Vajra Blue

Mindfulness and Compassion. Understanding trauma in young people.


Why Compassion Matters

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Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism. 

Hubert H. Humphrey

The headlong rush to the “I’m all right Jack, sod you.” culture, began in earnest in the 1980s with the rise of the Yuppies and the “Greed is good” mindset. Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at that time, famously stated that ‘There is no such thing as society.”

And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no governments can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.

Margaret Thatcher 

The opinion that she expressed in this speech is chilling in its content. A call to put the self ahead of the rest of the world. A siren call to Ego that was reflected back by Ronald Regan the then President of the United States.

This world view, as expressed by the leaders of the western democracies, helps to explain the shift in mentality seen in much of the western world. A mentality that lies behind a gradual drift to Individualism and Nationalism that has contributed so much to the current turmoil in the world. Not least to the increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots, and where difference is seen as dangerous.

A world view that divides people into two camps, us and them. Fortunately this view is now being challenged by new generations.

Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By putting our interests first, with no regard for others, we erase the very thing that a nation holds dearest, and the thing that keeps it alive: its moral values.

Emmanuel Macron

If Margaret Thatcher is taken literally, she is saying that governments, that is the people in power, should act in their own interests first and only put those of the people they were elected to serve second.

A prophetic utterance if ever there was one.

The final result has been the alienation of many citizens from the societies in which they live, and a rise in xenophobia and Nationalism..

Never criticize a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.

Native American Saying

The counterbalance to this is to develop a compassionate mindset. If we work to understand and appreciate the other person’s point of view and their life circumstances, we put ourselves in a position to help both them and ourselves. The scientific research suggests that being compassionate is good for us.

Compassion should not be confused with pity, an emotional state which emphasises the difference between the two parties.

In many ways compassion becomes a shared experience that allows us to focus on what we hold in common. Triggering a desire that others, as well as ourselves, should be free of suffering and its causes. As one definition summarises it..

‘Compassion is’…being sensitive to the suffering of self and others with a deep commitment to try to prevent and relieve it.

The Dalai Lama

Compassion is not only being open to another’s suffering, but also needs to be directed to the self. We all suffer in different ways, and compassion helps us to reflect on this and make an appropriate response. A positive mindset which is of benefit to ourselves as well as others.

The western world has developed a society in which many people have a very low opinion of themselves. Focussing on what is wrong at the expense of what is right. A world in which anxiety and depression have become a normal part of  many people’s lives.

Developing a compassionate mindset allows us to reverse this situation. When we develop an understanding of the causes and effects that are at play in our own lives we can address them more easily, and so become better placed to understand and respond to others suffering as well.

Once we understand our own circumstances, and observe our habitual responses, we can act out of that changed mindset and become a positive influence in our world.

The good news is that the more you practice compassion the easier it gets.

So

Fake it until you make it.

Sandy


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Mindfulness: where does the research stand?

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aglet, aiglet
ag·let  (ăg′lĭt)
n.

1. A tag or sheath, as of plastic, on the end of a lace, cord, or ribbon to facilitate its passing through eyelet holes.
2. A similar device used for an ornament.
[Middle English, from Old French aguillette, diminutive of aguille,needle, from Vulgar Latin *acūcula, from Late Latin acucula, diminutive of Latin acus, needle; see ak- in Indo-European roots.]

Mindfulness and meditation have been around for thousands of years.  It is only relatively recently that they have started to appear on the radar as potential treatments for physical and mental health difficulties.

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FAMOUS for fifteen minutes: a mindful way to a happier life.

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When I grow up
I wanna be famous
I wanna be a star
I wanna be in movies

When I grow up
I wanna see the world
Drive nice cars
I wanna have groupies

PUSSYCAT DOLLS

Humankind is a very successful animal. Some two hundred thousand years ago, the entire human race consisted of a few thousand people living in Southern Africa.  In the ensuing years, we have made full use of our adaptability and survival skills, and have spread to every corner of the globe on the way becoming the world’s dominant species. Our current population is heading for eight billion. Much of this success is due to our ability to survive against the odds.

The systems developed by the process of evolution to detect, and then react to danger, have stood us in good stead. However, these systems, designed to pick up the early signs of danger, can be very unhelpful in the digital age.

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Mindfulness: 3 simple practices to help young people become mindful.

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I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.
Dalai lama.

The term Mindfulness seems to be on everyone’s lips at the moment. A great deal of research has already been undertaken into its benefits, and these cover many of the domains of our daily lives .

Although much of this research has been carried out on adults, there is increasing evidence that there are also benefits for young people. Indeed, even the British government has started to advocate that it should be taught in schools.

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Mindfulness, willpower and achieving our goals

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I can resist everything but temptation.

Oscar Wilde

Most of the people I know believe that their lives would be better if they had greater willpower. We all find it far too easy to sit down and watch the telly when we know we should be going out to the gym, or undertaking some other improving activity. There are lots of things that we would like to do more, and others that we would like to do less. Yet somehow, despite our best intentions, we find ourselves unable to find the motivation to keep going when we set out to make some new changes in our lives.

Willpower is one of the things that makes it possible to bring about successful change much more easily. A lack of willpower is the main reason cited when we do not follow through on positive changes in our lives. The American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” survey published in 2011, showed that 27% of respondents reported lack of willpower as being the most significant barrier to bringing about change in their lives. The majority of respondents also believed that willpower was something that they could increase and develop through practice. Continue reading


Mindfulness, moment by moment.

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Mindfulness is the practice of having greater awareness and of being more present in our lives.

The ability to be mindful requires that we place and hold our attention where we want it.

It is the ability to switch off the running commentary of our minds and to return to the present moment.

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Mindfulness: Three steps to better communication.

Wise men speak because they have something to say;

Fools because they have to say something.

Plato.

As humans we use speech to communicate with each other on a daily basis. While these situations usually lead to a harmonious outcome, many end confusion and ill will. This is down to misunderstanding and a breakdown in communication.  This is usually accidental, although there are times when obfuscation through language seems to be the main aim of any communication. Donald Rumsfeld seemed to be an expert at this.

This breakdown in two-way communication is much more common when the conversation is negative, or when it involves real or perceived criticism. Under these circumstances, excessive emotional responses to neutral information are quite common. We find it hard to tell other people that we are not happy with some aspect of their behaviour, or to hear them say the same kind of thing to us. This uncomfortable experience makes it all too easy to lose sight of our good intentions, and to fall back on what might be our  habitual, unhelpful, and inappropriate ways of behaving, with the inevitable poor outcome.

When we feel attacked and make an emotional response the main drawback is that we stop listening to the conversation and instead we become reactive. This means that we either do not hear, or find ourselves ignoring any other information that might be available. Real communication is no longer possible in this situation and all ends in acrimony and recrimination.

For accurate communication we need to be able to develop a mutual understanding of the issues at hand. We need to understand what we each mean by our words, what the other person understands us to mean, what we feel about the conversation, and what we need to get out of it. Without this we are unable to accurately communicate. As Wittgenstein put it, we need to be playing the same language game as the other person with whom we are talking.

Fortunately it is possible to handle our interactions with others sensitively and confidently on a much more regular basis. Continue reading