The basics of Mindfulness practice 3: Use the breath to centre yourself

 Breath is the bridge that connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold again.

In our community, where people are practicing the mindfulness of doing laundry, washing dishes, eating, walking and so forth, everybody learns to use breath as a tool for restoring mindfulness.

Thich Nhat Hahn

…and not a wanting mind

“Wanting” is a universal phenomenon, and our mental list of what we want is seemingly endless. We wake up in the morning and ask “What do I want today? What do I want to eat, what do I want to buy, how much do I want” Wanting, when it goes beyond our basic, ordinary needs, is an expression of a longing for something either more than or different from what we already have,. There is a sense of being fundamentally unfulfilled. It is well worth looking more deeply into the nature of wanting, recognizing how you know wanting is there, and naming it. When you become familiar with recognizing and naming wanting, then it will become easier to notice when are captured, and therefore you will more likely be able to free yourself. The practice fo mindfulness is a fundamental way of becoming more familiar with your mind, and getting used to observing how mind states arise, are noted, and then dissolve. With practice you can become better at noticing the “I want” state of mind, letting it arise, and letting it go.

Sasha Loring, How to Tame the Wanting Mind

Teens Day 9: Negative, judgmental thoughts


The habit of judging our experience locks us into mechanical reactions that we are not even aware of and that often have no objective basis at all.These judgments tend to dominate our minds making it difficult to find any peace within ourselves.

It is as if the mind were a yo-yo going up and down on the string of our own judging thoughts all day long

Jon Kabat Zinn

Dropping into…

Peaceful abiding describes the mind as it naturally is… The human mind is by nature joyous, calm, and very clear.

In  meditation we aren’t creating a peaceful state—we’re letting our mind be as it is to begin with.

Sakyong Mipham

How our fears keep us predicting wrongly

As yesterday’s post said, one way we cope with anxiety is that we live somewhat in the future, imagining a better time which is going to happen soon. The capacity of the brain for imagining and predicting the future is an important survival tool, which evolved over billions of years to enable us remember and avoid dangerous situations. The same capacity functions in our early years when it is vital that the child receives consistent and responsive caregiving from the parents. When this is lacking in some key ways, the child forms an picture of how unreliable and unsafe the world is and how much people can be trusted. This knowledge then becomes “encoded” in the brain as a paradigm of how to feel secure. In other words, the child makes a prediction of how relationships will have to be managed from its experience of how it is in its relationships with its parents.

This prediction becomes a working model which stays with us as we navigate our way through relationships in adult life. Thus, we tend to behave in relationships based on how we predict or imagine people will treat us, in line with our early experiences. The problem with this is that, while our early model may have worked in keeping us safe as a child, it can make us be overly distrustful and hyper-vigilant as adults. Something which was adaptive when young frequently becomes maladaptive in adulthood where it is not necessary to the same degree. In this way, the predictive capacity of the brain can become a liability. The stored fears and anxieties of childhood – which are unfortunately quite resistant to change –  can exert a huge influence in adulthood, leading to an avoidance of intimacy and resulting in the person feeling as emotionally isolated as they did in childhood. The brain can continually predict danger, and takes the model it has learnt to be the only way to behave. When it meets new situations,  or new people,  it makes predictions which give preference to fear-based scenarios,  rooted in the past. It then conspires to bring about the scenario it is most familiar with.  Sadly, as psychoanalyst Regina Pally reminds us, we learn from the past what to predict for the future and then live the future we expect. In this way – in a phenomenon which Freud termed the “repetition compulsion” – we frequently end up in the situation which our defenses were set up to avoid, recreating the same dynamics and destructive scenarios that we experienced as children, despite the brain believing that we are doing differently.