Mindfulness Rewrites


Change Your Life with Mindfulness


Welcome to Mindfulness Rewrites,our blog which is focused on helping others achieve mindfulness in everyday life. I'm Linda Miles, Ph.D., and I've been a mindfulness practitioner for over 30 years. I use mindfulness in my personal life, as well as in my profession as a marriage and family therapist.

You may have found this blog because you heard about mindfulness and want to learn more about it. Or perhaps you stumbled upon it while looking for ways to cope with illness, addiction, stress, negative emotions, or other personal challenges. Either way, we’re glad you’re here!
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This post's topics: Understanding Mindfulness




Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Sexual Healing Through Mindfully Being


  • Do you often feel repressed emotionally or physically, and unable to find a way to release pent-up emotions?
  • Are you unable to savor the present moment when trying to connect with your significant other? Do you feel helpless in expressing yourself or incapable of helping others open up to you?
  • Have you found yourself unable to connect sexually and meaningfully in your relationships?



Copyright: Sharpshutter / BigStockPhoto.com

THE TOXICITY OF REPRESSION

In his novella On Chesil Beach, award-winning author Ian McEwan introduces us to a young virgin couple—Edward and Florence—who are staying at a beachside hotel on the night of their honeymoon. The author transports us back to 1962 (ironically enough, on the chronological cusp of America’s sexual revolution). Within the pages of this book, he explores the communication problems, missed opportunities, and the inability of this couple to express and discuss their sexual issues and needs. Though “well-suited” for each other, the two of them suffer from an inability to effectively communicate their emotions, fears, and needs.

As a result, their wedding night turns into a travesty due to deep misunderstanding, painful past conditioning, and ensuing defensiveness. Florence, sexually abused by her father as a child, has a post-traumatic experience when attempting sex with her husband; Edward, anxious to consummate the marriage, prematurely ejaculates. Both are flooded with shame, and they each deal with it by blaming one other caustically. They have no language to discuss their sexual history, differences, or desires. Worse, they have no words to work through their conflict. As a result, they dissolve their marriage quickly, not even able to express their ultimate regret...

“On Chesil beach he could have called out for Florence, he could have gone after her. He did not know, or would not have cared to know, that as she ran away from him, certain in her distress that she was about to lose him, she had never loved him more, or more hopelessly, and that the sound of his voice would have been a deliverance, and she would have turned back. Instead he stood in cold and righteous silence in the summer’s dusk, watching her hurry along the shore, the sound of her difficult progress lost in the breaking of small waves, until she was a blurred, receding point against the immense straight road of shingle gleaming in the pallid light.”

“Life is precious, and mindfulness gives us the tools to live deeply, to connect authentically, and to open our hearts fully.” –Meena Srinivasan

NOW

There’s a saying that sex is only 10% of a good relationship and 90% of a bad one. The fact that you’ve probably heard this phrase—or something like it—or could easily Google it online right now is not coincidental. A few decades ago, a sexual revolution—a time period which, in the U.S., is perceived to have begun in the 1960s—erupted within society, challenging old myths and mindsets of the why, what, and how of sex and sexuality. And while our society has indeed come a long way in its willingness and capability to acknowledge, discuss, and appreciate this most vulnerable, intimate, complex, and essential element in a healthy romantic relationship, there is still much misunderstanding and miscommunication around the issue.

Mindfulness helps us discuss the nature of our darker side; we learn to shine a light on unresolved conflicts and to lay our cards on the table. In this way, it can greatly help in dealing with sexual feelings, repression, fears, and desires. Walking through the acronym NOW, we discover how the process unfolds:

  • Notice. In On Chesil Beach, Edward and Florence could have saved themselves so much heartache if they’d only noticed their conflicting emotions—before, during, or even after the catastrophic beginning of their honeymoon. If they’d been aware of these feelings and had acknowledged them, they’d have the chance to discuss them and could have cultivated mutual understanding and compassion.
  • Opportunities. This was an opportunity where both partners could bare their souls and really get to know one another. They’d be vulnerable, honest, and accepting—and, in doing so, more powerful and loving and lovable than ever before. They could have been each other’s loving witnesses to hurts, fears, and inner turmoil.
  • Within. If they could have developed the ability to explore their thoughts and hearts, and become aware of the defenses and unresolved hurts that they’d accumulated inside of them, they would not have felt the need to attack each other. They would have realized that their hurtful defensiveness would have been a faulty mechanism to get rid their toxic shame—and they would have had the opportunity to choose another way.


THE PATH TO MINDFULNESS

Edward and Florence’s experience is not, unfortunately, contained in fiction. The struggle is real and more common than you might have imagined. Yet as catastrophically as their story unravels, the solution to their issues is straightforward. If either of them could have noted their conflictual emotions and brought them to light, if they could have practiced mindfulness and compassion instead of defensiveness and fear, and if they could have responded to their conflict in a way that made them better instead of bitter, they could have saved and strengthened their relationship. Mindfulness is the practice that promotes self-compassion and empathy for others. Regarding the issue of sex—intensely personal and fraught with possibilities for misunderstand—mindfulness can provide a tremendous breakthrough to create and maintain and loving, lasting union.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet explores the power of words; the term “poison in the ear” refers to the capability of language to wound. We all carry emotional and mental baggage within us, consciously and subconsciously, and it’s essential to examine the source of our thoughts and emotions instead of mindlessly flinging our luggage upon our significant others. Communicating mindfully is the antidote to that “poison.”

“His anger stirred her own and she suddenly thought she understood their problem: they were too polite, too constrained, too timorous, they went around each other on tiptoes, murmuring, whispering, deferring, agreeing. They barely knew each other and never could because of the blanket of companionable near-silence that smothered their differences and blinded them as much as it bound them.” –On Chesil Beach

PRACTICE

As a family and marriage therapist, I recommend a practice called Sensate Focus. Originally recommended by Masters and Johnson, this term refers to a set of specific sexual exercises that are used to cultivate intimacy and compassion between couples. Participants are encouraged to focus on their own personal experiences—tuning in to all their physical senses—and increasing their awareness of their own and their partner’s needs and desires. The focus is on an exchange of affection and connection; the objective is not to orgasm as much as it is to intimately and physically connect with the other person in the moment.

Typically, the couple is instructed to pleasure one another in a mindful way, avoiding intercourse so as to focus on the sensual awareness of their partner’s skin and mindfully connect in the present moment. As a result, the sex itself generally and significantly improves, as the act is now based upon newfound trust, appreciation, connection, and purpose. Had Edward and Florence taken the time to really get to know each other, appreciating and understanding and respecting one another, their love and empathy would have freed them from shame and blame.

They could have created a meaningful connection through—quite literally—sexual healing.

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” –Lao Tzu
Discover more about mindfulness in "Change Your Story: Change Your Brain." 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Choosing Joy: Using Mindfulness to Increase Joy in Life


Do you want more joy in your life?
Do you dwell on the negative in your day?
Do you want to live more in the present moment?

For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-lived life.
                                          Melville


Leah, a middle-aged administrative assistant, had a history of depression. She had experienced problems in her past relationships and isolated herself because she felt like a loser. She did not want to repeat that pattern, but her new partner began to complain that she was always negative.
Leah sought help to learn mindfulness to help her become aware of her negative thought patterns. She tended to apply a negative filter to her thinking. Cognitive psychologists have found that this type of despondent thinking is prevalent in those with depression and can be changed. Negative filter thinking refers to when we focus on the negative and discount the positive. The brain is like glue for negative and Teflon for positive. Leah started to notice the Teflon effect when she was given compliments or positive attention, and she observed the frequency of sticky negative thoughts.
 Leah realized that she learned this way of thinking as she grew up and the fact that she could change her thinking and behavior gave her hope. Many people were raised in households with little joy and ample negative thought and behavioral patterns. Our models for thinking about the world are formed at young ages and become unconscious. By gently shining a light on inner-injurious thoughts without judging herself, Leah was able to become aware of why she felt and acted as she did. Through her practice of mindfulness, she could live more fully in the present moment.
 By slowing down and experiencing the moment it is possible to feel more alive, and you'll find that sensory perceptions are heightened. It is too easy to rush through life and not take a few minutes to enjoy the simple things. Leah began a practice of staying in the present moment and experiencing joy in simple acts like washing dishes. She let herself take in the lemony aroma of the soap. She slowed down for a few special moments to experience the feeling of the soap on her hands. By developing mindfulness skills she learned to be able to focus on the now and the pleasure of the moment. Joyful moments began to be sticky while her negative thinking became more like Teflon. Since thought and feelings are meant to come and go, she practiced letting go of  the detrimental glue of her negative preoccupation. As her focus changed to appreciation and celebration of life, she began to notice joy, love, and miracles in the everyday.

As Leah's inner experience began to change, she smiled more and spoke more positively about life. Relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman has shown that couples who thrive over time have a 5 to 1 ratio of positive interactions over negative ones. Leah's relationship improved as her negative filter weakened and she could expand her experience of  joy. Research has shown that mindfulness practice can help those suffering with depression. Symptoms of depression are reduced with a regular practice and parts of the brain associated with negative arousal shrink in size. Volume and activity in brain centers associated with calm awareness are increased.



Choosing Joy 

  • Savoring moments of joy, like holding the hand of a baby, playing with a puppy, or stepping on fall leaves becomes a thought habit and the brain likes to repeats habitual ways of thinking.  
  • The feeling of joy is a practice; As you practice, your brain wires neural networks to fire in the direction of joyful thinking.
  • As neuroscientist Dr. Wayne Drevets observed, “In the brain practice makes permanent." Fortunately because of neuorplasticity, we can reroute our brains in the direction of gladness at any age. 
  • Notice if your thoughts are Teflon for positive and glue for the negative. Imagine letting thoughts pass through your mind like clouds overhead.
  • Imagine a neural railway and that you're laying track toward enticing stations.
  • Look for joy in everyday things; open your eyes and imagination. Practice staying present in your body. Learn to focus as you experience moments in the day. Let your attention come into your senses as Leah did by smelling the soap when washing dishes and feeling her hands in the water.
  • Develop a simple practice of mindfulness and practice it daily to increase your ability to feel joy in the moment. So much of life is spent replaying what happened in the past or imagining what might happen in the future that people do not fully experience the present.
  • As you practice mindfulness you begin to realize that you can choose joy in the moment by getting away from repeating negative thought patterns and using your senses to fully experience the gifts of the present moment.


Your Turn

Take a moment to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Breathe deeply using your diaphragm. Let your attention scan your body. Notice places of tightness or tension. Imagine that the tension is a knot and in your mind release the knot gently. Let it go. Feel the tension loosen.
Imagine a time when you were very happy. Allow yourself to experience that feeling. How does your body change as you recall this memory? Open your eyes and look around the room until you see something that gives you pleasure—a picture, a book, flowers. Allow your attention to linger on that sensation.
Train your brain to go to places of peace and joy. Set an intention to focus on joy instead of attack thoughts. As you do this you may experience small changes in your mood. Over time, your ability to choose joy and peace of mind will increase.
You will find if you practice this throughout the day, even for a moment at a time, you will see objects in more detail and begin to experience peaceful joy.
            There is no right way to practice noticing your past thoughts and recreating them in the present. Keep trying this until it feels right for you. This is a very simple practice, however most people do not do it long enough to really make a difference. Make a commitment to set a time to practice. You can set a chime to ring on your phone as a reminder. You can do this alone or with others.

Featured Image Copyright: Maridav / BigStockPhoto.com

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Labeling Thoughts to Enable Clear Thinking

     by Dr. Linda Miles 

Labeling Thoughts to Enable Clear Thinking



Do you beat yourself up when you fail at something?

Does fear stop you from trying again once you’ve already failed?

Do you suffer from the self-abuse of harsh self-judgment?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Moving Past Despair by Embracing Everyday Miracles

     by Dr. Linda Miles 


“Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.” 
–Seneca


Moving Past Despair by Embracing Everyday Miracles


Do you spend too much of your life trapped in the past or the future? 


Are you able to hold the present moment before it slips through your fingers? 


Do you experience gratitude for everyday indications that you are alive and well? 



Friday, April 1, 2016

Monthly Round-Up (March 2016)

 

Here are the posts published or promoted by Mindfulness Rewrites last month: