Three Mindful Ways to Calm an Anxious Mind

Stress and anxiety are a part of life, especially during these times of uncertainty. However, we don’t need to be enslaved by our anxiety and instead can strengthen our mindful skills to ease our anxious minds, come into our lives and grow in confidence.

1. Release the critic

Not only is anxiety painful enough, but we often get hit with a second round of self-critical thoughts. Ask yourself a simple question: Do the judgments make you more or less anxious? The answer is almost always, more. When you notice the self-critic, see if you can interrupt it by dropping into your heart and saying, “May I learn to be kinder to myself.”

2. Practice tuning into the senses

In moments of moderate to intense anxiety the 3×3 practice can come in handy. Drop into three of your senses and name three things that you notice about them. In other words, name three things you’re seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling, or hearing. This can help interrupt the automatic catastrophic thinking that’s fuelling the anxiety.

3. Channel your anxious energy

Not all anxiety is bad. Like most mental events, anxiety lies on a spectrum. When you’re feeling a lot of anxious energy, that could be stress or courage building up. Either way we need to release that. If your anxiety isn’t severe, you can actually channel that energy into something productive. If you’re nervously waiting to hear some news for example, get active—go for a brisk walk, clean, organize, or garden instead.

Original author: Elisha Goldstein
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A Review of McMindfulness

In his new book, McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality, Ron Purser contends that mindfulness dulls our social awareness and discourages us from taking action. Thought leader Andy Lee explores why Purser missed every opportunity to prove those points. 

Despite its ever-growing popularity and mounting evidence of its benefits, mindfulness as it is being taught today is not without its critics. Ron Purser is one of them. In his book, Purser assesses the contribution that mindfulness is making in helping people to reduce their stress and enhance their well-being, and finds it wanting.

His main concern is not what mindfulness does, but what it doesn’t do. In his estimation, much of people’s suffering is not caused by how they manage stress internally, but rather by the hardships and inequities imposed upon them by our capitalist society. To Purser, mindfulness courses are advertised as a meaningful and sustainable way to reduce your stress. But as long as the social and economic causes of stress are not discussed in mindfulness courses, they are not living up to this billing. In his words: 

“Reducing suffering is a noble aim and it should be encouraged. But to do this effectively, teachers of mindfulness need to acknowledge that personal stress also has societal causes. By failing to address collective suffering, and systemic change that might remove it, they rob mindfulness of its real revolutionary potential, reducing it to something banal that keeps people focused on themselves.”

That is a strong indictment of a practice that has been beneficial to countless people. To better understand it, we need to look at Purser’s argument from a few different angles. And to get started, let’s look at the big picture: What do we know about the causes of people’s stress and illness, and what mindfulness does and does not address?

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Retraining Deeply Ingrained Habits of Mindlessness

By Leo Babauta

It’s hard enough to change a habit that you can physically see: going for a daily walk, sitting down to write, having a salad for lunch each day. These are easily seen, but can still be quite a challenge to instill in your life.

But what about habits of mindlessness, that you don’t even know you’re doing? Maybe you notice it later, maybe you never notice. How do you change those kinds of habits?

For myself, I have a number of mindless habits that I could focus on:

Judging other peopleEating mindlessly, especially when I’m talking to people or watching TVSitting too long and getting distracted onlineComparing myself to others or judging myselfShutting down into self-concern when someone is unhappy with meHiding things from others because I’m ashamed or afraid for them to know

Of course, these are just a handful that stand out. They’re deeply ingrained, because I’ve had them since childhood.

They are not a reason to beat myself up, or judge myself. There is nothing wrong with me for having these habits. And yet I can see how they’re unhelpful to my happiness, to my relationships, to the work I want to do in the world.

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The Inner Work of Racial Justice Series with Rhonda Magee

Dive deeper into The Inner Work of Racial Justice with Rhonda Magee on Mindful.org where we’ll be hosting excerpts of her book as well as Q&As and guided meditations.

This October 2019, Mindful.org is hosting law professor and mindfulness practitioner Rhonda Magee for in-depth Q&As and live guided meditations based on her new book. Magee explores how the work of racial justice begins with ourselves. When conflict and division are everyday realities, our instincts tell us to close ranks, to find the safety of our own tribe, and to blame others. The practice of embodied mindfulness—paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in an open, nonjudgmental way—increases our emotional resilience, helps us to recognize our unconscious bias, and gives us the space to become less reactive and to choose how we respond to injustice.

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It is only by healing from injustices and dissolving our personal barriers to connection that we develop the ability to view others with compassion and to live in community with people of vastly different backgrounds and viewpoints. Incorporating mindfulness exercises, research, and Magee’s hard-won insights, The Inner Work of Racial Justiceoffers a road map to a more peaceful world.

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A Meditation for Decentering Your “Self” (And Why You Should Do It)

We were running a workshop for future teachers of mindfulness. When asked about their intentions one of them said: “I want mindfulness to help people to find their authentic selves, to get in touch with who they really are.” Hmmm. So, this raises the question, what is the self, let alone our authentic self? Not to mention, how do you find it?  Questions that have been debated by philosophers, psychologists, and theologians throughout the ages. 

Mindfulness actually uses meditation to examine the phenomena of experience (e.g. body, thoughts, emotions and feeling tone -the pleasant, unpleasant or neutral charge of an experience) rather than debating issues related to the “self”, authentic or otherwise.  Mindfulness teaches us how too much “selfing” leads to fixed identities, that result in suffering if we hold on to them vigorously. It is easy for us to take our “selves” too seriously, getting stuck in self-importance that either emphasizes how bad we think we are or how great. Neither extreme is particularly helpful. 

In fact, we would argue that a main principle underlying all mindfulness teachings is that rigid attachment to who you believe yourself to be and the stories you tell about yourself are limiting and are the root cause of many of our problems. So, we would rather talk about self as a “process”, or as mindfulness scholar Andrew Olendzki has said, “self as verb”, which allows us to be more open to possibility when we don’t see ourselves as unchanging. For example, if one sees themselves as “a depressive” or as “a sick person” or “incompetent” or “a failure” then, we are fixed or static and as in the words of British blues musician, John Mayall, “I can’t give the best, unless I’ve got room to move.” In this case, what we mean is that when we are tightly bound to who we believe ourselves to be or to how we think things “should” be, we’re stuck in a place that narrows options and responsiveness. 

When we are able to have a less judgmental, immersive stance in who “I am” this may enable us to be gentler and kinder with respect to what arises and our subsequent behaviors.

When we are able to have a less judgmental, immersive stance in who “I am” this may enable us to be gentler and kinder with respect to what arises and our subsequent behaviors. Bringing awareness and accountability to how we treat ourselves without so much self-recrimination makes space for less self-absorption and more compassion for others. If we are all “process” then you really are just like me, and I am just like you. There is then, so little separation between us. And, if I can stop blaming myself, hopefully, I can stop blaming you, particularly when you cut me off in traffic. I can be open to the possibility that you are not a malicious jerk but, just like me, self-absorbed at times or preoccupied or in a hurry. I can be gentler, and kinder to both of us and perhaps bring empathy and concern for the suffering of others who are beyond my social circle.

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