actually be gateways to wider, richer internal and external landscapes. If we willingly investigate our difficulties, we can fold them into a view of reality that is more courageous, inclusive, emergent, and wise – as have many others who have fallen over the edge. 
     Over the years, I slowly became aware of five internal and interpersonal qualities that are keys to a compassionate and courageous life, and without which we cannot serve, nor can we survive. Yet if these precious resources deteriorate, they can manifest as dangerous landscapes that cause harm. I call these bivalent qualities Edge States.
     The Edge States are altruism, empathy, integrity, respect, and engagement, assets of a mind and heart that exemplify caring, connection, virtue, and strength.”
       Joan Halifax. “Standing at the Edge. Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet.” Flatiron Books, 2018.

Stefan Draschan photograph

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

#754 Ethical Foundations of Mindfulness

     "Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book 'Good Citizens,' offers a down-to-earth method for practicing mindfulness in daily life. These are offered without dogma or religion. Everybody can use them. You are just yourself, but you're trying to make a beautiful life by following these guidelines.
     The Five Mindfulness Trainings are a concrete expression of the Buddha’s teachings leading to healing, transformation, & happiness for ourselves and for the world. Practicing the Five Mindfulness Trainings can remove all discrimination, intolerance, anger, fear, and despair. ... we are not lost in confusion about our life in the present or in fears about the future.

1. Reverence For Life
     Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.

2. True Happiness
     Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.

3. True Love
     Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.

4. Loving Speech and Deep Listening 
     Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.

5. Nourishment and Healing 
     Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.” 

Jetti, in vacation mode

Monday, 27 August 2018

#753 Recognizing & Embodying the Inner Wise Grandparent

     Each of us has a 'part'** closely resembling a frightened/sad/angry child
     Each of us also has a 'part'** that’s like a wise grandparent, who uses far more mature/civilized/evolved ways of thinking, speaking, behaving. 
     A child’s fear, sadness &/or anger is so much better resolved with a wise grandparent’s soothing acceptance, compassion & love, than with fearful, angry & or sad rejection.
     The 'inner child' represents our conditioned, reactive mind, which is too often what we depend on. Fortunately, the 'wise grandparent' level of mind becomes increasingly available to us when we intentionally practice accessing & embodying it with mindfulness meditation. As we gradually grow in wisdom, we become increasingly proficient at 'self-soothing' and equanimity, despite life's inevitable & unpredictable ups & downs. This is true resilience.
     **see: Schwartz R.C. “Internal Family Systems Therapy.” Guilford Press, 1995. OR for a concise summary of IFS, see p172-176 in David A. Treleaven. “Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness. Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing.” W.W. Norton & Co, 2018.

     If the above doesn't resonate, Kristin Neff's excellent exercise (below) may help you access your inner wise grandparent, even if you tend towards perfectionism & harsh self-judgment:

"Exploring Self-Compassion Through Letter Writing
Part One 
     Everybody has something about themselves that they don’t like; something that causes them to feel shame, to feel insecure or not ‘good enough.’ It is the human condition to be imperfect, and feelings of failure and inadequacy are part of the experience of living. Try thinking about an issue that tends to make you feel inadequate or bad about yourself (physical appearance, work or relationship issues, etc). How does this aspect of yourself make you feel inside – scared, sad, depressed, insecure, angry? What emotions come up for you when you think about this aspect of yourself? Please try to be as emotionally honest as possible and to avoid repressing any feelings, while at the same time not being melodramatic. Try to just feel your emotions exactly as they are – no more, no less.

Part Two 

     Now think about an imaginary friend who is unconditionally loving, accepting, kind, and compassionate. Imagine that this friend can see all your strengths and all your weaknesses, including the aspect of yourself you have just been thinking about. Reflect upon what this friend feels toward you, and how you are loved and accepted exactly as you are, with all your very human imperfections. This friend recognizes the limits of human nature and is kind and forgiving toward you. In his/her great wisdom this friend understands your life history and the millions of things that have happened in your life to create you as you are in this moment. Your particular inadequacy is connected to so many things you didn’t necessarily choose: your genes, your family history, life circumstances – things that were outside of your control. 
     Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of this imaginary friend – focusing on the perceived inadequacy you tend to judge yourself for. What would this friend say to you about your ‘flaw’ from the perspective of unlimited compassion? How would this friend convey the deep compassion he/she feels for you, especially for the discomfort you feel when you judge yourself so harshly? What would this friend write in order to remind you that you are only human, that all people have both strengths and weaknesses? And if you think this friend would suggest possible changes you should make, how would these suggestions embody feelings of unconditional understanding and compassion? As you write to yourself from the perspective of this imaginary friend, try to infuse your letter with a strong sense of the person’s acceptance, kindness, caring, and desire for your health and happiness. 
     After writing the letter, put it down for a little while. Then come back and read it again, really letting the words sink in. Feel the compassion as it pours into you, soothing and comforting you like a cool breeze on a hot day. Love, connection, and acceptance are your birthright. To claim them you need only look within yourself.” 
        Kristin Neff. “Self-Compassion. The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.” HarperCollins Publishers, 2011.

BOTH are Worthy of & Deserve Unconditional Acceptance, Compassion & Love

Monday, 23 April 2018

#752 Returning to Being

     I strongly suspect that the vast majority of us constantly feel “driven” to do something, to be someone else, to be somewhere else, etc. If we have 5 seconds of "down time" don't we immediately fill it up with distraction, no matter how meaningless: check social media, text someone, have a coffee ± snack, smoke a cigarette, pop a pill, etc? And those who are severely traumatized, marginalized, and perhaps suffering from other psychological handicaps may even act out with irrational violence. We're rarely at ease, rarely OK with who we are, where we are, just being (instead of furiously doing).

     As we age, our ability to maintain this pace of trying to escape just this, right here & now, progressively diminishes. And guess what? Our world, as they say, gets smaller & smaller. We’re forced to contemplate, spend quality time with who we are & just this, right here & now - something we've desperately tried to avoid since we were kids. No wonder meditation isn't for everyone - we do our utmost to avoid being peacefully aware of reality. Of course, putting it that way, suggests that many of us could benefit from psychotherapy, and at the very least mindfulness training. Wisdom is a rare & precious commodity.
     More about this:

     Can you imagine being perfectly comfortable, equanimous, and deeply at peace with having: nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one else to be? This is stripping ourselves of all our conditioning, all that's extra, all that's not really who we are. Aging, as well as suddenly finding out that one has a very short time to live ("post-traumatic growth") tend to speed up this evolution of consciousness or maturation process, where we drop all our habitual bullshit and focus on loving well & living meaningfully.

     “Happiness is not found in things you possess, but in what you have the courage to release.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

Christi Belcourt "Revolution of Love"

Thursday, 19 April 2018

#751 The Courage to Thrive

“... vulnerability is at the center of fear and shame, 
but it is also at the center of joy and gratitude and love and belonging.”     Brene Brown


"The secret of happiness is freedom.
And the secret of freedom is courage."

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.”    Anais Nin

“It takes courage to endure the sharp pains of self discovery, rather than 

choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.”    Marianne Williamson

“To wake up to our lives and to develop and sustain mindful awareness requires great courage. Mindfulness is not for the faint-hearted, nor for those timid or afraid of bearing witness to the often overwhelming brilliance, intensity, and complexity of their lives and world. To care deeply enough about waking up to our lives that we apply ourselves diligently to cultivating mindfulness, is a great act of courage, curiosity, and commitment. Properly practiced the intention to sustain mindful attention is supported by the attitudes of curiosity, openness, acceptance, and loving discernment."
    Joel Levey

Sunday, 4 March 2018

#750 Comfortable Numbness vs Authenticity

     "To break through our comfort, our ease, our behavioral patterns, our habits, the power of our environmental instructions that we all receive from childhood to the present. It takes something powerful to cut through that and get our attention. 
     I often think of Tolstoy's novella that was published in 1885, 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich.' Ivan Ilyich is a common name, sort of like John Johnson, and it's about a person who lived wholly according to the dictates of his time and place. He went to the right school, he espoused the right attitudes, he married the right person, he lived in the right neighborhood, he practiced the career ladder. Nothing ever interrupted the flow of his life as it was supposed to be, until one day he has a pain in his side. The pain doesn't go away, and it turns out to be a terminal illness. After going through the five stages that Kubler-Ross later identified in the 20th century of denial first, and then anger at the interruption, and then bargaining, and then despair, he reaches acceptance in the final hours of his life. After he passes away, everybody around him is indifferent because it was about John Johnson, not about me. 
     Of course, what Tolstoy was suggesting is, again, here's a person who got his appointment, and paradoxically, probably lived a more authentic life in those final days and hours than all the rest of those years put together. (see 'Post-Traumatic Growth' literature)
     So it is for all of us: there's so much of our life that's routinized, and patterned, and goal directed—again, often good goals. At the same time, the psyche has another point of view, and when it wishes to, it will break through. I think [the word] 'summons' is both reflecting the intensity of that encounter with one's own soul, and also that it brings with it an accountability. If you get a summons from a court or a lawyer, you have to pay attention, and if you don't pay attention, there are going to be consequences."

James Hollis: "A Summons to a Deeper Life." 65min interview (podcast) with Tami Simon.,+Joanna+Macy,+and+Karen+Brody

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

#749 From Noisy Ego to Silent, Direct Experience via Mindfulness

     "But words get in the way" is one of the wisest phrases I've heard in a song. Though we habitually identify with word-based thinking or "self-talk", this constant monologue running in our heads is NOT an accurate reflection of who we are, AND only useful in certain restricted, specific situations. Fortunately, with the help of mindfulness practice, discursive thinking becomes very quiet, unobtrusive, background noise - allowing "unmediated," direct connection with life.

     Below is Steven Pashko's excellent paper: "Reality: The Origin of the Therapeutic Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Everything" from LinkedIn:

     “Living categorically” might well be one of the most pervasive and under diagnosed psychological disorders in existence. Like all psychoses, this disorder is assigned to those who have “lost contact with reality”. It’s when people mistake a category for something unique and then act as if their view is true. For example, the categorical term “orange” replaces the luscious, mouth-watering aspects of smelling a citrus scent, tasting a tangy sweetness, the puckering of one’s cheeks, etc. Loss of lived experience—missing out on the fullness of living—is the most common, tragic result. On an intermediate level of harm, a unique individual will get lumped into categories of gender, age, intelligence, wealth, etc. It prevents a balanced evaluation of his or her unique abilities, personality, skills, motivations, etc. At its harmful extreme, it may even produce Josef Stalin’s view of murder in which he stated, “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”
     To understand the degree to which someone (not you, of course) might suffer from this delusion, please answer “True” or “False” to each of the following questions.
1.    Races of humans exist.
2.    The picture (to the right) is a pipe.
3.    The word “cup” defines a specific object.
4.    You can say what pain feels like.

     Answer key: The more questions that are answered “True” the worse the affliction.
     For those who answered “True” to any of these questions, there is hope. The treatment is called mindfulness. At the beginning, you might not like it, believing it too difficult, too boring, or that it will make you stupid. But, it’s the tried and true cure for this affliction. The treatment regimen is simple. Mindfulness is just staying attentive to your direct experience, the seeing, smelling, tasting, etc. of what comes to you through your senses (sensory-perceptual experience) at all times. Alternatively, you can just stop entertaining any ruminative thoughts—those that reoccur time and again. Most allow it to keep going mistakenly believing it’s a helpful way to handle problems. Only after a bit of mindfulness practice do people see they were wrong.
     Mindfulness reintroduces us to immediate experience, which is nonconceptual—without concepts and thoughts. It’s how we know the world before we think about it. As for practicing mindfulness, most people initially hate the part about not entertaining any ruminative thought. However, repeating the same thought, causes anxiety, distracts from attentiveness, doesn’t add to your understanding, and likely blocks creative thoughts from breaking through into consciousness. Should a continuing business tax problem be solved using the same technique used last time? Might a fresh, creative approach be useful? Can you have a good, informative conversation with someone when your attention is diverted to the running commentary in your head?
     Mindfulness cures the psychosis of “living categorically” because, in Gunaratana’s view, “Words are devised by the symbolic levels of the mind, and they describe those realities with which symbolic thinking deals. Mindfulness is pre-symbolic. It is not shackled to symbols.” He goes on, “The fact that this process lies above and beyond words does not make it unreal—quite the reverse. Mindfulness is the reality that gives rise to words—the words that follow are simply pale shadows of reality.” (Gunaratana, B. (2002). Mindfulness in Plain English. p. 137.)
     The world in which we live first comes to us through our senses. We intelligently process this information, without needing to resort to thinking. We all process perceptual (experiential) information for most of what we do, like stopping our car at a light, pulling covers over ourselves when the sleeping gets too cold, deciding just where a picture looks best on the wall, and realizing an insight that pops fully formed into consciousness. Such information is not altered by transformation into concepts/ thoughts. It’s prior to thought—experiential, non-conceptual. This is the world of mindfulness that Gunaratana writes about.
     In contrast, when experience is transformed into concepts and those concepts are taken as truthful, chronically useful representations of reality, the psychosis of “living categorically” re-arises. In such a state, word categories, though they are transformations of directly informative experience, are mistakenly believed as true. Consider what’s truer. That spiders are harmful or deadly so one should be fearful of them all or that they are benign, 8-legged bugs that sometimes appear in the house. How have you stereotyped certain situations, like heights or flying, or foods? How have others stereotyped you? Don’t phobias arise when thoughts don’t match reality? Isn’t the same mechanism at play for many of the other anxieties, like flying and public speaking? How do thoughts relate to low self-esteem or the need to compensate by achieving wealth? Isn’t your identity more the felt experience that’s always been with you than your job or your race or your gender? Is creativity enhanced or impaired when the mind is clear of thought?
     To begin to reintroduce you to a more truthful reality, I’ll answer a question posed above. Let’s take the one about the cup. A cup is a category, not a specific object. This cup on my desk, for instance, is a specific entity within the general category of cups. It has a specific colorings, shapes, dimensions, etc. It’s not exactly like any other cup. No one can identify this unique cup through words, even by adding many descriptive modifiers. Further, like all specific things, it cannot be named. No one can say a word about the smell of coffee, the color blue or the feeling of painfulness to someone who never had the sense of smell, vision or pain. Forgetting or ignorance of this fact is likely the origin of the psychosis under discussion here.
     As for the questions above, the one about the pipe should have been easy to get correct since the painter, Magritte, wrote in French “This is not a pipe” below the picture. He reminds us that a picture of a pipe is not a pipe. It’s a representation or symbol of a pipe. Further, this picture does not represent the word “pipe” as it’s used in the sense of a category, either. The word, too, only represents a category of objects not a unique one. Any and every unique pipe, of course, cannot be verbally expressed.
     The question about race highlights the depth of the injuriousness of the diagnosis. Uniqueness and creativity become unappreciated and trivialized when the psychosis of “living categorically” becomes full blown. Boundaries to skin color and geographic origins of ethnicity really don’t exist. Those with this psychosis use the word “race” only to artificially categorize people who each are, in fact, completely unique—not a group.
     At their core, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and mindfulness-based everything (MBE) all treat this psychosis because they return us to reality. It’s the one untransformed into words. The one in which everything and everyone is rightly, and inexpressibly unique. How does MBE reduce stress? Mindfulness provides a re-introduction back to a more truthful reality. Stress and anxiety may be caused by the difference between the categories in which you see the world and how it really and uniquely exists. If so, the mental process of all cognitive psychological psychotherapies, which challenge one’s thoughts about the world, may basically work through a similar mechanism.
     Happiness, success, and creativity may all increase when one lives closer to the truth of what we experience directly. This way of living, in closer contact with reality, may be helpful for minimizing all of the numerous, harmful biases caused by the psychosis of living categorically. Wouldn’t it be nice to be rid of them?

     About Steven Pashko, Ph.D.
     Steven Pashko is a research clinician who studies treatment effectiveness and the value of health and healthcare. With a background in psychology (license), CNS pharmacology (doctorate), and meditation (completed more than 52 intensive, week-long retreats) he conducts research and speaks about well-being.
     Disclaimer: This article neither describes a formally recognized psychological diagnosis nor is it a substitute for a psychological diagnosis or treatment. If you are in need of either, please contact a local licensed psychologist.

     Buddhist perspectives: