Brain research offers many new insights into the impact of our everyday attitudes and ways of being affect us as we move through our daily lives. Recently, I heard an interview on NPR where a neuroscientist talked about recent research in gratitude and its effects on neurotransmitters. The upshot of the interview was that focusing on gratitude automatically generates increased dopamine and serotonin. Both of these neurotransmitters are part of our “feel good” chemistry.
What was both intriguing and encouraging about the information offered in the interview was that it didn’t take an enormous amount of effort to elicit this neurochemical change in the brain. It got me to thinking about… Read More “674th Week: Cultivating Gratitude for Greater Well-Being”
Note: At the bottom of this written practice there is a recording of it, if you would prefer to listen. In the practices that contain a guided meditation, please remember never to listen to these recorded meditations when driving or working with dangerous machinery.
One of the themes I’ve noticed in my work in recent years is an increasing emphasis on inviting clients to notice their wholeness, and on accepting the fact that our human wholeness includes aspects of ourselves that we don’t particularly like. This means acknowledging and accepting these aspects of self, recognizing that we can’t remove or eliminate parts of our human wholeness.
One metaphor I use for managing wholeness when we’re in touch with things about ourselves that we want to hide or exorcise is a rainbow. We can’t take a color out of the rainbow, even if we don’t like it. Another metaphor is the foreground/background dynamic I’ve written about a number of times, where aspects of our wholeness are sometimes in the foreground of our awareness and behavior and then sometimes in the background. Whatever moves into the foreground can be invited into the background and whatever lives in the background can be invited forward.
In addition to becoming aware of and engaging more consciously the foreground/background dynamic inherent in our wholeness, one of the practices I’ve encouraged people to engage is to imagine that they put a gentle arm around parts of themselves that they don’t like. This would include aspects of themselves that generate shame or discomfort of some other kind, ways of being that they see in themselves that they swore they would never express, responses and behaviors that embarrass them or that they dislike intensely. We can’t escape our wholeness, but we can learn to relate to this fact of being with kindness and gentleness rather than with criticism, aggression, and anger.
And so, for this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to explore the following guided meditation and notice what works for you and what doesn’t. Please be sure to allow and track mixed feelings, as they are inherent in our wholeness. The key is to bring awareness to them without having to do anything with them right now.Read More “889th Week: Embracing Wholeness with Kindness”
Walking across Central Park one morning, the air was filled with a fragrance that I meet during the early days of summer each year. A group of trees, Silver Lindens, have blossoms, clusters of small flowers, that release a powerful, heady and, to me, enchanting fragrance that captivates me each morning as I pass them on my way to the office. The blossoms don’t last very long, which makes them even more special, and I—along with many other people—inevitably stop for a moment, bury my nose in them deeply breathing in the sweet fragrance.
One morning as I walked on, I began to think about the powerful effect scents have on our internal experience… Read More “678th Week: Finding Ease”
So many of us have been taught that the nature of nature is “survival of the fittest”, suggesting that competition is the underlying principle of evolution. Elisabet Sahtouris, an evolutionary biologist, points out that the early stages of a species development involves competition, and that the mature stage is characterized by cooperation and collaboration within and between species. Agustín Fuentes, a biological and evolutionary anthropologist also points out the many moments of collaboration and cooperation in our human species, moments that arise spontaneously and seemingly without thought countless times each day.
There’s no question that we humans can be cruel and injurious to one another, and to other species, and I don’t in any way mean for us to ignore those realities. As I listened to Elisabet recently in an interview, though, I thought about how important it is to support the movement toward maturity in our species, and also pay attention to the natural expressions of compassionate collaboration among our kind, not only to each other but to other species, as well.
I’ve mentioned many times that I start the day watching or listening to something that inspires me. That’s where I again encountered Elisabet and her wonderful wisdom. Because of this commitment to finding inspiring resources, I’m more able to live with my heart open and free of hatred and fear—well, not overwhelmed by fear or carried away by outrage, anyway—and to allow my heart to be a major source of information and understanding. I’ve written any number of times about the importance of orienting to heart intelligence, which has a different take on things than does our brain intelligence. In fact, I’ve posted as a past practice a process of shifting into heart intelligence when pondering a problem or exploring a situation, then comparing what your heart says to what your head said. It’s a very useful practice!Read More “818th Week: The Prevalence of Compassionate Action”