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“The Healing Power of Mindfulness”

Check out this clip with Jon Kabat-Zinn

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_If4a-gHg_I

Learn to Practice Patience

 

There is no evil greater than anger,

And no virtue greater than patience.

Therefore, I should strive in various ways

To become familiar with the practices of patience.

Shantideva

Patience can be learned.  Patience is a great skill to develop; like all skills it takes practice to be able to use well.  At first when you feel impatience or restless note it, move your focus to the breath, connect with the moment, shift your attention away from your impatience toward your awareness of being impatience.  You may say to yourself, “I am feeling frustrated feelings with being delayed, and I am thinking magnifying anger thoughts.”  Check in with yourself.

Impatience and anger go hand in glove.  When we become impatient we lose our tolerance of not only being delayed but, of anyone who we perceive of delaying us from getting to where we are going.  We become stressed and more likely to become impulsive and reactive.  Our impatience clouds our wise mind and our ability to take actions that support our values.  Impatience robs of the ability to stay connected with the moment.  It is impossible to be in the moment if you are rushing it, rather than responding to it.

Our impatience leaves us unable to wait or tolerate delays.  When we become impatience we experience restless and the risk of becoming short-tempered when facing delay or opposition.  Impatience leaves us unable to endure irritation or opposition.   It feeds our irritations and readies for an anger episode.  Think about the impatience you experience everyday while in traffic or the impatience you experience while waiting in line at the ATM or for the next cashier at the supermarket.  Think about the impatience you experience when your children aren’t cooperating to get dressed or out the door in the morning to school.  Now, think about the cumulative effect this impatience has on your life.  Do you feel rushed all the time?  When you feel rushed do you hold tension in your body?  Do you feel like others or even the universe is conspiring against you?  We can become habituated to being impatience, hoping that the world will catch up and cooperate – good luck. 

Now, imagine you are at a busy supermarket and there is a frail senior at the checkout in front of you who has taken out his change purse and begins to count out the amount due in pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, more than likely you begin to think “oh this is just great, look at this old man, I’m never going to get out of here.”   You may experience emotions like frustration, anxiety and even anger for being delayed.  This old man in front of you becomes a target for your anger, the truth is if he it wasn’t the target of your anger another one would present itself.  We can always find a scapegoat for our negative thoughts and emotions; it easier to blame someone or something else for our own personal struggles, even if that struggle is finding ourselves in a slow moving line.  There are always abundant external events to project your anger at.  If it isn’t the frail senior at the supermarket checkout, it will be the driver in front of you in the left hand turn lane that hesitates on the yellow light, or the sales clerk finishing up a phone conversation while you are waiting for service.  These events can magnify our impatience, trigger our anger and ready us for the fight or flight response.  We will always face obstacles and delay; we can either respond with patience and understand or we react in anger – the choice is ours.

The question becomes, how do we bring practices to our lives that nurture our patience and tolerance?  There are three simple practices we need to become mindful of when facing impatience.

·         Accept the suffering, recognize that the suffering is our own; the person in front of us at the cashier is not responsible for our impatience. Learn to accept the emotions and thoughts we are experiencing.  Don’t avoid unpleasant feelings rather face them. 

·         Recognize the nature and causes of the suffering; again our frustration with a slow moving line at the supermarket is not someone else’s problem.  Being rushed and anxious has nothing to do with the person in front of you.  The mind wants to assign blame.  Get beyond the blame and recognize the struggles you are experiencing is your and you like everyone on the planet struggles from time to time.  See if you can bring compassion to the moment.

·         Learn the patience of not retaliating; making choices to respond with your hands, feet and mouth in ways that respect your relationship with others. 

It is hard work developing these skills of bringing our focus to the emotions and the thoughts we are experiencing in the moment; we have to train the wise mind and routinely practices mindfulness.  Remember we are trying to change behaviours that have become habitual, this is hard work and it takes much effort – be gentle with yourself as your practice these skills.  If you have a slip up observe what has happened and how you felt and move on.  As we practice the skills required to become patience we it will become second nature.  Next time you feel impatience take a breath and bring the focus inward, accept the emotions and thoughts you are experiencing, recognize the struggles you are experiencing and let your wise mind guide your response.

This week make a conscious effort to practice patience, bring your consciousness to situations that make you impatience, i.e., waiting in traffic, or for the ATM, or in the lineup at the supermarket.  Make a conscious effort to engage your wise mind and bring your focus to the moment.  Become aware of your breath, review the breathing exercises in week two if you need to; the breath brings us into the moment –  it reconnects us with our bodies.  Pause, give yourself some distance and observe what is happening – bringing your focus inward, check in with yourself. Dispassionately identify the emotions and thoughts you are experiencing in the moment, mindful that these thoughts and emotions are our private reactions to our experience.  Recognize the source of our struggles, the stressors and conditions that trigger our impatience and anger.

Stop and accept your thoughts and emotions; recognize your impatience with the person in front of you has nothing to do with him – it isn’t his fault that you are running late and suffering a headache. It doesn’t matter what you are experiencing – just recognize that your suffering is your own.  Once you have accepted and recognized your emotions and thoughts and have identified the source, the pressures and stressors your face, make a conscious choice to act.  In the case of a long line up at the supermarket, maybe you best choice is to breath and do nothing more than accept what is happening and wait your turn.

Perception is Everything

Emotions are the lenses through which humans perceive and experience the world. Information coming in through our senses may not always be perceived correctly and this can lead to distorted thinking followed by negative emotional responses and consequently expressions of anger.

For example let’s say that you are driving down the highway and you find yourself behind someone who is driving slowly, maybe 10 or 15 kilometers per hour under the speed limit. Depending on the kind of a day you have had you may become angry at the other motorist. You may aggressively tailgate the motorist in front of you, curse out load or under your breath. You become impatience and honk your horn. You think about how inconsiderate this person is and how they are slowing you down. It is their fault you can’t get to your destination faster. You paint a negative picture in your head of this person in front of you, resort to name calling, and maybe even yell out load at this point. Finally, you see an opportunity to overtake the motorist in front of you. You overtake them and you are just about ready to give them the evil eye, and at that moment you look over and see a little old lady who apparently is just trying to get where she needs to go. Your anger subsides. You no longer feel justified in being angry. The negative emotions you had experienced mere seconds ago seems to disappear and you continue to drive to your destination maybe with a hint of guilt for the way you treated the other motorist.

If we perceives a situation incorrectly our responses can lead to anger outburst. How we perceive situations is informed by our experiences, beliefs and the information available. As in the example above first perception did not include the possibly that the other motorist may have had some limitation that caused them to move slower. However with new information our perceptions changes and the angry dissipated.

What does this have to do with anger management? Emotional intelligence is a key factor here. It is important to note that being emotionally intelligent is not only about awareness of our own emotions but being able to dialogue with ourselves in a way that we sometimes question our perception of a situation. It is okay to ask yourself the following questions when faced with a potential anger provoking situation. Do I perceive this situation accurately? Do I need more information before I make a judgment? How are my beliefs influencing how I perceive this situation? Initially it will seem very awkward to have such self talk but over time it will become automatic. This level of emotional intelligence can help you to tap into the emotions that drive your anger and overtime you can reduce the prosperity to lash out in anger.

Our emotions are signals. It is the responsibility of every individual to master these emotions and to read them correctly. We need to have more internal conversations with ourselves to ensure that our perceptions do not lead us to make the impulsive decision to react in anger. Bring mindfulness to your actions. Perceptions can be very deceptive so I encourage you to check your perception before you react in anger, ask yourself what drives this anger – you maybe surprises to find out that your perceptions maybe far from reality.

What is Mindfulness?

“Mindfulness provides a simple but powerful route for getting ourselves unstuck, back in touch with our wisdom and vitality…The key to this path is an appreciation for the present moment and the cultivation of an intimate relationship with it through a continual attending to it with care and discernment. It is the direct opposite of taking life for granted.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn 1994)

We are not our thoughts. Our thoughts can take us away from being here now – in the moment. We can become preoccupied and very often lost in those thoughts. When we are thinking about the past, or worried about the future, we become a prisoner of our thoughts, not experiencing this moment, now completely.

When we take a moment to observe ourselves having thoughts, we are no longer the thoughts. We get to be and observe at the same time. That’s why if we continue to come back to the breath which always occurs in the here and now; it draws us into the present moment. And from that vantage point we can observe how the past and the future attempt to draw us away from the moment. This paying attention to the here and now, to the breath, to the observing one’s thoughts without being critical or judgmental is what many people call Mindfulness

Meditation on Compassion

“Consider this quietly, on your own; or get a friend to read it out slowly to you.”

To begin this practice STOP FOR A FEW MOMENTS. Sit quietly, with a straight back and gently close your eyes, or focus on an object nearby. If you choose to use an object, use something pleasing. The object can be a vase, a flower, or the statue of the Buddha. Begin with deep diaphragmic breathing feeling the rhythm of the breath as it enters and leaves the body. Try to stay focused on your breath, allow yourself to let go of past and future. If you start thinking about the past or worry about the future, come back to the breath. Come into the present moment – now.

Bring your attention to the feeling of the body, accepting it just the way it is – with kindness. Allow yourself to accept all the sensations and feelings of the body completely. Scan for tension, note where you feel pain.

If you feel tension breath into the place where you are holding on to tension, imagine on the out breath that the tension is being released and leaving your body with the breath. Breathe in deeply, with a sense of trust and well-being: breathe out, letting go of tension, allowing any tightness to dissolve.

Imagine yourself surrounded by light – a light that bring you happiness and warmth. Being with the sensation of the body breathing in, breathing out, draw the light into the body as you breathe – through the nostrils if you can. Imagine the light moving into your heart and your head. I then imagine light saturating your body, through every pore.

Think to yourself: ‘May this being be well,’ and turn the calming effect of the meditation towards your being: ‘May this being be calm.’ Spread this calm and kindly attention over your whole body. Allow the affirmation to take root in your consciousness. Let your focus become inward. Let your awareness explore the body: in your mind’s eye move around the head and face, gradually down the neck, the back and the chest, spreading right down the finger-tips; then down the legs, to each toe; drawing on the good energy of the breath, expanding and embracing the heart. With each breath bring more goodness to your body, it is as if the oxygen is reaching every cell in your being.

Focusing more on the out-breath, let go of the memories, the grudges, the grievances you hold onto; let it all go. Place them on leaves in a stream if you need to, or imagine in your mind’s eye that they are objects being carried out to sea by the surf. It doesn’t matter the visualization you use so much as creating imagery that allows you to distance yourself from these thoughts. Allow the thoughts that cause harm to float out the sea. Begin again with each breath. If you need to place those thoughts on leaf and watch it move down stream then by all means do, it doesn’t matter how you get there. If you find that you are struggling with your thoughts acknowledge it and shift your focus back to the breath.

Picture yourself in your mind’s eye as you are now. Make peace with this view of yourself, through forgiveness, compassion, gentleness. ‘May this being be well.’ Flood this picture with gentle, warm light from the heart, and then let it go. Be gentle with yourself, one can’t practice metta meditation if they don’t have compassion for themselves first.

Next, picture your parents; bring them into your mind’s eye. Make peace with their image: ‘May you be well,’ bathing them with soft light, with gratitude. Picture them bathed in the same loving light you brought to yourself.

Observe thoughts arising. Memories of yourself as a child, perhaps something painful or something you have never made peace with. Let it be in the mind’s eye, bring those thoughts into that loving light.

Then bring up an image of your daily situation, at home or wherever, with the people it involves. People you like or dislike, feel conflict with, love, fear or worry for. ‘May these beings be well.’ Put aside aversion, fear, worry, guilt; at this moment, allow yourself to be kind. Imagine in your mind’s eye that you bring light to them too.

Think of someone you know who is having a difficult time; send these feelings of kindness towards them. Breathe into light, breathe out wishing them well. Just the same way you released tension on the out breath earlier, now release the tension that exist between you on that out breath.

Gradually open up more and more, from the people you see every day to nobody special; and even those for whom you have hardly a memory. Recognize them as human beings with ambitions, hopes, problems, anxieties, joy – just like you! In your mind’s eye bring them into you light, surround them with the love and kindness that exists in that light.

And, even more remote, acknowledge all the people you can conceive of in this world. This may be a faint feeling, but open up the heart to allow them into consciousness, to be felt. See what the mind does, how it reacts indignantly about some people – such as political figures. Let go of that indignation for this moment. Allow a sense of peace to envelop all beings: the liked, the disliked, familiar and unfamiliar. Imagine in your mind’s eye that you are spreading the light and it is enveloping all of humankind.

And then imagine the planet Earth as seen from space. Extend this sense of peace to the planet we live on, embracing it with your heart, surrounding it with light.

Turning your attention to peace and light. Allow it to expand outwards, without limit, letting the sense of ‘me’ and ‘the world’ fade away. All is surrounded by peace and light illuminated by the soft light from your heart – loving-kindness.

Gently come back to the rhythm of the breath, and when you are ready, slowly open your eyes.

Problems with Anger in the Workplace

The International Labour Organization in Geneva reveals some startling information, France, Argentina, Romania, Canada and England have reported the highest rates of assaults and sexual harassment on the job. Canadians are more likely to be assaulted in the workplace than are their neighbours to the south of the border … Canadian employers clearly have a challenge to face. The evidence and statistics on workplace violence in Canada gathered by professional associations show the numbers are rising. – Joanne D. Leck, University of Ottawa

Workplace Anger

Here are some tips for managing anger and aggression in your workplace.Train and lead by example

  • Provide your staff with information and training of company’s harassment policies.
  • Encourage assertive communications practices.
  • Discuss and provide examples of acceptable and respectful behaviour in the workplace.
  • Create and encourage peer and shared leadership.Foster a Supportive Work Environment
  • Ensure that employees do not feel stigmatized, watch out for the warning signs of harassment and aggressive behaviour, address it immediately.
  • Everyone needs to know that it is okay to ask for help, and that support is available.
  • Create opportunities for collaboration.Ensure Best Management Procedures
  • Train key staff, provide them with information and training of the policies and procedures of the company.
  • Monitor and ensure that procedures are followed.
  • Watch for possible trouble spots and be prepared to affect positive change.
  • Build engagement – share leadership whenever possible.Be Prepared to Defuse an Anger Event
  • Have in place emergency procedures to deal with threats and violence. They can come from within or outside of your organization – be prepared.
  • Train key people to respond and to deescalate anger events – recruit peer leaders to help.Bring in Outside ResourcesStress management.
  • Be prepared to look at the causes of stress in your workplace and do something about them.
  • Support good stress management practices, encouraging employee wellness.
  • Encourage and support professional and personal development for your people.Assertiveness Training and Anger Management Programs can help your people to increase their emotional intelligence and develop coping skills to better manage stressful situations.
  • Workplace Violence Prevention training can help your key people to develop skills to respond to crisis situations – protect yourself.
  • Engagement Programs can help your people to define best practices and shared leadership.
  • Counselling Programs can support individuals who are struggling with challenges in life and at work.
  • Outside Resources bring an outside perceptive to your situation and provide you with services to protect yourself.

The Heavy Cost of Anger

If we assess the frequency and duration of anger situations we can begin to gain some insight into the severity of the problem. Anger can cause very serious problems in our lives, having the potential to ruin our relationships, jeopardizing our careers, causing health problems and even premature death. We all experience needless anger; however, it is the frequency, intensity and duration of anger that creates a serious problem in our lives.

Five signs of problematic anger are:

When it is too frequentWhen it is too intenseWhen it lasts too longWhen it leads to aggression and violenceWhen it destroys work and personal relationships

. Our aggression and anger responses can have serious consequences for our personal and work life. We run the risk of alienating ourselves from people we love and it interferes with our ability to work cooperatively with ours and may even hold us back from advancement and career opportunities. caused by our feelings of being wronged, abused or unfairly treated. Aggressive behaviour can often escalate, name calling and insults can lead to physical aggression and violence. we maintain a high arousal and stress level that goes beyond the body’s normal state. It causes the release of hormones and readies us for fight or flight, over the long run these hormones can cause us severe health problems. As well, maintaining a constant level of arousal can lead to being more easily triggered by anger situations, thus causing more hormones to be released and readying us for higher anger arousal level. This can become a vicious cycle that feeds upon itself. we experience anger that consumes us. A small or moderate amount of anger can be a force for good in your life, it may cause you to take action and find constructive solutions to your problems. However, high degrees of anger rarely produce any positive results. Extreme anger may lead to destruction of property, violence and cause you significant health problems. we find ourselves feeling anger often when it is not necessary or useful

Compassion Changes the Brain

Can we train ourselves to be compassionate? A recent study suggests the answer is yes. Cultivating compassion and kindness through meditation affects brain regions that can make a person more empathetic to other peoples’ mental states, say researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This study was the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to indicate that positive emotions such as loving-kindness and compassion can be learned in the same way as playing a musical instrument or being proficient in a sport. The scans revealed that brain circuits used to detect emotions and feelings were dramatically changed in subjects who had extensive experience practicing compassion meditation.

The research suggests that individuals – from children who may engage in bullying to people prone to recurring depression – and society in general could benefit from such meditative practices, says study director Richard Davidson, professor of psychiatry and psychology at UW-Madison and an expert on imaging the effects of meditation. Davidson and UW-Madison associate scientist Antoine Lutz were co-principal investigators on the project.

The study was part of the researchers’ ongoing investigations with a group of Tibetan monks and lay practitioners who have practiced meditation for a minimum of 10,000 hours. In this case, Lutz and Davidson worked with 16 monks who have cultivated compassion meditation practices. Sixteen age-matched controls with no previous training were taught the fundamentals of compassion meditation two weeks before the brain scanning took place.

“Many contemplative traditions speak of loving-kindness as the wish for happiness for others and of compassion as the wish to relieve others’ suffering. Loving-kindness and compassion are central to the Dalai Lama’s philosophy and mission,” says Davidson, who has worked extensively with the Tibetan Buddhist leader. “We wanted to see how this voluntary generation of compassion affects the brain systems involved in empathy.”

Various techniques are used in compassion meditation, and the training can take years of practice. The controls in this study were asked first to concentrate on loved ones, wishing them well-being and freedom from suffering. After some training, they then were asked to generate such feelings toward all beings without thinking specifically about anyone.

Each of the 32 subjects was placed in the fMRI scanner at the UW-Madison Waisman Center for Brain Imaging, which Davidson directs, and was asked to either begin compassion meditation or refrain from it. During each state, subjects were exposed to negative and positive human vocalizations designed to evoke empathic responses as well as neutral vocalizations: sounds of a distressed woman, a baby laughing and background restaurant noise.

“We used audio instead of visual challenges so that meditators could keep their eyes slightly open but not focused on any visual stimulus, as is typical of this practice,” explains Lutz.

The scans revealed significant activity in the insula – a region near the frontal portion of the brain that plays a key role in bodily representations of emotion – when the long-term meditators were generating compassion and were exposed to emotional vocalizations. The strength of insula activation was also associated with the intensity of the meditation as assessed by the participants.

“The insula is extremely important in detecting emotions in general and specifically in mapping bodily responses to emotion – such as heart rate and blood pressure – and making that information available to other parts of the brain,” says Davidson, also co-director of the HealthEmotions Research Institute.

Activity also increased in the temporal parietal juncture, particularly the right hemisphere. Studies have implicated this area as important in processing empathy, especially in perceiving the mental and emotional state of others.

“Both of these areas have been linked to emotion sharing and empathy,” Davidson says. “The combination of these two effects, which was much more noticeable in the expert meditators as opposed to the novices, was very powerful.”

The findings support Davidson and Lutz’s working assumption that through training, people can develop skills that promote happiness and compassion. “People are not just stuck at their respective set points,” he says. “We can take advantage of our brain’s plasticity and train it to enhance these qualities.”

The capacity to cultivate compassion, which involves regulating thoughts and emotions, may also be useful for preventing depression in people who are susceptible to it, Lutz adds.

“Thinking about other people’s suffering and not just your own helps to put everything in perspective,” he says, adding that learning compassion for oneself is a critical first step in compassion meditation.

The researchers are interested in teaching compassion meditation to youngsters, particularly as they approach adolescence, as a way to prevent bullying, aggression and violence. “I think this can be one of the tools we use to teach emotional regulation to kids who are at an age where they’re vulnerable to going seriously off track,” Davidson says.

Compassion meditation can be beneficial in promoting more harmonious relationships of all kinds, Davidson adds. “The world certainly could use a little more kindness and compassion,” he says. “Starting at a local level, the consequences of changing in this way can be directly experienced.”

Lutz and Davidson hope to conduct additional studies to evaluate brain changes that may occur in individuals who cultivate positive emotions through the practice of loving-kindness and compassion over time.

http://ww HYPERLINK “http://www.news.wisc.edu/14944″.w.news.wisc.edu/14944 University of Wisconsin-Madison

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