Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, poet, peace activist, and the author of over 100 books and numerous Sounds True learning programs, including The Art of Mindful Living and Living Without Stress or Fear. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Hanh about the core of Buddhist practice: discovering liberation through present-moment mindfulness. Hanh relates some of his experiences as a young monk in Vietnam, including his involvement in the “engaged Buddhism” movement. Finally, Tami and Hanh discuss why meditation is available no matter where you are or what condition you are in. (46 minutes)
Christian Conte, PhD, is a mental health specialist and leading authority on anger management. With Sounds True, Christian has published Walking Through Anger: A New Design for Confronting Conflict in an Emotionally Charged World. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon talks with Christian about his Yield Theory of emotional management, focusing on the process of “listen, validate, explore options.” Christian explains the events that led to his interest in anger management, as well as the origins of Yield Theory. He emphasizes the importance of meeting others where they are, giving them the opportunity to drain anger’s charge from their limbic system. Christian and Tami discuss why it’s necessary to cultivate humility and how Yield Theory might be applied to our currently divisive culture. Finally, they speak on “the cartoon world” that angry responses often create, as well as the importance of watching what we add to our minds.(63 minutes)
Eckhart Tolle is one of the world’s most renowned spiritual teachers. In addition to hosting many talks, retreats, and seminars, Eckhart has written two all-time bestselling books: The Power of Now and A New Earth. In this special episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon joins Eckhart for an in-depth question-and-answer session that includes queries from members of his teaching community. In preparation for a new, eight-week online course on conscious manifestation, Eckhart explains the difference between creating from the demands of the ego and from a place of still Presence. Eckhart also describes how to deal with doubts and fears of insufficiency during the creative process. Finally, Eckhart comments on the true origins of inspiration and how you can use the principles of conscious manifestation to affect positive change in the world.(68 minutes)
It’s time to start unraveling the mystery of you by exploring your current state of mind. Think of this as an adventure, a path toward greater self-understanding and self-compassion—and an expanded appreciation of the complexity of you. To get a sense of the modern-world issues that tend to rile or upset you, put on your imaginary miner’s hat and head into the depths of your mind to see what lies below your conscious awareness. (You may want to do this with a trusted friend or partner.)
Consider your true feelings about the following subjects, without letting preconceived ideas about the right or politically correct way to think or feel about these subjects guide you; simply let your real feelings flow out of you in a free-association style.
Have a journal and a piece of paper ready. As you read the following words and phrases, jot down the first three to five words or phrases that come to your mind in response (don’t edit or change what occurs to you instinctively):
• Climate crises
• Me Too scandals
• Human rights abuses (on a grand scale)
• Political corruption
• Racial, religious, gender, or political discrimination
• Environmental threats (toxins in our midst)
• Volatile financial circumstances
• Natural disasters (wildfires, floods, storms)
• International threats
• Social divisiveness in this country
• Hate crimes
• Nuclear weapons threats
• Gun violence
If other current events are triggering emotional inflammation for you, write them down in your journal or on a piece of paper.
Don’t worry if you feel put on the spot, thought-tied, and unable to come up with the right words to describe how you feel in response to the prompts listed above. Take a deep breath, exhale, and peruse this sample response. Rather than letting this person’s examples sway or influence you, try to use them as inspiration to unlock the floodgates on your true feelings.
Now it’s your turn!
After you’ve completed your list, assign a value to each of these concerns in terms of their potency for you on a scale of 0 to 3 (with 0 being neutral and 3 being intense). Do this quickly so you don’t have too much time to think about it or second-guess your instinctive responses. Once you’ve finished this, place these triggers into a hierarchical list from a potency of 3 to 0, based on how they affect or resonate with you. This will give you a sense of what is likely to get you riled up these days.
If you want to dig a bit deeper, think about the way you responded to the descriptions of certain triggers—that you felt disgusted, violated, sad, and threatened when you thought about Me Too scandals, for example—then consider whether any situations from your past have evoked similar feelings for you. As you may see, emotional injuries or reverberations from the past can make you vulnerable to similar insults and assaults in the present. It’s almost as if you have an emotional ember lying beneath your consciousness, and it’s predisposed to flaring up from time to time. If you hear a single piece of distressing news and find yourself reacting surprisingly strongly to it, think about what else may be crashing around you or whether the news has somehow opened Pandora’s box and exposed you to a deep abyss of other fears and worries. Or it may be that a more superficial emotional injury is on the way to healing but then the scab gets ripped off and the wound bleeds again when another upsetting event occurs.
As it happens, we often experience emotions in our bodies, and sometimes our bodies register those feelings before our minds do. So if you have trouble pinpointing how you’re feeling with words, you may want to scan your body for clues. When researchers in Finland performed a series of cross-cultural studies with 701 people from West European and East Asian cultures, they had the participants view various words, stories, movies, or facial expressions, then color specific regions on silhouettes of bodies where they felt activity increasing or decreasing while they viewed each stimulus. This exercise in mapping bodily sensations in response to emotions revealed that basic emotions—including anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness, and surprise—were associated with sensations of elevated activity in the upper chest, which likely reflects changes in breathing and heart rate. Increased sensations in the arms and torso were associated with anger. Decreased sensations in the arms and legs corresponded to sadness. And increased sensations in the gut (the digestive system) and throat were found primarily with disgust. The most fascinating revelation was that these effects rang true among people cross-culturally.
So if you have a mental block that makes it difficult to recognize your emotional triggers (which some people do, in a subconscious effort to protect themselves from emotional discomfort), paying attention to your bodily sensations can give you clues about what you’re experiencing. Even if you are highly attuned to your emotional reactions, sometimes they can sneak up on you, and you might experience a particular bodily sensation before you are aware of the actual trigger or your response to it. That’s because we all have blind spots to reflexive emotional states we’re susceptible to experiencing.
Michael Singer is a spiritual teacher, entrepreneur, and the bestselling author of the spiritual classic The Untethered Soul. He has collaborated with Sounds True to release the online course Living from a Place of Surrender: The Untethered Soul in Action. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Michael about the core idea of his teachings: that it is only through complete surrender to the essence of the moment that we experience life’s full potential. They talk about what this sense of surrender actually means when it comes to decision-making and day-to-day activities, as well as how to recognize when we are still clinging to resistance. Michael explains how to take a “witness position” and let go of the arbitrary attachments that inhibit surrender. Finally, Tami and Michael discuss the application of these ideas to those things we truly value, including bringing the idea of surrender to social and environmental activism. (63 minutes)
Cate Stillman teaches audiences how to create health and wellness through yoga and Ayurveda on her weekly Yogahealer Real Thrive Show. She has published two books with Sounds True: Body Thrive: Uplevel Your Body and Your Life with 10 Habits from Ayurveda and Yoga and Master of You: A Five-Point System to Synchronize Your Body, Your Home, and Your Time with Your Ambition. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Cate about the Ayurvedic concept of the five elements. Cate emphasizes that these elements aren’t external qualities, but universal constants that live within you as well. Tami and Cate also discuss what we all can learn from Ayurveda during the COVID-19 crisis, including a “first aid kit” of practices to make the most out of days in quarantine. They talk about the inherent “superpowers” of the body and how to assess what elements you should focus on during practice. Finally, Tami and Cate speak on values you can embrace for greater productivity and what it truly means to have mastery over your life.