Mindfulness – the answer to better living?

In this video by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, he discusses the 9 attitudes of Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the idea of living moment to moment, with non-judgemental awareness.

Dr. Kabat-Zinn says that while this seems like a simple concept, it can be hard to practice as we often get caught up in our states of mind, and our use of personal pronouns such as “I”,  “me”, and “my.”

Mindfulness is about differentiating between who we think we are, and who we actually are, and about cultivating the following attitudes in our everyday life.

  1. Beginners Mind – Orientation to present moment where everything is fresh and new.  We bring ideas and attitudes to every moment based on our previous experiences.  Beginners mind is about being disciplined, and not being stuck in our current ideas or opinions.  It is about challenging ourselves to see things as if we are looking at them for the first time, and not the way they were a half hour ago or two years ago.
  2. Non-judging – Part of working definition of Mindfulness.  We form ideas and opinions on everything, and there is a steady stream of inner dialogue about what is good or bad, or what we want or don’t want.  We should evaluate and be aware of how judgemental we are, and recognize how we can get imprisoned by it.  We should instead cultivate discernment, so we can seek clarity, wisdom, understanding, and interconnection of things, as judging creates a veil or filter over eyes.  Awareness of this judging will allow us to live authentically in present moment and not through unhealthy habits of the mind.
  3. Acceptance – This is an active process.  It is not resignation, but rather recognition that things are the way they are, and not the way we want them to be.  This doesn’t mean we that can’t work on changing the world or our circumstances, but we shouldn’t force things to be a way they are not.  It is understanding where you stand, so you can take the first step forward.
  4. Letting go – This is the opposite of grasping.  It is letting things be as they are, and is the doorway to freedom.  Every time you catch yourself clinging to something, let it be.  Just as we take breath in, we have to let it go.  Letting go is about receiving and releasing and not holding on to things.
  5. Trust – This is an area that we are sometimes strangers to.  We need to trust that everything will take care of itself.  Embracing trust will not only benefit ourselves, but our relationships, dealings with other people, and life’s challenges.  We must reside in our abilities to meet whatever comes towards us.  While we do not want to trust naively, we can trust other wisdom factors to help guide us.
  6. Patience – We are often impatient as to get to the next important thing.  As we rush to get somewhere else, we are never in the present moment.  We need to recognize that some things can’t be hurried, and that they will unfold when they are ready.  Practicing patience involves Acceptance.
  7. Non-Striving – This is an act of non-doing.  It is going along with the unfolding of life without an agenda, or looking for a better moment or escape.  The more items we place on our to do list, the more we should focus on non-striving.  What we will get will come out of being and appropriateness to the situation.
  8. Gratitude – We’re alive!  We often take for this granted.
  9. Generosity – How powerful it is to give yourself over to life?  Not for selfish gain, but to give joy to others.  To devote your time and attention to someone else.

Dr. Kabat-Zinn ends by saying that the mind and heart are the same word in Asian languages.  Therefore, these attitudes are part of heart-fullness.  He says the profound thing is the way these attitudes interconnect, and how they can help us see people as they are and to find common ground.

This video is a great reminder of how our ego can get in the way of us living to our fullest potential, as the ego causes us to see things through the filter of our beliefs and experiences.

Practicing Mindfulness can help us to rid ourselves of preconceived notions or biases, so we can look at everything around us with an open mind.  As a result, we can learn to not make everything about ourselves.  To not take things personally, worry about being right or wrong, and being slighted or insulted.  To not dwell on the past or future, but to be in the present moment with a clear mind.

Mindfulness reminds me of this quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  Notice he didn’t say the way you “think” about things.  “Looking”, to me, implies the soul, or the mind. “Thinking” brings the ego into play.

If executed properly, Mindfulness is the antithesis of anxiety, fear, or worry – the key to better living.

All we have to do is open our minds.


The power of a smile

At livingbeyond40, we strive to “become the person you want to be” in order to achieve long term growth and development.

While we are seeking long term results, there are many short term solutions that we can employ in this journey which can enhance the quality of our lives.  For example, in a previous post we discussed the benefits of box breathing.

This video by Ron Gutman is another example of a short term solution, and speaks about the hidden power of smiling.

Mr. Gutman opens the video by speaking about two studies.  In the first, he described a 30 year longitudinal study at UC Berkeley where they examined photos of women from old yearbooks.  The study found that the women who showed the most genuine smiles were most likely to have had a happy life – a long-term marriage and a better sense of well being.

In the second study by Wayne State University, researchers examined the smiles on player’s faces from 1950’s baseball cards.  They found that players that had no smile lived an average of 72.9 years, players with a slight smile lived 75 years, and players that had a beaming smile lived 79.9 years!

Mr. Gutman stated that 3D images show babies smiling in their mother’s womb, and that a smile is a basic biological expression of all humans across the world.

He also said that 1/3 of people smile more than 20 times a day, less than 14% smile less than 5 times a day, and children can smile as many as 400 times a day.

Also, in a study by Uppsala University in Sweden, Mr. Gutman said the researchers found that it was difficult to frown at someone who smiled.

Mr. Gutman stated that Charles Darwin said that the act of smiling actually makes us feel better and stimulates our brain reward system. It can also make us healthier by reducing the level of stress enhancing hormones, increase mood enhancing hormones, and can also help to reduce blood pressure.

Finally, Mr. Gutman cited a Penn State study which showed that people who smiled appeared to be more likeable, courteous, and competent.

The takeaway for this short yet powerful video is that even when we are feeling down, and may not see anything to smile about, this simple act of smiling may help to get us out of a funk, change our mood, and make us healthier.

While this quick fix may not be long term solution, the old adeage of “fake it til you make it” may be just what we need to get us back on track.

Just Breathe!

There is no denying the role that stress and anxiety play in our daily lives, and how both can affect our state of mind.

Not being in a peak state of mind puts us at major disadvantage.

It can cause us lose control of our emotions and externalize our feelings in a negative way, or we can internalize these emotions and create an environment where they build on each other and manifest into negative self talk.

The external responses to the stress and anxiety we feel may cause us to snap at our spouse, kids, or customers at work, and result in a hurtful remark we wouldn’t say if we were in a peak state of mind and felt in control.

The internal responses can create an ongoing negative inner dialogue, creating a sense of noise or distraction that gets in the way of us being able to process what is actually going on around us.

We can, however, achieve a peak state of mind to help us deal with the daily stress and anxiety that we feel in a simple way.

How?  Just breathe.  Really.  It’s as easy as that.

A technique we can use to help accomplish this is called box breathing.

Box breathing is utilized by the Navy Seals in non-combat situations, and is done by inhaling to a count of 5, holding your breath for 5, exhaling for 5, and holding your breath for 5.  You then repeat this sequence until you feel calm and relaxed.  If you find that a 5 count is too much, you can adjust the count as necessary and work your way up.

According to Sealfit.com, the benefits of box breathing are:

  • Reduction of performance anxiety
  • Control of the arousal response
  • Increasing brain elasticity – flexibility through enhanced blood flow and reduced mental stimulation
  • Enhancing learning and skill development
  • Increasing capacity for focused attention and long term concentration

You can perform this technique in the morning before the kids get up, in your car on the way to work, at work, or walking through the grocery store.

The key is to do it habitually, so you are performing it prior to encountering a stressful or anxiety inducing situation.

Imagine how much better your decision making can be, or how much your communications will be improved when you can quickly put yourself in a peak state of mind.

The best part is that it doesn’t cost any money, or require any special training, but it is something that can help us have a significant impact on the quality of our lives.

All you have to do is breathe





Living in Obscurity and the Importance of Humility

This video by Dr. Wayne Dyer speaks of the importance of living in obscurity and the importance of humility.

I don’t know what year it is from, but from the pop culture references he makes it is definitely several years old!

The advice, however, could not be more important today given the proliferation of social media and the role it plays in our lives.

This video also summarizes the reason why I dislike Facebook.

Dr. Dyer opens the video by describing the sense of “notice me” in today’s society.  He then spoke of Lao Tzu’s idea of living in obscurity and its relation to our obsession with celebrity culture, and its “look at me” mentality.

Dr. Dyer said the Tao teaches something completely opposite, and states “The sea stays low, and because the sea stays low, all of the rivers and streams empty into it.”  He said that because the sea is humble, it teaches us the importance of letting things come to us.

He then spoke about a personal experience with one of his books.  Dr. Dyer said he called his wife to ask where he was on the the bestseller list for that week, she replied that he was not.  When he responded with shock, she replied that his book was on the bestseller list, not him!

Dr. Dyer admitted that he himself had become a victim of the “notice me” mentality, and at the time his ego was pretty strong.  He said he had since learned that true nobility is not about being better than everyone else but being better than you used to be.

Dr. Dyer said he has learned that his happiest moments have been when he has done things “low and slow”, or anonymously.

He then went on to speak about Alcoholics Anonymous and its sense of purpose, and lack of titles and roles, all in the name of helping people anonymously.  He described the feeling the he got when attending AA meetings, and being in the presence of people who only wanted to help each other.

Dr. Dyer said we can be little more obscure, and practice a little less “notice me” when speaking with others.  He said before interrupting them so that we can speak, we can stop ourselves and say “tell me more.”

He says that everything will come to us at the exact perfect time and place, but we have to trust.  We don’t have to chase after it.  We can then become less obsessed with our ego and self importance, and who we are or what we’ve done.

With the prevalence of social media, how sage is this advice?

Instead of using it to connect, build relationships, and to learn, how often do we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others, or see others use it to boast or brag?

You have to look no further than the selfies and constant status updates to see how this applies Facebook.

I believe we would be much happier if we stayed humble, helped others, and used social media to enhance our lives, and the lives of those around us, instead of using it to say “look at me” or “notice me”.

Words of Wisdom from Warren Buffett

This is a 5 minute video of Warren Buffett addressing a group of MBA students in which he talks about integrity and character.

In the video, he said there were 3 qualities a person he knew looked for when hiring people – integrity, intelligence, and energy.

He said that if a person didn’t have the first two qualities, the last two would kill him.  He explained that if that person didn’t have integrity you wanted them dumb and lazy, not smart and energetic.

Mr. Buffett then asked the group if they could buy into 10% of one of their classmates for the rest of their lifetime, who would they pick?

He said that while you may look at the person with the highest IQ, best grades, or who was the most energetic and had the most initiative, you would most likely look at the person you best responded to.  The one who had the best qualitative factors and leadership characteristics, such as generosity and honesty, and the one who gave credit to others.

He also asked the group, which of your classmates would you short 10%?  He said that probably wouldn’t be the person with the lowest grades, but would be the person who turned you off.  The one you didn’t want to be around.  The one with the biggest ego, the one who was greedy, or was dishonest and cut corners.

Mr. Buffett said to write these qualities down.  On the left side of the page, list the good qualities that you wish to possess, and on the right side list those that turn you off.

He went on to say that you can have the qualities on the left hand side.  They are qualities of behavior, temperament, and character which are achievable and not forbidden to anyone.

He also that you don’t have to have the qualities on the right side of the page, the ones that turn you off, as they are habitual and you can rid yourself of them.  Mr. Buffett said, however, that the earlier you can get rid of them, the better, and summed up this up with the quote, “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

Mr. Buffett said he sees too many people with self destructive behavior patterns and they are entrapped by them. These are patterns that turn people off, and as time passes it gets to a point where its hard to change.

Mr. Buffett said that Ben Graham, in his teens, looked at people he admired and wanted to be like, so he behaved like them.  He also did the opposite and got rid of behaviors he didn’t like.

After writing these qualities down, Mr. Buffett said think about them and make them habitual so you will be one you want to buy 10% of.  The beauty, as he said, is you already own 100% of yourself (and you’re stuck with it) so you might as well be the person you want to be.

This is a great video.  As we look to become a better person, we have to take current stock of who we are and identify who we want to be.  To help us, we can look at those people we admire and identify and emulate their qualities. Putting our qualities down on paper forces us to take ownership and be honest with ourselves.

Are you willing to do it?

How To Find Your Passion

Do what you are passionate about.  It sounds good and makes sense, but for a lot of people (including myself) making this a reality doesn’t seem as simple as it sounds.

As we get caught up in the marathon of life, it often feels as if we are simply going through the motions.  However, the bigger problem, as Earl Nightingale states in the YouTube video Change your life in 19 minutes, is that 90% of us aren’t even in the race.  Instead it sometimes feels as if we watch life go by from the sidelines, like a spectator.

How do we take control of our lives, and align ourselves to follow our passions?  I believe that this requires deep thinking and reflection, and for us to use our mind. It also forces us to be honest with ourselves about our current status and to take ownership, which isn’t always comfortable.

The Secret to Finding Your Passion (http://www.oprah.com/supersoulsunday/The-Secret-to-Finding-Your-Passion-Hint-Its-Not-What-You-Think_1), lists 4 steps to help give us guideance in this journey:

  1. Love everything you do.  This is a topic that Earl Nightingale addressed in his video.  A change in your attitude can open your mind, which can alter the way you look at the world and open you to possibilities that didn’t know existed.
  2. Look at your book collection, magazines, DVD’s, CD’s, and credit card statements.  What topics interest you?  What do you spend your money on?  What do you do with your free time?  See if there are any themes that emerge.
  3. What do you love to talk about, learn about and/or teach others about?  If time and money weren’t a factor, what would you focus on? What are you most interested in or curious about?  Is there a need for a skill or interest that you have?  Is there a way to incorporate your interests into what you currently do?
  4. Quit talking and start doing.  Take steps to help you narrow down your interests.  As Earl Nightingale also said in the video, write down your ideas everyday to help you identify and narrow down your interests.  You can then research them online, find books at the library, take courses at your local community college, and/or take online courses to explore these areas further.

What are you waiting for?

Watch “Change Your Life in 19 Minutes with Earl Nightingale” on YouTube

This is a great video by Earl Nightingale.  It’s definitely worth watching it in its entirety, but a few nuggets of information are listed below:

  • Success is available to everyone.
  • When it comes to long term financial success, you need to ask two questions:
    • What are you doing at the present time to increase your income?
    • How much money will you be worth at age 65?
    • (People who don’t make money don’t think about either question)
  • In this race, we can all be winners, but 90% are not in the race
  • People who have money aren’t any luckier or smarter than the average person. The only difference is that they decided to earn more and made it their business to learn how.
  • If you make excuses, you are not being honest with yourself that you didn’t try.
  • We are all self-made and knowledge is available to everyone.
  • The biggest takeaway is the following formula for success:
    • Our Rewards in life are in proportion to our contribution and our service.  In other words, the money you are paid by your company is in relation to the need for what you do, your ability to do the job, and the degree of difficulty in replacing you.
    • The 2 rules for using the formula are as follows:
      • Goldmine:  The key to success is in the mind.  One idea can make you rich or move you up in the work you do, and the innovations of the future are someones brainchild.
        • How many good ideas have you come up with?  Everyday we walk by opportunities, as we mostly play follow the follower which guarantees mediocrity. Are you a contributor or a beneficiary?
        • Think! – Get up earlier everyday.  One extra hour a day gives you 6 extra 40 hour weeks in a year.
        • In the morning, write down financial goals –
          • How much do you want to make? How can you increase your contribution?  Think of ways of improving what is done now.
          • Every morning, write down 5 ideas.  This will lead to 1600 ideas a year.  Some won’t be great, but some will be excellent.  It’s never too late. Henry Ford didn’t start making cars until he was 45.  Focus and have disciplined thinking.  Specialize.
      • Attitude – The most important word in the language.  Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.  “We become what we think about”.  Your total environment is a reflection of you as a person.  Your house, the neighborhood you live in, the clothes you wear, car you drive, the job you do, and people you associate with are a reflection of you.
        • Improve your attitude – Act as the person you want to become.

What do you think?  An old video, but timeless advice.