recovery

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.

The Body Scan

 
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This body scan exercise is designed to help you feel and bring awareness to all of the sensations that occur throughout your body. We are typically not even aware of what our body is telling us. Do we have an area that has too much pressure on it? Do we have an area that's painful? By practicing this mindfulness exercise, you can improve your body awareness and also better understand and cope with pain and difficult emotions in the body. Additionally, most people report feeling more relaxed and recharged after this practice.

STEP 1: Please sit down. Once you're sitting in your chair in a comfortable position with your eyes open or gently closed, take a moment to check in with yourself, observing how you're feeling in your body and your mind.

STEP 2: Begin to focus on your breath - wherever the sensations are strongest for you.

STEP 3: As you scan your body for sensations, try to bring an attitude of curiosity to the practice, as if you're investigating your body for the first time. Notice and feel any and all sensations that are present, such as tingling, tightness, heat, cold, pressure, dullness, or something else. If you do not feel any sensations in a particular region, simply note that and move on.

STEP 4: See if you are aware of any thoughts or emotions that arise as you move through the regions of your body. Note these thoughts and emotions and then return to focusing on the physical sensations that you're experiencing.

STEP 5: Whenever you come across an area that is tense, see if you can allow it to soften. If the area does not soften, simply notice how it feels and allow it to be as it is. Feel as deeply and precisely as you can into each region of the body, noting if the sensations change in any way.

SUGGESTED SEQUENCE OF BODY PARTS:

1. Begin with your left foot and toes and move your awareness up the left leg until you reach the left hip.

2.  Then go to the right foot and toes and up the right leg until you reach the right hip.

3. Next, move your awareness to the pelvic region and stomach, lower back to the upper back, then your chest, heart, and lungs.

4. Then your hands both at the same time moving up the arms until you get to your shoulders.

5. Then the following in this order:

·       Neck

·       Throat

·       Jaw

·       Mouth

·       Teeth

·       Tongue

·       Lips

·       Nose

·       Eyes

·       Forehead

·       Ears

·       Skull

·       Scalp

6.     Finally, become aware of the whole body and rest for a few minutes.

The body scan is a variation of Burmese Vipassana Meditation that involves scanning the body for physical sensations. This meditation is also done in various yoga practices. The body scan is used in mindfulness-based stress reduction.


TAKEAWAYS

·       The Body Scan helps you connect with different sensations in your body that you may not have been aware of.

·       It helps you mindfully experience thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations around different areas of the body.

·       It leaves you feeling relaxed and recharged.

Breathing Awareness (Exercise 1)

 
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Developing breath awareness, and learning to breathe properly, is one of the easiest ways to improve your mental and physical health. As Donna Farhi, author of The Breathing Book says, “The unconsciously altered breath allows us to survive, but it does not allow us to thrive.”

This brief and gentle mindful breathing exercise can help you create a relaxation response in your body in as little as 5 minutes:


  1. Find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair, on the floor, or on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight. Have your hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Close your eyes, if that feels comfortable for you, and just allow your breath to be natural.

  2. Tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, and out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. It doesn't need to be long or short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It may be in your abdomen. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins.

  3. As you tune into your breath, you may find that your mind wanders- distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That’s OK. Just notice that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to your breath.

  4. Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought. Gently return to your breath.

You don't have 5 minutes?

When trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment and there is not much time to spare, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). Just this simple action can activate your relaxation response.



 

A Mindfulness Eating Exercise: Simple Instructions

 
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Have you ever eaten a whole bag of popcorn while watching a movie, taking one large handful at a time - without much awareness - only to find the bag empty well before the end of the movie? Well, that is the opposite of mindfulness!

You may have heard of mindful eating. Here are some instructions for a brief mindfulness eating exercise.

The following exercise is simple and will only take a few minutes.

Find a small piece of food, such as one kernel of popcorn, a raisin, a nut, or a small cookie. You can use any food that you like. Eating with mindfulness is not about deprivation or rules. It is about appreciating and enjoying your food.

Begin by exploring this little piece of food, using as many of your senses as possible.

First, look at the food. Notice its texture. Notice its color.

Now, close your eyes, and explore the food with your sense of touch. What does this food feel like? 

Notice that you’re full attention is on the here and now as you experience this piece of food like never before. This is what it means to eat mindfully.

Before you eat, explore this food with your sense of smell. What do you notice?

Now, begin eating. No matter how small the bite of food you have is, take at least two bites to finish it.

Take your first bite. Please chew very slowly, noticing the actual sensory experience of chewing and tasting. You might want to close your eyes for a moment to focus on the sensations of chewing and tasting.

Notice the texture of the food; the way it feels in your mouth.

Notice if the intensity of its flavor changes, moment to moment.

Take a little bit more time to very slowly finish this first bite of food, being aware of the simple sensations of chewing and tasting.

It isn’t always necessary to eat slowly in order to eat with mindfulness, however it’s helpful at first to slow down, in order to be as mindful as you can.

Now, please take your second and final bite.

As before, chew very slowly, while paying close attention to the actual sensory experience of eating: the sensations and movements of chewing, the flavor of the food as it changes, and the sensations of swallowing.

Just pay attention, moment by moment. You may find that you not only enjoy eating that little piece of food more than ever before, but you also may feel calmer and more focused. 

Using a mindfulness eating exercise on a regular basis is only one part of a mindfulness approach to your diet. The new way of experiencing food through mindfulness takes a deeper effect when you begin to pay mindful attention to your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, all of which lead us to eat. Mindfulness is the foundation that many have been missing for overcoming food cravings, addictive eating, binge eating, emotional eating, and stress eating.

 

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.