Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Creating a Junction of 'Critical Awareness'

[Post by Cliff Harvey]

One of the key benefits of meditation and other mindfulness exercises is that they allow us to begin to see moments in day-to-day life in which we are about to take a reactive action in response to something that happens to us. Often these reactions are in our best interest (that's why that have been patterned into us as automatic, or near automatic patterns in response to stimuli).
For example we are well served by our compulsion to run when confronted by a hungry tiger, but just as often it seems we create patterns of action that although serving us on some level, do not serve our highest good, and do not serve our highest self. 
These reactions are usually the ones that result from the desire to protect ourselves as a result of trauma, disappointment and heartache over the course of our lives, and these reactions rest on a  belief basis of patterns of low self worth, poor self identity and lack of love and forgiveness for the self and others.

By cultivating mindfulness we allow ourselves just that little bit of extra time to see when we are reacting to situations rather than responding in a way that is congruent with our highest self, and therefore congruent with our values and ethos. This brief moment of time I refer to as a 'junction of critical awareness'. It is that moment when we catch ourselves 'in the act' about to do something we know doesn't serve our highest potential, and  recognising this allows us an enormous (and potentially life changing) opportunity to instead do something different.

This junction of critical awareness also allows us to begin to notice our negative and self-limiting talk and imagery.
The way we talk to ourselves and about ourselves tells us an enormous amount about the the patterns of belief we hold about the world we live in and our place within it.

When a thought seemingly comes out of nowhere it is more than likely coming from our subconscious mind, and when certain patterns of thought arise over and over again, you can rest assured that is a pattern of belief that you hold!
For example if the thought "I never catch a break" arises frequently it's probably a belief that you hold.
No big deal right?
Wrong...
If we have the belief that we 'never catch a break' we believe that NOT catching a break (in other words not having opportunities to do and be better) is our safest state to be in.
When we consider that we only recognise around 10% of what we see, hear and feel in the world around us, and that we bring to conscious fruition things from our environment that we need to act upon or be aware of in order to keep us safe, do you think that you are even going to notice opportunities?
Probably not, even if those opportunities are there and staring you in the face.

But if we can cultivate that junction of critical awareness, that little space in time in which we can see these thoughts and feelings arise, we can more objectively analyse them in relation to what we actually want to be our reality.

I use the following simple technique with my clients to notice and transform negative self-talk and self-limiting belief patterns.

1. When you notice negative self-talk arising STOP and bring your attention to it.
2. Ask yourself "Is this what I want to be true?" (The answer of course will be NO!)
3. Ask "What do I want to be true instead?"
4. Frame what you'd like to be true in a powerful and emotionally compelling statement and repeat this a few times immediately. This statement can also form a daily intention, personal mantra or affirmation that you continue to go back to in order to ingrain it as your new reality.

Remember that belief statements and affirmations should be POSITIVE, POWERFUL and stated in the PRESENT TENSE. The subconscious mind is a present tense processor and the only way to impress upon it, is to state things as if they were true right now.

If I found myself saying that "I never catch a break..." I could immediately 'flip' this instead to something like "I am open to and aware of any opportunities that come my way!"

Try this simple exersise for noticing negative self-talk and limiting beliefs and transforming them!

For more information check out my first book Choosing You ~ how you can live the life of your dreams...right now! and my latest best-seller and Ashton Wylie Book Award Finalist Time Rich Cash Optional - an unconventional guide to happiness.




Friday, February 15, 2013

7 Habits of Calmness by Leo Babauta

[Post by Leo Babauta]

I have come to believe that high stress, constant anxiety over tasks and work and life, social anxiety … is all a part of the modern way of life.

Most people just don’t feel a sense of peace, of calm, of serenity, throughout their day.

I have to admit that I’m the same way some of the time, but I have learned a few things that have helped me create a feeling of calmness much more of the time than ever before.

It’s a series of habits that have developed over the last few years. I’m not perfect at them, but I do practice them, and they are always helpful.

These are habits, not a one-time change in my surroundings or work pattern. Changing your environment is great, but you can’t control the things that happen to you much of the time, and you certainly can’t control how other people act. The only thing you can control is your response — and this response matters. You can respond to the same event with anxiety or anger, or you can respond with peace and calmness.

Let’s figure out how.

The Habits of Calmness

These are the habits to develop that will help you develop calmness (based on my experience):

A calm morning ritual. 
Many people rush through their mornings, starting the day out in a stressful rush. I wake up a little earlier (5 a.m. these days, though that changes), and start with a little meditation, then a few yoga poses. I then start writing, before I let the noise in. Exercise is another component of my morning routine. You don’t need to do the same things, but find the quiet of the morning and make the most of it.

Learn to watch your response. 
When something stressful happens, what is your response? Some people jump into action — though if the stressful situation is another person, sometimes action can be harmful. Others get angry, or overwhelmed. Still others start to feel sorry for themselves, and wish things were different. Why can’t other people behave better? Watch this response — it’s an important habit.

Don’t take things personally. 
Many times the response (that you noticed in Habit 2) is to take things personally. If someone does something we don’t like, often we tend to interpret this as a personal affront. Our kids don’t clean their rooms? They are defying us! Our spouse doesn’t show affection today? He/she must not care as much as he/she should! Someone acts rudely at work? How could they treat us this way?! Some people even think the universe is personally against them. But the truth is, it’s not personal — it’s the other person’s issue that they’re dealing with. They are doing the best they can. 
You can learn not to interpret events as a personal affront, and instead see it as some non-personal external event (like a leaf falling, a bird flying by) that you can either respond to without a stressful mindset, or not need to respond to at all.

Be grateful. 
Sure, lots of people talk about gratitude … but how often do we apply it to the events of our day? Things are crashing down at work, or our boss is angry, or our co-workers are rude, or our kids are misbehaving, or someone doesn’t love us as we’d like … do these cause anger/anxiety/unhappiness, or can we be grateful? Drop the complaints, and find a way to be grateful, no matter what. And then smile. This unbending habit can change your life.

Create stress coping habits. 
Many times, when we are faced with stress, we have unhealthy responses — anger, feeling overwhelmed and withdrawing, eating junk food, drinking alcohol or taking drugs, shopping or otherwise buying stuff, going to time-wasting sites, procrastinating, and so on. Instead, we need healthy ways to cope with stress, which will come inevitably. When you notice stress, watch how you cope with it, and then replace any unhealthy coping habits with healthier ones. Healthy stress coping habits include: drinking tea, exercise, yoga, meditation, massaging your own neck & shoulders, taking a walk, drinking some water, talking with someone you care about.

Single-task. 
I’ve written numerous times in the past about single-tasking vs. multitasking, but I think people multitask now more than ever. People text while on the train, while walking, while driving. They tweet and post to Facebook and Instagram, they email and read blogs and news, they watch videos while getting things done, they watch TV while eating, they plan their day while doing chores. This is a great way to cause a level of anxiety that runs through everything you do, because you’re always worried you should be doing more, doing something else. What if, instead, you just did one thing, and learned to trust that you shouldn’t be doing anything else? It takes practice: just eat. Just wash your bowl. Just walk. Just talk to someone. Just read one article or book, without switching. Just write. Just do your email, one at a time, until your inbox is empty. You’ll learn that there is peace in just doing one thing, and letting go of everything else.
Reduce noise. 
Our lives are filled with all kinds of noise — visual clutter, notifications, social media, news, all the things we need to read. And truthfully, none of it is necessary. Reduce all these things and more, and create some space, some quiet, in your life.


Leo Babauta is a simplicity blogger & author. He created Zen Habits, a Top 25 blog (according to TIME magazine) with 260,000 subscribers, mnmlist.com, and the best-selling books focus, The Power of Less, and Zen To Done.

Find Leo's E-Books at Katoa Health


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lent 2013

As most of my regular readers know, every year I commit to the Lent period of fasting and contemplative practice.

Lent is a Christian period of fasting lasting (generally; there is some variation between denominations) between Ash Wednesday (in 2013 this is the 13th February) through to 'Holy Thursday' (also known as 'Maundy Thursday') - the Thursday before Easter.

Because of this and my use of other religious devices such as prayer and observances like the sabbath, I often get the question: "So Cliff are you religious?" to which I generally reply "Yes"....
And of course this invites the followup "So what religion are you?" which is much harder to answer. 

I consider myself, if I had to put a frame around it, to be a universalist and a mystic. In other words I consider that there is a universal kernel of truth within all the major religions and that kernel of truth is that we are all connected, and that there is a divine force or energy which we could call Allah, Jehovah, God or simply LOVE, and I'm a mystic in that I believe the only way to ultimately realise this is through direct connection to this source.

Anyway...back to Lent...

Any period of fasting or abstinence allows us to realise what we have become attached to, and in doing so we can recognise how our vices, or even simple patterns of behaviour, may be controlling us and affecting the way we act, and the way that we are
The act of fasting can also show how little we actually do need in order to be happy, and how living with less can actually free us from our drive to possess and consume more and more.
And this is the main reason that I do Lent every year, in order to recognise patterns of behaviour and attachment.

Traditionally Lent involved a commitment to 3 practices:
1. Prayer
2. Fasting
3. Alms giving

The fasting or abstinence aspect of Lent is what most people nowadays associate with the period.

In many traditions this was very strict, and involved variations of abstinence from meat, dairy and eggs and in many cases alcohol, although in most cases these were allowed on a Sunday. In modern times, particularly in Protestant circles Lent has become a time in which to give up any vice or a luxury.
Either approach can hold a lot of value in our process of greater self-realisation and growth.

This year my Lent challenge will involve:

Fasting
Eating 1 simple vegetable based meal per day in the evening
Completely abstaining from: Alcohol, coffee, sugar, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes (whole), and dairy.
This year differs from previous years in a diet sense because of a few health challenges I had last year. I will go into that in a later post...because there is going to be some cool self-experimentation going on this year!

Meditation/Contemplative Work:
As I currently do daily yoga and meditation/prayer currently I am going to step this up to meditation and prayer 3 x er day, in the morning, at midday and at night. 

Almsgiving:
Donating 10% of any income derived from this time frame to charity, either in cash or as services in kind.

Join me in the challenge!
Comment here or at my FaceBook Page and let me know what you are giving up...or if you'd like to join me in the challenge above!

~ Blessings,
Cliff