Vajra Blue

Mindfulness and Compassion. Understanding trauma in young people.


Mindfulness: a campaign for slow friendship.

images-6

Or should that read “who only knows your emoticon”?

If you find a wise person, Who points out your faults and corrects you,

You should follow such a sage, 

As you would a revealer of treasures.

It is better, never worse, 

To follow such a sage.

DHAMMAPADA (verse 76)

 A few weeks ago I was sitting at a café in the centre of town, enjoying a few minutes peace  with a long black when I noticed three people at the table next to me. They arrived together and after ordering their drinks they continued to sit at the same table. For the twenty minutes that I was able to observe their interactions they did not speak to each other, instead they seemed to take it in turns to pick up their phone, tap away at the screen and then replace it on the table. Then the next person repeated the procedure. To all intents and purposes it appeared that they were talking to each other by text message. The art of small talk and conversation appeared to have died a death.

I belong to a spiritual community that has spread around the world  over the last two and half thousand years. It entertains the idea of spiritual friendship as a force for good in people’s lives. Friendship is viewed as an important aspect of the spiritual journey. When people with shared interests and goals meet to share their experiences with others it can provide an environment which acts as an aid to personal and community development. allowing a free exchange of infromation and for each perosn of be of help to all the others.

This process takes no prisoners. Spiritual friendship is a fierce form of friendship. However, this is only one form of friendship that matters. Friends are important to all of us in many different ways.They are our support network when times are bad and a source of joy when they are good.

This process takes no prisoners

We need to look after our friendships as otherwise they can wither away and die, leaving us on our own and missing one of the necessary parts of being a human. Human beings are often described as social animals,  this means that we are evolved to live in groups, and that much of our development towards consciousness appears to have been triggered by this. Language, social behaviours, play all come from the way we mix as people and with the people in our world. Out of this comes the whole world of  culture, art and science.  We are driven to communicate  almost from the moment of our birth.  The evidence is that as newborn babies we start to communicate before we are our old.

The success of social media suggests that contact with other human beings is a thing that we all enjoy. But there is a huge difference between the friends we have online and those we see in the flesh. One problem with social media is that the interactions  we have with other people are impersonal and conducted via a keyboard or touchscreen. We have no context in which to understand the messages that we receive. we would do well to remember is according to linguistic research only about 7% of the information that  here when we communicate using speech is in the words that we choose to use, the rest of the meaning is in our body language, tone of voice, facial expressions etc. indeed it is entirely possible that we can make the words that we choose to use mean the exact opposite of what they literally say purely by how we say them.

When we add the lack of context to this mix we can end up in some very interesting, and scary places. There is an aphorism widely used in neuroscience at the moment that says that “neurons that fire together wire together,” in other words if we use different pathways in our brain a lot they tend to become much easier to set off,  and can cause reactions that are semi automatic so that we can respond to both familiar and unfamiliar situations in ways that we would not usually intend. Similarly if we practice using bits of our brain to excess we find that this can trigger an habitual response to events or situations in out lives. This means that we can have large and unexpected responses to minor triggers in our social environment.

A phenomenon called kindling can come into play in this situation.  In much the same way that we can create a fire from a single spark by slowly adding larger pieces of  combustible material to encourage the flames to grow,  we can adversely affect mental state I constantly rehearsing and adding small negative elements. If we have been having a bad day we might send texts to several of our friends telling them about it.  We find ourselves typing the same negative comments several times, each time we do this, it reinforces and deepens negative mental states contributing to increased levels of unhappiness. At an extreme it can worsen depression and anxiety and  lead to worsening states of mind.

Kindling can come into play.

When we meet a friend face to face and discuss our worries the situation is often very different we may well tell a friend how awful we feel, and they may well listen and sympathise, however, this conversation cannot persist for very long and we  will  inevitably move onto other topics of discussion. Just being in the presence of someone we like can have a strong positive effect on mood and well-being, and if we share our difficulties with them it is likely to be a helpful experience where we have a chance to explore our feelings and thoughts about the issue in much greater detail than would  be possible if our contact is purely on social media.

One worrying piece of research suggests that people are considerably more likely to give negative feedback over social media than to make positive, constructive comments. The anonymity provided by the Internet, combined the human tendency to pay more attention to the negative aspects of our environment (a necessary survival skill)  means that there are people who feel safe to say things that they would not normally say in a face-to-face situation at, with the results that vulnerable people can be exposed to great deal of negative feedback which will exacerbates that condition to activation of our fight or flight response, leading to a strengthening of the mood states stop

There has been a lot of research into longevity and the human condition. Blue Zones, those areas where there are unexpectedly high numbers of men and women who are living healthily into extreme old age, have been much in the media over the last few years. According to the research that has been carried out, one of the main contributing factors to the development of these pockets of healthy old people is regular social contact. This is an important contributory factor that plays a significant part in maintaining their physical and mental health, these are two important factors that contribute to a healthy and long life.

In this twenty-first century we all seem to be too busy to manage our time and environment to allow us to live a healthy life.  Over the last 50 years or so there have been various movements harking back to the old days.  In the UK the campaign for real ale rebels against the big brewers who are introducing a homogenised  keg beer, preferring to pay more money for a slowly made craftsman brewed product. and there have been similar campaigns around the world directed at bread, and food in general.

A new campaign.

I am suggesting that we introduce a new campaign.  It is time to spend more time  socialising and in direct face-to-face contact with other people.  So I would encourage you all  to join the new campaign.

THE CAMPAIGN FOR SLOW FRIENDSHIP.


on the problem of wanting

A great response to the unsatisfactory nature of life.

the love story project

For weeks I’ve wanted to write about all that’s happened in my life in 2015, but I couldn’t find a good way to get at it. I keep thinking back to a rainy Sunday night, about a year ago, when I met two friends for dinner. One was pregnant and doing interesting research for her PhD in linguistics. She and her husband were thinking about buying a condo or moving to a new, baby-friendly apartment. The other, a psychologist, I hadn’t seen since August, when she was in the midst of a messy break up with a not-at-all-nice guy. But by March she was living happily with her new boyfriend—a man who seemed unbelievably successful and kind and good for her. A man she met the day after her break up. She told us about helping to raise his two kids, and her summer plans to attend conferences and visit…

View original post 1,526 more words


Mindfulness: dealing with attention deficit trait..

image

People today are in danger of drowning in information; but, because they have been taught that information is useful, they are more willing to drown than they need be.

If they could handle information, they would not have to drown at all.”
― Idries Shah, Reflections

Information is one thing that is plentiful in the twenty first century. It is said that one week of the New York Times contains more information than the average person, alive just fifty years ago, would have been exposed to in their entire lives. As well as the ever increasing availablity of information, the volume of data available seems to be expanding exponentially, and most of this is unfiltered. This knowledge revolution, while having many benefits, does come with a significant price.

Attention Deficit Trait (ADT) is a term that describes the effects of a persistent state of information overload that can be generated by the digital world. It was first used by psychiatrist, Edward Hallowell, in an article in the Harvard Business Review. He described a state “Marked by distractability, inner frenzy, and impatience…” occuring in business managers that turned “otherwise talented performers into harried underachievers.”

This condition although similar to ADHD, is caused by the environment in which we live and work. In other words it is something that we are doing to ourselves.

Continue reading


1 Comment

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

image

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.

Continue reading


Mindfulness: setting up the conditions for a happier world.

image

…ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
John F Kennedy
In this now famous speech, made on June 26th 1963 before the Berlin Wall, President Kennedy tried to focus the world back onto the greater good and away from narrow self interest, at least on an individual basis.
Although he was looking to refocus people onto the struggle against communism, his plea for a greater sense of community struck home with many people.
His speech might have had even more resonance if he had used the word society or culture instead of country.

Continue reading


Mindfulness, willpower and achieving our goals

thLO1WLEYW

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.

Minute

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.

Continue reading