Post-Election Stress Relief

So many people are stressed out, frightened, and angry. Brain biology teaches us that when the primitive brain, which controls the fight-flight-freeze reaction, is activated, it draws blood from the frontal lobes, which control the ability to think and act with the gifts of intuition, reason, and logic.

With that in mind, I’m offering a list of things you can do right now to reduce stress in your life.

1. Breathe. Stress and anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which in turn increases these feelings. We need oxygen, and we need to relax the solar plexus muscles. When you feel yourself getting stressed and anxious, stop and take several long, deep breaths.

2. Drink water. This goes along with breathing. Fear and anxiety can create toxic emotions that turn into physical toxins.

3. Take flower essences. Dr. Edward Bach began his work following the horror of World War I and the influenza epidemic. As a world-wide economic depression deepened and fascism began to rise in Europe, he developed the Bach Flower Remedies, which helped countless people restore emotional balance.

They are as helpful today as they were then. I will provide a future post about this and for today will list a few that can help immediately.

Rescue Remedy is one of the world’s most popular Remedies. Combining 5 Bach Flower Remedies, it can help with shock, trauma, terror, numbness, and other emotions.

Sweet Chestnut is valuable for despair. Mustard helps with gloom. Star of Bethlehem helps with shock and trauma.

4. Tap. If you aren’t familiar with EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or other forms of tapping, this is a great time to learn. EFT Down Under is one of my favorite sites for learning.

5. Be cautious about social media. I see lots of inspiring posts on Facebook, for example, but there’s a lot of negativity, too. I’m not condemning the people who post negative articles, but I’m avoiding the self-destructive urge to click on those links.

6. Reach out to friends. For many of us, this is a time to connect to others for mutual support.

7. Be active. If you belong to groups working for social justice, increase your participation.

8. Practice mindfulness. This may mean meditation, yoga, chi kung, or any discipline that returns your focus to the Now.

9. Cherish the present moment. Mindfulness also means remembering that what we create in the present becomes our future. And fear of the future poisons the present moment.

10. Don’t hate. It’s so easy to do at present. I’m reminding myself that it takes two sides to make a divided country (or world). I may vigorously disagree with people, but to deny their humanity diminishes my own.

Finally, I’m sharing links to two poems that are guiding me through the present moment.

This links to St. Francis’s poem that begins, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

The second is Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Please Call Me by my True Names.” This is a beautiful plea for compassion.

Mindfulness and Independence

On this weekend that celebrates U.S. independence, I’m thinking about the foundation for true independence, a condition of much deeper freedom.

Mindfulness, I believe, is that foundation. When we allow ourselves to be mindful, to observe what goes on both within and without, we declare independence from the ego, who wants to tell us what we should notice.

The ego has a declaration of dependence in that its survival depends on noticing only what threatens or enhances its survival. It filters its observations through a thick veil of fear: that it won’t win, won’t come out at top. It fears that it will land at the bottom. It fears its extinction.

Some observe that the ego acts like a child, a child who has lost its innocence, who has learned the adults it counted on for survival are also vulnerable and fearful. This child has also learned that to relax, to be in the present, to see without survival filters, is dangerous.

As a result, early attempts at reaching a state of mindfulness may, instead, bring up resistance from the ego, who doesn’t want us to see beyond it to the childhood experiences and decisions that created it.

Thich Nhat Hanh often says to smile at negative emotions. “I smile to my anger. I embrace my anger as if it were a crying baby.”

The first step in a declaration of independence from the past is to smile to our resistance. When we do this, it softens, little by little, and when we are ready to know the answers about how we became who we are, our deepest truth will speak.

The practice of mindfulness is a journey, and each step gives us a greater level of independence. This is true cause for fireworks.

Mindfulness and the Seth Material

Many people come to their awareness about the importance of the present moment through Buddhism. I am not one of them.

In recent years, books by Thich Nhat Hanh have helped me to use some new approaches for focusing on mindfulness, but my initial awareness of its importance came from The Nature of Personal Reality by Jane Roberts, who channeled the nonphysical entity, Seth.

To believe that such beings existed and that their information had value was my first challenge. However, once I started the book, that doubt vanished. My overwhelming sense was that not only was this information true but that I was being reawakened to something I’d always known.

Here is the essence of Seth’s message.

“The truth is this: You form your reality now, through the intersection of soul in flesh, and the present is your point of power.”

Seth goes on to explain that only the present moment has reality. We create both our past and our future within the present.

Rewriting the Past and the Future

The idea that we can change the past can challenge us. Here’s an example. A few days ago, I was having an episode of feeling sorry for myself because I felt abandoned by someone. When I thought about my past, I remembered all the times, from early childhood on, when I had felt abandoned.

I was seeing myself as a victim. Seth views this differently, saying, “You get what you concentrate on. There is no other main rule.”

If I concentrate on abandonment, I reorganize and rewrite the past so that this condition dominates my experience of it. To say I’ve always been abandoned implies that this pattern will continue in the future. This is really an energetic directive whose essence is: “It’s familiar; keep it coming.”

The future plays out according to my instructions. This confirms my belief, and I say, “See, I was right. Everyone abandons me.” Past, present, and future become a closed loop, invisible to mindfulness and awareness.

Let’s Not Rub Out Emotions

I’m not advocating repression of or resistance to emotions. Our emotions exist to tell us where we need to focus healing in the present moment.

If I’m feeling abandoned, I want and need to be mindful of that feeling. I will say, “Yes, I accept that I feel this way in this moment.” I will go a step further by tracing this emotion to my emotions regarding past events, and I will apply energetic healing methods (mostly meridian tapping) to them.

I will also remind myself about experiences when I felt included and loved. I will bring the feeling of those experiences into the present moment and concentrate on them.

Above all, I commit to being aware of what I’m thinking and feeling in the present moment. I choose to respect the immense power of the Now, which is my power.

And it is yours.

The point of power is in the present.

If you practice mindfulness in a Buddhist tradition, you might find it useful to explore the Seth perspective. The following link will take you to an article on, where you will find some valuable descriptions of the Seth Material.

To read Thich Nhat Hanh’s perspective on the present moment, see Our Appointment with Life: Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone.

Is Mindfulness Dangerous?: Part I

The British publication, the Guardian, published on January 23 an article entitled, “Is Mindfulness Making Us Ill?” The author, Dawn Foster, had a negative experience with a group meditation. Instead of calming her, it induced a state of anxiety that persisted for days, along with a persistent tension headache. The experience apparently led her to investigate the practice.

Although the article starts with a basic misunderstanding of mindfulness, it does highlight some key ways in which the mindfulness movement is being co-opted on corporate and governmental levels.

Mindfulness Isn’t Meditation

Foster makes a fundamental error at the beginning of the article, describing mindfulness as “the practice of sitting still and focusing on your breath and thoughts.” If you’re familiar with the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, you know that mindfulness means concentrating on the present moment. In his words, “Mindfulness frees us of forgetfulness and dispersion and makes it possible to live fully each minute of life. Mindfulness enables us to live.”

That means that if you’re washing dishes, put your attention on washing dishes, not on the idea that once you’ve finished this job, you can sit down and have tea and dessert. If you’re walking, concentrate on the walking, not on where you’re going. When you’re focused on the present, you’re being mindful.

Mindfulness may be part of meditation. More importantly, with focused attention on the present, that present moment is meditative.

The Commercialization of Mindfulness

Foster’s article provides a helpful guide to an important reason why mindfulness practices may not be working out in Great Britain. She quotes Will Davies, author of The Happiness Industry, as saying that corporate heads recognize that depression, stress, and anxiety lead to decreased productivity and increased sick days.

Instead of changing the workplace environment by reducing excessive workloads, improving management practices, and taking steps to increase morale, Davies says, “We’re now reaching the stage where mandatory meditation is being discussed as a route to heightened productivity, in tandem with various apps, wearable devices and forms of low-level employee surveillance.”

Thich Nhat Hanh also envisioned how the practice of mindfulness could change the atmosphere of a workplace, but he imagined meetings with calming music in the background and participants who had learned the practice of listening to each other with mindful openness. An example of how this actually done is the prayerful practice with which the Society of Friends conducts its business meetings and seeks consensus.

Instead, British businesses offer apps, surveillance, and forced participation in meditation. When a practice is stripped of its spiritual foundations, can anyone be surprised that this isn’t working out too well?

Next week, I’ll address some of the issues that can arise when one first begins to practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness and Suffering

Does being mindful end suffering? Not that I’ve noticed. It can, however, change the nature of suffering.

In The Mindfulness Backlash, I wrote about the speed with which mindfulness is being marketed as a cure-all, which it is not. Mindfulness will not get you a new car, a better car, or a great relationship.

It also will not erase moments or longer time spans of suffering from your life. This sometimes seems unfair. If you can be serene, accepting each moment as it unfolds, surely, just as correct sanitation creates an environment in which germs don’t thrive, negativity should feel unwelcome in your mind.

However that thought reveals an inherent resistance. When I think it, I’m saying, “I don’t want negativity.” The statement that what we resist persists may be over-used, but that doesn’t make it less true.

It is often said that resistance is the source of all mental and physical pain. Take a moment to check out your body: neck, back, shoulders, wherever you may experience tension and pain. Think about some of the classic phrases related to physical pain and discomfort: “Pain in the neck,” “Don’t expect me to swallow that,” “I can’t stomach it.” Hear the resistance in these statements.

Imagine instead, waking up with a physical pain and surrendering to it, saying, “OK, pain, you win.” Some people ask what the pain wants to tell them, and this is an approach that can work for many varieties of suffering.

That person at work you can’t stand? (And how are your legs and feet doing?) Becoming mindful and going within may bring up a memory of someone of whom that person reminds you. Now you have an opportunity for release.

A situation that frightens you may represent the past intruding into the present moment and projecting into the future. A very common example involves people who are terrified about the idea of public speaking and who remember that when they were children, they suffered a humiliating experience in school. Suffering, when it operates in the background of consciousness, persists.

This is why the Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, advises us to make good use of our suffering, to embrace it as a teacher, to understand that in suffering lies the key to its resolution and healing.

Yes, it takes courage and commitment—and mindfulness. When I can allow whatever is happening in the present moment, I may not suddenly become happy, but in the acceptance that I’m not in control of the situation, I can surrender to it and invite it to teach me. It’s not my fault; it’s not anyone’s fault; it is.

And that’s the beginning of peace.