Can Mindfulness Breed Compassionate Leaders?

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
Can Mindfulness Breed Compassionate Leaders?
Recently there has been some good discussion in the media about how the term “mindfulness” is being co-opted, distanced from traditional Buddhist teachings that include compassion practices and more esoteric teachings such as those on emptiness. The discussion seems to raise a few questions: Is mindfulness a trending topic because it makes us feel good about ourselves? If so, is that okay? Or is there a natural connection between the practice of meditation, a form of inner change, and societal transformation overall?

I’m a firm believer in that final notion. When I first started the Institute for Compassionate Leadership, I would outline to people the three main things we emphasize in our curriculum: meditation, community organizing training, and the types of leadership skills you simply don’t learn in university these days (fund-raising, negotiation, how to run a meeting). I would joke though, that even if none of the organizing or leadership skills landed with participants, after six months of meditating everyday I could pretty much guarantee they would still end up more compassionate leaders.

I could say this with certainty because I’ve seen the transformative power of meditation time and time again. I’ve been teaching meditation within the Buddhist tradition for thirteen or so years now. I’ve seen people come in, saying they are stressed out and can’t sleep or are going through a tough time personally and want meditation to help them. I’m cool with that. I give them the practice with some intro guidance and even in the span of a five week class I notice something shift.

I remember one student, Bill, getting up during one of these classes and saying he didn’t have a question to ask but wanted to share a poem on being open-hearted. I gave him the floor. “Okay,” I said afterward, “Bill if I’m not mistaken you said a few weeks ago that you came here to handle your stress. That poem was just about how what you really want to do is to help others through being more present with them.”

“Yeah. I guess it’s not just about me anymore,” Bill said. Through becoming more familiar with how he suffered at work, in his relationships, and in his community, Bill began to realize that everyone else he encountered suffered in related ways. Their story lines may look different but they were just as easy lured by passion, aggression, and ignorance as he was. He realized he wasn’t meditating just for his own sake, but so he could be present and open with other people he encountered. When meditating regularly, this shift toward compassionate activity is not uncommon.

Meditation transforms you if you let it. It opens your heart, and makes you want to help the world. At the Institute for Compassionate Leadership, we take young people from very diverse backgrounds who know they want to help the world already and do the reverse: we give them the daily meditation practice so they can become more self-aware. They begin to notice when they aren’t communicating effectively or listening enough or how they hold certain prejudices. Given that the common millennial switches jobs seven times while in their 20’s, asking them to become more self-aware and focused on what meaningful work means to them is solving the millennial employment crisis in a way that no other leadership training organization has.

When we combine that work with the community organizing training and send our participants to go volunteer in their communities they do so from a place of empathy, not with the mindset of “I’m so good to be doing this let me help all you little people.” They realize that we all suffer, and want to help in whatever way makes sense in the circumstances they encounter. But the path begins with mindfulness practice.

My most recent book, Walk Like a Buddha: Even if Your Boss Sucks, Your Ex is Torturing You, and You’re Hungover Again, could easily be judged by its cover. A conservative Buddhist might look at that title and not even open the book. But if they did they would see a purposeful bait and switch: the book opens with an intro to meditation and then sections on going out and dating but once we’ve covered some of that activity, we dive into two areas that can effect the world: bringing our meditation practice to social action and work. How can we bring an open heart into a world of tremendous suffering? How can we find work that is meaningful to us and in line with our desire to help others? These are the questions both the book and the Institute for Compassionate Leadership set out to answer.

That being said, the book started with a pretty alluring hook: meditation and beers and sex. If beer and sex is what is on people’s minds and they think meditation can help with that, great. But if they stick with the practice they will find themselves transformed and will go on to become compassionate leaders. They will apply it to their workplace environment and become more actively involved in volunteer and community activities. We need more compassionate leaders in this world, and I’m okay with them starting out thinking meditation is stress-reduction, even though it’s really heart-opening.

A Digital Detox Can Change Your Life. Here’s What To Know Before You Do It.
Let’s face it: we don’t always have the healthiest relationship with technology. From endlessly scanning social media sites to incessantly checking emails, we tote around serious digital baggage day after day that wreaks havoc on our minds and bodies. Headaches and “text neck” aren’t the only physical ailments caused by staying constantly connected. Harvard Medical School scientists found that using a cell phone or laptop before bed can disrupt the body’s production of melatonin and negatively affect sleep quality. And according to the Pew Research Internet Project, 44 percent of cell phone owners sleep with their phones next to their beds.

It turns out spending every spare minute on social media isn’t helping our mental health, either. A recent study published by the Public Library of Science found the more time a person spends on Facebook, the more dissatisfied they ultimately feel with their own life.

The fact that the phrase “digital detox” made its way into the Oxford Dictionary online last year is proof in itself that many of us could stand to benefit from a little break from our screens, and this weekend may be just the perfect time. National Day of Unplugging on March 7-8 encourages tech users to shut down their digital devices for 24 hours as a way to slow down, recharge, and reconnect with themselves and others.

Feeling anxious just thinking about giving up your smartphone and missing out on Twitter updates for a day? It may not be as bad as you think — if you’re prepared.

Here are nine things you should know about completing a digital detox, from the people who have lived to tell their own unplugging tales.

It’s a process.
When you first unplug, it’s fairly likely that you will suffer from phantom-phone syndrome — that feeling that your pocket is buzzing or ringing when your phone is actually nowhere in sight — and you may find yourself cheating a little by reading your news feed after that morning alarm goes off. But try not to be too hard on yourself. Embrace the discomfort of realizing that you’ve become physically connected to technology, and take some time to think about what means for you. This awareness is part of the digital detox process.

After her digital detox last December, Arianna Huffington said, “I was floored by the realization of just how much my phones had become almost physical extensions of myself.”

Withdrawal is only temporary.
Once you get past the impulse to Google a random thought, reply to an email the second it arrives or check the social buzz on Facebook, you might just find that you don’t actually miss that constant connection so much. Your friends, family and loved ones — the people who matter most — will be there to connect with in-person (at least the local ones), and your 500+ Facebook friends will still be there when you plug back in.

Disconnecting can help you reconnect.
Locking technology away, even if just for a short period of time, brings you far closer to friends and family than possible when you’re constantly glued to your screen. Unplugging and reconnecting with other IRL will enrich your life in ways your Facebook profile probably can’t begin to offer.

“I got so much out of unplugging,” MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski wrote of her week-long detox in a HuffPost blog. “Complete conversations with my dad and mom. A fun swim with my niece… Connecting. I even watched the sun go down.”

Live in the moment for the moment’s sake.
If a digital detox will teach you anything, it’s that not every incredible view must be shared through an Instagram filter. Removing that intermediary lens between your eyes and your surroundings can make for a much more meaningful experience.

After deciding to put her phone down during a family vacation, HuffPost’s executive lifestyle editor Lori Leibovich said, “It felt exhilarating to use my hands for digging tunnels in the sand and turning the pages of a novel instead of just tapping on a screen. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I was really seeing my kids. And they were relishing being seen.”

Cultivate your Zen.
That lack of constant connection could actually help you accept the things you cannot control. Glamour’s editor-in-chief Cindi Leive discovered this during her digital detox when her vacation flight was rerouted due to a storm.

“I had to resist my initial impulse to reach for Twitter to see what I could discover,” Leive wrote in a Huffington Post blog. “Instead I read a book and waited. We got there eventually, and I bet my blood pressure was lower than it would have been if I’d spent the time scrolling for info and venting.”

Experience JOMO.
Forget FOMO. After the initial bouts of wondering what your network is up to online without you, the realization hits that their pictures, posts and tweets don’t actually add up to much in terms of your mood or well-being. You might just discover the meaning of JOMO, the joy of missing out, because you are spending those previously-occupied minutes on things that truly make you happy.

Find your focus.
Trading browser tab after browser tab for a single hardcopy book can work wonders on your attention span.

“What grew each day was my capacity for absorbed focus,” The Energy Project president and CEO Tony Schwartz wrote of his digital detox in Harvard Business Review. “I became increasingly aware that the relentless diet of information I ordinarily consume leaves me feeling the same way I do after eating a couple of slices of pizza or a hot dog and French fries — poorly nourished and still hungry.”

Unplugging could reignite your passion.
Use your digital detox to channel some of your newfound free time into an old, possibly lost hobby. Whether it involves gardening, carving wood or playing a musical instrument, unplugging might boost your creativity. Cisco’s CTO Padmarsree Warrior chooses to spend 24 hours every weekend away from technology, making time for two of her favorite hobbies: painting and writing haikus. If all of your previous interests do lie within the realm of the worldwide web, now is as good a time as any to try something new.

The experience will be restorative.
As traumatic as the detox experience may seem, rest assured knowing that the reward awaiting you on Saturday at sundown is well worth it. Your mind and body will thank you for allowing it to reboot, get back to the basics, and remember what life was like before technology took over.

How To Bounce Back From Rejection
By Jena Pincott

It only takes a minute to start your rebound.

If you have a minute…focus on the right face.
woman looking at photo
We all know the best thing to do when we’re down: Talk, laugh (or bawl) it out with the person we love most. But until that happens, just looking at a photo of this person can activate natural painkillers in the brain, along with oxytocin and serotonin, both of which are associated with trust, well-being and calmness. Compared with viewing a headshot of a mere acquaintance, this exercise can relieve moderate pain by about 40 percent, found neuroscientists at Stanford University.

If you have 15 minutes…pick up a pen.
woman writing in journal
In an increasingly popular technique called self-affirmation, you write two paragraphs about the one thing that you value the most about yourself (your originality, spiritual or political values, anything) and explain why it matters in your life and how it shows up in what you do. When volunteers at Canada’s University of Victoria wrote out these explanations, they became more rejection-resistant for at least eight weeks. Why? By crystallizing who they were and the resources they had, their emotional core remained intact…so they stopped broadcasting anxious and avoidant vibes. Which reduced their chances of getting rejected in the first place.

…And if you have five extra minutes, describe your kitty or bff, too.
cat
Because when volunteers (primed to feel snubbed) at Miami University had five minutes to explain on paper what they adored about their cat, dog or best buddy, their self-esteem bounced right back, unlike the control group. (Another option: write about your closest friend, which has been shown to be equally effective in recovery. Though some might argue that the distinction between the two subjects — pet and pals — is nonexistent.

If you have 30 minutes….slip into something hot.
woman toe bathtub
Hot water can compensate for the “coldness” of rejection, claims John Bargh, PhD, a social psychologist at Yale University. His research found that people who felt lonely took baths and showers that were hotter and longer than those who felt accepted. If they warmed up their hands by holding a thermal pack, they felt less need for someone to comfort them. One theory, Bargh explains, is that we conflate physical and emotional warmth because both are processed in a plum-sized region of the brain called the insular cortex. Which also reveals why, when given the “cold-shoulder,” we might actually shiver.

If you have four hours…take a “happy” pill.
woman pill water
Another surprise: From your brain’s perspective, the pain of a rebuff isn’t much different from a kick in the duff. Which explains how one of the most common painkillers in the world — acetaminophen — could relieve hurt feelings among volunteers in a study at the University of Kentucky. (Sure, they knew they’d been turned down or excluded; it just didn’t upset them as much as it did the control group.) As further proof, brain scans showed reduced activity in regions associated with emotional pain. Their dose: 500 mg twice daily; the drug has a half-life of about four hours. (Warning: Long-term use of acetaminophen causes liver damage and other serious complications.)

If you have one week…. master a game-changer.
holding smiley face
After being shot down once or twice, we might start to see rejection everywhere (the boss grunts instead of greets, a friend is late for coffee). To combat this cycle, Marc Baldwin, PhD, a psychology professor at McGill University, developed Psych Me Up!, a free app. Drawing on cognitive bias modification (CBM) techniques, the game trains you to ignore social threats (frowning faces) while seeking out positive (smiling) ones — which may reduce the knee-jerk expectation that you’ll get rejected again. After a week of smile-hunting every morning before work, telemarketers felt more confident and coped better than a control group that played neutral games, Baldwin reports. Further proof: Their stress hormone levels were 17 percent lower.

Over a lifetime…make lemonade.
woman creative plan
Or at least brainstorm for fresh solutions, concluded a study at Johns Hopkins University in which people generated more creative ideas (e.g., unusual word associations and far-out renderings of creatures from other plants) after having been instead (provided they valued personal over group goals). “Rejection may amplify feeling of distinctiveness and the willingness to recruit ideas from unusual places,” the study explained. Which means that if your plan A is shot down, you’d come up with an even better plan B; if not, then onward to a yet more remarkable plan C. Which is how a bounce-back can actually make us better off.

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