Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shame and Having Fun

I went to a Phish concert last night. I have not been to one in a while and it was a wonderful, peak type of experience. I thought a lot about how fear infects my life on all levels and how I hold against feeling it. But also I notice that today I am feeling a little down. This often (if not all the time) happens after I enjoy myself in that way. I have been preprogrammed to punish myself for having a good time. This is shame at work.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What Does Meditation Do? (Part II)

In my last post entitled "What Does Meditation Do?" I said that the primary purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind. I take that back. There are many things that meditation does and they all fit together into one experience and break down into many. Another thing that meditation does is that it brings awareness to how the mind functions. When you meditate you are observing your mind. You put yourself above your mind instead of unconsciously existing within it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Urge To Create Systems

I am writing about my thoughts and I am aware of the urge to formulate a system that ties all these thoughts together. Perhaps an over arching system is there to be discovered. But I must also be aware that any system is possibly illusory. Although systems are helpful in terms of conceptualizing how groups of concepts fit together, it is possible to become a slave to the system whereby the system becomes more important than the concepts. Any system should be flexible. I would never want to discard a valid concept because it does not fit into a system.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Two Minds Of Meditation

Sometimes it seems like there are two minds while I am meditating. There is the mind that sneaks in and gets me to think about random things. There is also the "larger" mind that observes this "little" mind of distractions. I tend to associate the "larger" mind with the true self, the soul, that part of the self that exists below or beyond the programing of the little mind. I say programing because it is an accumulation of code amassed throughout the lifetime. It seems this code's primary purpose is protection on a macro (i.e., species) level. I've spoken about this in other posts. But also protection on a micro (i.e., individual level). This is how shame develops. The larger mind observes this happening but often falls asleep and the little mind becomes the only mind. When this happens the self becomes absorbed into the little mind. That becomes the only reality.

What Is The Story Of The Garden Of Eden About?

As with all literature, the Book of Genesis is open to interpretation. Literature that has stood the test of time (e.g., the Bible) must speak to people across generations at a very core level. Genesis, especially the parts about Adam and Eve speak of Man's alienation from God. And if you look at God (at least in part) as your inner most, true self, then the story of Adam is a story about how man has alienated himself from himself. This alienation comes chiefly from shame. Shame is the feeling that the self must hide because it is deserving of punishment or ridicule. It is the belief that there is something wrong with the self and therefore the self must either hide literally, or hide figuratively by pretending to be something other than itself. Over time, this pretended self begins to feel like the real self and the real self is forgotten. In Genesis, Adam ate of the tree of Knowledge. When he did this his eyes were opened and he was ashamed. He then sewed fig leaves together to hide his nakedness (i.e., his true self). God (his true self) came to look for him and Adam hid.

Note: some of the ideas in this passage are taken from a fantastic book called "Healing the Shame that Binds You" by John Bradshaw. Anyone who feels that too much shame is a problem in their lives should absolutely read this book. Here is a link:

My Religion

I was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition and still regularly attend services. I cannot say that I believe 100% of the dogma but I get meaning from the ritual, literature, and a lot of the teachings. As I said in an earlier post I tend to interpret the readings and sermons from the perspective that God or perhaps a piece of God resides in each of us and this is our inner most self or soul. So on Ash Wednesday when they talk about the "Father who sees in secret" - I hear this as my true self. I don't rule out the separate entity looking down on me. I think the two forms can exist at the same time.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Shouldn't I Compare Myself To Others?

Any comparison you make between yourself and someone else will always be false because no two people had the same experience growing up. Therefore, the mental programings (i.e., the minds) of different people will always react differently to the same situations based upon their past experiences. As such it makes no logical sense to feel bad about yourself based on a comparison between yourself and another person. This is just the mind trying to protect you albeit in a dysfunctional manner. This is protection on a macro or species level. Jealousy begets competition which weeds out the weak and increases the overall chance that the species will survive.

As such, the next time you notice yourself comparing yourself to another person, acknowledge this is what is happening then say your meaningful word internally and move on.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why Should I Feel My Feelings?

No feeling is wrong. Feelings that are not fully felt because they are considered to be wrong or intimidating for some other reason will continue to linger under the surface until they are fully felt and released. For many people, certain feelings are too intimidating to feel. At first, this might be hard to believe but consider that the mind is very subtle when it detects something that might be uncomfortable to deal with directly. A good indicator that a feeling is lingering is the urge to engage in compulsive behavior (drinking alcohol, smoking, gambling, nail biting, skin picking etc.)

If you ever sense a strong urge to engage in this type of behavior:

(1) Try to see if there is some feeling that this urge was designed to distract you from.

(2) Before engaging in that behavior see if you can tell what that feeling is and what it means to you.

(3) If you can do that, see if you can willingly allow yourself to feel it.

If you do not willingly allow yourself to feel it then it will linger and you will continue to repeat the dysfunctional pattern.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why Does The Mind Do What It Does?

It is my understanding that the mind is programed to avoid situations that are uncomfortable. This programming started when you were born and has been continuously edited ever since. As you get older less and less editing is done unless you actively seek to edit this programing through meditation or psychotherapy (for example). This programing exists as a survival tool. The less discomfort you experience, the more likely you will be to survive and reproduce. Our physical bodies are here because our progenitors possessed this programming. In that sense it is a good thing and should not be judged to harshly.

Some (probably most) of this programming was brought about through childhood trauma. This programming may be useful on a macro level (i.e., it increases the likelihood that you will continue to live long enough to reproduce), but on a micro level manifests itself in dysfunctional ways. For example, if a child is shamed he will seek to avoid situations where will be shamed in the future. This protects him from shaming but prevents him from fully living his life.

What Does Meditation Do?

What is the purpose of meditation? In my experience, the primary purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind. This is simple at first glance but becomes very nuanced the more you explore it. If you try to meditate or perform any activity with some degree of discomfort to it, the mind will try to convince you why you should not do this. Probably most of the time we follow this instruction without realizing it. Meditation allows you to recognize that this instruction is happening in the first place. This recognition is a very important first step along the path that meditation will lead you. When you recognize this instruction for what it is - programing designed to help you avoid discomfort you can choose to follow it, not follow it or dismiss it with your meaningful word (see How To Meditate). Quieting the mind brings forth many benefits that I will discuss in a future post.

How To Meditate While Running and Run Farther Easier

If you are unfamiliar with meditation see my earlier post entitled "How To Meditate."

Here is my instructions for meditation while running:

(1) Choose a distance to run.

(2) Start running and do not stop (unless you become injured) until you complete the distance.

(3) When your mind starts:

(a) making excuses for why you should stop or cut short your run, or
(b) judging you, or
(c) comparing yourself to others, or
(d) thinking about how much distance is left, or
(e) starts making plans about how much you will run in the future...

Say your meaningful word internally until that mental chatter stops. Usually one time is enough.

How To Meditate

There are many ways to meditate.  This is how I do it.

(1) Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for a specific period of time.  If you are new to meditation try to do it for 10 minutes.  If that is too hard try 5 minutes.

(2) Sit on a chair or the floor.  Try as best you can to maintain good posture without straining yourself.

(3) Set a timer for the amount of time you want to meditate.  Here is a link to a website with free online meditation timers.

(4)  Choose a word that is meaningful to you.  It can be religious or significant in some other way.

(5)  Start the timer and close your eyes.

(6) If thoughts come in your head (especially thoughts about how boring this is) say your meaningful word internally until the thoughts go away. Probably once is enough.

(7) Do this for the entire duration of the time you selected. If thoughts try to convince you to stop, say your meaningful word internally until the thoughts stop.

(8) Try to keep a regular practice for a few days and do not judge yourself. If you observe yourself judging yourself say your meaningful word until the thoughts of judgement go away.