Mindfulness and Mountains

One of the best ways I find for recovering my inner strength and recharging my batteries is being in the mountains. Living in Switzerland, I feel very lucky as I can quickly escape and in a couple of hours be in places of extreme beauty.

Wallis Panorama

Last year, I published a nice post about mountains and especially the so-called “mountain-meditation” from Kabat-Zinn. Today, I found another guiding text that I want to share here with you now. It also comes from Kabat-Zinn and is adapted from “Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life“. Enjoy!

The mountain meditation

When it comes to meditation, mountains have a lot to teach us. The image of a the mountain held in the mind’s eye and in the body, can refresh our memory of why we are sitting, and of what it really means to dwell in the realm of non-doing.

 

Picture the most beautiful mountain you know – or can imagine. Notice its overall shape, the lofty peak, the base rooted in the rock of the earth’s crust, the sloping sides. Note how massive it is, how unmoving, how beautiful.

 

See if you can bring the mountain into your own body – your head becomes the lofty peak; your shoulders and arms the sides of the mountain; your buttocks and legs the solid base rooted to your cushion on the floor or to your chair.

 

Notice any emotions you are feeling and your mood as though they are the weather around the mountain. Is your weather right now sunny and calm or stormy with lashing rain, is it icy or warm? Allow your personal weather to be the way it is, noticing if it intensifies, changes or stays the same through the meditation.

 

Fully become the breathing mountain, unwavering in your stillness, completely what you are – beyond words and thought, a centred, rooted, unmoving presence.

 

As the light changes, as night follows day and day night, the mountain just sits, simply being itself. It remains still as the seasons flow into one another and as the weather changes moment by moment. Storms may come, but still the mountain sits.

 

Calmness abiding all change.

Glimpse on the Matterhorn

 

 

 

Finding and staying with the ‘flow’ – The Yerkes-Dodson Curve

Many of you will already have experienced this at some times in their lives: you are not really motivated to go to work or open your laptop. You feel not energized at all, everything seems to be taking longer than before. Whatever it is you are doing is demanding you so much less than you are capable of that you actually feel completely bored and useless. Sounds familiar? Well, let me tell you that persistent boredom is  also a form of stress which – as all forms of stress over longer periods of time – can make you sick in various ways.

Not being challenged enough is one extreme of the so-called “Yerkes-Dodson Curve” which looks like a reversed U.

Yerkes-Dodson Curve

Stress-Performance curve; source: Michael Chaskalson, The Mindful Workplace, 2011, page 59.

As we also know all too well, life nowadays is asking many of us a lot in terms of data overflow, multitasking, more and more global organizations, hence increased workload at demanding times, etc. When dealing with these sort of challenges but still being capable of handling everything, we move up the curve towards the peak. Pressure increases but so does our ability to cope with it in an effective manner.

Nevertheless, beyond a certain point, if the pressure continues to rise our performance will start to decrease. We feel less able to cope with the multitude of tasks we are to perform, details are lost in a sheer flood of information, we feel overwhelmed and unorganized. Our motivation drops and eventually, when this goes on for too long, we become sick. Obesity, burnout, depression, chronic pain, fatigue, cancer, heart disease are just a few key words to stress what an important impact stress can have on our wellbeing and our lives as a whole. Your body simply cannot cope with the permanent activation of the sympathetic nervous system… stress becomes distress.

At the peak however, when finding the right balance between personal resources and challenge, we excel. In this state you are creative and efficient and you feel very good about yourself. Usually this state is called ‘flow’.

You might be asking yourselves now: is there a way to prevent tripping over to the other side of the U? Well, yes there is! You have to find a “relaxation response”[1], that means a “(…)physical state of deep rest that counteracts the harmful effects of (your body’s) fight-or-flight response”. If you are able to do this, you might even discover a state of much higher performance than you ever would have imagined.

Mindfulness training, as a way of being present right here and now with your own thoughts, feelings and physical sensations, will certainly enable you to deal better with wherever you are on the Yerkes-Dodson Curve.

Don’t hesitate to contact me should you want to learn more about how mindfulness could help you! Jenny

Further reading:

 


[1] Chaskalson, page 63.

On the path of self-transformation

brain

 

 

 

 

 

Currently reading an excellent book in order to prepare for a ‘mindfulness in the workplace’ training I am going to attend, it struck me how easy it can be to bring calm and quietness into our daily lives. If you ever had anything to do with psychology, yoga, coaching, stress-reduction techniques or mediation you will certainly know this but bringing it all together to the point is what really makes a difference.

Did you for example know that:

  • What happens in your mind changes your brain and vice versa? You can actually train your mind to change your brain in lasting ways.
  • Small positive actions every day will add up to large changes over time? You will gradually build up new neural structures.
  • Human beings evolved to pay great attention to unpleasant experiences? This negativity bias highlights bad news and creates anxiety and pessimism. It takes about five positive interactions to overcome the effects of a single negative one.
  • Psychological pain draws on many of the same networks as physical pain and can thus trigger the same negative experience and suffering?

Little steps you can do on your path to change:

  • Turn positive facts into positive experiences. Bring your mindful attention to these facts, be open and allow them in. Let them affect you!
  • Hold these moments/experiences in awareness, being fully with them, savoring every moment. Focusing on your body sensations and emotions, let the experience fill your body and be as intense as possible so that both your body and mind can absorb it. Every time you do this, you build a little bit of neural structure. This will gradually and over time change how you feel and act.
  • Relax your body whenever you can by taking a deep breath for example or by focusing systematically on different parts of your body. There are many ways to train this from simple methods to yoga, meditation etc. Practicing ‘offline’ will allow you to foster and build strategies for your body which will then also be available to you when a stressful situation arises.

Let me finish for today with a quote:

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” – Buddha Quotes (Sources of Insight)

Have an excellent day/evening/morning! Jenny

Think about this and put it into practice! What are you going to do about yourself this year? How are you going to find the resources you need inside yourself?

Make Time for Personal Renewal—4 Strategies for the New Year.

Empathy and loving-kindness: what can it do for you?

Today I want to write about something I came across when learning to practice mindfulness which I thought was extremely strange and funny at the same time. I am sure that many of you will smile when you read this as you might have experienced the same.

I actually want to talk about the “loving-kindness meditation[1] and how it can impact us. The loving-kindness practice is actually an old Buddhist practice called “Metta Bhavana[2] which exists since over 2500 years. It is fairly easy to do as you simply need to direct ‘loving-kindness’ to yourself wishing you happiness, fulfillment, peace (as if you would give yourself a big hug) and then let the feeling envelope you in order to be subsequently able to wish the same to a good friend or dear person, then to a neutral person and finally to a difficult one, eventually opening up to all human beings. Really quite simple in theory but when I first had to do this, I actually found it quite ok to send these wishes to myself and my loved ones but neutral people and then people with whom I had difficult relationships proved to be really a challenge and even somewhat awkward. Funnily, afterwards, every time I saw the ‘neutral person’ or ‘difficult person’ again, I was kind of expecting something extraordinary to take place which of course never really happened… well, over time, as everything, it becomes easier with training and I actually found myself really wishing people happiness and even developing empathy towards persons I did not particularly like. Suddenly, I saw no apparent reason to dislike them anymore, which I thought was rather strange but actually a relief as it did not bother me any longer and I could focus my attention on something else.[3]

Empathy as we know is one major ingredient of building a trustful relationship with somebody else, be it at work or in private life. As soon as we are interested in another person’s life and issues, listening with attention and providing feedback will establish a solid foundation for any further interactions. Being a coach and a leader this truly is essential as without it, the basis of a relationship would be missing, hence the trust.

In summary, for me personally, the loving-kindness meditation is an excellent tool for training patience, receptivity, and appreciation/empathy. It helps me stay open-minded and non-judging, thus facilitates my work in a multicultural and fast paced environment.

You might want to try it out for yourself:

“May I be well”

“May I be happy”

“May I be free from suffering”[4]


[1] See for example this site for a good explanation of what this meditation is all about : http://www.jackkornfield.com/2011/02/meditation-on-lovingkindness/

[2] See ‘Metta’ on Wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mett%C4%81

[3] See also Charles A Francis’ site who has developed a variation of the loving-kindness meditation called ‘writing meditation’: http://www.mindfulnessmeditationinstitute.org/what-is-writing-meditation/

[4] Search Inside Yourself, Chade-Meng Tan, p.172.