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Discussion in 'Personal' started by nizebaby, Aug 23, 2019.

  1. Sally006

    Sally006 Established commenter

    Simply put isn’t any distraction from your worries a benefit. Going down the pub with a mate might do this. I agree - do whatever works for you. However, hour long mindfulness sessions with 9 year olds (as used at our place a year or two ago) was a recipe for boredom and fidgety bottoms! Yet I fear the provider of these sessions was paid handsomely!
  2. Ivartheboneless

    Ivartheboneless Star commenter

    I think the cliched phrase is "horses for courses".
    agathamorse and NoseyMatronType like this.
  3. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    Mindfulness also has a good evidence base of efficacy in treating anxiety. And stress.
  4. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    Neuroscientist and Zen practitioner James Austin might have the answer to that question.

    Interestingly, Soto Zen teachers often state that the practice of shikantaza (a relative of mindfulness) is not self-improvement. One sits with no object or goal in mind.

    However, somewhat paradoxically. certain types of Buddhist meditation practice, including the above, do seem to have tangible, measurably beneficial effects. I have already cited several studies that attest to this in a previous, lengthy post, along with some reservations that I nevertheless have about how and who it is taught to.

    The sceptical Bristol scientist Kathy Sykes once did a brief series on 'alternative' practices with alleged benefits, like spiritual healing. Meditation was the only technique that came out unscathed.

    What seems to happen from all that sitting and staring at a blank wall or being present with one's experience is that the parts of the brain that light up when we are happy light up more.

    The Sykes documentary features the Tibetan Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard. He has been dubbed 'the happiest person alive' because of the neuroscientifically measurable effects on his brain of decades of meditation. More on that here:


    In my experience, mindfulness involves a turning towards ones experience rather than avoidance. So if what someone is living through at a particular point in time happens entails touching base with something like chronic pain, or PTSD, or the aftermath of some devastating tragedy, this can make the practice both demanding and dangerous. It entails what the Tibetan Buddhist author Pema Chodron calls 'the wisdom of no escape'.

    The Soto Zen writer Brad Warner explains the process as follows:

    '...we suffer because things are not the way we think they ought to be. Rather than face what really is, we prefer to retreat and compare what we're living through with the way we think it oughta be. Suffering comes from the comparison between the two.

    Even physical suffering works like this. I saw this fact clearly for myself about a year ago when I passed a kidney stone, allegedly the most painful experience a person can actually survive. I don't know about that but I can tell you that the pain was astoundingly bad. And yet when I stopped comparing what I thought I ought to feel like (namely, free from pain) to what I actually felt like (namely, in enormous pain), things became far better. It still hurt like hell, don't get me wrong. But if you're not trying to run away from the unavoidable hell of suffering, if you just let it be, your whole experience is transformed absolutely.'

    I am going to leave things at that. For the record, my familiarity with this area is a result of having been assigned the teaching of Buddhism as a world philosophy as part of an IB course years ago. Part of the syllabus entailed looking into what Buddhism might have to offer the world of the 21st Century.

    So I looked into whether meditation was any better for you than sitting down in front of the telly with a nice cup of tea (and a big bag of sweets) to watch Love Island.

    Back then the evidence was circumstantial. But I have kept tabs on developments since then and the evidence that some forms of meditation are beneficial has steadily accumulated to a point that has convinced me personally. When you look at the relevant studies, it really is hard to draw a different conclusion.

    Plus, I had cause to try the practice myself when I acquired loud, 24/7 tinnitus, a condition that is very difficult to get a handle on. I reckon that it helped in precisely the manner described by Warner. Go figure.
  5. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    See this book (I read it a few years ago and was impressed, though I wasn't prompted to read it by issues with anxiety).

    LunaBlue123 and Scintillant like this.
  6. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    John Kabat-Zinn's book Full Catastrophe Living cites a study in which the participants were (from memory), either Buddhist monks with a lot of mindfulness under their belt or subjects who had been trained in pain distraction techniques.

    Both groups were invited to see how long they could keep their lower arms immersed in some iced water.

    Guess which group did better?

    Note: I have cited the study from memory but the details were something like that.
  7. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    I think reading or watching the TV (I love both) represents an escape from reality. Temporarily rewarding.

    Mindfulness is more of an immersion in reality. So this is what's happening in my head and in my body? Oh. Interesting. So this is what life is? This is the world? It helps to shed some of those erroneous ideas you have. False expectations or self-delusion.

    That's just my experience of mindfulness when I do yoga and really FEEL it.
  8. Jude Fawley

    Jude Fawley Star commenter

    It wouldn't suit me. I need long periods of freewheeling when I just let my head go.

    I think I read 'On Having No Head'. Not from the adult shop.
    agathamorse likes this.
  9. Jude Fawley

    Jude Fawley Star commenter

    This CBT and Mindfulness all leads to the tappers. They're the ones to watch. On You Tube I saw a tapper workshop and they were all tapping each other quite violently. The conferences are weird too.

    But then I just don't like social events.
  10. Jude Fawley

    Jude Fawley Star commenter

    Absolute madness!

  11. Aquamarina1234

    Aquamarina1234 Star commenter

    Iced water will damage tissues. There's a reason we respond to it by taking our arms out. Not sure what the value of training someone to be better at harming their arms is a great example.

    "One sits with no object or goal in mind."
    Chance'd be a fine thing! I bet people who have that option in their daily lives are less likely to suffer from stress anyway!
  12. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    When I was posting yesterday, I completely forgot about the late Darlene Cohen, who quite apart from anything else was a unique prose stylist (and Zen practitioner).

    She's dead now, but suffered with rheumatoid arthritis for 30 years. Here she is recalling its sudden onset:

    In four months of deterioration, I lost everything that meant anything to me: reliance on a strong, young body; my achievements and the sense of self-worth they brought me; my pleasure in being a sexually attractive woman; my identity as a mother; and my ability to do the required practices and sustain myself in the community in which I lived as a student of Zen meditation. I became isolated from everyone I knew by my pain and fear and ultimately even by the consuming effort I had to make to do any little thing – like get up from a chair, pick up a cup of tea.

    And here she is writing about chronic illness years later (extracts from an online article):

    Many of us in the course of living our everyday lives endure terrible suffering: grief or anxiety or depression or physical pain that won’t go away. I think of this kind of suffering as “mundane” anguish, affliction rendered bearable only because it’s part of our everyday lives, like drawing breath or doing the dishes. If we ever got relief from it, we would suddenly apprehend how dreadful it actually is.

    A little further on:

    I’ve often heard people in pain say, “I know it would be better if I could accept my pain, and I keep trying and trying, but I can’t! I can’t accept it; I hate it!” I think many people have a skewed idea of what “accepting” pain is. If you have the idea that coping well should resemble serenity or equanimity, something like the proverbial “grace under fire,” then you think you should resign yourself with a big cosmic grin, no matter what horrors are being visited upon you.

    Actually, “accepting” pain sounds to me too passive to accurately describe the process of successfully dealing with chronic pain. It fails to convey the tremendous energy and courage it takes to accept physical pain as part of your life. Truly accepting pain is not at all like passive resignation. Rather, it is active engagement with life in its most intimate sense. It is meeting, dancing with, raging at, turning toward. To accept your pain on this level, you must cultivate particular skills. After you have developed some proficiency, dealing with pain feels much more like an embrace, or the bond that forms between sparring partners, than like resignation.

    This is a link to the full article (in which she goes on to outline her own approach to pain-management in more depth):


    But it's her honesty that impressed me. Here are a couple of further quotations from one of her books:

    Even though it’s an ideal time to “embrace the suffering” or learn to “dance with disaster,” you don’t care. Furthermore, you don’t care that you don’t care. You’ve had it with trying to expand your consciousness. You hate your life and everybody in it. Nobody else cares, why should you? You’re at the end of your rope. It’s time for down ‘n’ dirty comfort. What you need is whatever will get you through the next few hours.

    One particular Friday, I was exhausted, miserable and resentful. I had worked hard all week, and it seemed to me that nobody appreciated me. Clients canceled their appointments, and nobody was taking any of my advice. My “poor me” tape started running, and my joints hurt. Although we were out of cookies, there were two Hagen-Dazs ice cream sandwiches in the fridge. I put them on a plate, curled up in bed under the thick comforter just the way I was, with my clothes and shoes on, and clicked on the TV. Geraldo was having a celebrity gossipfest with tabloid reporters telling all. I settled down into a blissful haze of pain, sugar and gossip.

    I was actually pretty transported, feeling much better about life, when the phone next to my bed rang a half hour later. Since I didn’t want to go back into being-available mode, I had absolutely no intention of answering the phone or even listening to the message, but habit was stronger than gossip bliss. After the answering machine’s various clicks indicated someone was beginning to record, I muted the TV at the last minute. A woman I didn’t know began telling my machine she had heard me lecture and was very moved and impressed and wanted to study with me. I was such an inspiring person, she was sure forming a teaching relationship with me would help her cope with the pain she had in her life since I had set such an example with mine.

    She left her phone number. I clicked the TV mute button off and went back to Geraldo. In a few moments, I was laughing out loud. Here I was, the pain guru, the person people in pain want to emulate. I looked at myself huddled fully dressed under the bedcovers in the middle of the day, driven there by pain and self-pity, the plate full of ice cream sandwich crumbs sliding off to one side, my annoyance at having missed some Madonna gossip during the phone call, and thought “This is it. This really is my teaching."

    The reason I thought of her yesterday is because she was clearly deploying a distraction technique here. She also writes about taking pleasure in white-water rafting at one point as an immersively multi-sensory bit of distraction. So two things (meditation and distraction) get pragmatically combined in her writing.

    Anyway, just thought that I would put this out there.

    Overall, it is, as Ivan pointed out, a 'horses for courses' thing. Mindfulness obviously will not have universal appeal and something like CBT might work better if someone is going through a rough patch. And to reiterate a point I made in an earlier post, schools and pupils should steer clear of it in my view because of the risks involved.
  13. monicabilongame

    monicabilongame Star commenter

    As you say, you are already focused on the here and now - so you don't need it. Those who do are the ones running scripts in their head about how everyone hates them or how terrible everything is going to be, or how anxious they are, or, or, or... And having all the concomitant feelings associated with anxiety and fear which make it so difficult to get out of their heads and back into reality. I work with these people all the time.
  14. nizebaby

    nizebaby Star commenter

    I can see the difference, monica, and I don't to pour scorn on different techniques for alleviating anxiety.

    Unfortunately, I first emcountered mindfulness in the context of an arricle in the telegraph on how to eat christmas dinner mindfully. It was truly off-putting!
  15. monicabilongame

    monicabilongame Star commenter

    I quite understand, and yet if we were to replace the word 'mindfully' with eating slowly and relishing every mouthful for its variety of flavours and textures, it would mean the same thing
    EmanuelShadrack likes this.
  16. EmanuelShadrack

    EmanuelShadrack Star commenter

    This whole mindfulness stuff is being made more complicated than it needs to be. It's really quite simple - you're paying attention to what's going on at the present time.

    Maybe it'd be better to think of a pastime. Tai-chi has been mentioned. Skiing is the one that comes to my mind, but different things for different people. Just find something that absorbs you, so you have no attention for anything else. When I'm skiing, I'm not thinking much of other stuff, I'm concentrating on what I'm doing. If I didn't, I'd most likely fall over. The same goes for cycling. There's no time for anything else other than concentrating on not getting killed or injured.
    monicabilongame likes this.
  17. racroesus

    racroesus Star commenter

    Right! I've acute indigestion now.
  18. racroesus

    racroesus Star commenter

    I'm missing out somehow.
  19. racroesus

    racroesus Star commenter

    We used to tap people to cause them great annoyance.
  20. racroesus

    racroesus Star commenter

    I go with my angling partners. We are notorious in a boat.

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