Category: Health & Healing

Kristin Neff: The Liberating Power of Self-Compassion

Dr. Kristin Neff is a professor of human development and culture at the University of Texas and a practitioner of Buddhist meditation. The book and documentary The Horse Boy chronicle Kristin and her family’s extraordinary journey to help her autistic son. With Sounds True, Kristin has created the audio program Self-Compassion Step by Step, which includes clinical evidence of the importance of self-compassion along with techniques and exercises for cultivating this pivotal quality. In this interview, Tami Simon and Kristin talk about the vital distinction between self-esteem and self-compassion, three pillars of self-compassion, ‘self-compassion breaks,’ and the importance of recognizing our common humanity during difficulties that feel unique and isolating. (68 minutes)

Tami’s Takeaway
In any moment of self-criticism or self-blame, a “go-to move” that is immediately effective and state-changing is to gently touch your arm, stroke your face, or place your hand on your heart (any form of soothing touch). This activates our mammalian “tend and befriend” system, releases oxytocin, and shifts us out of the threat-defense system. Try it next time you feel self-critical. Gently touching your body can shift your state of mind—fast!

Ronald Siegel: The Psychophysiological Component in He...

Ronald Siegel is a longtime assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and the author of many books. With Sounds True, he has created the audio program Healing Through Mindfulness: Effective Practices for Chronic Health Conditions. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Ron talk about the psychological contributing factors to chronic pain—especially in the back and spine. Speaking on his own brush with debilitating pain, Ron explains the ways that stress and other psychophysiological components can instigate everything from insomnia to irritable bowel syndrome. Ron and Tami also discuss how to have frank conversations around chronic pain, as well as how to make friends with negative emotions like fear and anxiety. Finally, Ron shares his thoughts on the increasing willingness of the medical community to embrace mindfulness meditation. (70 minutes)

Tami’s Takeaway
In my own experience, I can often trace the relationship between the onset of stress, an increase in muscular tension, and back pain. However, the problem for me has been when other people share about their painful conditions. I often jump to the conclusion that there must be a psychological component to their suffering—and then the person in question feels judged at best, and at worst that I am “blaming them for their illness.” Dr. Ron Siegel teaches how to meet someone in their pain (and by extension, how to meet our own pain) with utter openness and curiosity. The takeaway: pre-drawn conclusions shut exchanges down; genuine openness and curiosity create connection.

Mary O’Malley: What’s in the Way Is the Way

Mary O’Malley is an author, counselor, and acknowledged leader in the field of spiritual awakening. With Sounds True, Mary has published What’s in the Way Is the Way: A Practical Guide for Waking Up to Life. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Mary discuss the eight “spells” that keep us feeling separate from life—as well as the remedies that bring us more fully into the energetic flow of existence. They speak on the need for curiosity and the role it plays in uniting our attention with our present-moment experience. Finally, Mary explains her understanding of the awakening process and the skills one can cultivate to come into a robust and joyous alignment with life itself. (60 minutes)

Tami’s Takeaway
One of the worst feelings for me is helplessness. Mary teaches that “life is destined to bring up what is bound up.” This podcast brought up for me how I push away feelings of helplessness. According to Mary, “what’s in the way is the way,” and we can become what she calls “tightness detectives” to see how we clamp down in certain situations and resist what we don’t want to feel. When instead we meet our feelings with curiosity and spaciousness, we discover the free flow of aliveness and the absolute trustworthiness in every experience.

Zainab Salbi: Wielding Our Sword of Truth

Zainab Salbi is an author, humanitarian, and media commentator who founded the nonprofit organization Women for Women International when she was only 23 years old. With Sounds True, she has published the book Freedom Is an Inside Job: Owning Our Darkness and Our Light to Heal Ourselves and the World. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Zainab discuss what it means to be an agent of social change while also navigating the everyday journey of being human. They talk about why it’s necessary to let go of what no longer works in our lives in order to embrace our most deeply held truths. As an Iraqi-American, Zainab speaks on engaging with people whose values oppose ours—especially those who currently oppose Muslim immigration to the United States. Finally, Zainab and Tami talk about the healing power of making amends and what “freedom” really means. (83 minutes)

Tami’s Takeaway
Zainab teaches how we can befriend people who hold opposing views not through debate, but through embrace and a strong, open stance that is curious about the other person’s underlying needs and emotions. I believe this skill—truly understanding people who disagree with us and feel “other”—is one of the most important skills we need to be peacemakers and bringers of love in all of our interactions.

Paul Hawken: A Regenerative World

Paul Hawken is an author, entrepreneur, and environmentalist whose books include Natural Capitalism, The Ecology of Commerce, and the New York Times bestselling Drawdown. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Paul about the spiritual origins of his lifelong devotion to the natural environment. They talk about Project Drawdown—Paul’s far-reaching plan to reverse global warming—and the fact that climate change is an alarm bell telling humanity it needs to transform itself. Paul explains that dealing successfully with climate change won’t just involve phasing out fossil fuels, but also reorganizing the systems of labor, culture, and economics that led us to this point. Finally, Paul and Tami discuss why life regenerates life and how we as a species can rise to the challenge of our present crises. (73 minutes)

Tami’s Takeaway
Most of the time, when I hear people talk about climate change, I feel some combination of fear, helplessness, and resignation. Listening to Paul Hawken, I felt activated and turned on. As he says, it’s not about “game over” for the human race, but “game on” . . . and how this is a time when we are called to step forward into our greatest human capacities and possibilities. Paul Hawken transmits the beauty, flow, and regenerative power of the natural world in a way that is contagious. When the interview was over, I felt like everything around me was in a shimmering fluid state, in unstoppable regenerative flow.

Rhonda Magee: We Are Embodied and Embedded: Bringing M...

Rhonda Magee is a law professor at the University of San Francisco, a longtime mindfulness teacher, and a fellow of the Mind & Life Institute. Rhonda is a featured presenter in Sounds True’s Waking Up in the World—a 10-day online event showcasing prominent voices who embody the meeting between social action and spiritual exploration. This special episode of Insights at the Edge is drawn from a previous presentation given by Rhonda as part of our Mindfulness Monthly subscription program. Here she explores how mindfulness practice can be used to uncover our biases and help us understand any privilege we carry in our interactions with others. Rhonda encourages us to fully consider how aspects such as race, gender, and economic background have come to shape our perception of the world. Finally, Rhonda leads us in a guided meditation to inquire deeply into how our environments have guided us to this moment in our lives. (63 minutes)

Tami’s Takeaway
We often hear how mindfulness can help us discover our common humanity. Here, law professor Rhonda Magee helps us embrace what is unique about each of us: our embodied experience as a particular person with a specific human inheritance, residing in a particular place, with a particular position, skin color, gender, and sexual orientation. We are applying mindfulness to what makes us different. And what a critical skill this is if we are going to learn to take a different person’s position and work together to bring mindfulness to what Rhonda calls “the cutting edge of mindfulness”—shifting our institutions and social structures to reflect our deepest values.