focused attention

Widening the Circle of Compassion

 
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We may find that we can easily connect with the struggles and conflicts of those we love, and extend love and compassion to them, but we may feel quite indifferent to strangers, and when it comes to people we do not like, such as competitors and adversaries, we might even feel happy that they suffer because it gives us an edge over them or justifies our desires of retribution and revenge. So, the next challenge on our journey is to find a way to be compassionate toward those who do not fall within our immediate circle of concern and to turn away from taking pleasure in their suffering.

Compassion is not about being superficially nice so people will like us; it is not weakness, softness, or letting people off the hook if they cause harm. Compassion is about keying into the nature of suffering, understanding it to our core, and recognizing its sources; but just as important is committing ourselves to relieving pain and to remain hopeful for the future alleviation of suffering for all. We come to realize that whatever differences there are between people, in essence, we are all seeking the same things. Compassion requires strength, determination, and courage within an emotional context of kindness and connection with others.

Try this:

STEP 1: Think of someone whom you neither like nor dislike, but have some form of contact with on a daily basis. It might be a bus driver, the person who serves you a coffee or drink on the way to work, a classmate, or someone you see on the bus every morning. Bring to mind an actual person. 

STEP 2: Think that, just like you, this person has dreams, hopes and fears. Just like you, this person finds themselves in the flow of life and struggles with their emotions, life circumstances, and setbacks. Just like you, this person struggles with feelings of anxiety and anger and self-critical thoughts; they are hurt by rejection and boosted by love.

STEP 3: Now imagine this person facing suffering in some way: perhaps dealing with conflict at work, struggling with addiction or depression, or feeling lonely and unloved. 

STEP 4: Then allow your heart to feel tenderness and concern for this person and offer the following heartfelt wishes:

1.    "May you be happy and well."

2.    "May you be free of suffering and pain."

3.    "May you experience joy and well-being."

Notice how you feel when you express these wishes. Perhaps there is a natural flow of care and concern, or perhaps you feel indifferent or even irritated by the exercise. If you notice yourself feeling shut down, irritated, or resistant, simply be curious about this and notice where you feel this in your body. Is there tightness in your face, jaw, or shoulders, or tension and contraction in some other part of your body? Try to be gentle and honest, not suppressing the emotions you are feeling. Try looking” from the balcony,” so to speak, as an observer of how your threat and compassion systems are clashing in some way. Then, affirm your intention that although you cannot open up to this person right now, you make the wish that one day you may open your heart more fully.

STEP 5: Now shift perspective and think about how this person to whom you feel indifferent loves and cares for some people; there are people who look forward to seeing them when they come home from work; there are things in their life that they cherish. In this way, reflect that your indifference or neutrality is about you and the way you see things; it is not intrinsic to them.

STEP 6: Reflect that just like you, this person wants to be happy, and just like you, this person wants to be free of suffering and pain. Just like you, they want to be loved, safe, and healthy; and just like you, they do not want to be despised, lonely, or depressed. Let the poignancy of this person touch you. 

STEP 7: Then, let the image of this person fade and spend a few moments tuning in to the feelings that may have arisen in you, noticing in particular how this feels in your body.

STEP 8: Now, shifting your awareness to someone else who you know is having a very difficult time. Maybe it is someone at school or in your personal life. It should be someone who's going through a rough time and someone who you care about. Bring this person to mind along with the awareness that they're struggling right now. Let yourself feel what you would wish for them. You may wish them wellness, happiness, or contentment. There may not be specific words, but more of a general feeling. Perhaps it is care in general, or wish for their well-being.

STEP 9: Imagine them receiving your compassion, that simple wish for well-being, and the sense of care. 

NOTE* You may wish to expand your wish of compassion more widely to anyone experiencing difficulty or pain. You may say to yourself “May everyone's suffering end.” Can you believe that? “May everyone feel a sense of care. May everyone be well.” 

STEP 10: As you breathe out, breathe out compassion for others, and breathe out your sense of care to the world.

STEP 11:  If you're not able to connect directly with feelings of compassion, just bring kind awareness to whatever it is you may be experiencing in this moment. Just notice what you're feeling. Breathing in compassion for myself, and breathing out compassion for others. Breathing in compassion for myself, breathing out compassion for others.

Human Potential and Health

 
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Over the past 30 years, the medical community's definition of what “Health” is has grown from one of physical health to a much more expansive and holistic concept. As such, the approach to healthcare has expanded as well, from a characterization focused exclusively on diagnosing and treating medical conditions, to one with a much broader scope. This scope includes preventative care and wellness, whereby, wellness can include multiple dimensions including: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social, and financial.

At InHouse Physicians, we recognize this definition of wellness, however, we believe wellness can be more accurately summed up in one sentence – the conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving one’s full potential in life. Reaching your full potential can be measured, not only by achieving peak performance, but also through obtaining personal fulfillment.

To achieve this new definition of “wellness,” it is important to understand the neuroscience of human performance, because, reaching your full potential starts in the brain.

Over the past decade, the neuroscience of optimal human performance has been widely researched with state of the art tools leading to multiple discoveries. Scientists have found that all humans are innately designed to do their best. However, optimal performance is dependent on your state of mind. The state of mind most closely correlated with optimal performance is called the “Flow State” or “Flow” for short.

Flow can be thought of as "being in the zone."

It is when your brain is supercharged, your productivity is off the charts with seemingly little effort, and you are experiencing a heightened sense of well being. The good news is that this state of being has a specific neurobiological footprint in the brain that can be measured and even more importantly, this footprint can be reproduced on demand with certain specific interventions.

When in Flow, you not only have a heightened sense of well being and improved productivity, but you also have a greater capacity for learning, stronger ability for interconnectivity and collaboration with others, and a significant boost in creativity - all the things that are not only important for personal fulfillment, but also important to corporations.

Corporations continue to invest in the “well-being” and development of their employees. Neuroscience interventions designed to achieve optimal performance have become the key to satisfying an ever-evolving workforce. This new workforce expects their employers to provide a culture focused on a growth mindset, a holistic set of wellness offerings, and tools to achieve greater performance in the workplace. And those organizations that deliver will benefit from higher employee engagement, stronger employee retention, and an improved bottom line.

The 5 Elements of BioStacking

 
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Human Performance starts with our mindset. BioStacking leverages a handful of neuroscience tools to enhance human performance and well-being. Below is a brief description of the five elements of BioStacking that help you achieve Flow state easier and more frequently by balancing your brain’s neurotransmitters to give you what you need to perform at your highest level.


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Focused Attention (1)

Sitting in quiet stillness, with focused attention to the breath, to a “mantra” or repeated phrase, or simply with a gentle softness of all that enters your awareness is a century-old practice known as meditation that is now scientifically proven to be phenomenally advantageous to our health. Meditation establishes new pathways in the brain and syncs the brain to a rhythm conducive to deep states of healing.

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Mindfulness (2)

In-the-moment awareness can be practiced at anytime, anywhere, by anyone. The habit of bringing mindfulness to more moments in your day enhances the richness of your life by allowing you to live in your present experience. Without a mind that is dwelling on thoughts of the past or anticipating, planning or worrying about what has yet to come, you are afforded the gift of taking pleasure in the now.

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Future Visions (3)

Do you know that your brain processes images, both real and imagined, in the same way? Capitalizing on this fact is what lies at the center of the visualization practices. Techniques such as guided imagery have been used successfully to help illicit physical changes in the body such as calming respiration and heart rate and even increasing strength. Visualization also can be employed to help you build and reach towards the future version of yourself that you wish to step into. Research in this area has proven that where the mind goes, the body follows.

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Metacognition (4)

Those of us with the greatest ability to lead, to change, to grow, and to be innovative will also demonstrate the ability to understand how we arrive at our mental conclusions. This is known as metacognition, or how we think about how we think. Even if you have good habits of reviewing the steps of your thought processes, the field of metacognition still has plenty to offer you in the form of memory techniques, learning devices, and overall approaches to comprehension that will transform the way you move through both your social and your professional world.

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Recovery (5)

What was once thought of as motherly advice is now proven essential to our very capacity to excel physically and mentally: good nutrition and adequate sleep are both essential. “Good nutrition” calls for incorporating specific foods into your diet regularly, which have been proven to enhance cognitive function, learning, and memory. And, while adequate sleep at the end of the day is critical for recovery, so are regular periods of non-sleep rest. Learning the function of down-time and its impact on creativity, productivity and mood level may change the way you prioritize being on-task 24/7.