The word humility comes from the same Latin root word for “humus.” That is, the word humility essentially means to be fully grounded. Humus is the earth between our fingers; our humility is our self firmly held. To be humble is to be grounded. Grounded in reality, in an honest and accepting assessment of my strengths and my weaknesses. The humble person knows himself, without any delusions, without any additions or subtractions. The humble person knows that she is strong in one area while being weak in another, and it’s all OK. The humble person yields to his vulnerability, knows that it is acceptable to be weak and to need help. The humble person yields to her strength, knows that it is acceptable to be strong and to offer that help to another person. In our humility we become real. You cannot be humble and be phony. To be humble is to be strong, chiefly because I know and accept that I have permission to be weak.
It may take years to realize, but one does not have to do everything one is asked to do. Many opportunities arise. Many elicit excitement upon being perused. It is in the moment of arousal that great risk emerges, side by side with great opportunity. This moment, a sort of crisis in its own way, demands discernment. Appraisals fill the mind. Does this concern me? Can I do this well? The answer to these questions may well be “yes,” but still more discernment is required. Mindfully, one must remember that just because one might be able to do something well, one still has the option to not do that action, even if it IS important to do. It is worth repeating: Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you MUST do something. Many stress related illnesses and deaths may have been avoided had this simple truth been heeded.
I’m currently teaching a 3 credit Psychology course at Wilmington University titled “Stress Management.” As part of this course I’m teaching a variety of methods to reduce physiological and psychological stress. I’ve recorded five guided stress reduction interventions, which I’m posting for my students and anyone else who might find them helpful. Please note that the sixth method I taught this weekend, Progressive Muscular Relaxation, can be found in a previous post.
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing. This is a very simple way to “catch your breath,” and have a relaxing moment. With regular practice, you’ll find this tool is one you can use in any situation to relax a bit and widen your cognitive outlook. Just click on this link to listen: Diaphragmatic Breathing
2. Awareness of Breath. For those who are regular followers of this blog, or have taken the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, this mindfulness meditation is an “old friend.” Just click on this link to listen: Awareness of Breath Meditation
3. Body Scan. Another favorite of regular meditators and students (and teachers) of MBSR. Just click on this link to listen: Body Scan
4. Visualization. What are you thinking about? What images do you bring to mind? How do your thoughts and images affect you emotionally? When you bring any sort of memory to mind, the emotional charge of that memory arrives with it, bringing your body to that place and time. This capacity of the body is one that you can use to find a retreat, a safe place where you can restore your well being, even if only for a short time. Visualization is a powerful technique. Just click this link to listen: Visualization
5. Self Hypnosis. The ability to become deeply relaxed and open minded is always available. Hypnosis is the induction of that relaxed and open mindedness, and one that you can use to great advantage. Before beginning consider what suggestion you’d like to plant in your mind, and, at the appropriate time in the induction, make that suggestion to yourself. Just click this link to listen: Self Hypnosis
Hope this material is helpful for you. Feel free to send me questions, comments, and concerns.
Anxiety: a feeling of dread, related to fear and panic, yet not as strong. It’s a feeling we can carry with us, whether there is some cause in our environment or not. Sometimes anxiety is generated by a thought or a concern that we have. And the longer we remain fixed on this thought or concern, the longer we carry the bodily feeling of anxiety. Sometimes anxiety arises spontaneously, filling the body with uncomfortable feelings. And the bodily feeling of anxiety itself can set the mind in motion, activate all kinds of thoughts and memories that are congruent with the anxiety, but may have little if anything to do with what is happening right here, right now.
One of the primary effects of anxiety is to cause muscular tension. It can be very subtle tension, such as jaw clenching or teeth grinding. A sore back or neck, fatigue in our torso or limbs, all can be the result of muscles kept tensed throughout much of the day. When the feeling of anxiety permeates our self, the muscular tension that ensues can be exhausting.
One antidote for anxiety is to relieve the muscular tension. Many people find that the process of relaxing the muscles systematically not only brings on a peaceful feeling, but that it actually relieves the anxiety itself. And if you combine the work of muscular relaxation with some simple mental corrections concerning those activated thoughts and memories, then the anxiety can truly be relieved and relinquished. But it takes lots of practice and commitment.
Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR) is a technique pioneered by Edmund Jacobson, an American psychiatrist and physiologist, in the 1920’s. Jacobson’s work, and the work of many of his disciples (especially Joseph Wolpe), laid the groundwork for treatment of anxiety disorders. You can find a good introduction to Jacobson’s work in the Wikipedia article about PMR (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_muscle_relaxation).
I’ve recorded a simple, 15 minute script that will lead you through a PMR session. All you need is a quiet comfortable place where you can listen to this script and practice PMR. It’s really simple; after doing this practice by the recording a few times you won’t need to listen to it, you’ll simply know how to relax your muscles in this manner. You might find cultivating this skill quite helpful. Imagine mindfully noticing the beginning of some anxious feelings during the day, and being able to recognize which muscles are tensing and then, with a very simple and conscious effort, relaxing those muscles and letting go of the anxiety.
Here’s the recording: Progressive Muscular Relaxation
And here are the simple directions to follow before you listen to the recording:
1. Find a time and place that will allow you 20 minutes of relatively undisturbed quiet. Padded earphones may be of assistance in tuning out the world. Some people find it helpful to have recorded music of a relaxing nature in the background.
2. Develop a habit of relaxing in the same place at the same time every day. Make it part of your daily schedule. Relaxation is a skill that requires practice.
3. Get as comfortable as you can, preferably sitting in a recliner with your entire body and head supported, or lying down. Wear loose clothing that will assure a sufficient warmth, or cover yourself with a light blanket. Remove eyeglasses or contact lenses before beginning to relax.
4. Avoid doing the relaxation exercise immediately after eating a full meal or when you are tired, as you may actually fall asleep and not benefit from the relaxation practice. However, relaxation in itself may be used to substitute for a nap as a source of renewed energy, or it can be used to combat insomnia which is associated with anxiety.
5. After you have relaxed to the recorded script several times, you will find you are able to obtain the same deep state of relaxation without actually tensing your muscles at all. If you find yourself becoming impatient with the length and sequence of the tape, you might try starting your relaxation sessions midway through the tape, beginning with the deep breaths. It is also recommended that you occasionally go through the entire relaxation sequence on your own without the tape. Eventually you will be able to achieve the same deep relaxed state merely by imagining your calm scene.
If not now, when.
Actually, the entire quote is “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”
These are the words of one of the greatest Jewish scholars, Rabbi Hillel, also known as Hillel the Elder. Hillel lived in the beginning of the common era, roughly 2000 years ago. His admonition, “if not now, when,” is taken to refer to the necessity to attend to obligations now, in this moment, and to not put off that which is essential.
Be mindful now. Such a simple injunction. Taken with Hillel’s admonition, what am I waiting for if I do not direct my intentionality to the present moment? When do I want to live? Next year? Back when I was 12 years old?
I only have now. So why do I fret? Tomorrow isn’t here. Why do I regret? Yesterday is over; I can’t change it.
When is the time to be mindful? What am I waiting for? How about you? Did you sit today? Did you walk mindfully? Eat mindfully? What excuse did I give myself? Was I at least able to be mindful of my mindless excuse?
If not now, when. Be mindful now.
I’ve been away a while. Life gets busy, and priorities shift. It’s my intention to blog regularly, as I’m usually coming across information that fascinates me and helps me one way or the other, and I love to share that material. One day soon the time will be available more regularly, I’m certain.
But for now, I’d like to direct you to this link: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/lifes-frailty-and-the-gestures-that-go-a-long-way/?ref=science
Tara Parker-Pope is a NYTimes writer who frequently contributes to the Tuesday “Science Times.” She writes today about the frailty of life and the importance of expressing our love for one another. I agree. You just don’t know when it’s the last time you’ll see someone. I know that sounds morbid, but it’s a truth that bears acceptance. But there’s another reason for expressing our affection: it feels good. It fills the heart. If you’re not certain of this, take it to a meditation. After you’ve steadied your mind somewhat, simply find two words to accompany your breathing. Something like “soft” on the in breath and “heart” on the out breath. Or “loving” and “kindness.” Or “gently” and “caressing.” The only limit is your imagination. Once your mind has settled on this breathing intonation, bring to mind’s eye the image of a loved one. Dwell with this image. Perhaps reinvent this image to this loved one as a seven year old. Or yourself, perhaps. Then examine your heart. Feel your body in this mindset.
If your body has softened, become loving, then take the experiment further: tell that person of your softened heart, caressing touch, or lovingkindness. Be vulnerable, expect no return. And if that person wonders “what’s this about” you can always tell them “it’s cheaper than a Valentine’s Day card”!
Peace and love to you,
The material available in this post includes the slides, handout, and original research article used in my workshop on trait anger and treatment of addictions, particularly Pathological Gambling. Feel free to use these materials, and feel free to contact me about them if you have any questions (email@example.com).
These are the Powerpoint slides I used in the workshop: Trait Anger Gambling Workshop Slides
The questions we considered as part of our work in the workshop are included in this document: Trait Anger Gambling Workshop Questions
This is the research article that I presented during the morning portion of the workshop: Gambling & Anger Outcomes Study
The Powerpoint slides and questions are my original work. If you choose to use them please give attribution. The journal article has its own copyright protection.
Is there a topic of greater interest than Human Satisfaction, especially as we grow older? What does it mean to be satisfied with your life? So many variables go into this equation. My family’s happiness certainly comes to mind first. My health, the health of those I love must be considered. Are my basic needs met? (What are my BASIC needs anyway?) Do I have a career that feels more like play than work? Do I have friends who bring my joy and comfort? Do I find delight in the day-to-day events of my life?
For a great perspective on this issue, here’s a wonderful article from Jane Brody, one of the great science writers of our time. It appeared in the Science Times section of the NY Times yesterday, January 10, 2012. It’s worth reading.
More later. But Ms. Brody’s article provides much food for thought.
Or perhaps garden. Or read a good book. Or try a new recipe. What did you do today for your mind? What did you choose to do today that would allow your mind to become focused, non-judgmental, calm?
There are two ways to reduce your stress level. The first is the most obvious but probably the least utilized: reduce the number of stressors in your life. Now, that’s not easily done. After all, you can’t put your teenaged child up for adoption! And you probably can’t quit your job or your post in the Home and School Association or tell your sister-in-law to never speak again. But if you can eliminate a stressor or two, do it.
The other way to reduce the stress in your life is to reduce the stress in your body. For me, it’s take a good, long run. Or schedule an afternoon or evening alone, brew a good cup of Earl Grey or Green tea, curl up with a good book and enjoy the quiet. Or work in the yard. Or paint a room (yes, I find painting to be VERY relaxing). What each of these activities have in common is that each is conducive to mindfulness. Being present, not judging, staying focused. Hit the meditation cushion, immerse yourself in prayerful silence, whatever it takes to get outside of your self and allow your mind to get into flow.
So, when I’m getting a bit kerfuffled I have to ask myself this question: Did I run today? And if I didn’t, or get mindful in some other way, then I will have to pay a stress-based consequence, and wait until tomorrow to hit the trail. But let today’s stress be a wake up call, or even a warning: get mindful again!
Special thanks to Scott Caplan for sending this link:
The opening of the article about changes in brain function is very interesting, but be sure to read the text below. A regular meditation practice changes the brain’s “default” mode. Makes us less “self-centered” and more “other-centered.” Not a bad way to live!