Choose To Reflect and Not To Agonize – Positive Vibe Series

At times we should carefully analyze our thoughts. At times we should peel all the layers of our irrational behaviour. At times we should dig deep to gain insight into how we feel. At times we need the courage to examine the nasty bits of ourselves. At times we need encouragement to carry on. At times we need to find solace. At times we need to forgive ourselves for our imperfections. At times we need to reassess our ways of life. At times we need to break the self-imposed rules and replaced them with principles. At times we need to self-reflect. 

Art by Sara Shakeel

We explore other planets, learn about physics, philosophy, learn to speak other languages, yet, at times we are vague about our reactions, responses or mental process even tough we inhabit ourselves. At times, something hammers somewhere within us that makes us sad, irritated, confused, anxious or mean when difficult situation emerges. Well, there is an evolutionary explanation that is in large part intrinsic to our brain. Over Millenials, we have navigated and took action in the world through quick and instinctive decision-making rather than introspection.  However, in spite of this theory, we can learn to investigate different chambers of our minds to find clarity and be in control. 

Beautiful Bizarre Magazine

An informative description of calming our monkey mind is offered by the School of Life. The essay recommends focused and reflective questions known as philosophical meditations. There are three “What” questions to face. Keep in mind that “Why” questions can highlight our limitations and stir up negative emotions, while “what” questions help keep us curious and positive about the future (Eurich, 2017).

  • What am I presently anxious about? Life is full of uncertainties, alarming situations or minor issues and only by laying them out you can truly understand the source of the chaos in your mind and how you can diffuse them. The writing exercise helps with questions such as “what would happen if the lightning strikes?” First, you unpack the emotions and then weed out your anxieties by imaging that they can happen and in what way you can survive.  
  • What am I presently upset about? Strangely enough, we can get upset with anything. From eating sound to unkind behaviors, at times it feels like everyone is throwing stones at us. It does not matter if it is trivial or serious, the point is to write them down. Pour your heart out, be enraged, sad,… Then act as a friend to yourself. How would you advise your friend in times of fury? What are your suggestions? Amazingly, behaving like a friend, we become generous and kind to ourselves. 
  • What am I presently excited about? List things that made you excited. Choose two and describe your feeling by further questioning what would it be if you were to change your life to feel the excitement. What is missing? What you need to change? 

The philosophical meditation is rooted in self-love. The exercise clarifies your intentions and aligns them with your values and principles in life that allows you to be less vulnerable and composed. It might not erase all your agony but it can guide you to be calmer and less bitter. As Socrates summed up: “Know yourself.”

 

Featured image by Sara Shakeel

Letting Go – Foundation of Mindfulness #7

Changing the habit of non-acceptance

  • Let the sensations come and go
  • Do not take things personally
  • Acceptance is not choosing over your preference
  • Let go of control; not everything is what we imagine nor what we believe
  • Do not react to the unwanted situation
  • Take your focus away from what you agree or disagree
  • Recognize that flaws do exist in life, in people, and your doings and point of views
  • Detach yourself from distressing thought by not giving too much weight to it
  • Create a supportive slogan for yourself to accept things as they are in challenging moments

Ultimately, by allowing things to be as they are and staying neutral, you will learn to cultivate an acceptance attitude to reduce your anger, remain calm, and eventually find solutions. Remind yourself that the sensations that you feel are magnified. Just like in a horror movie, the knife is on the kitchen counter, but it does not mean that you will be stabbed with it. Being mindful is to know that you don’t have to solve everything nor to change it at once.

Screen Shot 2019-06-17 at 1.09.32 PM.png
Art by Alex Gross

How to let go

The body

  • Observe your hurtful and discouraging thoughts
  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing and imagine that the frustrating emotion flows away with your exhalation

Emotions and feelings

  • Instead of ruminating on the story and inflating the situation with fear and panic, take it at face value
  • Sometimes it is best to engage with the negative thoughts and to confront them with counter argument
  • Know that if something doesn’t go your way is not the end of the world, not necessarily other bad things will continue to happen
  • Set an intention to realize the root cause of the negative thoughts, tension and frustrations
  • Journalling your feelings is helpful and sometimes physical venting like yelling off into a pillow works
  • Recognize that you have a choice to bid farewell to the hurt
  • Create peaceful images to call to mind as a support system
  • Realize that you are not in the centre of the universe
  • In frustration ask yourself is this who you really are? Then align yourself with your peaceful and intelligent self

When you cultivate peace in your attitude towards life, you are diffusing fear. Instead of kicking yourself and others over mistakes, past hurts or old injustices, learn to detach and let go of the anxiety that is brewing from the fear, criticism or offence.  It is satisfying to expose with rage the wrongdoers, vicious people or storm over unfairness but letting go with compassion and forgiveness makes you stronger. The idea is not to ignore nor to tolerate or to yield to unjust but to see things as they are! Your strength to analyze the situation with its risks and being able to shut off the anxieties which cripple and bring you to a depressive mood gives you the control over your emotions and allows you to accumulate the best possible outcome.

Screen Shot 2019-06-17 at 12.57.25 PM
Art by Merelle Fabien

For further information refer to “The Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Feature image by Michael Bergt

Tell Your Brain To Shut Up and Listen!

As promised, I embarked on the practice of mindfulness meditation to learn useful techniques on how to change our state of mind deliberately. The practice serves as a navigator through the ups and downs of life, transcending the fear and seeing things or the problem as they are. Meditation takes you to a place deep within yourself, a bridge to your inner wisdom that helps you stabilize distress—the optimal formula to nurture the best version of yourself.

At its core, the concept of mindful meditation is nothing more than being aware of what you are doing while you are doing it. It is not always about sitting in the Burmese position (mind you, it does help) and chanting a mantra but to be present at the moment. As Jon Kabat-Zinn writes in “Catastrophe Living,” unless you change your way of looking at things, no type of meditation will be useful in the long run. He frames a set of 7 fundamental attitudes that will help with the practice of being present. Non-judgingpatiencebeginner’s mindtrustnon-strivingacceptance, and letting go are to be part of your frame of mind to channel your energies and reach an alpha state. I will dive deeper into each of these attitudes in my upcoming “Mind Series.” 

The practice needs commitment! In the beginning, it will be very hard to include the above attitudes in your thought process, but merely keeping them in mind and applying them in small increments in your day-to-day ways, from eating habits to rituals or working systems, will eventually be ingrained in your thinking.

  • A good place to start is to take notice of your daily habits. For instance, pay attention to what you are eating as if it is for the first time that you are seeing or tasting that food. You can try with just one fruit or any other produce that you like. This exercise involves minding one moment to another and can be extended to other tasks and routines. 
  • Intentionally, build up your efforts and set aside a time during the day to quiet your mind and focus on your breathing.
  • Taking notice of the breath is the anchor that shifts our battling mind and anxieties to a relaxing and calming stage. The turbulence is still there, but even if it’s for a few minutes, this exercise enables you to reconnect to your ability to stay calm.

 

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 1.13.09 PM.png
Photo courtesy of rafyA creative art designs
  • Diaphragmatic breathing – the idea is to intentionally contract the diaphragm muscle and relax your belly during the inhalation to rise and deflate on exhalation. Lie down on your back or stretch out on a recliner put one hand on your belly. Bring your attention to your hand and feel it move. Practice for 15 minutes every day. (“The power of Breathing, Jon Kabat-Zinn) 
  • The other way of practicing mindfulness of breathing is to be mindful of your breath during the day.

 

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 1.19.17 PM
Photo courtesy of designrfix.com
  • Kindly observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment and turn your focus on your breath each time you start dwelling on them.
  • Note the persistent thoughts, detect the emotional threats of the self-centered sentiments, anger, hate, or different moods.
  • Recognize that what comes to your mind is only a thought. By redirecting your attention to your breath, you will detach any value to the lingering thought, and gradually, you will have the strength to intentionally let go of the negative emotions and calm your brain.
Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 1.22.37 PM.png
Photo courtesy of designrfix.com

The whole process is not about pushing the unwanted emotions or thoughts away but cultivating the courage to see as they are. Meditation is about accepting the contents of your mind, regaining calm to reach the peaceful brain wave, and finding clarity.

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 1.27.29 PM.png
Photo courtesy of designrfix.com

Explore your rhythms and pulses, and in concert with your restyled thinking at the same time integrating gratitudecompassionkindnessforgivenessgenerosity, and tolerance, steadilyyou can lead a robust lifestyle.

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 1.52.12 PM
Art of Alex Gross