Appreciation

Yellow flowers

Karoshi, the Japanese word for death from overwork, is legally recognised in Japan and can be used in law-suits and compensation claims. In Australia, working hours are generally less extreme, but nonetheless, according to the ABS, almost 40% of us report feeling always or frequently rushed and pressed for time. People often come to mindfulness training with a sense of being so busy racing from one task to the next, they are hardly aware of their own lives. After a weekend retreat, or during the eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course, many report an increased sense of appreciation. The more we can appreciate what we already have, the less we need to feel driven to constantly achieve more and acquire more things. Appreciation is also a powerful antidote to feeling empty and disconnected from life. Yet sadly, the saying ‘you don’t appreciate what you’ve got till it’s gone’ is often only too true. Continue reading “Appreciation” »

Online mindfulness

White flowers on branch

I remember at Uni learning about an experiment by B.F. Skinner where two groups of pigeons had been taught to obtain food rewards by pecking at a button. One group received the reward in a predictable manner – for example, after a certain number of pecks, the food reward would reliably appear. The other group also received food rewards, but on an unpredictable schedule – sometimes one peck would be enough, sometimes it needed many more. When the food rewards for pecking the button were stopped, the first group, with the predictable schedule, quickly stopped trying. The second group, however, never gave up. They just kept pecking and pecking and pecking, to the point of exhaustion. Continue reading “Online mindfulness” »

Contentment

 Fern

‘Knowledge is full of labour, but love is full of rest.’

From The Cloud of Unknowing

Imagine writing a song for every emotion you experience during the day. How many different songs would you need to compose? Would it be the same song repeated on an endless loop, or would you be flitting from one song to the next, like a preview sampler across all styles and moods? Would the feelings expressed in the songs be complex – bittersweet, a melancholy happiness, restless contentment – or would they be straight-forward – now I’m happy, sad, excited, calm?

Our emotions might seem random and vast, like an endless array of colours and possibilities, but can actually be grouped into three basic emotional systems, as Paul Gilbert describes in his wonderful book ‘Mindful Compassion’ (co-written with Choden):

  1. The threat and self-protection system
  2. The drive and resource-seeking system
  3. The soothing and affiliation system. Continue reading “Contentment” »

Happiness

White flowers

‘Some cause happiness wherever they go, others whenever they go.’

Oscar Wilde

 

It is typical of Oscar Wilde that, in his witty way, he touches on a rather painful truth. There are people who simply don’t seem to have the knack of making others happy, of being pleasant company. Other people are so open-hearted and generous, they sow harmony and good-will in even difficult circumstances. The rest of us are somewhere in between – we probably have plenty of people in our lives whose faces light up when we enter a room, as well as a few who are less than delighted to run into us. We all want to be happy, we all want to be liked, and we all struggle with both.

One of the effects of regular meditation is an increase in the activity of the left pre-frontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with positive feeling states. Continue reading “Happiness” »