Richard Springs
“Be proud of how far you have come, and have faith in how far you can go.”-Richard Springs

Mind Articles Q3 2011(11)

The Frenemy Within

The Frenemy Within

Sep 30, 2011

Sometimes the voices in our heads say the darnedest (and meanest!) things. But anyone can learn to silence even the most relentless inner critic. To aid our survival, our brains have evolved a tendency to scan for things to worry about. When the brain perceives a threat or has a negative experience, it initiates a reaction that is stored immediately in memory. In contrast, positive experiences, unless they are repeated or intense, tend to flow through the mind like water through a sieve. In a day, 20 things could happen, and only one is negative. What are you mulling over as you fall asleep? It's most likely the one negative thing. The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. Unsurprisingly, your mind's slant toward pessimism has a partner in crime: our wired, fast-paced culture. Constant bombardment of stimuli (anxiety-producing texts and IMs, those jarring email notifications), not to mention the saturation of often disturbing 24-hour news headlines, besieges us and reinforces our inherent negativity bias. We live in an era where we're generally under continual low-grade stress. That puts our overall nervous systems and stress response systems on alert. The brain literally builds structure around what we dwell on. If your neurons are firing away on negative ruminations, that's gradually stitching negativity into the fabric of your brain. By focusing attention differently we can wire healthy responses into the brain instead of unhealthy ones. Think of your attention like a spotlight - it illuminates whatever it rests upon, and most people don't have good control of it. When we're more attuned to where our mind drifts, we can keep attention where we want it, and pull it away from things that aren't good for us, like grinding self-criticism. The article suggests four steps to steer away from negative chatter (“Shush that inner critic” below), but also recommends mindfulness meditation -- the most direct route to figuring out what's going on inside your head. This technique trains your mind to be in the present and view your thoughts as just thoughts, not reality. Mindfulness teaches us to see the difference between the actual event and the story we're telling about it. It takes practice but not a huge commitment. Even just five minutes daily of focusing on your in- and out-breaths can loosen the hold of negativity. Over time, you'll notice that instead of automatically believing your thoughts, you're observing them with spaciousness. An oft-quoted Buddhist proverb says, "Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional." Shush That Inner Critic: 1. Relabel - To stop hostile self-talk, first you must become aware of it -- and call it what it is. Also notice any physical sensations accompanying the chatter (perspiration, muscle tension, etc.). Being aware of how the body reacts can help you recognize a destructive thought pattern faster. 2. Reframe - change your perception of your ruminations -- to acknowledge that they're deceptive messages, not honest truths. 3. Refocus - Now direct your attention to something positive -- the key to fixing automatic responses to your brain's negativity bias. Make a list of things you find helpful or enjoyable. If you're at work, focus on something more interesting to you for a little bit. Or sit and focus on your breath for a few minutes, as you would in meditation. Try anything healthy that's going to snap you out of the negative cycle. 4. Revalue – with practice eventually the process above will become a habit. This "revaluing" because it allows you to move from a mere cognitive understanding of deceptive brain messaging to knowing as soon as harsh thoughts arise that they have little or no worth. As you go through this process, you realize how unhelpful these mind messages are, and that you truly are someone wonderful in spite of what your brain is often trying to tell you.

Source: Whole Living Magazine

Season of Change

Sep 13, 2011

Are you ready for Fall? Yoga Journal’s 7-Day Fall Detox can help you reset your body and mind, and prepare your system for a winter of health and wellness. It is important protect your health year round, but particularly during the fall. Ayurvedic health educators say it's important to slow down, support your liver's natural ability to remove toxins from the body, and take stock of the influences that you allow into your life — from the kind of food you eat to the amount of time you spend in front of an electronic device (computer, cell phone, TV). <strong>How does the 7-Day Fall Detox work?</strong> Step 1: Slowing Down During the 7-Day Fall Detox you adjust your schedule so you have time to prepare and eat your meals in a relaxed manner, practice daily yoga, and take regular meditation breaks. By saying "no" to the outside influences that pull your attention and energy in so many directions—and replacing them with healthier choices—you'll begin to tune in to your body's natural rhythms and detox more effectively. Reducing stress and mental overactivity is perhaps the most important element of a successful detox plan. Habitual rushing, multitasking, and dealing with information overloads are the trifecta of American toxicity. And like an overtaxed liver, an overtaxed mind and nervous system can lead to a host of health issues, including adrenal fatigue, insomnia, irregular menstrual cycles, indigestion, and unwelcome weight gain. Step 2: Detox Diet Next, you need to nourish your body with healthful, cleansing foods. At the heart of the dietary program is kitchari, a simple dish of rice and mung beans widely used throughout Asia to purify the body. Its balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat makes for an easy-to-digest yet highly nourishing meal. Step 3: Cleansing Yoga Specific yoga poses can help expedite the detoxification process. The heating and twisting sequences designed for this plan can help move toxins from your tissues through your lymphatic and digestive systems so that they can be eliminated from the body. In addition, restorative poses, relax the nervous system and mind and help settle the body. Step 4: Self-Study As you go through the program, contemplate the ultimate question: "Why am I doing this?" By interrupting your normal patterns, cleansing provides a unique opportunity to practice svadhyaya, self-study. No matter what your motivation is—better health, a simpler life, a deeper yoga practice—you'll be amazed at the insights you can gain when you just slow down and start to listen.

Source: Yoga Journal

I can see clearly now

I can see clearly now

Aug 11, 2011

Do you tend to worry or imagine the worst-case scenario? How many times has someone been late and you begin to imagine that they may have had a terrible car accident? What if you were able to stop yourself and be reminded that your imagination was just a work and that you weren’t upset about something that had actually happened but about something you just made up in your head? Understanding the way your mind works can bring you closer to knowing your true Self. You have a choice as to how you respond to any situation. You could respond with fear or worry, resulting in an agitated mind or you could calmly remind yourself that until you have all the facts, everything else is just your imagination and live peacefully. There are five functions or activities of the mind, which can either, cause us to suffer or not: 1. Correct perception or seeing something clearly. 2. Incorrect understanding or mis-perception – occurs when you think something is true and act as if you have perceived it correctly. 3. Imagination – an idea that we create in our minds 4. Deep sleep – defined by non-activity 5. Memory – is the recollection of our past experiences By identifying which function of the mind is working allows you to understand when agitation is avoidable and thus allow you to avoid unnecessary suffering. Check yourself: Try this simple practice throughout the day to ease agitation: • Take a few deep breaths • Try observing yourself from a distance. Ask yourself: are you bothered over something that has actually happened or over something you fear might happen? Are you upset about something that happened in the past, or something that you are imagining could happen in the future? • Check your perception or get another opinion – go to the doctor to find out if your concern is cause for alarm, or call your friend to find out of she is really mad at you. This practice can really help you reduce agitation by first helping you see if you truly have anything to be upset about!

Source: Yoga Journal

Sweet Forgiveness

Aug 11, 2011

This article discusses how one woman had a falling out with a close friend. Her friend had said some really hurtful things and she had vowed to never speak to or see her friend again. However, her friend had taken up permanent residence in her mind, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get her out. When she woke up she would relive the conversations they had, and during the day the memories would knot her stomach and ruin her appetite. She would talk about it to her family, friends, and pretty much anyone who’d listen. The only time she could break free of her obsession was when she practiced yoga. She admits that it was nearly impossible to practice yoga while carrying her internal diatribe of the situation with her friend. <strong>So Why Forgive?</strong> Stuffing down the hurt or anger only makes things worse. You may be “letting go” of pain mentally, but in reality, you’re pushing it deeper into your body and heart. The inability to forgive manifests itself as physical contractions and the pain can be lodged in the heart, diaphragm, belly or the hips. By focusing on the breath we become aware of our pain and ultimately release tension and discomfort in the muscles. <strong>Breath of Forgiveness</strong> - If you feel angry, hurt or resentful, try this cooling breathing exercise. 1. Sit comfortably with your back straight, your shoulders away from your ears, and your eyes closed. Inhale and exhale normally for several breaths as you settle into your seat. 2. To start this practice, stick your tongue out, just beyond your lips, and roll it like a tube. Inhale gently through your tongue, raising your chin slightly and feeling your chest and lungs expand with air (taking care to keep your shoulders relaxed). Allow your mind to focus on the cooling sensation. 3. At the top of the inhalation, bring your tongue back into your mouth and rest it just behind your front teeth. As you exhale, slowly bring your head down toward your chest in a gentle chin lock. 4. Stick your tongue out again, roll it, and inhale as you raise your head and chin. Repeat the sequence six to eight times.

Source: Yoga International Magazine

The Most Important Moment in Meditation

The Most Important Moment in Meditation

Aug 15, 2011

By treating ourselves with gentleness and compassion, we plant seeds of further gentleness and compassion. Discusses the moment in our meditation practice when we realize that we have been distracted. The issue isn't whether we get distracted. What matters is what we do when we notice. In the Buddhist understanding, we are always "planting the seeds" of the recurrence of the patterns we run. If we are aggressive with ourselves, we plant the seeds of further aggression. If we can bring gentleness to that moment, we are training our minds in loving-kindness and compassion. Every time we greet our return to the present moment with a quiet recognition that we were gone and now we're back, we train ourselves in being nonaggressive. We don't have to add anything extra: no judgments, no evaluations, no praise, no blame. Bringing friendliness, to our own experience cultivates our ability to bring that same loving-kindness or warmth to our relationships with others, too. By treating ourselves with gentleness and compassion, we plant seeds of further gentleness and compassion. It doesn't take a seismic shift in our behavior to become more kindly, compassionate, and present people. It takes just a little gentleness, one moment at a time, to re-direct our minds and brains to cultivate our inherent capacities for loving-kindness and compassion.

Source: Psychology Today

Make Your Mantra Work for You

Aug 18, 2011

Mantras aren’t just for Hindu gurus and hippies. They are a powerful way to get your psyche and physiology under control. A mantra doesn't have to be esoteric to get the job done. There's concrete evidence that focusing on a mantra draws attention away from troubling thoughts. Brain scans of individuals performing mantra repetition show an increase in activity in the frontal and parietal lobes, which are associated with the control of attention. Drawing our focus away from distressing signals reduces activity in areas of the brain that regulate emotions, such as the amygdala, which is associated with our fear response. The act of focusing on a mantra, may serve as an emotional regulator, making us more persistent and resilient. Furthermore, the act of repeating can have measurable physical effects associated with what's known as the 'relaxation response. Focusing on one word reaches down into the spiritual, emotional, or mental desire and pulls it up through the physical, and it gives you energy. A mantra lines up your deepest energetic intentions, which are very subtle, with your gross intentions out in the world. In the end it doesn’t even matter what words you utter for your mantra. You could be repeating, “I like bologna, I like bologna,” but what is important, is that you are focusing, which helps reduce intrusive negative thoughts. Come up with your own mantra, for example: • Cast off judgment. • I'm free to love and be loved. • I choose peace. • No limits.

Source: Whole Living Magazine

Use Your Mind to Heal Your Body

Use Your Mind to Heal Your Body

Jul 23, 2011

Cutting-edge research proves mind/body techniques can ease aches, illness, insomnia and more. A skeptic's guide to thinking yourself well; because yoga and similar mind-quieting methods have the potential to work as well as many medications at treating what ails you. Gives treatment recommendations for various conditions such as Qigong for depression, acupuncture and visualization for Insomnia and yoga for joint pain.

Source: Self Magazine

It’s time to Flourish

Jul 22, 2011

The article asks people to look at the happiness in their lives and not dwell on the negative. It discusses the ideas brought froth in the book “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being” by Martin Seligman. Using the idea that 5 pillars are needed to support a well-lived life: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. The pillars along with developing positive and healthy habits are intended to help you develop skills used to counter the deficits you bring to life. The author’s vision of well being is not about enjoying life when it’s going well it is more about marshaling emotional reserves when life is not going well.

Source: Whole Living Magazine

Sweet Sanctuary

Jul 22, 2011

Creating a dedicated space for your mindful practice, collects and focuses your energy, removes uncertainty about where to practice, and, through habit and association, helps the mind move inward more quickly and deeply. Much like an encounter with the refrigerator conjures thoughts of food, and a glance at the couch invites a comfortable sprawl, catching sight of your meditation seat in a sanctified space will inspire you to do your practice. Choose a place that can become a sanctuary—a quiet, private space protected from outside distractions and out of public view. You may be fortunate enough to designate an entire room, but a corner in your bedroom will suffice.

Source: Yoga International Magazine

Powers of Observation

Powers of Observation

Jul 31, 2011

Article focuses on how to cut through your habitual patterns by learning to pay attention. The author indicates that when we practice yoga we cultivate the ability to concentrate the mind and can begin to notice our deep habitual patterns. These habitual patterns and sensations (called Samskaras) take us into the deepest pockets of our subconscious. Additionally, our habitual ways of perceiving color how we view what is good or bad, right or wrong needed or not needed. These preconceptions actually mask what is truly transpiring in the present moment. The author further indicates that with practice we can train ourselves to observe the actual presentation (or perception) of the mind. With this type of “in the moment” observation, we can begin to slowly break through the most deeply rooted habits that are unhealthy, ineffectual to lives.

Source: Yoga International Magazine

Dealing with Emotions

Aug 28, 2011

Methods to get a handle on your emotions and develop elegant ways to own and express those emotions in order to improve your overall health. Many of the methods mentioned in the article go right along with what we discuss at Mindful Body: • Breathing and meditation allow your mind to slow down, which can do wonders for emotional regulations and understanding. • Practicing yoga can provide a portal in what we are truly feeling • Journaling (i.e. writing down) what you are going through is a great way to sort through your emotions. • Ditch the guilt you are holding onto • Smile and breath – “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, or sometimes a smile can be the source of your joy.” Thich Nhat Hanh • A lot of times we are so disconnected we don’t even know how to identify how we feel. • Eat mindfully – take a moment before eating to express gratitude. This small act of being conscious and appreciative affects our nutritional balance and sense of well-being.