Key ideas from the blog

Here is a little outline of some of the key concepts that I write about on this blog and how I organize them into a model for healing anxiety and working with difficult emotions.  I also added a short “about me” part at the end so you can put the model into the context of my story.

My new favorite quote!

Stephen Batchelor, “After Buddhism” “Conditioned arising entails that life is endlessly fluid, contingent, and unpredictable; nirvana implies that in the absence of our default reactions we find ourselves facing moral dilemmas that require us to risk a response that might make things worse.”

  • Befriend fear and anxiety with mindfulness and compassion practices
  • Live a life of courage and meaning
  • What we are really afraid of are the unpleasant sensations in the body
  • To avoid these sensations we numb with addictive behaviors or go into our minds and obsess creating endless anxiety habit loops.  Our thinking turns into hardened beliefs over time.  The beliefs keep us even more entrenched in our habit loops.  
  • Courage is turning towards the difficult sensations and learning to be with them.  Courage is learning to make friends with them. 
  • This turning towards gives us meaning and freedom from our habitual behaviors 

Befriending anxiety- tools for healing

  1. Grounding in compassion and extremities
  2. Mindfulness-body scan, breath, sounds
  3. Understanding the habit loop
    1. Trigger/behavior/ reward. Reward creates a memory
    2. What am I getting from this habit loop? – disenchantment
  4. Turning towards and befriending with compassion as the updated reward..
  5. RAIN of self compassion
    1. Recognize(R) and Allow(A)
    2. Investigate(I) and get curious
      1. Notice beliefs – What do I not want to feel?  What are these beliefs keeping me from feeling?  Where do they live in the body?
  6. Nurture(N) and offer care… learn to meet one’s own needs and become self reliant
  7. Move towards your values from an embodied place (Exposure as investigate in action)

The four trainings (formal and informal)

  1. Mindfulness – emphasis on anxiety sensations and emotions 
  2. Compassion -offering these sensations care
  3. Exposure -intentionally moving towards our values even if it brings up unpleasant sensations.  We use mindfulness and compassion to investigate and care for these sensations as they come up.
    1. If we feel sufficiently resourced to investigate sensations, more mindfulness can be added to the pot.  If we are in need of more safety, we add more compassion to the pot. 
  4. Vulnerability- The key to human connection; it requires the ability to contact and feel difficult sensations

(3)Habit loop quick overview

Trigger/behavior/reward

hungry/seek food/ experience pleasure

Pleasure tells brain to remember that food brings pleasure and where to find it

Trigger/behavior/reward

Anxiety/Do something(think our way to a solution)/feel less anxious

anxiety/binge eat/feel less anxious

Context dependent memory gets laid down

The brain remembers what we did to feel less anxious so it will try the same strategy again.  

Trigger/behavior/reward

Anxiety/mental compulsion/feel less anxious

The brain remembers the mental compulsion that made us feel better temporarily

Trigger (Worry thinking or OCD thought) → behavior (more mental rumination) → reward (feel better)

*Anxious body produces more anxious thoughts.. Cycle continues.. Anxious thoughts produce more anxiety in the body

*Anxious thought makes us feel anxious .. then that triggers more anxious thoughts

(4)

  • Bigger better offer.. Curiosity.. We see old behavior isn’t rewarding (Disenchantment).. We see curiosity is rewarding!
  • Step out of the habit loop by getting curious with mindfulness.. What am i feeling in my body right now
  • RAIN is the bigger, better offer.  RAIN feels better in the long run and moves us toward our values.  

Formal Meditation for anxious minds

  • Just sitting is the only goal of meditation
  • anxious thoughts produce anxious body sensations which themselves can be the anchor for practice.  Nothing is wrong with an anxious mind.
  • Compassion training is an antidote to really scary anxiety and fear.
  • Meditation practice can become enjoyable (and interesting) as we intentionally cultivate positive feelings
  • Meditation has changed my life and most important skill i have ever learned
  • Make friends with your mind
  • Notice thoughts as thoughts.  Create space between thoughts and actions
  • Observe thoughts as they arise to take out their sting
  • Compassion becomes spontaneous.  We care for our suffering even when it’s hard or we have acted unskillfully
  • The practice of formal meditation is not easy.  It’s also not easy if you have OCD, panic, or are struggling with any form of anxiety, depression or difficult emotions.  Yet after years of formal meditation practice I can safely say that it’s the single most important habit I have developed in my life.  I actually now enjoy meditating every day and make sure I fit the practice into my daily routine.  It’s not true that just because your mind is active that you can’t meditate.  What I learned over the years is that an anxious mind actually can offer some hidden benefits in the practice of meditation.

About me

  • I spent the better part of two decades living in the mind
  • Things were really bad.  I would spend 10-12 hours obsessing.  I was diagnosed with OCD ~12 years ago and ended up getting hundreds and hundreds of hours of therapy.
  • Therapy helped, but something was missing.
  • I first learned to meditate by taking an Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction(MBSR) class
  • I learned to meet my difficult emotions and sensations with the RAIN of self compassion
  • I practiced and practiced
  • My brain started to change.. 
  • Mindfulness and compassion saved my life; the brain can change in remarkable ways; Your brain can change too.  
  • While things are not perfect not, I feel sufficiently resourced to move towards my values knowing that when things get difficult I can turn to mindfulness and compassion.  

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