The Art of Embodied Listening

The Art of Embodied Listening

The new year is traditionally a time of resolution. We take stock of the past year and decide how we’d like to change or do better. We renunciate what isn’t working and are filled with a renewed sense of hope. We are infused with a sense of possibility and confidence in our ability to achieve the goals or outcomes we may have missed over the past year.

Suddenly, as the clock turns 12:00 A.M. and we cross the threshold into the next year, it’s as if for just a moment we are free of the weight of our problems. The next year sparkles ahead blissfully unformed with the vast spaciousness and room to finally make our dreams a reality.

Our New Year’s Resolutions give us the opportunity to re-start the game and recommit ourselves to our fundamental values and truths. We get to hit refresh and come back to the deeper core of what’s important to us with renewed vigor.

The question is, why do we have to wait to give ourselves a second chance to succeed or “do better” in life?

Why do we wait until January 1st to re-start our gym regime, eat the foods we know make us feel best, get the sleep we need, end a toxic relationship, swear off Netflix or social media, or quit one of the numerous addictive habits we have?

Today, I would like to talk about what I call the art of embodied listening or the embodiment of listening. We live in a world in which information is continuously bombarding us. I think that it’s safe to say that we live in an age of informational and technological overload. We are exposed to a collective of thoughts, feelings, and energies that are in an ever-evolving stasis of cross-pollination. In fact, it’s entirely impossible to avoid each other’s influence.

The Overwhelm Baseline

I’m sure you’ve heard or even expressed the statement, “I am going to go be alone with my thoughts,” before. Have you ever wondered why the idea of being “alone with our thoughts,” seems so much more of a rarity in today’s time? It’s as if it’s suddenly become outlandish to have any semblance of alone time or space to connect and be with ourselves. To turn down the volume of our world we usually have to go on retreat or escape to an environment that has limited access to wifi and cell phone service.

We have to actively “practice,” pursue and seek the places of silence and stillness within the cacophony of our lives. It is no wonder that we have largely lost the art of inner listening. Inner listening is a quintessential building block for our care and nurturing, ability to make sense of the color, texture, and shape of our world, and is the guiding force that illuminates our path forward.

Discovering Our Inner Sanctuary

To safely navigate through the wilds of our lives, it is imperative that we have an inner sanctuary to come home to. To reiterate, when we are constantly overloaded by our outer-world, our inner world becomes so over-full that it can be a challenge to hear our inner voice. It can also be difficult to discern what we think and how we feel. Have you ever been in the situation where you and a friend are trying to decide what to do, and neither of you can make a decision? This is an excellent example of not being connected to your inner voice and sanctum.

Our desire and ability to lean into the guiding force of our inner voice is affected by many different circumstances.The overwhelming nature of our world is but one of these circumstances. If we are highly sensitive, we have an even greater propensity to losing touch with our inner voice. Our conditioning around our right to take up space and stand up for our truth and beliefs can also tremendously impact how connected to our inner voice we are.

Our socioeconomic status, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and ethnicity can drastically shape our relationship to our inner voice. The way our primary caregivers nurtured our confidence and independence also influence our ability to stay anchored and connected to our inner voice.

What is Embodied Listening?

Embodied listening is the vehicle through which we can learn to amplify our connection to our inner voice. How do we begin to re-establish our connection to this vital mechanism integral to maintaining our sanity in the world? Cultivating the art of embodied listening means that we can attune to our physical bodies signals, sensations, and cues.

Through mindfulness and presence practice we can begin to decode the unique language of our physical system. Our physical body is an outward manifestation of our thoughts, feelings, and the deeper wells of our unconscious psyche. Embodied listening happens when we can interpret and listen to the deeper communication of our inner world.

Our bodies are incredibly sensitive to our environment. Our bodies will instantaneously shift in response to whether we feel threatened or safe. Our physical body and energetic field will contract or expand depending on whether we felt relaxed and nourished or stressed.

The Practice of Embodied Listening

As a practice, you might try turning your attention and awareness to your body for a day. As you go about your day, notice with curiosity in what situations is your body contracting and expanding. Notice if there are specific circumstances, places, or people that make you feel expansive and in connection with life, or disconnected and tense in your body.

This practice is a simple awareness exercise that can help you to cultivate the first level of embodied listening. If you were just able to implement this practice your life would begin to drastically transform.

From this vantage point of embodied listening, knowing the exact foods that are most optimal for our body and the exact type of nurturing or self-care we need becomes quite effortless. Making a decision or setting a boundary doesn’t feel confusing or burdensome. Discerning between our need for connection and alone time couldn’t be easier.

The clarity through which we can access our personal truths, values, and preferences feel exponentially more accessible.

Once we are able to strengthen our connection to our inner voice, no matter what arises in our present moment experience we always have an inner home to return to. We are able to effortlessly access the higher wisdom of how to best care and nurture ourselves. We are able to consider and make decisions with greater confidence and clarity. We are able to implicitly trust and lean into the knowledge that we can catch ourselves no matter how massive the leap or vast the fall.

The post The Art of Embodied Listening appeared first on About Meditation.

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Two Sides of Practice Part 2: When We Neglect Karma Relationship

Read Two Sides of Practice Part 1: Samadhi Power and Karma Relationship – Definitions

 

Two Side of Practice, but Only One Reality

I’ve heard people say karma relationship work is about the “relative world,” while samadhi power is about the absolute. There’s some truth in this statement, in the sense that relationships between beings and things are part of the relative aspect of reality. From the absolute perspective, there are no inherently-existing, separate beings and things that can be said to interact, and discriminations such as good and bad, right and wrong, don’t apply.

Still, it’s problematic to speak in a way that implies we can do some work in a “relative world,” which exists separately from some sublime, if confusing, “realm” of the absolute. Relative and absolute are two levels of truth about the exact same reality. Therefore, our work on karma relationship must be informed by, and reflect, absolute truth; this is what results in compassion, selflessness, and equanimity, because we’re empty of any inherent, separate self-nature, and all phenomena arise and pass within one, seamless, luminous reality. And our awakening to absolute truth must never be disembodied and removed from the relative reality of life. If our samadhi power feels disconnected from the mundane experience of everyday life, our work isn’t done. We have to learn to manifest our insight about the absolute, or the insight is incomplete and of limited usefulness.

What we’re ultimately looking for in Buddhist practice is integration of absolute and relative, or samadhi power and karma relationship. Our practice is maturing when these no longer appear to be two separate things. However, we can’t just skip to that point because we intellectually know absolute and relative aren’t separate! We have to walk our own path of practice, and – as my teacher was fond of reminding me, to my chagrin – it will take as long as it takes. No use comparing ourselves to others, or to ideals. As we practice, then, it’s extremely useful to keep in mind that we need to devote ourselves to samadhi power and karma relationship.

 

When We Neglect Karma Relationship

If we neglect either samadhi power or karma relationship, our practice will stagnate or go awry.

When we neglect karma relationship and focus on samadhi power, there’s a strong possibility we’ll become rather cold – emotionally distant, rejecting our own human limitations as well as those of others. We may be obsessed with spiritual insight or meditative experiences, as if they’re more important than anything else, or will solve everything.

Based on whatever understanding we have of absolute truth – even if it’s primarily intellectual – we may draw conclusions about life that cause pain and suffering from a relative perspective. For example: Ultimately, everything is “just-as-it-is” and precious, so there’s no compelling need to address injustice or work for positive change in the world. Because, in an absolute sense, distinctions between right and wrong don’t exist, you can do anything you want. It’s possible to be free from suffering by just letting go of attachment, so the people you hurt can just get over it. This kind of delusion – springing from an overemphasis on samadhi power and neglecting karma relationship – is part of what lies behind the problems you may have heard about happening in some Buddhist communities, where male teachers suddenly figure the rules about not getting sexually involved with students don’t apply to them. Trying to apply absolute truth at the relative level of reality is like cutting a finger off the hand we discussed earlier because in an absolute sense fingers don’t inherently and independently exist. Ouch!

 

Attachment to Absolute Truth

In addition, when we neglect karma relationship, we may become attached to whatever insights we have had about absolute truth. We dream longingly of our past sublime experiences, and resent the necessity of responding to the demands of daily life. Karma relationship may seem like an irrelevant drag, or a practice for beginners who lack the profound understanding we have. Many Zen stories about interactions between teachers and students involve the teacher provoking the student in order to get him or her to let go of attachment to the absolute and come back to earth. This isn’t just about making sure students don’t hide out in enlightenment experiences and avoid their mundane responsibilities; as long as there seems to be a separation between enlightened and mundane, your insight is still dualistic and not complete.

It’s certainly possible to overemphasize samadhi power even if you don’t think you’ve had any special insight or meditative experiences. Then you’ll probably either keep hoping something really cool will happen during your meditation, or you’ll feel inadequate and discouraged, and conclude samadhi power isn’t in the cards for you. It’s tempting to idealize spiritual insight and the people who have supposedly “awakened” to some degree or another – imagining that a direct experience of absolute truth gives you access to an alternate reality where everything is beautiful and easy. It’s good to resist this temptation to idealize insight as much as possible. Basically, if you don’t think you’ve had a personal experience of the ultimate aspect of life, such an experience isn’t what you think it is.

 

Trying to “Skip Over” Karma Work

Finally, some practitioners of Buddhism hold on to hope that if they can just get enough spiritual insight, the problems in their daily lives will resolve themselves – so there’s no need to waste time working with karma relationship directly. Karma work gets complicated and messy – much better to skip over it and fix everything by sitting in meditation or studying profound teachings! Unfortunately, this isn’t how spiritual practice works. If you’re making a mess of your life by acting carelessly and selfishly – indulging in anger, greed, or addiction; stealing, lying, etc. – you’re extremely unlikely to be able to cultivate the stillness of mind and body required for samadhi power. All those self-centered activities, and their consequences, are too agitating, and reinforce the delusion of an inherently-existing self-nature.

Even if you’re really good at meditative concentration and able to push the circumstances of your life out of your mind in order to achieve some kind of spiritual insight, you still have to learn how to apply that insight to your actual, daily life in the relative sense. Skillfully navigating the relative truth of our existence requires a whole different skill set. This is a brutal surprise for people who strive hard for awakening experiences and then have to face their messy lives after the experience fades. How to face this challenge is the subject of Jack Kornfield’s book, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. On the other hand, if we’ve done our karma relationship work all along, we’ll already be living in a way that’s more consistent with absolute truth – so any insight we achieve will be more easily integrated and manifested. Then we’ll just have the satisfaction of personal insight to back it up and inspire us further.

Next week: When we neglect samadhi power, and how the two sides of practice complement each other

The post Two Sides of Practice Part 2: When We Neglect Karma Relationship appeared first on Bright Way Zen.

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Meditation is Mental Fitness — If You Do It This Way

Athletes get into “the zone.” Creatives tap into “flow state.” We may obtain a heightened sense of awareness in these moments, but they are exactly that: temporary. Once the rock climber comes down from the mountain, she snaps back into her “everyday sense of the world,” says psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman, discussing his recent book Altered Traits written with neuroscientist Richie Davidson.

In this video for BigThink, Goleman explores how we can bring the beneficial effects of those “altered states” into the everyday.

Through mediation, Goleman argues, we can create what he calls “altered traits.”

“Altered traits […] are lasting changes or transformations of being, and they come classically through having cultivated an altered state through meditation, which then has a consequence for how you are day-to-day—and that’s different than how you were before you tried the meditation.”

The key to developing the habit? Bringing the mind back, again and again:

“At some point, when you’re trying to do your meditation, your mind will wander. We’re wired that way. The key is: Do you notice that it wanders? Once you notice your mind has wandered off and you bring it back, you’re strengthening the circuitry for focus [and]attention.

The mind is a gym and meditation is a basic workout.

Goleman says research suggests seasoned meditators are better able to focus, staying on task despite distractions around them, and are more resilient—able to snap back from an angry outburst, for instance.

“Just like going to the gym and working out for years and years doing reps, you get bigger muscles and more strength and fitness, the same thing happens in the mind. The mind is a gym and meditation is a basic workout.”

Video: BigThink

Which Style of Meditation is Best for You?

Meditators Under the Microscope

The post Meditation is Mental Fitness — If You Do It This Way appeared first on Mindful.

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Comment on The Boy without a Name or The Boy Who Lives by Himself | An Unfinished Story by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche by Betsy McDowell

The boy without a name reached into his pocket and removed a crust of bread which he offered to the magpie.

“I think you are lovely,” said the boy without a name to the magpie. “I just want to ask you some questions.”

The magpie took the crust of bread and began to eat it as the boy asked him some questions.

“The color of your wing feathers is lovely,” said the boy. “The iridescent qualities of the feathers cause them to change color in the sunlight. Are you, then the color of your wings?

The magpie shook his head as he pecked at the crust of bread, “No, I am not the color of my wings.”

The Boy without a name tilted his head inquisitively and said, “The contrast between the white and black coloring on your body is striking and bold and really stands out. Are you the contrast of the black and white on your body?”

The magpie shook his head again, and continued to work at finishing off the crust of bread, “No, I am not the black and white contrast of the coloring on my body.”

The boy watch the magpie finish off the crust of bread as he asked, “If you are not your iridescent feathers, and you are not the black and white contrasting pattern on your body, then what are you?”

The magpie answered. “I am,” and he flew off.

The boy with no name watched the magpie get smaller and smaller as he flew away, until all that was left was empty sky. He smiled to himself as he kicked at a rock on the dusty road and thought to himself that, on this day, he had surely made a great journey.

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4 Yogi Must-Haves for February

Gift giving doesn’t stop with the holidays. Here are a few-must haves for the new year.

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Baron Baptiste’s Yoga Sequence for Self-Expression

Try this chest- and heart-opening flow to connect to your authentic Self.

Life is riddled with social rules. Take this biggie, for example: “Don’t talk politics, religion, or money in polite company.” You can always break the rule, but know that if you go there, it may turn confrontational and possibly damage your relationships. Of course, social rules have their place and importance, but living entirely within their limits can restrict the outward expression of your individuality. Worse, they can chip away at the time and energy you spend looking inward, which can cause a serious disconnect from your authentic Self. Eventually that can start to erode your sense of self-worth and the self-confidence it takes to pursue what you believe to be important and right.

The practice offered here was designed by Baron Baptiste to help you counter this common disconnection and feel empowered by what he calls boundless self-expression: “Having the freedom to authentically be and act outside the confines of doing things ‘the right way,’ without feeling limited and bound up by expectations imposed on us by others,” Baptiste explains. “In this free space to express, we enter a realm of self-discovery and new possibility that can alter our lives in very real and tangible ways, both on and off the mat.”

This sequence will engage you in an expanding flow of chest- and heart openers to create space for using principles of “true north alignment.” “On both physical and energetic levels, we are literally opening and releasing the muscles of the chest, which can result in a paradigm shift in how we see life and ourselves,” Baptiste explains. “We can begin to trust ourselves in new ways and make choices that more fully honor ourselves in any situation.” 

See also Get Ready for Liftoff with Baron Baptiste

Learn More
Yoga Journal’s online Master Class program brings the wisdom of world-renowned teachers to your fingertips, offering access to exclusive workshops with a different master teacher every six weeks. In March, Baron Baptiste presents a practice designed to enliven and empower your practice. If you’re ready to get a fresh perspective and maybe even meet a lifelong yoga mentor, sign up for YJ’s year-long membership.

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How Baron Baptiste Grew Up on Yoga—& Eventually Got Into the Family Business

Baron Baptiste shares how he discovered he wanted to teach yoga after all and created his own method.

Considering Baron Baptiste’s childhood, it’s no surprise that he grew into the talented and respected yoga teacher he is today. His parents, Magaña and Walt Baptiste, opened one of the first yoga schools in San Francisco in 1952, and kept great company: Baptiste recalls dinner parties with B.K.S. Iyengar, and Indra Devi was his godmother.

Of course, growing up yogi long before the practice was mainstream wasn’t all ahimsa and namaste.“I always felt so different and misunderstood by other kids; it was challenging to connect with them,” says Baptiste. “But looking back now, I see that some of those early experiences gave me thick enough skin to stay true to living and sharing yoga.” This month, Baptiste shares an exclusive practice that touches on this theme of standing in your truth, or what he calls your true north—and provides a glimpse of his new Yoga Journal Master Class on enlivening your practice, which launches in March. Learn more about this inspiring teacher.

I have vivid memories of being 12 and on pilgrimage with my parents in Rishikesh, India. I started my days doing saltwater sinus flushes with a neti pot, and by 5 a.m., I was gathered with a couple hundred young monks for meditation, pranayama, and asana, followed by study of scripture and more asana practices. I remember being touched and inspired by the profound results of yoga in the bodies, minds, and beings of so many people. It made me realize that through yoga, a human being can grow, let go, and alter their whole context toward living—if they so choose.

When I was around 17 years old, B.K.S. Iyengar invited me to attend one of his workshops. I felt honored and accepted, although at that point, I wasn’t very familiar with his style of yoga. I did my best to keep up, but I felt mostly lost—I had never practiced asana with that kind of rigor and physical intentionality. At some point, Iyengar said, “Do dropbacks.” I had no idea what he meant. I looked around and saw the other practitioners drop back from Tadasana (Mountain Pose) into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose). In that moment, I felt kind of hopeless or flawed.

Noticing my hesitation, Iyengar walked over to me with intensity in his eyes, and with a fierce kindness, he directed and spotted me—almost pushing me—into the pose. Then he said, “If a method clicks with you, practice that method or technique for some time, and give up all other methods. Focus only on that one method. But it has to be one that clicks for you.” That day, Iyengar lit a flame in me for the physical practice of asana.

I never wanted to be a yoga teacher in my youth. I taught some kids classes in my early teens, which was fun but more play-around time. One Saturday, my father needed someone to teach his morning breathing class. I didn’t want to, but I taught it anyway. I was 18 years old, and I remember feeling like I was doing a terrible job. But afterward, the students kept sharing how they authentically enjoyed my teaching. In that moment, a teacher was born in me. My father would say, “You know a lot, you’ve had great teachers and learning experiences, the practices are in you. If you don’t share what you know, you lose it. You have a responsibility.”

I often say, “Baptiste Yoga is for anyone, but it’s not for everyone.” Anyone can do it, and anyone can benefit from practicing it—if the method resonates. Yoga can be intimidating, and the traditional yoga world sometimes perpetuates this. It’s my mission to make yoga accessible to anyone, from any background, who is looking for total physical, mental, and emotional transformation.

A great teacher or mentor allows you to discover something for yourself—which is different from telling you the answer—and does not rush the process. I have been so fortunate in my life to have had many masterful teachers and mentors. They have all inspired me to be a better version of myself in various ways. Now I encourage people to stop looking to me or anyone else for answers and instead to trust themselves more. I’ve personally tried on living other people’s answers, and it’s never gone well. I’ve realized I need to discover for myself the insights that best fit me.

Learn More
Yoga Journal’s online Master Class program brings the wisdom of world-renowned teachers to your fingertips, offering access to exclusive workshops with a different master teacher every six weeks. In March, Baron Baptiste presents a practice designed to enliven and empower your practice. If you’re ready to get a fresh perspective and maybe even meet a lifelong yoga mentor, sign up for YJ’s year-long membership at yogajournal.com/masterclass.

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Out There: Host or Attend a Yoga for Sight Benefit Near You

This April, help the Seva Foundation raise awareness and funds to prevent blindness around the world by hosting or attending a yoga class near you.

Yoga students and studios around the country can join the Seva Foundation‘s annual international Yoga for Sight benefit by offering classes to encourage reflection on the sense of sight. Studios can help bring awareness to blindness around the world with special offerings like yoga classes in the dark, blindfolded classes, guest speakers, or short film screenings.

Last year, Tayla Eelom, a yoga instructor in California, led a 90-minute asana sequence with everyone blindfolded. She followed it with a sharing circle to get a sense of what the students experienced and what they learned about themselves, the power of sight, and their senses. “As a yoga teacher, this is one of the few spaces where I get to be really creative in how I support my community,” Eelom said. “Not just the immediate community of people who come to this class, but people in a larger global community that I am truly a part of and they are as well.”   

“Many of us have been practicing yoga for several years and feel we can do the entire practice with our eyes closed. In reality, some of the simplest of postures can require sight. Yet we often take for granted those moments when we open our eyes to orient ourselves. You’ll be surprised to notice how dependent you are on this sense that we so often take for granted.” —Shanti Om Yoga, Portland, OR

Funds raised through Yoga for Sight provide eye exams, eyeglasses, and medical care to restore sight for children and adults living in impoverished countries, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Nepal, Tibet, and Native American communities in the United States. Globally, 36 million people are blind, and another 217 million suffer from low vision. The World Health Organization estimates that 70 percent of blindness and low vision can be prevented or cured. For every $50 raised through Yoga for Sight events, a person in need will have their eyesight restored.

“Seva was founded on the principle of putting compassion into action by supporting programs that prevent blindness and restore sight in impoverished communities around the world. Yoga for Sight came to be because the practice of yoga is rooted in compassion and empathy for self and others. It’s a natural fit, and we’ve found that students and teachers who participate in Yoga for Sight events gain personal insights in addition to providing essential funds for Seva’s sight-saving services around the world,” says Andrea Sharkey, Development Coordinator for the Seva Foundation.

This past year, Seva provided vital eye care services to 1,290,167 people in 21 countries. Nearly 70,000 had their eyesight restored, 118,498 received medical treatments and 105,815 were given glasses.

See also The Give Back Yoga Foundation Helps Nonprofits Grow

Event at a Glance

What:

An international yoga benefit to prevent blindness

When:

April 2018

Where:

Nationwide and worldwide; find a participating studio or sign up to host an event near you

Cost:

Varies, depending on studio and classes offered

See also Yoga for the Eyes: Exercises for Good Vision

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How to Use Social Media Wisely and Mindfully

It was no one other than Facebook’s former vice president for user growth, Chamath Palihapitiya, who advised people to take a “hard break” from social media. “We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he said recently.

His comments echoed those of Facebook founding president Sean Parker. Social media provides a “social validation feedback loop (‘a little dopamine hit…because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post’),” he said. “That’s exactly the thing a hacker like myself would come up with because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

Are their fears overblown? What is social media doing to us as individuals and as a society?

Since over 70 percent of American teens and adults are on Facebook and over 1.2 billion users visit the site daily—with the average person spending over 90 minutes a day on all social media platforms combined—it’s vital that we gain wisdom about the social media genie, because it’s not going back into the bottle. Our wish to connect with others and express ourselves may indeed come with unwanted side effects.

The problems with social media

Social media is, of course, far from being all bad. There are often tangible benefits that follow from social media use. Many of us log on to social media for a sense of belonging, self-expression, curiosity, or a desire to connect. Apps like Facebook and Twitter allow us to stay in touch with geographically dispersed family and friends, communicate with like-minded others around our interests, and join with an online community to advocate for causes dear to our hearts.

Honestly sharing about ourselves online can enhance our feelings of well-being and online social support, at least in the short term. Facebook communities can help break down the stigma and negative stereotypes of illness, while social media, in general, can “serve as a spring board” for the “more reclusive…into greater social integration,” one study suggested.

But Parker and Palihapitiya are on to something when they talk about the addictive and socially corrosive qualities of social media. Facebook “addiction” (yes, there’s a test for this) looks similar on an MRI scan in some ways to substance abuse and gambling addictions. Some users even go to extremes to chase the highs of likes and followers. Twenty-six-year-old Wu Yongning recently fell to his death in pursuit of selfies precariously taken atop skyscrapers.

Facebook can also exacerbate envy. Envy is nothing if not corrosive of the social fabric, turning friendship into rivalry, hostility, and grudges. Social media tugs at us to view each other’s “highlight reels,” and all too often, we feel ourselves lacking by comparison. This can fuel personal growth, if we can turn envy into admiration, inspiration, and self-compassion; but, instead, it often causes us to feel dissatisfied with ourselves and others.

For example, a 2013 study by Ethan Kross and colleagues showed quite definitively that the more time young adults spent on Facebook, the worse off they felt. Participants were texted five times daily for two weeks to answer questions about their well-being, direct social contact, and Facebook use. The people who spent more time on Facebook felt significantly worse later on, even after controlling for other factors such as depression and loneliness.

Interestingly, those spending significant time on Facebook, but also engaging in moderate or high levels of direct social contact, still reported worsening well-being. The authors hypothesized that the comparisons and negative emotions triggered by Facebook were carried into real-world contact, perhaps damaging the healing power of in-person relationships.

More recently, Holly Shakya and Nicholas Christakis studied 5,208 adult Facebook users over two years, measuring life satisfaction and mental and physical health over time. All these outcomes were worse with greater Facebook use, and the way people used Facebook (e.g., passive or active use, liking, clicking, or posting) didn’t seem to matter.

“Exposure to the carefully curated images from others’ lives leads to negative self-comparison, and the sheer quantity of social media interaction may detract from more meaningful real-life experiences,” the researchers concluded.

How to rein in social media overuse

So, what can we do to manage the downsides of social media? One idea is to log out of Facebook completely and take that “hard break.” Researcher Morten Tromholt of Denmark found that after taking a one-week break from Facebook, people had higher life satisfaction and positive emotions compared to people who stayed connected. The effect was especially pronounced for “heavy Facebook users, passive Facebook users, and users who tend to envy others on Facebook.”

Some people I’ve spoken with find ways of cleaning up their newsfeeds—from hiding everyone but their closest friends to “liking” only reputable news, information, and entertainment sources.

We can also become more mindful and curious about social media’s effects on our minds and hearts, weighing the good and bad. We should ask ourselves how social media makes us feel and behave, and decide whether we need to limit our exposure to social media altogether (by logging out or deactivating our accounts) or simply modify our social media environment. Some people I’ve spoken with find ways of cleaning up their newsfeeds—from hiding everyone but their closest friends to “liking” only reputable news, information, and entertainment sources.

Knowing how social media affects our relationships, we might limit social media interactions to those that support real-world relationships. Instead of lurking or passively scrolling through a never-ending bevy of posts, we can stop to ask ourselves important questions, like What are my intentions? and What is this online realm doing to me and my relationships?

We each have to come to our own individual decisions about social media use, based on our own personal experience. Grounding ourselves in the research helps us weigh the good and bad and make those decisions. Though the genie is out of the bottle, we may find, as Shakya and Christakis put it, that “online social interactions are no substitute for the real thing,” and that in-person, healthy relationships are vital to society and our own individual well-being. We would do well to remember that truth and not put all our eggs in the social media basket.

This article is adapted from Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks (Pacific Heart Books, 2017, 412 pages). This article originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, one of Mindful’s partners. View the original article.

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The post How to Use Social Media Wisely and Mindfully appeared first on Mindful.

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6 Red Flags that your Spiritual Community May Be Abusive

6 Red Flags that your Spiritual Community May Be Abusive

Did you hear Oprah’s speech at the 2018 Golden Globe awards?

Her final wish:

“And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again.”

The “Me too” movement is washing through many industries–entertainment, sports, politics, and others–but there is one area which has stayed strangely silent.

The spiritual community.

Despite what we all want to believe, spiritual communities, from churches and spiritual leaders, to meditation groups and yoga teachers, are not immune to abuses of power, sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment.

And there are many examples.

Years ago, my yoga community grappled with what to do when a senior yoga teacher was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct. Just like Hollywood, many people had known what was going on but no one had spoken out.

…until one day, when many women spoke out.

So let’s start the conversation now. Let’s talk about the conditions that allow the abuse to exist and no one to speak out.

Spiritual communities have some unique challenges when addressing the issues of power and abuse. But once you recognize these traits, you will be sensitive to the signs and be able to choose healthy communities for your practice.

Why it’s hard for spiritual communities to admit to abuse

The myth of being “too spiritual” for abuse

When you visit a spiritual community or meditation group, one of the first things you’ll notice is how open and warm-hearted people are.

It’s baked in.

People are drawn to spiritual practice with the sweet desire to challenge themselves, grow, and become a wiser, more loving person. They are often seeking truth and connection.

With a whole community of people wanting to do good, you might think they would be safe from abuse.

It’s exactly this assumption that makes admitting there’s abuse particularly hard. No one wants to admit how flawed, and how completely human, they and their communities are.

It’s hard to be vulnerable–and self-protective

If you’re in a spiritual community, you’re probably there to grow.

This is a good thing.

You’re probably learning new ways to see your circumstances and looking deeply within yourself. You might be releasing old patterns.

Often this process of growing requires that you put your complete trust into your spiritual teacher and the process, even if you don’t understand it, or you think it’s odd.

But this openness has a shadow side. It can make you ignore your gut and get in situations which you wouldn’t tolerate in a different setting.

When your sense of self-protection is by-passed, you are vulnerable to abuses of power or sexual misconduct.

Cross-cultural social cues can be confusing

The final challenge to some spiritual communities is a cultural divide between the spiritual teacher and the followers. Without a shared cultural language, social signals can be misjudged. People without integrity can take advantage of this.

Signs that your spiritual community may be unhealthy

1. Questioning the teacher is discouraged.

If you notice behaviors in the teacher that are confusing, it’s natural to want to understand what is going on.

If your community discourages you from questioning him, that is a red flag.

Sometimes people don’t forbid you to ask question outright. Instead, you may be shamed or patronized. People might say things like, “When you practice more, you’ll understand.” In the worst cases, you could be shunned for not being an advanced practitioner or enough of a believer.

You are always free to ask about things that don’t seem right. If your community doesn’t agree, it may be time to look more deeply at what is going on.

2. The teacher’s helpers are anxious and competitive

Many spiritual leaders have a core group of trusted individuals who help them and support them.

However, sometimes those positions close to the teacher are used as bait to keep people from questioning abuse.

If the in-group around the leader is insecure and constantly competes for attention, or if the group is constantly changing as people in favor come and go, this could be a sign of something wrong.

Mature, stable leaders pick mature, stable helpers. They all work together without need to win the attention of the person in charge.

3. There are rumors of sexual, financial, or interpersonal misconduct

Rumors are tricky.

Of course, rumors aren’t necessarily true.

On the other hand, sometimes they are. Often rampant abuse is known by a wide circle. Disbelieving the rumors only helps keep what is going on secret.

If you hear rumors, ask questions. Find out what is true and what is not.

4. You feel ill-at-ease

Few people will say that the spiritual path is easy and without discomfort. It’s expected that you’ll feel awkwardness as you grow and transform.

But abandoning your common sense, instincts and gut-feelings is not part of that process.

If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, get yourself out of it. Reflect on it outside the group and see if your discomfort is a sign of personal growth–or a warning.

5. Your loved ones are not happy with your new practice

Sometimes when you join a new spiritual community or meditation group, your loved ones don’t like it. It’s different than what they know and they may not like your new ideas.

But sometimes your loved ones can see things you can’t.

Be careful not to dismiss their concerns too lightly.

6. The leader criticizes other types of practice

If your spiritual leader criticizes other forms of practice, claims to be the one true spiritual leader, or discourages you from leaving, be very cautious.

It’s OK to try different spiritual practices. Each technique, tradition, or teacher has something different to offer and you won’t know what is best for you until you try it.

Be wary if someone tries to convince you otherwise.

Be a new kind of spiritual practitioner

Abuse of power and sexual misconduct can happen anywhere, even in spiritual communities.

If we want to stop it, we need spiritual leaders and practitioners who are brave enough to stand up and say no. We need people who are brave enough to speak out when it does happen. We need to discard the assumption that “anything the spiritual leader does is OK.”

And most of all, we need to temper our desire to follow the spiritual path with common sense and healthy boundaries.

The “Me too” movement includes everyone in every circumstance. Let’s start the conversation in the meditation community so that no one has to say “Me too” in their spiritual practice.

The post 6 Red Flags that your Spiritual Community May Be Abusive appeared first on About Meditation.

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