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Elizabeth Stanley: Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness

Elizabeth Stanley is a Georgetown University professor and the creator of Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training (MMFT)®, an approach taught to thousands in civilian and military high stress environments. A U.S. Army veteran with service in Asia and Europe, she holds degrees from Yale, Harvard, and MIT. She is the author of the book, Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover from Trauma. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Elizabeth Stanley about her 8-session online course, Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training: A Trauma-Sensitive Online Course to Build Resilience and Thrive During Stress. They also discuss why MMFT is a practice we can all benefit from; the value of expanding our “window of tolerance”; the relationship between personal agency and trauma; the “thinking” brain versus the “survival” brain; when stress becomes trauma; the importance of recovery from stressful situations; and more.

Elizabeth Lesser: When Women Are the Storytellers, the...

Elizabeth Lesser is cofounder of the Omega Institute and a bestselling author. Her books include Marrow, The Seeker’s Guide, and the New York Times bestseller Broken Open. Her newest book is Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Elizabeth about her experience in the early days of the Omega Institute, redefining “power,” and the ways that patriarchy is subtly, and not so subtly, embedded in our culture—how we can become more aware of it, and how we can make changes on the outside and inside so that in the future we can tell a different story, a story that equally embraces the power of women as well as men.

Dilip Jeste, MD: Wiser, Faster

Dr. Dilip Jeste is a professor of psychiatry and neurosciences and the director of the Center for Healthy Aging at UC San Diego. He’s spent the last 20 years studying aspects of healthy aging and the neurobiological roots of wisdom. With Sounds True, Dr. Jeste has written a new book titled Wiser: The Scientific Roots of Wisdom, Compassion, and What Makes Us Good. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Jeste about wisdom—what it is, how we can cultivate more of it in our own lives, and how we can grow into a wiser society. They explore a new definition of wisdom that incorporates neurobiological and evolutionary components of what makes us wise, as well as the social and cultural ones we might be more familiar with. Dr. Jeste and Tami also discuss the future of wisdom, including the potential of a metaphorical “wisdom pill.” Finally, they speak on the importance of helping our society become wiser, faster.

Building the Bridge Between the Heart and the Mind

How can we drop what we are holding on to, if we do not first look for the hand that is grasping so tightly?

Have you ever noticed that you have two distinctly different personae and tend to vacillate between them?

One is very rigid and concerned with the outcome of everything. It worries and frets, its gaze mostly downcast. It doesn’t rest easily, even keeps you up at night sometimes. It acts almost like a dog chasing its tail. It circles obsessively over every detail and unknowable outcome, chasing the same things in a constant repeated pattern. It is cunning, convincing, and tyrannical in nature. It is feverish and ungrounded. Changing, morphing, and flopping from one story or idea to the next. This is your unharnessed mind. The persona you take on when your mind is not connected to the compass of the heart.

For most of us, that’s the dominant persona. But the other aspect of you, as if by some divine intervention, will from time to time slip past the censor of the mind and cheerfully take over your being with its boundless and uninhibited spirit. This personality doesn’t worry. Its face is often lifted, looking in wonder at the shifting sky and swollen moon. Lips curled into a slight smile. It is fluid and flowing, as if it’s on a river of unending joy. It acts like water and reflects light. You feel buoyant. This is your heart-centered self, your true self.

Because most of us moved into our mind long, long ago as a way of protecting our hearts, we now live most of our time in that rigid, concerned first persona. Without even realizing it, we allow our minds to stand between us and our true nature. We have no (conscious) idea how much our minds are acting as a defensive block against our soft and tender core, constantly at work trying to find ways to keep us from feeling, from hurt, from heartache. The price we are paying, however, is that we are also kept from accessing source.

In order to be heart minded, we need to bring the heart and mind into harmony and partnership with one another. For this to happen, we have to train the mind not to fear and close off from the heart, and instead, serve our heart and implement its wishes. In order to do this, we have to undo our mind’s association of feelings of the heart with hurt and harm. In situations that would ordinarily have us retreat or retaliate, we need to remain conscious of what’s happening and choose to soften and lean into our heart’s center. Each time we practice this softening, we send a new message to the mind that signals that we are safe, willing, and wanting to live in this more open, more sensitive way.

Over time, if we are resolute in our intention to step into our heart, our mind will become less rigid in its defenses against feelings and tenderness, and gradually we will become more heart centered.

Remember, we are not trying to pit the heart and mind against one another; we are trying to marry their aptitudes.

Let’s say a wave of anxiety washes through you. You notice your mind begin to race and attach to fearful thoughts. The anxiety then morphs into panic, which courses through you and makes you feel like jumping out of your skin. You begin reaching for an escape, resorting to some form of substance or distraction that can act as a numbing balm.

What just happened? Because you avoided your distress, you are only slightly comforted. A part of you remains braced under the distraction, in fear of the next time this could happen. Your mind’s instinct to protect and defend has been confirmed.

Your heart is neglected and still aching.

But let’s say a wave of anxiety washes through you and instead of looking for an escape route, you go to a quiet room to confront the feeling. You let go of the notion that something is wrong and respond as if something very right is taking place. You know some part of you is calling out for your love and attention.

Let’s say you close your eyes and open your heart to the bigness of the feeling. You create space around it simply by looking without resistance at its contours. You know the only antidote is self-love and hospitality. The mind stops racing away from the distress, which makes room for the heart to begin healing and soothing the body. Your mind learns a new route. You are gifted with courage and resilience.

The only difference between these scenarios was one simple choice: to remain a bystander as the mind continues to ignore the call of the body and heart or to act in ways that support leading from the heart, so the mind can follow.

The two can be wonderful allies if we let them.

As we become heart minded, we begin transforming our human experience from something out of our hands to something very much in them. We begin to cultivate joy instead of haphazardly stumbling upon it when we are willing.

Each moment, our bodies are counseling us to make choices that bring us closer to love. The wisdom of the heart and body is there for us, always, if we listen and let it lead.

For a guided practice in learning to stay in our hearts during difficult times, follow along with Sarah in this video.

 

This is an adapted excerpt from Heart Minded: How to Hold Yourself and Others in Love by Sarah Blondin.

 

Sarah Blondin

Sarah Blondin is an internationally beloved spiritual teacher. Her guided meditations on the app InsightTimer have received nearly 10 million plays. She hosts the popular podcast Live Awake, as well as the online course Coming Home to Yourself. Her work has been translated into many languages and is in use in prison, recovery, and wellness programs. For more, visit sarahblondin.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sarah Blondin: Kneeling at the Doorway of Your Heart

Sarah Blondin is an author and spiritual teacher whose guided meditations have been enjoyed by thousands of people around the globe. She is also the founder, writer, videographer, and creator of the podcast Live Awake. In this week’s podcast, Tami Simon and Sarah discuss her new book, Heart Minded: How to Hold Yourself and Others in Love. Their conversation explores the profound shift from living “above the neck” to fully inhabiting our hearts, how we can transmute suffering and discomfort with the energy of our hearts, connecting to our inherent wisdom and compassion, and much more. 

The Practice of Mindfulness – a free download of...

Mindfulness is a simple yet profound practice that transforms lives. The Practice of Mindfulness invites you to join six Sounds True authors who are each considered leaders in bringing the many benefits of mindful living into our personal and professional lives. Enjoy six beginner-friendly guided meditations aimed at increasing harmony in mind and body in order to open us to the fullness of our experience from one moment to the next.

Download The Practice of Mindfulness now!

Meditations include:

1. “Breathing Meditation” by Jack Kornfield from Meditation for Beginners

2. “Meditation for Relaxation” by Shinzen Young from Meditation

3. “Mindfulness Meditation” by Kelly McGonigal from The Neuroscience of Change

4. “A Pause for Presence” by Tara Brach from Mindfulness Meditation

5. “Meditation on Compassion” by Sharon Salzberg from Guided Meditations for Love and Wisdom

6. “The Healing Lake Meditation” by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Andrew Weil, MD from Meditation for Optimum Health

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