Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World

Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World

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The simple mindfulness techniques at the heart of Mindfulness for Creativity dissolve anxiety and stress and have been proven to enhance creativity, problem solving and decision making – skills that are needed not only by ‘creatives’ but by anyone who wants to optimize their work, life and overall wellbeing.
 This easy-to-follow, four-week programme takes just 10-20 minutes a day and works by soothing and clarifying the mind, allowing innovative ideas to take form and flourish. It reveals just how much of life is controlled by habitual ways of thinking and approaching the world – and shows you how to pursue a more creative and productive path.

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Life is chaotic, but if you follow the mindfulness meditations programme you will become more resilient and less anxious, and develop the courage necessary to make difficult decisions, create new ideas and to follow them wherever they should lead.

MINDFULNESS reveals a set of simple yet powerful practices that you can incorporate into daily life to help you break the cycle of anxiety, stress, unhappiness and exhaustion. It promotes genuine joie de vivre; the kind of happiness that gets into your bones and seeps into everything you do. The book is based on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). MBCT revolves around a straightforward form of mindfulness meditation which takes just a few minutes a day for the full benefits to be revealed. MBCT has been clinically proven to be at least as effective as drugs for depression and it is recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence – in other words, it works. But more importantly, it also works for the rest of us who aren’t depressed but who are struggling to keep up with the relentless demands of the modern world. In short, Mindfulness helps you meet the worst that life throws at you with renewed courage.

Mindfulness is co-authored by Professor Mark Williams of Oxford University, co-developer of MBCT and inspiring meditation teacher.

How finding internal balance helps the natural environment

How finding internal balance helps the natural environment

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According to Buddhist teaching, there is a very close interdependence between the natural environment and the sentient beings living in it. Some of my friends have told me that basic human nature is somewhat violent, but I told them I disagree. If we examine different animals, for example, those whose very survival depends on taking others lives, such as tigers or lions, we learnt that their basic nature provides them with sharp fangs and claws. Peaceful animals, such as deer, which are completely vegetarian, are gentler and have smaller teeth and no claws. From that viewpoint we human beings have a non-violent nature. As to the question of human survival, human beings are social animals. In order to survive we need companions. Without other human beings there is simply no possibility of surviving; that is a law of nature.

Since I deeply believe that human beings are basically gentle by nature, I feel that we should not only maintain gentle, peaceful relations with our fellow human beings but also that it is very important to extend the same kind of attitude towards the natural environment. Morally speaking, we should be concerned for our whole environment.

Then there is another viewpoint, not just a question of ethics but a question of our own survival. The environment is very important not only for this generation but also for future generations. If we exploit the environment in extreme ways, even though we may get some money or other benefit from it now, in the long run we ourselves will suffer and future generations will suffer. When the environment changes, climatic conditions also change. When they change dramatically, the economy and many other things change as well. Even our physical health will be greatly affected. So this is not merely a moral question but also a question of our own survival.

Therefore, in order to succeed in the protection and conservation of the natural environment, I think it is important first of all to bring about an internal balance within human beings themselves. The abuse of the environment, which has resulted in such harm to the human community, arose out of ignorance of the importance of the environment. I think it is essential to help people to understand this. We need to teach people that the environment has a direct bearing on our own benefit.

I am always talking about the importance of compassionate thought. As I said earlier, even from your own selfish viewpoint, you need other people. So, if you develop concern for other people’s welfare, share other people’s suffering, and help them, ultimately you will benefit. If you think only of yourself and forget about others, ultimately you will lose. That is also something like a law of nature.

It is quite simple: if you do not smile at people, but frown at them, they respond similarly, don’t they? If you deal with other people in a very sincere, open way, they behave similarly. Every body wants to have friends and does not want enemies. The proper way to create friends is to have a warm heart, not simply money or power. The friend of power and the friend of money are something different: These are not true friends. True friends should be real friends of heart, shouldn’t they? I am always telling people that those friends who come around when you have money and power are not truly your friends, but friends of money and power, because as soon as the money and power disappear, those friends are also ready to leave. They are not reliable.

Genuine, human friends stand by, whether you are successful or unlucky, and always share your sorrow and burdens. The way to make such friends is not by being angry, nor by having good education or intelligence, but by having a good heart.

To think more deeply, if you must be selfish, then be wisely selfish, not narrow-mindedly selfish. The key thing is the sense of universal responsibility; that is the real source of strength, the real source of happiness. If our generation exploits everything available – the trees, the water, and the minerals – without any care for the coming generations or the future, then we are at fault, aren’t we? But if we have a genuine sense of universal responsibility as our central motivation, then our relations with our neighbors, both domestic and international, improves.

Another important question is: What is consciousness, what is the mind? In the Western world, during the last one or two centuries there has been great emphasis on science and technology, which mainly deal with matter. Today some nuclear physicists and neurologists say that when you investigate particles in a very detailed way, there is some kind of influence from the side of the observer, the knower. What is this knower? A simple answer is; A human being, the scientist. How does the scientist know? With the brain, Western scientists have identified only a few hundred so far. Now, whether you call it mind, brain, or consciousness, there is a relationship between brain and mind and also mind and matter. I think this is important. I feel it is possible to hold some sort of dialogue between Eastern philosophy and Western science on the basis of this relationship.

In any case, these days we human beings are very much more involved in the external world, while we neglect the internal world. We do need scientific development and material development in order to survive and to increase the general benefit and prosperity, but equally as much we need mental peace. Yet no doctor can give you an injection of mental peace, and no market can sell it to you. If you go to a supermarket with millions and millions of dollars, you can buy anything, but if you go there and ask for peace of mind, people will laugh. And if you ask a doctor for genuine peace of mind, not the mere sedation you get from taking some kind of pill or injection, the doctor cannot help you.

Even today’s sophisticated computers cannot provide you with mental peace. Mental peace must come from the mind. Everyone wants happiness and pleasure, but if we compare physical pleasure and physical pain with mental pleasure and mental pain, we find that the mind is more effective, predominant, and superior. Thus it is worthwhile adopting certain methods to increase mental peace, and in order to do that, it is important to know more about the mind. When we talk about preservation of the environment, it is related to many other things. The key point is to have genuine sense of universal responsibility, based on love and compassion, and clear awareness.

Giftivism: the practice of radically generous acts that transform the world

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Nipun Mehta is the founder of ServiceSpace (formerly Charity Focus), an incubator of projects that works at the intersection of volunteerism, technology and gift-economy. What started as an experiment with four friends in the Silicon Valley has now grown to a global ecosystem of over 350000 members. Nipun has received many awards, including the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the President’s Volunteer Service Award and Wavy Gravy’s Humanitarian award. He is routinely invited to share his message of “giftivism” to wide ranging audiences, from inner city youth in Memphis to academics in London to international dignitaries at the United Nations. He serves on the advisory boards of the Seva Foundation, the Dalai Lama Foundation, and Greater Good Science Center.

Giftivism: the practice of radically generous acts that transform the world.

History has seen giftivists in all corners – Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and so forth. People who believed that when we change ourselves, we can fundamentally change the world. But this ability isn’t restricted to social change giants. The seeds of giftivism lie in each of us. But to tap into it we have to do something all these people did. We have to upturn one of the core assumptions of economics – the assumption that people always act to maximize self-interest. The assumption that we are inherently selfish beings. Giftivism flips that idea on its head.

Video ThumbnailNipun Mehta is the founder of ServiceSpace (formerly Charity Focus), an incubator of projects that works at the intersection of volunteerism, technology and gift-economy. What started as an experiment with four friends in the Silicon Valley has now grown to a global ecosystem of over 350000 members.
8 Keys to Healthy Relationships

8 Keys to Healthy Relationships

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I get asked a lot about what a healthy relationship is like, or is supposed to be like. The easy answer is that it looks different for every couple. However, I realized a long time ago that if we didn’t grow up with parents who had wonderful ways of relating to one another, that there was virtually no where else to turn to find a healthy couple to learn from. This leaves the ways that happy and healthy couples relate as secrets that many of us don’t get to experience. So I hope that the following article gives some general ideas on how healthy couples function, although the details will be up to each couple to fill in.

Where This Comes From

The following principles are a combination of three lines of research on relationships. The first is from something called relationship “minding”, which was developed by Harvey and Omarzu (2011). The second is from the Gottman Institute, which studies how couples communicate and interact in positive and negative ways. The third is from current attachment research.

Before going any further, it would be a mistake not to mention things that happen in unhealthy relationships too. Missing some of the things listed later in this article is normal for anyone, however, there are a variety of things that indicate relationships that are unhealthy. These include verbal and emotional abuse (name calling, intimidation, threats, shaming, belittling); patterns of control and isolation; violence of any kind; violation of boundaries; and emotional manipulation. If you are experiencing things like this in any of your relationships, I would suggest getting help right away to address it.

Otherwise, as you read the rest of this post, I’d suggest thinking about a variety of relationships in your life; a close friend, your partner, your ex, a family relationship, or others. Each point will work out differently depending on the relationship, and each may also reveal an area for improvement. Also remember that no one can do these perfectly all the time, and most relationships have issues in some dimensions.

8 Keys to Healthy Relationships

  1. Taking Interest: People in healthy relationships take interest in one another. This is usually done in a variety of ways from asking how someone is doing (and not just in the small-talk-passing-on-the-street kind of way), inviting them to do positive and creative things, and asking deeper questions about how they experienced something rather than just what they did.
  2. Acceptance & Respect: This means accepting what we have come to know about the other person and continuing to treat him/her with respect. When we really get to know someone, we find out things that are not that great about them, and they find out the same about us. Continuing to hold the other person in a positive light (and you being held in a positive light too!), are essential practices in healthy relationships. Additionally, people in the happiest relationships also talk favorably about each other in social situations, and also try to honor the preferences the other person has for things.
  3. Positive Regard: People in healthy relationships tend to see negative things the other person has done as honest mistakes or due to difficult circumstances, and attribute positive things as the result of the other person just being a good person, due to hard work, or other positive character traits.
  4. Meeting Basic Needs: The basic needs that everyone has in relationships are companionship, affection, and emotional support. People in healthy relationships are focused on meeting these as well as other special needs that the other person has, and they are willing to grow to be better at this.
  5. Positive Interactions: Research shows that relationships are the most satisfying when there are quantitatively more positive interactions with the other person than negative. For some relationships there may be a large number of negative interactions, but as long as the number of positive interactions is a lot higher, satisfaction will remain high.
  6. Solve Problems: There are a lot of unsolvable problems in relationships that will continue to cycle through, regardless of solutions, and people in healthy relationships find ways to reduce these conflicts as much as possible. However, there are also a lot of problems that can be solved, and highly functioning couples will actively compromise and find solutions to those.
  7. Rupture & Repair: people in the healthiest relationships are able to quickly and effectively repair damage (ruptures) to their relationships. This means a) recognizing that you or the other person is hurt, angry, or unhappy with something, and b) addressing it in a way that fixes things in a timely manner. Many people wait too long to initiate repairs, some try but make things worse because they aren’t sure what to do, and others do not do it at all.
  8. Reciprocity: This means that both people in the relationship are working on this stuff. If only one person is taking an interest, accepting and respecting, giving the benefit of the doubt, meeting the others’ needs, providing positive interactions, and repairing ruptures, then the relationship likely has larger problems that need to be explored.
Is your idea of “perfect happiness” based on a myth?

Is your idea of “perfect happiness” based on a myth?

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Nearly all of us buy into what we call the myths of happiness—beliefs that certain adult achievements (marriage, kids, jobs, wealth) will make us forever happy and that certain adult failures or adversities (health problems, divorce, financial struggles) will make us forever unhappy. Overwhelming research, however, reveals that there is no magic formula for happiness and no sure course toward misery. Rather than bringing lasting happiness or misery in themselves, major life moments and crisis points can be opportunities for renewal, growth, or meaningful change. It’s how you greet these moments that really matters.

Genetics

A very famous study was conducted by David Lykken, at Minnesota’s University who in 1990 studied 4,000 pairs of twins, both identical and fraternal twins, who had been educated in the same way and with equal opportunities. Lykken was the proponent of a set-point theory of happiness, which argues that one’s sense of well-being is half determined by genetics and half determined by circumstances. His research findings suggest that a person’s baseline levels of cheerfulness, contentment, and psychological satisfaction are largely a matter of heredity.

Then, saying that genetics determined your happiness, it’s half true.

Specific Achievements

Many of us fervently believe that, if we’re not happy now, we’ll be happy when we’ve finally made it—when we have reached a certain level of prosperity and success. However, when that happiness proves elusive or short-lived, we weather mixed emotions, letdown, and even depression. When we’ve achieved—at least on paper—much of what we have always wanted to achieve, life can become dull and even empty. There is little around the corner to look forward to. Many prosperous and successful individuals don’t understand this natural process of adaptation, and may come to the conclusion that they need even more money to be truly happy. They do not realize that the key to buying happiness is not in how successful we are, but perhaps what we do with our success; it’s not how high our income is, but how we allocate it.

In her book “Myths of happiness“, Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, says that the idea of ”I will be happy when… ” is a false promise.

What happens is that once the euphoria passes, the feeling of dissatisfaction will appear again. Then we spend our whole lives chasing an achievement after another without enjoying what we are. The same author notes that another myth equally widespread and harmful is the belief “I will not be happy if… When you suffer a change of adverse fortune, our reaction is usually oversized” says Lyubomirsky. “So we feel that we cannot be happy again, and life as we know it has already finished”.

We must understand that personal fulfillment cannot be subject to conditions, because life is changing and we will always swing between positive and negative experiences. By accepting the ups and downs of existence, we can ensure unconditional welfare and the capacity to face the inevitable hardships of life.

Money

One survey of 1,000 Americans, conducted in 2010, concluded that money does make us happier – but only up to a certain point. The findings, by psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton, both from Princeton University, showed that self-reported levels of wellbeing increased with salary up to $75,000 (roughly £50,000) a year. But after that, increasing amounts of money had no further effect on happiness.

However, a more recent study, published by researchers at the University of Michigan in 2013, challenged the idea that the positive effect of money plateaus. After comparing life satisfaction and happiness levels in both rich and poor countries, and rich and poor people within a country – with “rich” being defined as an income greater than $15,000 (roughly £10,000) per person – Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers concluded: “The relationship between wellbeing and income … does not diminish as income rises. If there is a satiation point, we are yet to reach it.”

So does money make us happier? Well, yes and no. We need enough to cover our basic needs, and a rising salary can impact our wellbeing, but we also need to remember the positive effects of generosity and building relationships. Perhaps our focus should be less on how much money we have, and more on how we use it.

Stop waiting for certain things to happen is a good key to be happy. By releasing beliefs about happiness, we will be closer to get it on our own, encouraging a lifestyle that allows us to be at peace with ourselves while we are useful for others.

The good news is that there are no magic formulas to reach happiness. Each of us must discover our own recipe.

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