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By Fred Kofman
Philosopher and Vice President at Linkedin

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” ~James Baraz

When you’re stressed, you can’t think straight. 

This is not just a manner of speaking, but a scientific truth. When you’re flooded with stress hormones your  survival instinct takes over and implements the automatic routines developed through years of training–and generations of evolution. These are your conditioned choices driven by your “stress response.”

To be able to make free choices you need a “relaxation response.” You need a way to grow out of the old ways that keep you stuck. The process is illustrated beautifully in Portia Nelson’s poem, “Autobiography in five chapters”

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in… it’s a habit… but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

 Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

 

Before you walk around it, you need to see the hole; and to see the hole you need to open your eyes and clear your mind.

The good news is that you can do this. The bad news is that you can’t do this by sheer will-power.

Developing a relaxation response is akin to developing muscles, as I wrote in my previous post. You need to go to the gym of the mind and practice.

In the following video, I explain the process:

 

“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” ~Sylvia Boorstein

 

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