Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Do Mindful People Have a Stronger Sense of Self?

By Kira M. Newman

Mindful people might be happier because they have a better idea of who they are, suggests a new study.

We all experience moments of self-doubt. Maybe we’re faced with a choice that leaves us confused about what we want; a conversation where we feel inauthentic and disconnected; or a mistake that makes us question who we are deep down.
The antidote to this internal conflict is a strong sense of self, what researchers call “self-concept clarity.” When we know who we are, we experience greater self-esteem and independence. That helps us cultivate better relationships and a sense of purpose in life.
But where does this inner confidence come from? In the past, that’s largely been a mystery to psychologists. But a recent study provides a clue: It may partly stem from the non-judgmental awareness that is mindfulness.
Researchers at the University of Utah recruited over 1,000 undergraduate students, ranging in age from 18 to 53, to complete questionnaires about three traits:
  • Mindfulness: Their tendency to be aware of their thoughts and feelings and to respond to them in deliberate, non-reactive, non-judgmental ways.
  • Self-concept clarity: How stable, clear, and in-conflicted their views of themselves are.
  • Well-being: How much they feel a sense of self-acceptance, autonomy, and control over their environment; the quality of their relationships; and their experience of personal growth and purpose in life.
The results showed that more mindful students reported higher well-being—and that a stronger sense of self partly accounted for that link.
Delving deeper into the data, the researchers found that some aspects of mindfulness were more crucial than others. Students who were more non-judgmental about their thoughts and feelings tended to report a particularly clear sense of self; on the other hand, those who were better at observing the present actually had slightly lower self-concept clarity.
“Being non-judgmental may increase the likelihood of accepting the self, which may increase the willingness of more mindful individuals to explore and examine the self—ultimately, being more familiar or friendly with themselves,” explains lead author Adam W. Hanley. In other words, if we don’t expect to beat ourselves up for our flaws, we may be more willing to take a clear look in the mirror. 
(Participants skilled at observing didn’t have deeper self-knowledge, Hanley speculates, because the questions about observing focused on their ability to notice external states—everyday smells, the sun on their face—rather than internal ones.)
How might mindfulness and a strong sense of self work together to make us happier?
Besides reducing the uncertainty and conflict of self-doubt, they may also have positive benefits—by allowing us to confidently pursue the goals and relationships that are most authentically important to us. (In fact, mindfulness was recently linked to acting in line with your values.)
Also, if mindful people notice change and improvement in themselves, they can shed ingrained beliefs that are no longer true—like “I’m not successful enough” or “I’m too shy.”
This study is part of the latest wave of mindfulness research, where psychologists explore not just its benefits (i.e., greater well-being) but what exactly brings about those benefits. It doesn’t prove that mindfulness causes us to develop a stronger sense of self, but it does show a link between “trait mindfulness” (an individual’s baseline of mindfulness), well-being, and sense of self. If future research confirms these findings, that might encourage more mindfulness practices and meditations to specifically target self-doubt and internal conflict, designed for people who struggle with those issues.
“The self has been suggested to be a core mechanism of stability in a world of continuous change,” says Hanley. “A clearly conceived self can be used to guide behavior in consistent, personally meaningful, and fulfilling ways.”

How to Sustain Your Activism

By Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu

These three principles can help activists avoid burnout and continue working toward a better world.

Thanks to recent events, many people have felt motivated to march in the streets, call their Congressional representatives, or even make protest art. People who have never seen themselves as activists are now feeling the need to do something. Veteran activists are facing the challenge of a renewed effort without suffering burnout. Many of us are feeling a sense of fatigue, after months and months of threats to civil liberties, human rights, and the integrity of our institutions. At such a time, we all need to know how to sustain activism over the long run.
The Women’s March on Washington following President Donald Trump’s inaugurationThe Women's March on Washington following President Donald Trump's inauguration
Mindfulness offers a way.
For many of us, mindfulness is more than an individualistic way of reducing stress. As Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, making peace begins within ourselves, but contemplation leads to compassion, and compassion involves taking action to address suffering. This work to transform the world through social, political, economic, or environmental change is activism.
Here are three principles of sustainable activism drawn from the inspirational teachings of Grace Lee Boggs, a lifelong activist until she passed away in 2016 at the age of 100. Boggs spoke of a cultural revolution in which we are transforming how we view ourselves, our surroundings, and our institutions. She advocated making a life, not just a living, by feeding ourselves, educating our children, and taking more responsibility for each other and our communities.

1. Come alive

Recent research shows how many people are motivated by the pursuit of meaning—and for many of them, activism is the most intensely meaningful work they’ll ever take on. It is awakened by a sense of being called to do the work—and it is sustained by coming alive with the feeling of finding meaning in one’s work.
Boggs teaches that activism means seeing that “we are the leaders” and that we can be the change we want to see in the world. That doesn’t mean we take on the entire burden of change to ourselves; it means that we find a role to play. There are many different forms of activism, and each person can contribute according to their abilities, thinking globally and acting locally.
While there are self-defined or self-styled activists, everyone in their daily practice has both the ability and responsibility to change the way we relate individually and collectively to each other and to our social world. Mindfulness practice enables us to know who we are and what we can do and then to do it.
This can be as simple as mindful breathing, focusing attention on your breath, inhaling and exhaling, especially when you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious. Nothing will make you more aware of being alive than counting your own breaths!

2. Connect

A Tea Party protest in WisconsinA Tea Party protest in WisconsinFlickr / WisPolitics.com / CC BY-SA 2.0
The research to date says that social connection is the single biggest predictor of personal happiness—and activism is nothing without a sense of connection. It is sustained by uniting with others in the struggle, reminding us that we are not alone. Indeed, studies also suggest that our feelings of connection don’t just make us feel good, they make us do good acts.
Connecting with those we perceive as enemies is also crucial. We must resist injustice, and we must resist giving in to the destructive separation of ourselves from others by dividing people as “us” and “them.”
Mindful meditation may enable us to see others clearly and listen deeply, making us aware of our interconnections with all beings. There is a specific kind of meditation called loving-kindness that can help enhance that sense of connection, including compassion for those we regard as enemies or those who have harmed us.
Connecting also means not abandoning the system, but instead seeing ourselves as part of it. Boggs reminds us that you cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it, and responsible for changing it.

3. Care

Activism springs from caring—and it calls us to widen our circles of compassion to include all creatures and the earth itself.
That compassion must start with ourselves. Mindful self-compassion is not about letting yourself off the hook. As spiritual activists of many traditions—such as Thomas Merton, Mahatma Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama—have taught, cultivating compassion for ourselves is what allows us to be truly compassionate to others. Indeed, research suggests that mindfulness meditation practices  may increase compassionate responses to suffering. That same research provides evidence that compassion also motivates us to take action in the world.
As psychologist Paul Ekman has argued, anger has a place in activism. But anger is not sustainable; anger burns too hot for a lifetime. Boggs saw tending gardens, caring for the self, and caring for others as nourishing activism. Those acts of care are what will carry us through our most difficult times, as individuals and as a society.
While activism requires courage to act boldly for social change, it also demands acceptance of what we can’t change. We need patience and understanding that it’s a long haul and we’re not the first ones who have tried to change the world. Making a peaceful and just world is not a one-time event but a sustained process tied to slow evolutionary change. Mindfulness practices can help us to remain present in the moment, engaging in the struggle, and grateful for the opportunity to serve.

Inspirational Quote – March 14, 2017

“Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.”

What a wonderful saying! I totally agree and do my best to do what I am told (which doesn’t happen often believe me!). Not so easy though considering the trials and tribulations life has a habit of placing before us on our way is it? What’s the alternative though? Think, “poor wee me”, curl into a ball and hide away? Nope! I am reminded of the song “Always look on the bright side of life”, which I read recently is the favorite tune played at funerals. No more to be said really is there? Now off you go and decide what you want to do next to bring a smile to your face and a glow in your heart.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Inspirational Quote – March 13, 2017

One acorn can start a forest.
One smile can begin peace.
One hand can help another.
One touch can show care.
Be that ONE today!

This seems so very apt at the moment with all the terrible things going on in the world today. Most of us wish peace for our fellow human beings who are suffering terribly in the midst of horrendous wars, starvation, or disease. How very, very fortunate we are not to be suffering in the same way. However, the one thing we are capable of doing is showing our support in any way we can. This may involve donating food or clothing, a monetary contribution no matter how small the amount, or volunteering our time, etc. If each and every one of us could commit to doing at least one of these can you imagine the power and force that would be created from the first “acorn”, i.e. the first step in actually doing and not just talking. What a difference we could all make in the lives of those so much less fortunate than we are.


Do Not Lose Heart: We Were Made For These Times

There are times when living for today is exactly what we need to do, and there other times when we will only prevail if we take the long view of life on this Earth and stop measuring our success by the problems we solve each day. For this reason, Clarissa Pinkola Estes exhorts us to embrace the moment we are in with all of its fear, uncertainty, and turmoil. She says, "I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it...In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or in-mended in the world. Do not focus on that. Do not make yourself ill with overwhelm." Let us be a light for each other and not lose heart. Remember, we were made for these times.