The last thing a ship wants to do is get stuck in the trough
when dealing with a storm. The trough is between the waves. Sit in the trough
long enough and a wave will come over the ship, or the ship may just roll over
due to the size of the wave. You will sink. What you want to do is get your
ship pointed in the right direction so that you can power up and over the big
waves. Power will take you over the wave before it comes over you.
This is an important point. If your ship has turned over and
you are suffering emotionally or physically please get professional help and be
patient, we will be working on your repair skills in later lessons. You will
need this power in order to do the repairs.
If you are going to develop and use this power effectively
you have to be tuned in, just as a captain is tuned into the feel of the boat,
the water, the wind, and the course he or she wants to take. You will have to
learn how to handle yourself under all kinds of stressful conditions, not just when
the weather is sunny and the wind is in your favor.
Keep in mind that the storms of life will strengthen you as
they teach you about living, growing, and healing in a world of change and at
times great pain. This art involves learning to see the world from a more enhanced and positive perspective.
Thinking artfully also involves learning to work with your body and your
thoughts and your feelings in new ways. You will learn to laugh at things a
little more, including yourself, as you practice finding and maintaining your
Let me now give you a little history into the realm of where
you are about to go. In 1980 Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. at the University of
Massachusetts Medical Center embarked on an ambitious program to help
chronically ill patients using a new medicine called behavioral medicine, which
believes that mental and emotional factors, the ways in which we think and
behave, can have a significant effect on our physical health and our capacity
to recover from illness and injury. It was and is very successful. The
techniques are now applied to all sorts of mental and physical disorders,
stress and pain being the major issues. The world of psychotherapy and medicine have
embraced and improved the techniques over the years. It is now used to treat
problems such as high blood pressure, headaches, heart disease, phobias, and a
wide range of emotional issues. There are several terms used to describe
the different methods; we are going to simply refer to it as mindfulness.
My first encounter with mindfulness was about 6 years ago
when I read the first popular book that was written on the subject by Jon
Kabat-Zinn in 1990, Full Catastrophe Living. Now there may be a
hundred books and even more experts on the subject. I have experienced first
hand the benefits and have been studying the subject so that I might be able to
teach it. What I have discovered in my studies is that in all the books, and
with all the experts there are the same basic techniques, they just present
them in a different light from a different angle.
The fact is you just need to learn the basics techniques and
then tailor your practice to fit your needs. That is what makes it an art, you
use your colors, your angles, and you experiment and explore to find what works
best for you. No one on earth has the same set of problems that you do. Your
problems are yours; you need to become your own expert and your own therapist
in order to handle them artfully.
Here is an excellent example of how mindfulness works. You
get an itch and what is the first thing you want to do? Scratch it of course.
You punish the itch with pain, but that is OK because the pain was self-inflicted
and the itch was the enemy. Think for a moment, who feels the pain you or the itch? What if you
could defeat the itch mindfully without any self-inflicted pain? This is not an
easy skill to learn because of the constant temptation to scratch, but it can
be done and it does get easier as your skill and confidence improve.
The fact is we naturally punish ourselves with pain every
time we have a mental itch we get offended, irritated, angry, and frustrated.
Even physical pain becomes worse due to self-inflicted frustration, and
irritation. Some scientists would say that these emotions were necessary for
survival at one time, but the fact is that these negative emotional reactions
serve no positive purpose today and need to be defeated. At first this may seem
like a large and impossible wave to power over but as your skills improve you
will get to the point that you did not even realize that you did it.
Mindfulness is very close to the state of mind you are in when watching a good movie or televisions show. It is the same place you are when reading a good book. You are the observer and you are captivated by your observations. The only difference is between mindfulness and entertainment is that you decide what to observe and your mind is not being controlled or programmed by someone or something else.
Ready to get started? The purpose of this exercise is simply to build up your ability to become the captain of your observations.
Here are the rules, memorize them.
The following steps are an outline for your mindfulness practice. You can do whatever is comfortable for you. The objective is to become a nonjudgmental "observer" in moment to moment awareness. Do this in a quiet space where you will not be disturbed.
Step 1. Breathe Out.
This is a very common step actors and athletes perform before any event. Take a deep breath in and hold it for a moment, as you tense your body. Now breath out forcefully. With that outflow of air, take note of the release of your physical and emotional tension.
Step 2. Center Up.
the spine. This has a direct influence on your state of mind; you feel more
attentive and positive when your spine is straight. With your shoulders back
and your head up and move your body in different directions until you find your
center. Hold that position and do not rest your elbows on the arms of the chair. Do not get too rigid or tight. Make sure your muscles are relaxed and not trying to hold you in position.
Step 3. Widen Out.
not want to go into a formal mindfulness practice with a narrow point of view.
To open your mind you only need to open your eyes. Look at an object directly
in front of you and focus on it. Without moving your eyes notice how many other
objects you can see, and how far to the left and right you can see, take your
time. Now take a big mental snap shot of the whole picture and hold it for a
Step 3. Take inventory
eyes and take an inventory of all the noises in the room, mentally check them
off as you find them. As you do this feel the temperature of the room, and any
air movement. Remember no judging allowed.
These first three steps should take 1 to 3 minutes, but you
can take as long as you like with each one. You can use any of these steps
during normal daily activities to adjust your state of mind. Breathe out to
release tension. Center up to become more attentive. Widen out to become more
creative. Take inventory to focus your thoughts and avoid distractions.
Step 4. Breathe
state of mind you have just cultivated and focus on only your breathing. Breathe with your diaphragm and listen
carefully to each breath and count softly each time you exhale. When you get to
10 go back to 1. Eventually you will not need to count to maintain you focus. Give your attention to all the aspects of your breathing, the sound, the sensation, the body movement
Your thoughts will drift, that is OK, just treat them like
you would a stranger that you are passing on the street, take not of what you are thinking about and
then give your attention back to your breath. If you drift a thousand times
just gently go back to your breath a thousand times, listening and counting
softly each time you exhale. Do not be concerned with how long you have been drifting.
If you can, do this for 10 minutes or more. Find the amount of time you are comfortable with and extend it as you can.
Eventually the strangers give up trying to distract you and you are in the moment. The past is gone and the future simply does not matter. Do not worry if this does not happen right away, getting there is half the fun. Each time you do this it will be different. No judging allowed, there are no good sessions or bad sessions.
Step 5. Release
When you are ready to finish take your attention to your feelings right now; spend a few moments with them, describe them to yourself. Open your eyes and recall those pesky thoughts that kept coming in trying to take you away from your moment-to-moment awareness. You may have met a new thought, a new idea, or a new discovery.
You may have met a thought that may point you to the source
of any emotional problems you may be dealing with. We will start to use your
new skills to tackle those problems in the next lessons.
Try to do this exercise twice a day. Reread the the exercise and adjust them so that you are comfortable with the process.
You are about to become the captain of your ship and not the stressed out passenger.
I should point out that this is not spiritism or occultism. It is a proven science. It will not allow any unwanted influences into your mind. In fact, studies have shown that the conscience improves with practice and people develop a stronger desire to act with their conscience and not against it. If you are a spiritual person, your spirituality will grow as you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and those around you.
There is a short 20 minute guided program you can listen to online or you can download it from the free downloads page.
Food for Thoughts